Interview: Hegel, history and revolution

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Terry Sullivan and Donny Gluckstein spoke to Socialist Review about Hegel, history and dialectics and why we still need to understand them.

Why should any socialist today care about Hegel? Wasn’t he just a difficult, abstract, bourgeois philosopher?

We would argue Hegel is worth careful attention even though he is a difficult, abstract and bourgeois philosopher and reading him is “like chewing gravel”. That was one reason to write a book that makes the core of his thought accessible. What is significant is not this or that particular piece of writing, but the overall method and approach that he adopted. This was applied by Marx in his time, and can and should still be applied by socialists today.

Y is for Young Hegelians

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Marxism was born of a synthesis of the most advanced aspects of bourgeois social theory: English political economy, French socialism and German classical philosophy.

In retrospect the first two elements of this seem obvious enough.

Among the political economists, Adam Smith had shown that labour was the essence of value, while David Ricardo, despite being on the opposite side of the barricades, had pointed to the rationality of working class struggle.

Meanwhile, the socialist workers who Karl Marx met in Paris were living proof of an alternative to the egoistic individualism assumed to be natural by the economists.

Q is for quantity and quality

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How is it that history makes an unexpected leap forward?

Take the sudden onset of the economic crisis. We were told this could never happen again, but banks are failing, the financial system is in turmoil and a recession is opening up beneath our feet.

The recession is hardly the only example in recent years of a sharp disruption to the flow of events. The 9/11 attacks and their consequences were utterly unforeseen, and marked a turning point after which many important things in the world were never the same again.

The not so "weightless world"

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As many look to radical alternatives to the barbaric system of capital, the ideas of philosophers such as Slavoj Žižek have struck a chord. But beneath the surface of his post-Marxist arguments, do his ideas have the potential to change the world?

The Marxism 2007 festival held in London this summer showed that a new layer of activists are eager to debate ideas of how to change the world. Many are drawn to the ideas of people such as Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, who spoke at the festival.

Žižek is an entertaining speaker, using his personal idiosyncrasies to sometimes hilarious effect as he rejoices in provocations directed against mainstream liberal ideology.

Praxis Makes Perfect

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Anindya Bhattacharyya takes a look at some recently published books that examine the philosophical implications of the struggle for radical political change.

In 1845 the young Karl Marx wrote down a series of short notes to himself summarising the conclusions of his intense engagement with the radical philosophies of his day. They were never intended for publication, but were nevertheless been preserved for posterity after Marx's death by his lifelong friend and comrade Frederick Engels.

And Justice for All?

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Alex Callinicos reviews the life of liberal political philosopher John Rawls.

The American philosopher John Rawls, who died last November at the age of 82, was one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. His reputation rests chiefly on 'A Theory of Justice', first published in 1971. This long and densely argued book singlehandedly rescued liberal political philosophy from the decay into which it had descended.

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