STASIS

Issue 2
About EUSP

Fredric Jameson once pointed out that the Marxist tradition is already our Antiquity due to its significance and historical distance. This distance allows us to view it from the outside, and to reinvent Marxism for our own time. The same could be said about the most paradoxical version of this tradition—Soviet Marxism. However, there are particular qualities that single it out from the “classical antiquity” of Marxist tradition. Even internationally known Soviet works (by Vygotsky, Bakhtin, amongst ­others) are not perceived as belonging to a unitary theoretical tradition, and are even less associated with Marxism and the heritage of 1917. 
It may therefore seem that the October Revolution of 1917, although being recognized as the key event of the “short twentieth century,” has not created a universally recognizable and consolidated body of thought. It is, therefore, a difficult task to outline this field, and this is why the current lens of historical distance might be helpful in attempting to grasp both this unity and the richness of its internal differentiations.

Abstract

This article was published in Italian in 1973 and, together with an afterword written in 2016, has been offered by the author in response to the theme of the current issue of Stasis. In this work, Negri insists on radical difference of Marxist juridical theory, developed by the most important Soviet legal theorist, Evgeny Pashukanis (1891–1937), and on the revolutionary foundations of his thought. In his analysis—against normalizing and institutional readings—Negri both meticulously and polemically reconstructs these radical contents. He does so with impressive movement from Marx’s analysis of value-form, the State and capitalist command, to Pashukanis’s analysis of relations of these elements to juridical forms and the genesis of law in bourgeois society. This substantial reading of Pashukanis, together with Negri’s own political thought that emerged in the 1970s and prefigured his later works on the juridical forms of the global “Empire,” is an important contribution to political philosophy and Marxist legal theory, and is internationally available for the first time in English and in Russian. In his Postface, written forty years later, Negri resumes and updates his account in the view of current debates and literature, and reconfirms “the greatness of Pashukanis’ work.”

Keywords

Evgeny Pashukanis, Marxist legal theory, Soviet Marxism, law, value-form, capitalism, the State, Italian Workerism

Abstract

Although political differences between various factions of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) have been studied quite extensively, theoretical debates about the nature of Marxism and the role such debates had in determining Party programs and strategic decisions remains in need of a more thorough engagement. One such theoretical discussion, the question of the nature of (absolute) truth, is the subject matter of the present essay. The primary debate was between Georgi Plekhanov, one of the most respected representatives of early Russian Marxism, and a group of theoreticians united around Alexander Bogdanov, an early collaborator of Lenin (until their break in 1909) and an author of several original theoretical works that attempted to challenge the established orthodoxy of Plekhanovite Marxism. The question of the nature of truth stood at the center of the debates between Plekhanov and Bogdanov. The ultimate challenge that Bogdanov threw to the representatives of (self-proclaimed) “orthodox Marxism” was the question of the ultimate nature of Marxist theory: Is Marxism a science or a faith? If it is a science, it must operate within a scientific theory of truth and, as is the case with any genuine science, continue to grow and adapt to the changing circumstances of research. If it is indeed a faith, a set of absolute truths revealed to one person (Marx) and passed on to his disciples in sacred texts and by appointed prophets, then it contains as much value as any other faith or superstition.

Keywords

Dialectical materialism, theory of knowledge, objective truth, dogmatism, scientific socialism, Russian Marxism

Abstract

This article seeks to compare Spinoza’s philosophy with Vygotsky’s psychology on the problem of consciousness: How should one define this entity of internal reflexivity, if one’s analytical point of departure is not personal and substantial thought, but social and interpersonal relation, constitutive of individual thought? One of the clearest definitions of consciousness Vygotsky gives is the following: “consciousness is the experience of experiences (soznanie est’ perezhivanie perezhivanii).” This conception of consciousness is very close to that of Spinoza who, defining it as “the idea of the idea,” explains the extent to which consciousness and affectivity are linked. We will therefore show in what sense consciousness, understood as Affect, is constituted by the social environment, and why we can identify degrees of consciousness or awareness in children, depending on whether the lived affect is more or less developed, that is, more or less active. And we will relate the power of reflexivity of consciousness to the power of reversibility of corporeal affections, starting with that of words.

Keywords

Spinoza, Vygotsky, сonsciousness, experience [perezhivanie], Affect

Abstract

The article addresses the concept of individuation in the work of Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky. It argues that the concept reveals the Soviet epistemological constructions based on a strategic union between Spinoza and Hegel. Although Vygotsky did make an original contribution to materialist philosophy and this contribution cannot be isolated from the Soviet context, he is better known as a practitioner, whose Marxism is often suppressed as an unimportant holdover from the past. It is suggested that individuation links a Hegelian dialectical logic of mediation with a Spinozist understanding of activity through a Marxian epistemology explicit to Das Kapital. Vygotsky overcomes both mechanistic and teleological conceptions of the individual and class, the social and the collective, in order to be able to sketch a political theory of communization that is an “adequate form” of individuation. This brings us to another, interrelated, observation concerning debates on individuation, developed by Gilbert Simondon, Étienne Balibar, and Paolo Virno. It is concluded that Vygotsky’s theory may help overcome the Hegel/Spinoza divide in a contemporary radical thought.

