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The Dialectical Materialist

February 9, 2010

“Communism is the end of history as we know it.”

That was the first sentence I heard in the first class took in my first year of college at the University of Minnesota.  I was young, eager, and impressionable sitting in Theory of Totalitarian Governments.  The class may have been one of my favorites of the many years of school.  It certainly set the stage for the way I think about the world.

It wasn’t Marx I was drawn to–though I have been known to quote him in a report or two–it was his theory of dialectical materialism that drew me in:  History is defined as a series of class struggles.  The values and the interests of one class are set in conflict against the values and interests of another.  Importantly the resolution of class struggle results in new status quo.  I think the example from that day in class was the struggle between the ruling aristocracy and the peasants gave rise to the bourgeoisie–the middle class, the shopkeepers.  Marx thought that the dictatorship of the proletariat would bring an end to class struggle.  Nice try.

But it was the notion of the conflict of competing ideas giving rise to a new solution that interested me.  Thesis.  Antithesis.  Synthesis.

Maybe my corollary to Marx would be that history could be defined as a series of competing beliefs and values that give rise to change.

Here is an insight:  Change is the hardest thing to accept in our lives.  We all know this is true.  Right?  But do we really believe it?  Oh how we cling to the old ways.

Even good old Karl–What he didn’t know was that history does not end.  Conflict is irresistible.  Change is inevitable.

From that first day in poly-sci I have been drawn to the dialectic.  I love conflict.  I am fascinated by change.  Especially the way it affects our lives.

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.  Today we live in a world that was unimaginable when I was a child.  And I predict, safely I think, that my children’s world when they are my age is unimaginable today.  In fact the world of five years from now is almost unimaginable.

Real change.  Game changing change comes at us from out of the tall grass.  We almost never see it coming.  And when it hits, there is conflict.  Industry rise, others disappear.  Our lives change. Countries change.  The balance of power shifts.  Who in 1999 could have predicted how Google would change our lives.  Who would have seen it coming?  But it came.  And the world will never be the same.  And a former way of life is disappearing–if it hasn’t already died.

So with apologies to Hegel and to Marx I am taking up the mantel of dialectical materialism as framework for describing the world as I see it.  I want to write about the conflict of ideas, values and beliefs streaming at us changing our world.  Dialectical Materialism because the conflicts we see on an almost daily basis are so great as to create an upheaval in our lives, our society, and our culture.  Dialectical materialism because it is not enough change the way we think.  We need a revolution in the way we think.  Change is a tsunami: there is no escape.  It inundates us; it pummels us.  When the initial wave passes, we emerge into an unfamiliar landscape.  The thesis of this collection (dare I say blog?) will be to examine competing ideas and values and ultimately to celebrate change.  I will endeavor to create perspectives that suggest ways to dispense with the irrelevance of the past and embrace the inevitability of the future.

This is a tall order I know.  But then I am always up for a challenge.