The core of this paper will be on dialectic, but I am going to approach it in a slightly roundabout way by listing four recent turns in social thought that put dialectic back on the agenda, in fact make it an urgent priority for us to come to terms with dialectic, and in particular with what was right and what was wrong in Hegelian dialectic which, as Marx quite rightly said, but did not really suffi ciently elaborate and explain, is the core of all, at least western, dialectic. I want to situate in the context of these four recent developments in social thought, which make these times, contrary to surface appearances, actually quite dialectical. Secondly, I want to relate these four categories of changes in recent social thought to the four-dimensional schema which I have outlined in my book Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom, articulating the system of dialectical critical realism. This tries to bring out Marx’s intuition about dialectic and provide for us a
materialist but transformatively oriented dialectic. Then I want to take up the question of exactly the structure of Hegelian dialectic, what it is, what is the rational kernel, what is the mystical shell, and I want to argue that in addition to the rational kernel and the mystical shell, there is what I call the ‘golden nugget’, and then there is a fourth item: a platinum plate. So this paper will be a trio of quartets.