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Classes and the Real Structure of Society

Karel Kosík

Contradictions: A Journal for Critical Thought I, no. 2 (2017): 187–204

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Keywords: Class theory, sociology, materialism, dialectics

This study was originally published in the Prague-based Filosofický časopis (Philosophical journal) as “Třídy a reálná struktura společnosti,” in autumn 1958 (Filosofický časopis 6 [1958], no. 5, pp. 721–733). The text immediately attracted the attention of Party ideologues, and its author was subjected to harsh criticism as part of the so-called “anti-revisionist” campaign that was going on at the time. The article is, however, of more than merely historical-political significance, representing a departure from official Marxist-Leninist positions. It also presents an important side of Kosík’s thought. The text was written several years before publication of Kosík’s best-known work, Dialectics of the Concrete (which first appeared in Czech in 1963), and in several respects “Classes and the Real Structure of Society” can be read as a preparatory study for the later book. As in Dialectics of the Concrete, Kosík approaches Marxism as an analytical method for eff ectively grasping reality in its totality. Criticizing the methodological limitations of modern sociology (as represented by Max Weber, Kurt Mayer, and C. Wright Mills), Kosík introduces here his conception of concrete totality. In contrast to the one-dimensional analysis of society taking into account only a single aspect, whether it be economic, political, spiritual or ethical, the materialist theory of class is presented here as a method for approaching society in its dialectically conditioned complexity. We present this article here for the first time in English, in a translation by Ashley Davies. Missing bibliographic information and Engish translations of cited texts have been filled in by Pavel Siostrzonek.

doi: 10.46957/con.2017.2.10

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