Dialectical Social Theory and Its Critics

From Hegel to Analytical Marxism and Postmodernism

By Tony Smith

Subjects: Political Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Radical Social and Political Theory
Paperback : 9780791410486, 182 pages, December 1992
Hardcover : 9780791410479, 182 pages, December 1992

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Table of contents



I. Hegel's Theory of The Syllogism and Its Relevance for Marxism


General Reading of the Logic
The Systematic Place of Hegel's Theory of the Syllogism
Theoretical Importance of Hegel's Theory of the Syllogism for Marxists
Practical Importance of Hegel's Theory of the Syllogism for Marxists


II. The Dialectic of Alienation: Hegel's Theory of Greek Religion and Marx's Critique of Capital


Greek Religion: From Epic to Tragedy
The Dialectic of Capital and the Dialectic of Tragedy
Comedy and the Labor Theory of Value
Hegel on Greek Democracy


III. The Debate Regarding Dialectical Logic in Marx's Economic Writings


Four Readings of Dialectics in Marx's Economic Theory
Arguments in Favor of the Systematic Thesis
A Closing Conjecture


IV. Hegel and Marx on Civil Society


A Convergence?
The Divergence



V. Hegelianism and Marx: A Reply to Lucio Colletti


Colletti on Hegel, Kant, and Marx's Epigone
Hegel and the Hegelianism of Marx


VI. Elster's Critique of Marx's Systematic Dialectical Theory


Roemer's Critique of Dialectical Laws in History
Elster's Critique of Deductive Dialectical Theory
Replies to Elster's Criticisms
Concluding Remarks


VII. Roemer of Marx's Theory of Exploitation: Shortcomings of a Non-Dialectical Approach


Roemer's Criticisms
An Outline of Marx's System
Replies to Roemer's Objections


VIII. The Critique of Marxism in Baudrillard's Late Writings


Baudrillard's Case Against Marxism
Evaluation of Baudrillard's Arguments


Selected Bibliography

Establishes that dialectical social theory retains practical importance today and is, in fact, crucial to interdisciplinary attempts to construct a viable theory of the social world.


That there is a "Hegelian legacy" in Marx's writings is not in dispute. There is great controversy, however, over the extent to which this legacy should be affirmed or rejected. In fact, the Hegelian orientation toward Marx and toward social theory in general has been largely rejected for at least a decade. In Dialectical Social Theory and Its Critics, Tony Smith challenges this position and thereby reopens a debate of critical importance to Marx-Hegel studies that has significant implications for the nature of social theory in general.

In Part I, Smith explores a number of aspects of the Hegelian legacy by means of a systematic dialectical reading, limiting himself to themes that have either been overlooked or dealt with unsatisfactorily in recent scholarship. In Part II, he examines a number of recent arguments against the Hegelian legacy in Marxism formulated from the neo-Kantian, analytical-Marxist, and postmodernist perspectives advanced by Lucio Colletti, Jon Elster and John Roemer, and Jean Baudrillard, respectively.

Dialectical Social Theory and Its Critics is more than an exercise in the history of ideas. Its main aim and most significant accomplishment is to establish that dialectical social theory retains practical importance today and is, in fact, crucial to interdisciplinary attempts to construct a viable theory of the social world.

Tony Smith is Professor of Philosophy and Political Science at Iowa State University of Science and Technology. He is the author of The Logic of Marx's Capital, and The Role of Ethics in Social Theory, also published by SUNY Press.


"Some time ago, most philosophers working within Marxist scholarship took for granted the Hegelian legacy. This has been challenged by the analytic Marxists. Tony Smith has emerged as the most systematic and committed defender of the challenged position today, and the level of his defense is very sophisticated and, therefore, very challenging itself.

"The second half of the book, in which Smith takes on Colletti, Elster, Roemer, and Baudrillard, seems to me especially fine: it is a series of critical reviews, to be sure, but a well-organized series with a very clear set of points, which, in fact, clarify his own perspective with great success." — William L. McBride, Purdue University