All of western modernity as it were is enshrouded in the shadow of this dialectical materialism; brought to you through the emergence of idealism in traditional philosophy and challenged and tempered by philosophical madness.
Zizek’s (2012) monogram on Hegel says more than enough in its title let alone its 1000 pages: Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. The act of using dialectical analysis is rather common and predates both Marx and Hegel, harkening back to the ancient Greeks. The primary issue with dialectical analysis is that it is often misunderstood and misconstrued in various ways.
Understanding what dialectics and dialectical materialism is not is certainly as important as understanding what it is. Prior to giving some basic definitions as to what it is I will list a few common misconceptions.
Misconceptions about Dialectical Materialism
Most of the material discussed here will be a summary of an interesting article from: anti-imperialism.com. A news, analysis, and culture site that discusses global, political, and economic issues through the Marxian method or as called here: Dialectical Materialism. Freya Brown (2015), argues that there are three characterizations of what is meant by “material” and by extension materialism:
- “material” refers only to physical things (matter)
- “material” is to be considered “economic.
- “material” refers to things prior to social relations or what is considered “pre-social”
Material as being simply more
Brown (2015) uses the argument that Marx’s discussion at length of value and relation of value in Capital Volume 1 and th Gundrisse as evidence for Marx’s materialism being beyond simple physical qualities. In regards to material it is physical things in addition to the social relations embodied in them and the relationships between people beyond the concept of individual. Brown argues that in fact: “Marx’s materialism…is considerably more interested in social relations than with physical objects/properties.”
Anyone who has read Marx’s seminal works would be quick to agree with this. In future discussions I will use Marxian terms such as base and superstructure (posts about these concepts will be forth coming) which Marx and Marxian philosophies use to coin and examine politics, education, government, economics, and the ideologies that wrap them all together.
What is certain is that Marx believed economic relations to be a fundamental/foundation of social systems. This is a core aspect of historical materialism. This can be a rather challenging approach to reduce a multitude of variables in the social sciences to economic struggle, but there is considerable work done in this area.
Deeper Still and Back to the Beginning
The core issue with this blog and its dialectical and materialistic analysis rests firmly in the mirth that is the similarities and contrasts that exist between a Hegelian and Marxian dialectic. First, to define what a dialectic materialism is as I led with what materialism is not:
marxists.org’s Encyclopedia of Marxism defines dialectical materialism as follows:
“Dialectical Materialism is a way of understanding reality; whether thoughts, emotions, or the material world. Simply stated, this methodology is the combination of Dialectics and Materialism. The materialist dialectic is the theoretical foundation of Marxism. (Communism being the practice of Marxism)”
“Dialectics is the method of reasoning which aims to understand things concretely in all their movement, change and interconnection with their opposite and contradictory sides in unity.” (Emphasis added)
Dialectics is to be contrasted to metaphysical, formal modes of thought where understanding begins with a fixed definition of a thing according to its attributes. E.g. “Formal thought would explain: a fish is something with no legs which lives in the water.”
In a dialectical effort Darwin, “considered fish dialectically: some of the animals living in the water were not fish, and some of the fish had legs, but it was the genesis of all the animals as part of a whole interconnected process which explained the nature of fish: they came from something and are evolving into something else.” (Emphasis added)
In short: motion.
Hegel’s basic dialectic is composed of moments/stages (Brown, 2015):
- Being-in-itself (immediacy)
- Being-for-another (mediation)
- Being-in-and-in-for-itself (mediated immediacy)
This is of course a gross simplification for a rather masterful insight into German idealism. However, for simplicity sakes, we consider being on its own in isolation. A being on its own however is featureless and does not actualized form because there is nothing to know about it. This is contrasted to Kant who suggests that it cannot be known simply as it is unknowable. The beginning of the dialectic of the original identity is simply that of perfect unity; there is nothing to be differentiated.
At the moment of being-in-itself there is a becoming the nothingness of above is negated by matter and the physical realm. Think of it as even in vacuum particles are known to come into existence, the act of nothing is itself unstable. The moment being is, it becomes, like saying “I have brown eyes” automatically presupposes a relation to others, meaning there is something that is there to compare or contrast these concepts of color, body parts, and even the concept of “I” and “have.” My being only is as for how it relates to another. Lacan (2002) (See: Ecrits or any Lacan lecture for some insight.) refers to this as the other. Lacan’s discussion of the other and the big other are facinating, but deserve a blog post of their own, and will depend on topics discussed in the future.
