A collection of essays by the Polish philosopher Kolakowski (1927–2009), viewed by some as one of the intellectual progenitors of Poland's Solidarity movement.
Respected internationally for his opposition to Marxism, as reflected in his three-volume study Main Currents of Marxism, the author was expelled from Poland's United Workers' Party in 1956 and fired from his philosophy chair at the University of Warsaw in 1968. The present collection has been assembled and edited by his widow and collaborator, Agnieszka Kolakowska, and includes some essays published for the first time in English. There are three sections. The first part includes selected writings on Marxism, communism, socialism, totalitarianism and ideology in general. In her introduction, Kolakowska explains their current relevance because of Kolakowski's warning that “the spectre is stronger than the spells we cast on it. It might come back to life.” In the second part, the author focuses on religion, and most of the pieces have not appeared in English before. In the third part, Kolakowski takes up the philosophical issues that preoccupied him for much of his life. More than 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, fears about the revival of Marxism may seem anachronistic, but Kolakowski's views on God, religion and truth show his thinking about totalitarian ideology and its relation to Marxism in a fresh light. He addresses common features of Marxism, Nazism and Mussolini's brand of fascism, attempting to identify what was common and particular to the three, as well as how the Holocaust and Stalin's gulag system can be compared. As a believer in God and a humanist, he affirms “the main ideas of the Enlightenment [which]… have their historical origins in Christianity.”
Stimulating and provocative.