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Paperback Main Currents of Marxism: The Founders - The Golden Age - The Breakdown Book

ISBN: 0393329437

ISBN13: 9780393329438

Main Currents of Marxism: The Founders - The Golden Age - The Breakdown

(Part of the Gówne nurty marksizmu Series)

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Book Overview

Renowned philosopher Leszek Kolakowski was one of the first scholars to reveal both the shortcomings and the dangers posed by communist regimes. He now presents, for the first time in one paperback volume, his definitive Main Currents of Marxism: "A prophetic work," according to the Library of Congress, that provides "the most lucid and comprehensive history of the origins, structure, and posthumous development of the system of thought that had the...

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A must read to understand Marxism within a wide context

First of all, Leszek Ko³akowski was a superb intellectual, philosopher and historian of ideas. After the Second World War he devoted himself to marxism, but after visiting Moscow he left stalinism and became a revisionist marxist. Stalinism as a subreligion within a religion (Marxism) condemned the heretic, no schism was allowed. Ko³akowski was expelled from the Polish United Workers' Party. Now, lets go to the book that made Ko³akowski famous. The purpose of the book in the words of Ko³akowski: "to understand Marx's basic thoughts as answers to questions that have long excercised the minds of philosophers, but at the same time to comprehend them in their uniqueness both as emanations of Marx's genius and as phenomena of a particular age." Ko³akowski did not write a history of Western philosophy to understand Marx, but as he said "a brief account of the questions in regard to which Marxism can be described as constituting a new step in the development of European philosophy." Therefore Ko³akowski does a real genealogy of marxism, you can not study Martxism as an isolated ideology. "The phrase Marxism before Marx has no meaning, but Marx's thought would be emptied of its content if it were not considered in the setting of European culltural history as a whole..." Thus, Ko³akowski begin analysing the origins of dialectitic BRIEFLY (but not lacking of depth) Plotinus, Saint Augustine and the contingency of human existence, the concept of the "One" before and after Christianity and how can men can reach non duality or the union with the One, which in the followers of Plato is in one way and in christianity (influenced by Plato) in another way. The he examined interesting figures like Meister Eckhart and the dialectif of deification, Nicolas de Cusa and the coincidentia oppositorum, the Enlightenment, Rousseau, Hume, the Germans: Kant (Prussian), Fichte, Hegel (as you should know and important part of the book) and the Hegelian Left. Young Hegelians: Ludwig Feurbach (The essence of Christianity) and Moses Hess and his philosophy of action. Then starts the analysis of Marx writting (and Engel's) Marxism before and after the Russian "Revolution" (was it a Revolution?. Lev Trotsky, the marriage between Marxism-Leninsm-Stalinism. Also interesting the part about Antonio Gramsci, Györg Lukács and other "perhaps" less known: German Marxist theorist Karl Korsch (Marxism and Philosophy)and French philosopher and sociologist, Lucien Goldmann. The Frankfurt school is obviously included with some of their leading figures and former figures: Horckheimer, Adorno, Marcuse, Fromm. The book finish with Ernst Bloch and Marxism after De-Stalinization. If you want to understand Marxism you should have this book in your room and combine it with the original works of the authors. This is more a philosophical work than a history book about marxism. You should have a philosophical basis to read some parts of the book. You can read a really good history book about marxism

Final Analysis

An intellectual analysis of a difficult subject. Marx has become a guiding light for some and a man of ideas way past his time for others. However, Kolakowski has written a perfected work on the initial writings of, the founding of and the eventual downfall of what Marxism became. This is a worthwhile book for any political scientist, regardless of political stripe, and certainly necessary reading for students of political philosophy. The analysis is in depth and profound. Well worth the effort.

