Marx's dialectic: Structure and history

Peter Vincent Amato, Fordham University


In this work, I characterize Marx's idea of the dialectic in terms of the criticisms he offers of Hegel and of the political economists. I show how Marx's dialectical thinking is central to his economics and how Marx's idea of the dialectic nonetheless differs from Hegel's both as a structural framework for inquiry and as an historical content. I consider works like Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and The German Ideology as important stages in the development of Marx's dialectic, which only emerges fully in his economic writings. Marx's notion of science, I conclude, cannot be equated with either that of Hegel or with that of the political economists. Marx's science unites an empirical account of economic processes with a systematic logic that provides a reasonable basis for inferences regarding systematic historical tendencies. As systematic, Marx's science seeks to divulge the relations and presuppositions of economic processes by grasping them as mediated. Because this method is grounded in history, the objects grasped are real processes which are causally effective and at the same time subject to the will of organized, historical persons and social movements. Treatments of Marx's writings which have highlighted only their empirical or systematic-logical dimensions have tended to obscure aspects of Marx's contributions to both philosophy and science. In particular, influential readings of Marx have under-appreciated the critical-ethical dimensions of Marx's economics, and what they might mean for political theory and for philosophy of science, generally. Recovering the uniqueness of Marx's dialectic would mark an advance in the understanding of Marx's work and in several of its applications.

Subject Area

Philosophy|Economic theory|Social research

Recommended Citation

Amato, Peter Vincent, "Marx's dialectic: Structure and history" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9816355.