• Dialectical Naturalism: Studies in Marxist Social Ontology

      Hayslip, Tim; Department of Sociology
      This thesis develops the thought of Marxist philosopher Evald Ilyenkov. Ilyenkov is notable for his efforts to challenge Soviet orthodoxy by locating ‘ideality’ within a classically Marxist, materialist ontology. The main argument presented here is Ilyenkov’s interpretation of Marx is one that can be constructively employed in debates within contemporary sociology and social theory. Ilyenkov’s framework is developed over the first three chapters. The second half of the introduction critiques the orthodox interpretation of the famous base – superstructure metaphor, arguing that it should be understood as referring to both the natural processes through which the human species develops its understanding of the world and how these understandings evolve as humans transform the world. The second chapter concerns Ilyenkov’s description of the philosophical development that led from Kant’s ontological dualism which recognized the importance of an ‘intellectual war’ to the advancement of science through Fichte’s individualistic but dialectical ontology to Hegel’s dialectical-idealist monism. The third chapter locates Ilyenkov’s ‘ideality’ within the Marxist social ontology of Murray Smith. This framework is then used to explore and critique the methodological development of a social scientist who moved from a ‘radical social constructionist’ position to a project of synthesizing discrete ‘social’ and ‘natural’ factors over the course of his career. The fourth chapter locates and describes the role of Ilyenkov’s ‘ideality’ within the history of global economic development and argues that a form of class warfare from above will persist into the future. The fifth chapter compares and contrasts Ilyenkov’s ‘ideality’ and Durkheim’s ‘conscience collective’. As both concepts represent attempts to describe similar but often misunderstood phenomena, they evince definite parallels but Ilyenkov’s ‘ideality’ seems more comprehensive and its location within a Marxist framework offers much greater explanatory potential than Durkheim’s system. In particular, Marxism better explains the limitations of the postwar effort to construct a more humane capitalism. The concluding chapter reviews the preceding chapters and ends not with a prediction of a utopia to come but with an optimistic call for the development of a revolutionary leadership capable of leading humanity’s creation of a socialist society.