The Definitive Anatomy of Marxism

This book is the definitive anatomy of Marxism - as well as its most authoritative post-mortem. Writing in the late 1970's, Kolakowski called Marxism "the greatest fantasy of our century... a dream offering the prospect of a society of perfect unity, in which all human aspirations would be fulfilled and all values reconciled." As we know, the fantasy of "values reconciled" soon turned into the reality of murder on an industrial scale - 100 million dead by the end of the century and billions more reduced to poverty and the daily insult of compulsory lies. Marxism pretends to be a scientific system, but K. shows that it derives not from empirical observation, but from speculative metaphysics. Indeed, Kolakowski exposes Marx as a man of intellectual brilliance - AND breathtaking naivete. Marx blames social inequality and alienation on the division of labor and says that "the chief purpose of communism must be to abolish (it)" But even a child can see that productivity relies on specialization. He believes that if private property were eliminated, all human egoism and conflict would magically disappear - as if under communism there would not be a hundred new issues to fight over and a thousand new opportunities for selfishness to rear its ugly head. Authentic science generates accurate predictions, but "all of the prophecies of Marx ... have proved to be false." His theory of "exploitation" is based on arbitrary assumptions and his contributions to economic science are nil. In one respect, Kolakowski is too generous to Marx. He says that Marx's "historical materialism" has "enriched our understanding of the past." But historical materialism is absurd in its strict form and platitudinous in its liberal form. It is hard to see how it could have enriched anything. Among K's virtues is his refusal to allow communists to escape their horrendous legacy with the usual dodge that "Marxism" was "never tried". Communism - as the world came to know it in the regimes of Stalin and Mao and Ceausescu - was not a "mere degeneration of Marxism, but a possible interpretation of it and even a well-founded one." If Marxism was never successfully "implemented", it certainly wasn't a matter of not trying, nor a matter of good ideas betrayed, but the logical outcome of false ideas all-too-conscientiously put into practice. Marxists are fond of talking about the "contradictions" of capitalism, but the contradictions of Marxism are far more obvious. As Kolakowski describes one of these: "The idea of perfect equality...is not only unfeasible economically, but is contradictory in itself: for perfect equality can only be imagined under a system of extreme despotism, but despotism itself presupposes inequality..." That communist ideas, however enticing, are false - has been recognized for a very long time. David Hume, writing in 1751, was able to capture the futility as well as the menace of communism in a single paragraph: "However specious the ideas

A High Point of Intellectual History

This is an outstanding description and analysis of the history of Marxism as a philosophic enterprise and doctrine. Kolakowski's goal is a fair and lucid history of Marxism as an intellectual enterprise. This is a highly ambitious undertaking requiring familiarity with a huge range of writers and thinkers, ranging from famous figures like Marx and Hegel to obscure 19th and 20th century ideologues. Kolakowski also appears to be remarkably well versed in the secondary literature on Marxism as well. The breadth and depth of scholarship is remarkable and is matched by Kolakowski's lucid exposition. Considerably credit has to be given to the translator, PS Falla, for the fluent English. Main Currents is divided into 3 volumes, the first covering the origins of Marxism and Marx himself, the second devoted to the apogee of Marxist thought, and the last to history of Marxism since the Russian revolution. Kolokowski begins in an apparently surprising place; the Neoplatonism of the Classical world. He points out that some of of the themes implicit in Marx have very deep roots. The ideas of man alienating aspects of his essence and then being restored to completion in a dramatic and catastrophic event are ancient. Kolakowski traces these ideas and the accompanying aspects of eschatology and soteriology through major philosophers and theologians of both the Classical and Medieval period into the end of the 18th century. He then moves to a brilliant description of the Hegelian - Idealist tradition that forms the immediate background of Marx's work. Kolakowski's analysis of Marx's wholesale modification of Hegel's concepts and his synthesis of Hegelian thought with the Romantic ideals of early 19th century socialism and economic ideas is simply the best description of this difficult subject I have ever encountered. He then moves through a careful chronological reconstruction of Marx's thought, emphasizing the continuity from Marx's earliest substantial work to the last completed parts of Capital. Kolakowski particularly highlights the key role of the concept of alienation in Marx's thought. The description of Marx is lucid and evenhanded. Kolakowski is very respectful of Marx's brilliance as a thinker and provides outstanding discussions of difficult concepts like Marx's concept of surplus value and his concept of history. Kolakowski's exposition gives a very strong sense of why Marx's system was so attractive to generations of intellectuals. This is not to suggest that Kolakowski is uncritical. Quite the opposite. Kolakowski's critique of key issues in Marx such as the concept of surplus value or the claims of historical materialism are ruthlessly effective. The second volume covers the period from death of Engels to the Bolshevik Revolution. This is also approximately the period of the Second International. Kolakowski describes this as the "Golden Age" of Marxist thought, a period characterized by a diversity of Marxist thinkers and continued interaction o
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