MARS HILL AUDIO Reprint 1

Roger Kimball, "Leszek Kolakowski and the Anatomy of Totalitarianism"

(from The New Criterion, June 2005)

Born in 1927 in Poland, Leszek Kolakowski grew out of his youthful Stalinism to become one of the most penetrating critics of Marxism. In his masterful three-volume Main Currents of Marxism, he concluded: "The self-deification of mankind, to which Marxism gave philosophical expression, has ended in the same way as all such attempts, whether individual or collective: it has revealed itself as the farcical aspect of human bondage." Kolakowski's diagnosis of the spiritual crisis of modernity goes far beyond his critique of Marxism; in a variety of books, essays, and public addresses, he regularly returned to the problem of modern culture's denial of the sacred. This essay by Roger Kimball, editor of The New Criterion, was written on the occasion of the release of a new edition of Main Currents of Marxism, and sets the arguments in that book in the wider context of Kolakowski's other work. Read by Ken Myers. 35 minutes

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  • Description
    “ . . . Born in Radom, in eastern Poland, in 1927, the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski is closing in on his eightieth year. He has come a long way. He was a boy of twelve when the Nazis stormed into Poland. . . .”
  • Description
    “ . . . Marxist doctrine, by calling for the abolition of private property and the more or less total subordination of the market to state control, provided ‘a good blueprint for converting human society into a giant concentration camp’.”
  • Description
    “ . . . Notwithstanding its pretensions to ‘science’ . . . , Marxism has proven to be completely barren as an instrument of social understanding or prediction. . . .”
  • Description
    “Of course, it is not just to mankind’s spiritual cravings that Marxism appeals. It also speaks to its inherent thuggishness. This cannot be emphasized too much. . . .”
  • Description
    “ . . . In its nimble mastery of intellectual history and generous humanity, the book has no equal. Kolakowski’s survey of Marxist thought is breathtaking in its sweep . . .”
  • Description
    “. . . Kolakowski is surely right that our liberal, pluralist democracy depends for its survival not only on the continued existence of its institutions, but also “on a belief in their value and a widespread will to defend them. . . .”