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What is Dialectical Materialism?

An Introduction

Curry Malott

In developing his method, Marx challenged what he considered to be vulgar materialism for its tendency to ignore the totality and the relationship between consciousness and material reality. A philosophical term, the "totality" refers to the total of existence in any given moment. At the same time, Marx rejected pure idealism for substituting material reality with the idea of reality (i.e. with abstract thought). Idealism therefore leads to the false assumption that alienation or estrangement can be overcome in the realm of thought alone, as if we could change our material reality by changing our ideas and beliefs. Rather, Marx's dialectical method is based on "the unifying truth of both". What this means is that "it is not enough that thought should seek to realize itself; reality must also strive toward thought." In other words, Marx's method entails the examination of the relationship between ideas and material reality, specifically as it pertains to class struggle and the emancipation of the proletariat. Marx's dialectics are called "dialectical materialism" in contrast with Hegel's dialectics. Marx wrote that he "discover[ed] the rational kernel within the mystical shell "of Hegel's dialectics. To realize this revolution the working-class must not only understand the interaction of forces behind the development of society, but it must understand itself as one of those forces. The dialectic is a powerful weapon because it breaks through the capitalist illusion of individualism and atomism and disrupts the idea that isolated facts speak for themselves. Only by situating facts or ideas in the historical totality of society do they begin to make real sense. To comprehend this revolutionary movement we must conceive the interaction of forces as much more than the interaction of static and independent entities. When the parts of the totality change, their relationship to the totality changes, and they themselves change.

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An Economic Theory of Law Enforcement

Edward Lawson

Law enforcement is a necessary endeavor in society. Government makes laws, but someone must enforce those laws, through violent coercion if necessary. The American ideal is that the people elect the government and the government serves the people, so naturally the police serve the people as well. However, the actual activities of the police call this normative account into question. I argue that government--the state--serves the will of anonymous, extraordinarily wealthy oligarchs, and it passes laws that benefit them at the expense of the rest of society. In addition, I argue that the police are the primary tool of enforcing compliance with the wishes of oligarchs among society, and that they alter their behavior based on the socioeconomic conditions of the area in which they operate. The recent deaths of individuals such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and Walter Scott in North Charleston, SC, are only the most recent, high-profile incidents of police acting according to this purpose. Police violence, as well as mass incarceration, maintain a state of fear among the working class, as well as the ongoing division between races within the working class, in order to prevent organization for common cause. Oligarchs--the anonymous, incredibly wealthy individuals who exert disproportionate pressure on the state to do their bidding--use institutions such as the police to hold and expand their power. Operating behind the state provides oligarchs with a veneer of legitimacy, particularly in a democracy. That legitimacy extends to the police, who have state-sanctioned authority to enforce compliance with the law and punish noncompliance with violence. However, rather than using that authority to benefit society, they use it to oppress the poor and placate the affluent--those who are comparatively wealthy but not oligarchs themselves.

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China's Rise Threatens U.S. Imperialism, Not American People

Ajit Singh

Washington's hostility towards Beijing is rooted in the foundation of modern U.S. foreign policy. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and end of the Cold War, ushered in an era during which the U.S. has sought to establish unipolar global dominance. Explicitly outlined in a 1992 Defense Policy Guidance paper authored under neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz, the principal objective of U.S. foreign policy in this period has been "to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival" capable of challenging U.S. aspirations for global hegemony. In the quarter-century since, the U.S. has aggressively pursued this aim, engaging in endless wars, "regime change" efforts, and military build-ups around the world, now operating over 900 military bases globally. Despite these most destructive efforts, the U.S. has been unable to stop China's momentous rise, which has emerged as the primary obstacle to U.S. aims for unipolar dominance. Although Washington has sought regime change in Beijing ever since the socialist revolution of 1949, the U.S. has generally pursued a strategy of "containment through engagement" following the normalisation of bilateral relations in the 1970s. In part, Washington had hoped that China's economic reform and the fall of the Soviet Union would lead to political reform in Beijing and the abandonment of Communist Party leadership and socialism with Chinese characteristics, in favour of Western-oriented neoliberalism. History has confirmed that China has no such intention. Recognizing its own declining leverage and that China will not become "more like us", Washington is attempting to launch a new Cold War against China. The identification of China as the primary target of U.S. foreign policy originated during the Obama era with the "Asia pivot" seeking to encircle China, shifting 60 percent of U.S. naval assets to Asia by 2020. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton argued that the U.S. must reorient the focus of its foreign policy from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific to ensure "continued American leadership well into this century." The developments under Trump, mark an escalation of this bipartisan strategy.

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On Consumerism, Capitalism, and Ecosocialism

Sebastian Livingston

We have the productive means to fulfil our material needs and to liberate ourselves from alienated labor. However this idea is incompatible with capital which does not aim to address real human needs beyond what is required to reproduce itself. Rather capitalism is contingent upon the realization of wealth accumulation, an endless expansion that is based upon the production and consumption of alienated products. This mass production is a fundamental problem that restricts our ability to create an ecological society by being the unshakable cause of most of the environmental problems we face today. In order to mobilize and attack expansive production, consumer culture must be attacked. This entails attacking the hegemonic institutions that spread consumerism, develop our identification with material goods, and enforce the association between goods and freedom. Capitalist forces expend great resources to ensure that we are socialized to identify ourselves with what we consume far more than with what and how we produce which creates a barrier between us and critical revolution. In fact, Americans are subjected to over 20 times the global average of targeted advertisements. We are made to identify so strongly with commodities that a rejection of capitalism will equate to a rejection of self and require a redefinition of freedom that will demand a revolution that stems beyond the workplace. Within advanced capitalism consumer culture serves as a counter revolutionary safeguard, a sedative. And as we come to identify with the products of our alienated labor rather than realize our alienation within the process of production we sink deeper into the veins of capital, becoming the reproductive organs of the beast. The working class as a revolutionary subject is the force by which the world will be changed. However, change will only happen if the will to do so exists. The American social contract, which states that what we can achieve given our rights as free and equal people to ascend the social economic ladder with no barriers but our own determination, is a pacifier based upon dishonest assumptions. It enables the institutionalized ignorance of systemic oppression, inequality, and environmental..

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