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Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 11, 1985

Douglas Low
Pages 491-511

The Existential Dialectic of Marx and Merleau-Ponty

Our work represents the culmination of a study that is a search for a method. It is a search that has led us away from the remnants of Cartesianism that are found in Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, which we do not deal with here, and toward a comparative study of Karl Marx and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, which we do take up in detail. The present manuscript argues, in fact, that both Marx and Merleau-Ponty operate with a method that may be called an existential dialectic. By means of careful and extended analysis of The Structure of Behavior we attempt to uncover Merleau-Ponty’s method, calling special attention to its sometimes ignored dialectical character. We then proceed to argue that Marx is operating with a type of phenomenological/existential method, and this is true not only of the young Marx but also of the mature Marx of the Grundrisse and Capital. Finally, with the assistance of Lukacs’ History and Class Consciousness, we point up the dialectical character of Marx’s method. Thus, it is by uncovering this approach in the text of each of these thinkers and by comparing the method of each man with that of the other that we show that both Marx and Merleau-Ponty operate with an existential dialectical method. This in depth methodological comparison of Marx and Merleau-Ponty represents the first study of its kind. It is hoped that “The Existential Dialectic of Marx and Merleau-Ponty” will contribute to the on-going and important dialogue between Marxists and existentialists.

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