Rockwell, Russell

The Freedom and Necessity Dialectic: Marcuse, Kosik, and Today


In Dialectics of the Concrete, Karel Kosik sharply focuses on the realm of necessity and realm of freedom as the core concepts underlying the dialectic of labor, praxis, and post-capitalist society. On the way to disclosing the central position of this dialectic, Kosik criticizes a central concept of Herbert Marcuse’s Reason and Revolution, the transition from Hegel’s philosophy to Marx’s social theory. While it is even questionable whether Marcuse ever understood the Hegelian Marxian dialectic in this manner, Kosik’s description of the issue certainly does not recognize the principal starting point of Marcuse’s argument—that the transition to social theory was within Hegel’s philosophy.  Kosik’s omission of Marcuse’s insight constituted a theoretical barrier to new investigations of Marx’s subsequent returns to Hegel’s philosophy, particularly the dialectic of freedom and necessity, with which Hegel concludes the Introduction to Philosophy of Mind, the final volume of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. The consequential omission made it improbable that Kosik’s critique of Marcuse’s theory could provide the basis for a revival of the Hegelian Marxian dialectic, for theoretical and practical movements to overcome capitalism in both its statist and private property forms.