I'm reading a 'thing' on dialectical materialism at marxist.org
Although marxism for most occupies the same role as 'naziism,' a historical pariah of failed ideas, in the 19th century few ideas had more impact among the relevant intellectual circles at a time human society, in the space of a century, was destroyed and rebuilt. Important social relations, between king and subject, lord and serf, and to a lesser degree, priest and the layperson, were overthrown. New relations, boss and employee, was created anew, and others, like the idea of a civil/legal society, found greater expression. social relation here does not merely mean, how things are done, but is taken as an idea with the commitment of individuals. For example, the feudal lord is called "the lord" by the serfs, and in doing this, they understand various things of the lord and of the lord's relation to them that are only appreciable within their peculiar life. These ideas together form an understanding of social affairs, and this is the order of society. (One may appreciate this by trying to describe one's everyday interactions in terms not commonly used when describing the situation in common social context. The phrase "I brought the land," would be scarcely comprehensible for someone not used to the idea of 'owning land' or even 'own.' Anyway, the point is, for a particular human society, there is a particular language and framework of agreed-to understandings, called a social construct. This is a functional feature of human society, and many people would call this the functional product of human life. But another topic another day.
Anyway, the 'thing' on marxist.org is pretty dated, and with its eventful history, the literature reads like a docile revolutionary pamphlet.
"In their totality, these ideas provide a fully worked-out theoretical basis for the struggle of the working class to attain a higher form of human society - socialism."
"The theories of Marxism provide the thinking worker with a comprehensive understanding. It is the duty of every worker and student to conquer for himself or herself the theories of Marx and Engels, as an essential prerequisite for the conquest of society by working people."
nevertheless, dialectical materialism is still academic theory, more comfortably found in scholarly journals than in revolutionary rallies. as such, it deserves a respectful approach if not a respectful reception. for starters, the fundamental insight, "to understand the real nature of human consciousness and society, as Marx himself put it, it is a question "not of setting out from what men say, imagine, conceive... in order to arrive at men in the flesh; but setting out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process demonstrating the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process." --John Pickard, emphasis mine. This is a clear influence of the positivist movement, and the basis of marxism's claim to science. Not on strength of methodology but on strength of a materialist (read, positive) understanding of humanity. One should note that, marx wrote when german idealism, which manifested in the social sciences is basically something like, history is a struggle between ideas (hegel's idealistic dialectics)dominated. History reads like a struggle of epic proportions, full of metaphysics and one noble people smashing another with their noble spirits. A reflection of its age for sure. To approach history as activities of physical and material beings engaged in their natural living is marxism's lasting contribution. It is the basic perspective of the social sciences. Be it anthropology or sociology, they started as a scientific study of the natural beings known as human.
But, after reading a bit more of this stuff, it is clear that, at least the circle that treats this particular article as respectable is no good. As such, marxists is interesting primarily as history, for serious social commentary, we should look to more contemporary sources.
anyway, i am also reading a biography of michael bakunin by Leier, http://books.google.com/books?id=UzhgtNG01xUC would recommend it as an overview of the years of revolution. but there are some reservations. plainly said, if i were asked to write about anarchism, i would provide a broader survey. but all in all, this is an excellent book so far. I most read this on the nyc subway, but so far, in about 6 hours of exposure, no one has been attracted to conversation by the book's rather stark cover. I have no feeling either way on this matter.
maybe i'll talk about the yankees next, or lucky star.