In The Principal Contradiction, Torkil Lauesen introduces readers to the philosophy of dialectical materialism as a tool for changing the world.
Dialectical materialism allows us to understand the dynamics of world history, the concept of contradiction building a bridge between theory and practice, with the principal contradiction telling us where to start.
Lauesen explores the historical origins of dialectical materialism, focusing at first on the European context in which Hegel was famously turned on his head, then introducing the subsequent contributions made by Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Mao. Drawing on his own decades of experience as an anti-imperialist, Lauesen shows how dialectical materialism can be employed as a method to understand the past five hundred years of capitalist history, how contradictions internal to European capitalism led to colonialism and genocide in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, as all humanity was brought into a single exploitative world system. The globalized capitalist system has developed through successive and changing principal contradictions, decisively impacting regional, national, and local contradictions. This has in turn given rise to new reactions, interacting with and modifying the principal contradiction.
Identifying the principal contradiction is indispensable for developing a global perspective on capitalism. This methodology is not just a valuable tool with which to analyze complex relationships: it also tells us how to intervene.