Keywords

Vygotsky, Das Kapital, Hegel and Spinoza, communism, mediation, individuation

Abstract

Studying the phenomena of the ideal, Evald Ilyenkov checks every important step in his thinking with Hegel and Spinoza. Their philosophical teachings form the foundation for the triangle of “dialectical logic,” at the peak of which is Marx with his method of “ascending to the concrete.” This work will carry out a comparison of the conceptions of Ilyenkov and Western European Marxists along the “Hegel–Spinoza” line.

Keywords

Evald Ilyenkov, Marx, Spinoza, Hegel, Marxism, dialectics, dialectical logic, method of knowledge, ascending from the abstract to the concrete

Abstract

Ewald Ilyenkov’s “Cosmology of the Spirit” was written in the 1950s, and published posthumously only in the end of 1980s as it was too heretical to be published in the author’s lifetime. The text was heretical not because it was “dissident” or critical of the Soviet Union where the philosopher lived all his life, but because of its enormously speculative and hypothetical nature. Addressing the physicist idea of the “thermal death of the universe”, and creating an original combination of the Hegelian dialectics and Spinoza’s notion of the attribute, Ilyenkov claims that thought (and seemingly contingent emergence of “thinking life”) is necessary attribute of matter, as it is able to prevent the terminal entropic collapse. While other works by Ilyenkov were translated into several European languages, “Cosmology of the Spirit” will be available in English translation for the first time.

Key words

dialectical materialism, cosmology, Hegel, Spinoza, Engels, matter, life, thought, entropy

Abstract

The article traces the history of publication of Evald Ilyenkov’s early text “Cosmology of the Spirit,” presents its key historical and intellectual contexts and influences, and overviews contemporary literature related to its interpretation. The commentary also explains translator’s choices in his work with Ilyenkov’s terminology.

Key words

Ilyenkov, philosophy in the USSR, cosmology, Hegel, Spinoza, Engels, Pobisk Kuznetsov

Bibliographical note

The article “Converted Forms” by Merab Mamardashvili (1930–90) was first published in Polish in 1972 in a journal called Studia filozoficzne (Mamardashvili 1972). It only appeared in Russian in 1990 in the final book Mamardashvili published while living, a collection of articles under the title How I Understand Philosophy (Mamardashvili 1990). During the Soviet era, Mamardashvili’s theory of converted forms was mostly known from his book Classical and Non-Classical Ideals of Rationality (Mamardashvili 1984), and prior to that from his articles “Analysis of Consciousness in Marx” (Mamardashvili 1968) and “Converted Form,” an article in the fifth volume of the Soviet Philosophical Encyclopedia (Mamardashvili 1971). Some similar issue are present in the extended summary of Mamardashvili’s talk “Converted Forms and Pragmems” Mamardashvili 1970, given at a 1970 Summer school in Tartu on secondary modeling systems. In 1984, Mamardashvili gave a talk entitled “Converted Forms” at the Moscow Institute of Philosophy. In the insitute’s archive, there remained several drafts with the title “Converted Forms,” the earliest of which dates from 1966, and the latest, from 1971–72. It was this latter draft that was finally published in 1990. (by Andrei Paramonov)

Key words

Marx, converted forms (verwandelte Form), consciousness, Freud, philosophy in the USSR

Abstract

The article explores the legacy of Boris Porshnev, a remarkable Soviet Marxist thinker who contributed to history, psychology, physiology, and philosophy, from a particular dialectical perspective. Porshnev elaborated an innovative hypothesis of the origin of human species. He saw this origin in the emergence of language as (1) a means to mutual subjection and (2) means to resist subjection. A vivid, almost mythical picture of early human history is at the same time made rigorous through a consistent use of dialectical argument. This argument, in contrast with the Soviet doxa of “dialectical materialism,” privileges negativity as a special force and moment of development, and negativity takes the form of contrariness. The article discusses the value of Porshnev’s theory in the international context, and puts it into the broader context of Soviet unorthodox philosophy, all the while contributing to a general theory of negativity.

Keywords

Porshnev, Soviet philosophy, negativity, dialectic, human evolution

Abstract

This article seeks to excavate and mobilize Activity Theory (AT) for a conversation with recent trends in contemporary philosophy that attempt to overcome the relativism of the linguistic turn while accepting the latter’s core critique of Enlightenment conceptions of the human and nonhuman. Specifically, it focuses on Ilyenkov’s concept of the thinking body as a useful contrast to the ascription of agency to matter, and instead helps to illuminate the social practices that animate the material world.

Keywords

Activity Theory, Material Turn, Ilyenkov, Posthuman, Agency

A Talk with Valery Podoroga on Soviet Philosophy