From: "hakan durmaz" <>

Hi everybody, Andy wrote a couple of weeks ago:

Tell me, what if any do you see as the significance of the use of the word "discourse" in contemporary philosophy, a word which was rarely used prior to the mid-1960s?

First of apologies for replying so late, I was away and wasn't/couldn't check my mails (for a change!).

Though I am studying Critical Psychology (officially) I prefer to name the study as "Studying the Societal" (check K. Holzkamp, "Critical Psychology for the differentiation between the social and the societal), which goes further than psychology and includes sociology, philosophy, politics, political-economy and cultural studies in general. Nowadays I am trying to evaluate (achieve a self-clarification) my relation to Marxism as a Marxist. Is it a political commitment, an ethical affiliation, a methodological relation, all of them but to what extent? This directs me to the study of Marxist methodology (Dialectical Logic, as Il'enkov and Lefebvre put it).

Using dialectics in social studies have always been problematic. Dialectical materialism has turned into a caricature merely emphasizing interconnectedness, interrelationship, and when a puzzle is confronted it is immediately named "oh, there is a dialectical relationship here", so what, what do you mean by dialectical relationship, what is the terminology and what are we going to do with it? Honestly simply spelling out the word dialectical means nothing, and puts nothing on the table.

Producing/creating a Marxist understanding of the Societal is my/our main objective (if there is any, and I do believe there is). Vygotsky and Activity School (Leont'ev, Luria, Davydov) have been influential in such an approach, and some other Marxists: Lucien Seve "Man in Marxist Theory", Kosic "Dialectics of the Concrete", Meshcheryakov, Il'enkov, etc. As Lenin directs the Marxists to study the logic of Kapital, Vygotsky rejects any simple account of Marxist Psychology. He says there is no such thing as Marxist Psychology, and you can not create one by looking to find it directly (unmediatedly) in Marx's work. Though Marx had great insight in his writings (especially the emphasis on practical human activity which later on formed the ground of Activity School)his study is one on the Economical (the political in Lenin).And Vygotsky asks the study of the Kapital as well, social studies has to create it's own Kapital.

One may argue whether it is appropriate to categorize history in those terms as the Economical, the Political, the Societal, etc.This does not mean that there was no aspect of the political or the societal in Marx's period, but it was the economical which was the defining characteristic of that period.

Coming to Andy's question on the rationale of using the term 'discourse' in the study, and why did it emerge after 1960's?

While studying dialectics I have come accross to various forms and variations of dialectics. While in Heraclitus dialectics is more concerned with the physical paradoxes (movement being the basic problem and I prefer calling him a pre-societal dialectician) in Spinoza and in Hegel the problematique of the physical (not the material)is solved, it is a thing of the past. The problem of movement has been succesfully solved. Hegel moves from philosophy of Nature to the phenomenology of the spirit. And with Marx we reach at Dalectical Materialism, and I think he is not very clear whether there is dialectics in nature or not, whether dialectical materialism captures a Universal Law of thought (of movement).

I believe a challenge waits Marxists with regard to Dialectical Materialism, and especially the materialism bit. Here I want to refer to an article by Il'enkov "The Concept of the Ideal" in the book "Problems in Marxist philosophy in USSR" (???)[progress, date ??]. I think that is a small masterpiece where Il'enkov challenges the orthodox Marxist conception of the material (existing in the external world) and the ideal (existing in the consciousness of the individual) [look for Bakhurst's "Consciousness and Revolution in Soviet Philosophy" and Dubrovsky "The Problem of the Ideal" (contra-Il'enkov)]. Il'enkov argues that such a separation between the material and the ideal is ridiculuos; the ideal is not merely anything which is in ones head, he gives the example of value, being an ideal concept but not confined in the consciousness of the individual it has an "objective reality", it is a societal production, it is merely different than the material not the opposite.

I belive that we cannot move on with a simple/ reductionist conception of the material, the material merely being an object in the external world, and there comes the introduction of discourse. Here I am primarily using it in the Foucauldian sense, discouses creating their own regimes of truth, moving away from a single valued, absolute Truth (universal laws of thought??). Discourses as societal dynamic structures, ways of interaction,ways of talking, regulations, regimes of truth. Discourses having various resourses, being ambigious, contradictory. But what is the difference between ideology and discourse, that is the big question, maybe some of the aspects above, maybe discouse is the second generation of ideology widened its range?

Here I wanted to share some of my current interests, and the points I feel I am stuck. I would very much appriciate comments, especially on the issue of Dialectics being the Universal Law of thought, dm's take on this issue.

Thanks in advance,

Hakan Durmaz