In some sense, Main Currents of Marxism represents the major life’s work of Leszek Kolakowski and the culmina- tion of the path that began much earlier, in the. The Marxism That Failed:Main Currents of Marxism: Vol. 1, The Founders. Leszek Kolakowski; Main Currents of Marxism: Vol. 2, The Golden Age. Leszek. Main Currents of Marxism has ratings and 29 reviews. From philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, one of the giants of twentieth-century intellectual history.
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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Main Currents of Marxism: From philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, one of the giants of twentieth-century intellectual history, comes this highly infuential study of Marxism.
Written in exile, this kolakowskk work’ presents, according to the Library of Congress, ‘the most lucid and comprehensive history of the origins, structure, and posthumous development of the system of thought that had the greatest From philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, one of the giants of twentieth-century intellectual history, comes this highly infuential study of Marxism.
Written in exile, this ‘prophetic work’ presents, according to the Library of Congress, ‘the most lucid and comprehensive history of the origins, structure, and posthumous currentd of the system of thought that had the greatest impact on the twentieth century’.
Kolakowski traces the intellectual foundations of Marxist thought from Plotonius through Lenin, Lukacs, Sartre and Mao. He reveals Marxism to be ‘the greatest fantasy of our century In a brilliant coda, he examines the collapse of international Communism in light of the last tumultuous decades. Main Currents of Marxism remains the indispensable book in its field.
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Be the first to ask a question about Main Currents kolakowaki Marxism. Lists with This Book. Aug 24, Hadrian rated it really liked it Shelves: We are witnesses and anticipators in momentous and complicated intellectual and moral processes, the combined effects of which cannot be foreseen.
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Its aim in describing the historical development of what we call Marxism from its earliest precursors to We are witnesses and anticipators in momentous and complicated intellectual and moral processes, the combined effects of which cannot be foreseen.
Its aim in describing the historical development of what we call Marxism from its earliest precursors to the New Left and the Frankfurt School after the death of Stalin. This is an encyclopedia first and kolakoski criticism second.
But even today as the Soviet Union only exists in decommissioned submarines and toppled statues, the debates about Marxism still smolder and rankle, and a main difficulty is establishing any common basis for discussion.
I could seriously recommend the first book and most of the second to more learned Marxists who want a detailed discussion of the development of Marx’s thought. The first volume, ‘The Founders’, discusses the trends in philosophical history which led to Marx and the development of his own thought. These early thinkers struggled with reconciling the finite capacities of human beings with the Absolute.
He explains how Marx threw himself into the intense debates over fate and human history. Kant believed that perfectibility was something that could never be reached, and Hegel believed in his ‘Geist’, which erased individual agency.
But Marx’s original contribution was the hope that humanity would understand that humanity’s problems were created by humanity, and that by understanding them and creating a more self-affirming world, human maun was achievable. But what separates him from this past thinkers and also what creates conflict in his thought was his attempt to make a realistic utopia, one grounded in empirical experience.
Although he disagrees with the labor theory of value, he understands that the concept of historical materialism was a useful and important development in intellectual history. We can thus draw a clear line from the Paris Manuscripts of to Das Kapital. There’s less of a focus on his historical interpretations but the philosophical underpinnings of said analyses. He speaks favorably of those who are original or at least attempt to be original and those who act out of a genuine humanism.
He disdains those who hold up orthodoxy, or hold up Marx as some immutable truth, always to be interpreted, kolakowwki improved on. Karl Kautsky suffers a thousand blows here; so does Plekhanov, who feeds on a simplification of Marxism and popularizes it. One minor figure which I should point out is Rudolf Hilferding, an Austrian who developed the first theories of ‘finance capitalization’, which posited the financial sector e.
The Highest Stage of Capitalism. But it is not these economic theories which dominate the end of Volume II, it is Sorel’s theory of revolutionary violence min the role of Lenin. The Utopian dreams kolakowskk the early Marxists faded in the horrifying reality of the Russian Civil War, and Lenin became wholly absorbed in keeping and maintaining power, even to the extent of appropriating agricultural production as the old system did.
He quotes an extended passage from a major Soviet work about “Stalin, the great master of the sciences [ This is not philosophy, this is ass-licking. Even after ‘de-Stalinization’, he still condemns the Soviet Union as an ‘oligarchic totalitarianism’, although at least one which doesn’t force even biology and genetics to obey Stalin’s will. He’s genuinely interested in the original contributions of the Frankfurt School, and curious about what Gramsci’s future state would look like.
He is more dismissive of the ‘New Left’, and considers it to not have a direct influence from Marx at all, only a few repeated slogans. There is only a brief mention of Marxist thought outside of Europe – America receives barely any mention, and Maoism-Third-Worldism only gets a portion of a chapter.
Marx’s work is obviously important in the history of philosophy and the philosophy of history, but it should not and can not be taken as a source of dogma. Marx’s work has omissions and points of contention, and it is in developing these that we can continue to understand the human condition. Was it inevitable that Marxism could lead to the Sovet Union and all that entailed?
The Soviet Union was one possible result of these theories, albeit one of the worst possible ones. Perhaps it never will be. It has an obvious appeal to the downtrodden, and those who do indeed suffer from social or economic injustice. For that still happens, no one can deny.
Marxism is Promethean in that it promises true knowledge as a means of empowerment. But, and I quote from the end of the first volume: It does much very well, but it is also important to consider the book’s shortcomings.
The book assumes a certain degree of knowledge about philosophy, making it not quite suited for an introductory work. He speaks from the point of view of somebody who was once a committed Communist, but rarely with the frothing rage of an a true believer.
