Haines Brown 

----------http://lists.econ.utah.edu/pipermail/marxism/2008-March/024942.html----------------------------------------------------------------------

At the risk of furthering a side thread, allow me to reply to Carrol
briefly.

> Carrol writes: "may I suggest that dialectics not be invoked befrore
> the 6000th word, at a minimum, of your document."

> Why? It seems to me that "dialectical materialism" is a far more
> dodgy term than "dialectic." Whatever one's understanding
> dialectics, I doubt that they should be invoked in ordinary
> conversation/writing on particular topics. As a rule of thumb may I
> suggest that dialectics not be invoked befrore the 6000th word, at a
> minimum, of your document.

Well, to some extent I agree. If the term is not being used
effectively, but only serves to add a politically correct tone to
otherwise empty verbiage, then that is bad style, a put-off, and best
avoided. 

Now, I wasn't sure what "dodgy" meant, and so had to look it up. There
are two meanings that roughly are a) risky, b) deceptive. I don't
think you quite meant either. I'll assume you meant something like
vague or empty.

Let's recall the meaning of dialectics. the application of logical
principles to discursive reasoning. Usually it means discussion by
dialogue as a method of scientific investigation. Etc. The term
dialectics has to do with _epistemology_; it refers to statements
about how we teach or learn the truth. Dialectical materialism, on the
other hand, is an _ontological_ statement about the nature of things,
the way the world works independently of us.

If this distinction holds water, dialectics and dialectical
materialism are completely unrelated terms. On the other hand, if it
does not hold water, then at least dialectical materialism would
seem to be a specification of the more general category of
dialectics and, unlike dialectics, one that emerged at a particular
time and place. Either way, dialects is a broader, more variable and
therefore vaguer term than dialectical materialism.

However, I have the feeling your objection is to the concept itself,
not the use of the term, and if so it would be more productive to
approach the issue directly. The overuse of jargon should be avoided,
but is a common a practice hardly worth of your attack unless it was
not this to which you object, but the concept to which the jargon
points. 

To me, to say in the present environment that we should look at things
"dialectically" is shorthand for saying that should be looking at them
in terms of dialectical materialism. This is not a Hegelian discussion
group. Such a recommendation is, in my mind, certainly valid, for, as
I pointed out before, it amounts to the suggestion that we view things
as processes (as a relation of causal powers and empirical
constraints) and we also understand how development depends on the
opposite process: the emergence of new potentials is necessarily tied
to the emergence of new needs. Because this is a technical mouthful,
it begs for appropriate jargon.

I offer this example of the use of the jargon just in case I've
misunderstood your objection and you need a target to shoot at.

Haines Brown



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