Seven Essential Steps to Marx’s Dialectical Method

Bertell Ollman

The seven essential steps in the dialectical method developed by Karl Marx are ontology, epistemology, process of abstraction, inquiry, self-clarification, exposition and practice. Most distortions of Marx's dialectics result from leaving one or more of these steps out, confusing the order in which to present them, playing down or dismissing their internal relations, and neglecting to repeat these steps, again and again, once you arrive at the end of them (which allows what one has learned about ‘practice’, for example, to play a role in the treatment and use of the steps that have come up earlier). There is also the problem of getting one or more these steps wrong, but among Marxists this may be even less frequent, and therefore less serious, than the ones listed. My aim throughout goes beyond explaining Marx’s method to helping people think, study and act more dialectically.
Bertell Ollman is a professor of politics at NYU. He received his D.Phil. at Oxford University in 1967, and has also taught at the University of the West Indies (Jamaica) and been a Visiting Professor at Oxford and Columbia Universities. Since 1970, he has given about 280 lectures on different aspects of Marxist theory in a dozen countries.
Professor Ollman has written and edited fifteen books, including Alienation: Marx's Conception of Man in Capitalist Society, Social and Sexual Revolution: Essays on Marx and Reich, Dialectical Investigations, How to Take an Exam...and Remake the World, and most recently Dance of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx’s Method.
He is also the creator of Class Struggle, the world’s first Marxist board game, and from 1978-1983 was president of Class Struggle, Inc., the company that produced and marketed the game. In 1978, after being offered and then denied the chairmanship of the Government Department at the University of Maryland, he became the principal in one of the most important academic freedom struggles of the last half century. Ballbuster? True Confessions of a Marxist Businessman (2002) offers an autobiographical account—missing neither the politics or the humor—of both struggles.