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Main Currents of Marxism: The Founders - The Golden Age - The Breakdown Paperback – January 17, 2008
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
The work is certainly not a good place to look for an introduction to Marx or Marxist thought. For those purposes, it is far too expansive, and dwells on topics and thinkers that have been rendered largely philosophically irrelevant over the decades since its completion. As a philosophical assessment of Marx's own work, it is neither particularly innovative, nor particularly astute, however eloquently written. To get a good sense of Marx's philosophical thought, it would be considerably wiser even for a novice to invest the time it would take to make one's way through Kolakowski's 400-odd pages of the first volume into reading an equal amount of the primary literature.
On the other hand, in spite of its length, the book's treatment of many Marxists, especially in the third volume, is essentially superficial, and therefore of little use to an advanced reader. For someone who has, for instance, a desire to deepen one's knowledge of Ernst Bloch, Kolakowski's witty and biting short chapter may be amusing, but hardly enlightening.
Finally, as a previous review notes, the English translation is pleasurably readable. However, what it does not convey is precisely the charming unevenness of the original. Over the time of writing the Main Currents, Kolakowski moved from being a slightly reluctant true believer to being a vitriolic apostate, and this shift is reflected in the tones of the original.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent book about Marxism. Do not expect a happy tale, especially in the third volume. A must read for anyone studying the twentieth century.Published 12 months ago by Alexander Saeedy
Kolakowski presents you with the best summary of Marxist thought: its origins, development, strengths and weaknesses. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Hugo Johnson
If you have an abiding interest in historical philosophy, this trilogy ranks among the genre's masterworks, and it would be tragic for you to overlook it. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Anders Johnson
Main Currents of Marxism is, as its author says, a history of Marxist doctrine. No doubt it is the best book on the subject. Read morePublished on September 27, 2013 by David Walters
I have only read parts of it, but it is the most thorough, the most sophisticated and the most intelligent survey and analysis of Marxism that I have read.Published on August 5, 2013 by Leonard Gordon
Prof. Kolakowski is a flat out genius and writes a 'real' war and peace equivalent about Marxism> I would have loved this book but for the relentless intensity of his writing... Read morePublished on May 29, 2013 by Ted
3 years ago when I was a junior in high school I begged my mom to by this for me because it was the first thing that came up on the amazon search on Marxism. Read morePublished on August 27, 2012 by Evelyn Ellington