I will have to engage Briankle again. He was so intense about my stance in favor of “dialogue” against “dialectic” during my comps defense. At the time I had no one to back up my perception of the ways I had heard/read the term “dialectic” in use. Now I discover that none other than Raymond Williams articulates my point:
the ordinary version of ‘the dialectic’, which can so easily be abstracted as features of a theoretically isolated (determining) situation or movement…” (Marxism and Literature, p. 88).
It may well be that my learning of the concept of “dialectic” from exposure to its use in contemporary academic discourse within the discipline of communication has limited my own comprehension, with “meaning” gleaned from situations and contexts that may left gaps in any ideal or intended definition. I also may have misheard, misread, and misunderstood the nuances that gave me the overwhelming sense of cop-out: “dialectic” as a reference to things in relation always leading to a variant of the same ol’ outcomes, a way to acknowledge the-impossible-way-things-are-and-we-can-do-nothing-about-it. I recognized this attitude overtly in Williams’ description of “the ordinary version of ‘the dialectic,'” as a “retreat to an indifferent emphasis on the complexity of cultural activity” (119), the “(resigned) recognition of the inevitable and the necessary” (118) that Williams’ defines as “the true condition of hegemony…effective self-identification with the hegemonic forms” (emphasis in original, 118).
While Briankle defended the originary and ideal sense of “dialectic,” I was critiquing a contemporary formation. “Formations,” says Williams, “…are most recognizable as conscious movements and tendencies (literary, artistic, philosophical or scientific) which can usually be readily discerned after their formative productions” (119), and “…formations; those effective movements and tendencies, in intellectual and artistic life, which have significant and sometimes decisive influence on the active development of a culture, and which have a variable and often oblique relation to formal institutions” (117).
I assume he was aware of this distinction in our frames of reference and was pushing me to recognize and say it. Maybe he thought I was just somewhat off my rocker. It would surely not be the first time my angle was skewed!