He speaks sympathetically, even humorously, and refuses to shy away from the points where Marxist doctrine is strongest. It is this remarkable intellectual engagement which brings me to recommend this book. View all 4 comments. Dec 28, Szplug rated it it was amazing. It is easy to understand the allure of Marxism: Indeed, capitalism itself was deemed a crucial and irreplaceable component of this historical inevitability, a necessary system that rapidly increased the technological level and material composition of society and yet was riven by contradictions, social and economical, that would result in the proletariat becoming conscious of its historical identity and overthrowing the decadent capitalist-liberal order, replacing it with a communist panacea.
Man, no longer alienated from the objects of his labour and achieving the symbiosis of subject and object in himself and nature, would work purely for the joy of working, of creating that which needed to be created, doing that which needed to be done; and eventually the very superstructure of government and state would melt away, redundant anachronisms from the prehistoric travails of a now enlightened race.
With the God of the Christians under assault from all sides, here was a rational religion that could be embraced with the fervor of the true believer, all the while backed by the impressive edifice of evidentiary support generated by the towering intellect of Marx and the deft and nuanced calculations of Engels. Leszek Kolakowski, a former professor of philosophy from Poland, began working on The Foundersthe first book of his omnibus Main Currents of Marxismafter being dismissed from the University of Warsaw inprior to his acclaimed academic career in England and the United States.
In dense pages he outlines the philosophical lineage that led through Neoplatonism, Empiricism and Idealism to Hegel – the prime influence on Marx’s thought – and then explicates all of the main thrusts and tenets of Marx and Engels vast philosophical output. It is not so much a history of these men or their times, but that of their thought.
Towards the end Kolakowski performs an exegesis that postulates how the rather nebulous political underpinnings of Marxism would allow an adherent to steer the socialist ship towards a despotic berth; that its reliance on Hegelian dialectic and the negation of negations would allow future scholars to create kolxkowski own symbiosis of the Marxist tenets, mzrxism them in unanticipated – but entirely foreseeable – and disastrous directions.
The Founders is erudite, penetrating, and brilliant – in addition to thoroughly covering the output of Marx and Engels, it includes perhaps the best explanation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit that I have come across.
It is a tome to be digested slowly, and parts of it are fairly heavy going – I’ll be needing a break between books in order to let Kolakowski’s analysis settle – but it is indispensable for those who wish to know more marxsim the intellectual structure and origins of one of the most important and influential political philosophies of the twentieth century.
Jan 10, Adam Gurri rated it it was amazing. How can I begin to review a book like this? The reviewer of the last edition put out noted that the book is pages, but written by anyone else it would have been ten times as long.
And currenys is exactly right. This books is encyclopedic in the volume of information it conveys, and yet it strings it all together so that you’re following more or less chronologically, enriching each period as you go with greater and greater knowledge of all the key players.
This is a book about the history of Marx How can I begin to review a book like cufrents
A. Giles-Peters, KOLAKOWSKI, L.: “Main Currents of Marxism”. Vol. 3: “The Breakdown” – PhilPapers
This is a book about the history of Marxist doctrine, from its pre-history which Kolakowski traces all the way back to ideas in Plotinus and ccurrents neo-Platonists right on down to when the first edition of the book came out in Though he continually stresses that he is interested only in the variations of the doctrine, the connection between political ideas and political practice is particularly hard to disentangle in this case, especially once Lenin and Stalin and the USSR enter the picture quite late in the book, I might add!
Among the book’s many virtues is covering in outline the history of several political movements, as a result of this connection. Really, I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone kolqkowski wishes to understand the history of the 20th century.
It won’t give you that off, but it will fill in one of the most important background components of that history, and in richer detail than you would think possible for a single book. I personally feel as though a great deal curreents been brought into sharp focus that had remained just in my peripheral vision for years.
Main Currents of Marxism | W. W. Norton & Company
Of course, a book on Marxism is not for everyone. Though I got a great deal out of it, I admit I’m relieved to finally be able to be able to move on to the next book. Leszek Kolakowski was to the study of Marxism what Gibbon was to the study of the Roman Empire, what Darwin was to the study of evolutionary biology, and what Einstein was to the study of general relativity.
Main Currents of Marxism is a brilliant, dazzling, monumental work, which shows how Marxism came about, from what philosophical schools it was spawned, the nature and impact of concomitant theories of socialism and socialist philosophy, and how Marxism and socialism fared when put into actio Leszek Kolakowski was to the study mqrxism Marxism what Gibbon was to the study of the Roman Empire, what Darwin was to the study of evolutionary biology, and what Einstein was to the study of general relativity.
Main Currents of Marxism is a brilliant, dazzling, monumental work, which shows how Marxism came about, from what philosophical schools it was spawned, the nature and impact of concomitant theories of socialism and socialist kolakowskj, and how Marxism and socialism fared when put into action as government policy in the former Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact states, and China.
If the book were merely a philosophical survey of the works of Marx and Engels, along with a discussion of the sociopolitical impact of Marxism and its attendant philosophies, dayenu. But it is so much more. Main Currents of Marxism was produced by a writer and thinker who was at the peak of his powers, and who generously shared his gifts to augment scholarship, philosophical studies, and historical analysis. In writing his magnum opus, Kolakowski also helped readers, thinkers, and policymakers figure out how so much of the human race fell prey to Marxism, Marxian thought, and socialist beliefs.
While it may be rhetorically effective to call the Administration a bunch of Marxists or socialists, intellectually speaking, the practice is misguided and the appellations are utterly inaccurate. By contrast, the various philosophers and political leaders who get skewered by Kolakowski—in the non-histrionic, but utterly powerful manner in which he skewered them—deserved and deserve the excoriations they got at his hands.