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Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution Volume 3: The…

av Leszek Kolakowski

Serier: Main Currents of Marxism (volume 3)

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Tough but Worth It: Although there is no biography in any volume of this work, I was able to find out a little about its author, Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, from an encyclopedia, which describes him as a Marxist revisionist. After being expelled from the Communist Party, he left Poland and began working on his three-volume 'handbook' of Marxism: "Main Currents of Marxism: Its Origin, Growth, and Dissolution," which was completed in the 1970s.

This volume - the third and final in the work - looks at Marxism after the Russian Revolution. It begins with a discussion of the features and development of Stalinism and then presents a series of chapters concerning major Marxist writers and philosophers from the period 1920 - 1970. He traces the development of Stalinism in the 1930s and 1940s as well as the question of whether the Soviet Union abandoned Stalinism after Stalin's death. His conclusion is that the essential features of Stalinism (as defined by him) were largely kept in place by post-1953 Soviet leaders. In his view (one largely accepted today, but not necessarily when this was written in the 1970s) programs of reform by Khrushchev and others did not significantly alter the Stalinist foundations of the Soviet Union.

After Stalin, Kolakowski turns to some less important Marxist figures of the twentieth century, including Trotsky, Gramsci, Lukacs, Marcuse and the Frankfurt School. In keeping with the title of this volume, "The Breakdown," most of these figures come in for harsh criticism. Trotsky is presented as a deposed-dictator-turned-democrat and the 'critical theory' of the Frankfurt School is characterized as a manifestation of the dissolution of Marxism.

The final chapter is a long review of developments in Marxism since Stalin's death, which Kolakowski considered expanding into a fourth volume, but ultimately included here in condensed form. It features a discussion of reforms in Yugoslavia (especially attempts to set up workers' councils) as well as Maoism. Since Kolakowski was writing in the 1970s, his discussion here is severely dated and of relatively little use to present readers.

As with the other volumes in this series, I was somewhat put off by the amount of philosophy in this work. I picked up "Main Currents of Marxism" out of an historical interest in Marxism and found myself somewhat unprepared for its philosophical aspects. It made for tough and occasionally frustrating reading for me, since I don't have an extensive background in philosophy. This volume considers less and poorer philosophy than the previous two, but I still can't give it five whole stars. All in all, All in all, "Main Currents of Marxism" is a tough read, especially for those who aren't philosophically inclined. In the end, however, those who make it through will be rewarded with extensive knowledge of the breakdown of Marxism and the major Marxist philosophers of the mid-twentieth century.

Contents:
I. The First Phase of Soviet Marxism: The Beginnings of Stalinism
II. Theoretical Controversies in Soviet Marxism in the 1920s
III. Marxism as the Ideology of the Soviet State
IV. The Crystallization of Marxism-Leninism After the Second World War
V. Trotsky
VI. Antonio Gramsci: Communist Revisionism
VII. Gyorgy Lukacs: Reason in the Service of Dogma
VIII. Karl Korsch
IX. Lucien Goldmann
X. The Frankfurt School and 'Critical Theory'
XI. Herbert Marcuse: Marxism as a Totalitarian Utopia of the New Left
XII. Ernst Bloch: Marxism as a Futuristic Gnosis
XIII. Developments in Marxism Since Stalin's Death ( )
2 rösta daschaich | Jul 17, 2006 |
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