Leszek Kolakowski and the Anatomy of Totalitarianism
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.
This article was originally published in The New Criterion, June 2005. Read by Ken Myers. 35 minutes.