Materialism and the Dialectical Method

By Maurice Cornforth


Fourth (revised) Edition © by Maurice Cornforth, 1968

First U.S. Edition, 1971


Sixth Printing, 1978

In Memory of David Guest

Volume One of the 3-volume
Dialectical Materialism: An Introduction

ISBN 0-7178-0326-0
Printed in the United States of America




Chapter 1 Party Philosophy .... 7
Chapter 2 Materialism and Idealism .... 17
Chapter 3 Mechanistic Materialism .... 29
Chapter 4 From Mechanistic to Dialectical Materialism .... 40
Chapter 5 The Dialectical Conception of Development .... 49


Chapter 6 Dialectics and Metaphysics .... 57
Chapter 7 Change and Interconnection .... 71
Chapter 8 The Laws of Development .... 81
Chapter 9 Contradiction .... 90
Chapter 10 Development and Negation ....108
Chapter 11 A Scientific World Outlook ....120

Reading List .... 126



This little book on Materialism and the Dialectical Method originated from lectures given under the auspices of the London District Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1950. That was a long time ago and a lot has been thought and written on the subject since then. I am glad that nevertheless it has continued to be found useful—though to try to make it so I have now had to revise it three times over.

In these revisions I have changed as little as possible. In preparing this fourth edition I have made mostly only minor stylistic changes intended to render the meaning clearer and avoid misunderstandings. In particular I have left intact references to J. V. Stalin's booklet on Dialectical and Historical Materialism and Mao Tse-tung's lecture On Contradictions, both of which seem to me to remain worthy of quotation whatever may be objected against other words and deeds of their authors. The only substantial change I have made is in the reference to biology and the controversial theories of Trofim Lysenko in Chapter 7, where what I had written originally was obviously written in error.

I would like to stress that this book has no pretentions to be anything more than "an Introduction". It is not a textbook of Marxist philosophy but an introduction to some key philosophical ideas of Marxism which it still remains for Marxists to work out, criticise and develop further.

London, January 1968



The following are the principal works by Marx, Engels and Lenin setting forth general principles of the philosophy of dialectical materialism. The three marked with an asterisk are the best for beginners.


The German Ideology, Part I


Socialism, Utopian and Scientific *
Ludwig Feuerbach *
The Dialectics of Nature


The Teachings of Karl Marx *
Materialism and Empirio-Criticism
Philosophical Notebooks


SOURCE: Cornforth, Maurice. Materialism and the Dialectical Method. 4th rev. ed. (1968) New York: International Publishers, 1971. 126 pp. Vol. I of the 3-volume Dialectical Materialism: An Introduction. (Vol. 2: Historical Materialism, Vol. 3: Theory of Knowledge)

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Dialectical Materialism: An Introduction:

Volume 1: Materialism and the Dialectical Method

Volume 2: Historical Materialism

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Partisanship and Objectivity in Theoretical Work by Maurice Cornforth

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On Reappraising Maurice Cornforth” by Edwin A. Roberts

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