Boris Porshnev’s Dialectic of History

  • Artemy Magun
Keywords: Porshnev, Soviet philosophy, negativity, dialectic, human evolution


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.

Author Biography

Artemy Magun

PhD in Philosophy, PhD in Political Science, Professor of Democratic Theory
European University at St Petersburg, Department of Political Science and Sociology 
Gagarinskaya ul., d. 6/1A, Saint Petersburg, Russia 191187


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How to Cite
Magun, A. (2017). Boris Porshnev’s Dialectic of History. Stasis, 5(2).