On Contradiction


On Contradiction

Mao Zedong's On Contradiction (simplified Chinese: 矛盾论; traditional Chinese: 矛盾論; pinyin: Maodunlun) is considered his most important philosophical essay. Along with On Practice it forms the philosophical underpinnings of the political ideology that would later become Maoism. It was written in August 1937 while Mao was at his guerrilla base in Yenan. Mao suggests that all movement and life is a result of contradiction. Mao insists that there is a difference between antagonism and contradiction. For example he writes in 1911 both the bourgeois and proletariat were allies against the monarchy despite their contradictions because it was non antagonistic. Mao also suggests that there may be contradictions between workers and peasants that are antagonistic under capitalism but will become peaceful under Communism. Mao accepts that contradictions will always exist even in a socialist nation but that those contradictions can be made harmless. Mao furthers the theme laid out in his essay On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.

"We may now say a few words to sum up. The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought. It stands opposed to the metaphysical world outlook. It represents a great revolution in the history of human knowledge. According to dialectical materialism, contradiction is present in all processes of objectively existing things and of subjective thought and permeates all these processes from beginning to end; this is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction. Each contradiction and each of its aspects have their respective characteristics; this is the particularity and relativity of contradiction. In given conditions, opposites possess identity, and consequently can coexist in a single entity and can transform themselves into each other; this again is the particularity and relativity of contradiction. But the struggle of opposites is ceaseless, it goes on both when the opposites are coexisting and when they are transforming themselves into each other, and becomes especially conspicuous when they are transforming themselves into one another; this again is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction. In studying the particularity and relativity of contradiction, we must give attention to the distinction between the principal contradiction and the non-principal contradictions and to the distinction between the principal aspect and the non-principal aspect of a contradiction; in studying the universality of contradiction and the struggle of opposites in contradiction, we must give attention to the distinction between the different forms of struggle. Otherwise we shall make mistakes. If, through study, we achieve a real understanding of the essentials explained above, we shall be able to demolish dogmatist ideas which are contrary to the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism and detrimental to our revolutionary cause, and our comrades with practical experience will be able to organize their experience into principles and avoid repeating empiricist errors. These are a few simple conclusions from our study of the law of contradiction."

In dialectical materialism, contradiction, as derived by Karl Marx from Hegelianism, usually refers to an opposition of social forces. Most prominently (according to Marx), capitalism entails a social system that has contradictions because the social classes have conflicting collective goals. These contradictions stem from the social structure of society and inherently lead to class conflict, economic crisis, and eventually revolution, the existing order’s overthrow and the formerly oppressed classes’ ascension to political power.

Antagonistic contradiction (Chinese language: 矛盾; Pinyin: máodùn) is the impossibility of compromise between different social classes. The term is most often applied in Maoist theory, which holds that differences between the two primary classes, the working class/proletariat and the bourgeoisie are so great that there is no way to bring about a reconciliation of their views. Because the groups involved have diametrically opposed concerns, their objectives are so dissimilar and contradictory that no mutually acceptable resolution can be found. Non antagonistic contradictions may be resolved through mere debate, but antagonistic contradictions can only be resolved through struggle.

The term is usually attributed to Vladimir Lenin, although he may never have actually used the term in any of his written works.

In Maoism, the antagonistic contradiction was usually that between the peasantry and the landowning class. Mao Zedong expressed his views on the policy in his famous February 1957 speech "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People."

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  • contradiction — [ kɔ̃tradiksjɔ̃ ] n. f. • contradictïun v. 1120; lat. contradictio → contredire 1 ♦ Action de contredire qqn; échange d idées entre des personnes qui se contredisent. ⇒ contestation, démenti, dénégation, négation, objection, opposition,… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Contradiction logique — Contradiction Une contradiction existe lorsque deux affirmations, idées, ou actions s excluent mutuellement. Être non contradictoire apparaît comme essentiel à toute personne soucieuse de découvrir ce qu est « la raison », et de ce que… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Contradiction radicale — Contradiction Une contradiction existe lorsque deux affirmations, idées, ou actions s excluent mutuellement. Être non contradictoire apparaît comme essentiel à toute personne soucieuse de découvrir ce qu est « la raison », et de ce que… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • contradiction — CONTRADICTION. s. f. Action de contredire, opposition aux sentimens et aux discours de quelqu un, discours par lequel on combat l avis d un autre. Cet avis a été reçu de tout le monde sans contradiction. Les grands n aiment pas la contradiction.… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

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  • Contradiction — Con tra*dic tion, n. [L. contradictio answer, objection: cf. F. contradiction.] 1. An assertion of the contrary to what has been said or affirmed; denial of the truth of a statement or assertion; contrary declaration; gainsaying. [1913 Webster]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • contradiction — Contradiction. s. f. v. Opposition, contrarieté de sentiments. Cet avis a esté receu de tout le monde sans contradiction. les grands n aiment pas la contradiction. cela implique contradiction. On appelle, Esprit de contradiction, Un homme qui n… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • contradiction — I noun adverseness, antipathy, antithesis, assertion of the contrary, assertion of the opposite, conflict, conflicting evidence, confutation, contradistinction, contraindication, contraposition, contraries, contrariety, contrariness, contrary… …   Law dictionary

  • contradiction — ► NOUN 1) a combination of statements, ideas, or features which are opposed to one another. 2) the statement of a position opposite to one already made. ● contradiction in terms Cf. ↑contradiction in terms …   English terms dictionary

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  • contradiction — late 14c., from O.Fr. contradiction or directly from L. contradictionem (nom. contradictio) a reply, objection, counterargument, noun of action from pp. stem of contradicere, in classical L. contra dicere to speak against, from contra against… …   Etymology dictionary


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