← back to archive

Intelektuálne dejiny československého poststalinizmu

Juraj Halas (Comenius University, Bratislava)

Contradictions: A Journal for Critical Thought V, no. 1 (2021): 145–157

download (pdf)

Keywords: Post-Stalinism, Marxist philosophy, categories, law of value, socialist commodity production

In this review essay, Juraj Halas discusses the book „Rehabilitovat Marxe!“ by Jan Mervart and Jiří Růžička, which represents a formidable attempt at mapping and systematizing the development of Marxist philosophy in Czechoslovakia from 1953 to 1969. In their efforts at an “analytical archaeology” of post-Stalinist thought, they identify a range of central tendencies among thinkers who aimed to rehabilitate Marxist philosophy in the postwar period. “Dialectical determinism” was associated with the likes of Josef Cibulka and Jindřich Zelený and focused on ontological or methodological issues. “Marxist humanism” was a current with a heavy philosophical-anthropological focus, represented, e.g., by Karel Kosík. Conversely, the “techno-optimism” of Radovan Richta and his associates was preoccupied with forces of production and the “scientific-technological revolution.” Finally, “legal philosophy,” as propounded by figures such as Zdeněk Mlynář, František Šamalík, and Miroslav Kusý, was set on providing a critical account of modern political institutions and their relation to civil society. Mervart and Růžička associate these four currents with distinct, if overlapping, clusters of philosophical categories. In addition to providing an in-depth analysis of these now largely forgotten contributions to Czechoslovak Marxism, the book offers useful insights into their limits – for example, in terms of their relation to state socialism, (inter)nationalism, and gender. In this review, Halas draws critical attention to a noteworthy omission: Ota Šik’s critique of the “political economy of socialism.” He shows that Šik’s approach satisfies Mervart and Růžička’s own criteria for inclusion. It was specifically post-Stalinist, it was to a large extent philosophical in nature, and it cannot be reduced to any of the other tendencies discussed in the book. Moreover, it was subject to the same kinds of limitations identified in the authors’ analysis of the other four currents. In this sense, Halas’s essay serves to confirm the heuristic import of their approach.

doi: 10.46957/con.2021.1.7

← back to archive