Just as being-for-another negates its previous being-in-itself, it must be negated again, a negation of that negation leads ti a third movement. This is the domination of the object by the subject disappearing. The subject becomes seen as an alienated form of the object and vice-versa (Brown, 2015). This is a movement toward what is called the absolute idea, but in the Hegelian and Marxian system that idea is never fully realized. Then the return to nothing creating a myth of a circular system, but it never fully goes back to what it was, instead it is supplanted by the next paradigm.
Zizek (2012), discusses Jameson’s (2010) work to a degree citing the idea: “this “formlessness” should be understood as a violent erasure of (previous) forms: whenever a certain act is “posited” as a founding one, as a historical cut or the beginning of a new era, the previous social reality is as a rule reduced to a chaotic “ahistorical” conundrum-say, when the Western colonialist “discovered” black Africa, this discover was read as the first contact of “pre-historical” primitives with civilized history proper, and their previous history basically blurred into a “formless matter” (p. 272).
Zizek (2012) calls this formless matter the violent act of erasing the previous form. Meaning, in the example above the histories of Africa in these “proper texts” were a violent act that moved to take what had form, negate it, and then acquire a new form from the formless chaos of what it had smashed or in other words, “formlessness itself is a retroactive effect, a violent erasure of the previous form” (p. 272).
These types of negation act as a means of mediating phenomena. Zizek (2012) describes the dialectical approach as the attempt to locate phenomenon-to-be-analyzed in the totality to which it belongs (p. 398). That is, to break through mystification (in the case of Eve that means “the narrative) and to avoid fetishizing the abstraction. The danger here is Hegelian in nature and that is the reversal, the problem of seeing too much or observing a wealth of empirical detail that results in the loss the core ideas. Thus, the core structure of a Hegelian formulation is reduction to the signifying singular features.
What is, is only as it is because of its relation to other. However, other and the motion of is erode and eventually they are negated to nothing. From that nothing an is arises and so forth. Our paradigm and way of thought is built upon the continuous movement and transformation of ideas. Worse all of these relations and existences are built on our social condition and our perspectives.
How does this work with Eve Online?
Analysis using the Marxist/Hegelian dialectics along with the discussion of Ideology and cultural capital may provide a wealth of potential analysis. Of course the dangers are apparent, this effort could just as easily run afoul and fall into its own ideological-self and eventually be part of the system its trying to critique.
To avoid that fate a robust discussion of themes and topics will need to occur: readers and writers alike having a “dialog” based on the given analysis and refining and altering their respective points to continue the motion and becoming of the next idea. It isn’t the classic misconception of thesis, anthesis, and synthesis: the road is much more chaotic and far more interesting.
In the future I will operate the blog through a serious of different types of analysis:
(1) The Capsuleer world (This is the meta we as players exist in, I find this to be separated from some degree despite community efforts to tie us into the lore it does not happen neatly and there will be a tension and resistance there that cannot be reduced)
(2) The Lore (This is the story of Eve itself, this falls more into literature critique and simple musing of how the world can be viewed through a Marxian lens, this will be the most fun)
(3) The conditions of player and company (news about development, the corporation. This is the breaking of the fourth wall and analysis of the engines behind the came itself; it will obviously overlap with (1). For lack of a better term I will refer to this as “reality” which in itself is untrue.)
Coming Projects and Consideration
I want to discuss the myth of meritocracy in a capsuleer organization as one of my next projects. Another project will be the discussion of culture capital and class analysis in New Eden. The majority of my work in my professional career is based on cultural capitalism, so a majority of articles I would like to write will be based on that.
Suggested Readings and Sources
Althusser, L. (1962). Contradiction and overdetermination. Accessed from: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/1962/overdetermination.htm (Accessed 12/15/2015)
Brown, F. (2015). What does a Marxist mean by “material”?. Accessed from: http://anti-imperialism.com/2015/10/26/what-does-a-marxist-mean-by-material (Accessed 12/05/2015)
Jameson, F. (2010). The Hegel Variations. Verso Books: London.
Lacan,J. (2006). Ecrits. W.W. Norton: New York.
Zizek, S (2012). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. Verso Books: London.