Carchedi's Dialectics: A Critique

Science and Society 81 (3):427-436 (2017)
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Several years ago Guglielmo Carchedi (2008; 2012) published in S&S two interesting pieces on Marx’s dialectics and mathematics. His basic aim was to discover whether Marx’s Mathematical Manuscripts provide a new insight into Marx’s dialectics. The reading he suggested was addressed to Marx alone, i.e., without Hegel and Engels. This, he argued, is the only way to grasp Marx’s dialectics if one wants to understand Marx in his own terms. Since Marx never explicated his notion of dialectics, we ought to derive it from Marx’s own work. To this end, Carchedi first defined “dialectics as a method of social research” (Carchedi, 2008, 416), and then listed three principles of dialectics: 1) “all phenomena are always both realized and potential”; 2) “they are always both determinant and determined”; 3) they are “always subject to movement and change” (ibid.). Later he added a fourth principle: 4) “social phenomena’s movement (change) is tendential” (Carchedi, 2012, 547). He emphasized that these principles are limited to society and not to be confused with nature, because society, unlike nature, necessarily involves “human volition and consciousness” (ibid.). For this reason, “Engels’ dialectics of nature cannot be applied to society” (ibid.), a claim he also asserted in his book Behind the Crisis (2011, 37–8).

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Kaan Kangal
NanJing University


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