Hříbek, Tomáš

Marxist Revisionism and Its Critique of “Positivism”

e-mail: tomas_hribek@hotmail.com

One of the themes of Dialectics of the Concrete that has not attracted enough scholarly attention is Karel Kosík’s critique of what he calls “posivitism”. This kind of critique was shared by other Marxist “revisionists” in Eastern Europe at the time, such as Leszek Kolakowski, but its precise content is obscure. This obscurity is due to a wide variety of sources the East European revisionists drew on as well as the multiple targets they aimed at. When it comes to Kosík in particular, he drew, in his critique of positivism, on Lukács, Heidegger, Horkheimer as well as the young Marx, and his targets included both logical positivism, Popper’s methodological individualism, and the official dialectical materialism, among other things. Another factor which obscures the content of Kosík’s critique is that he had not, by 1963, yet completely cut the cord with the official Soviet-style Marxism. Thus, while “diamat” obviously embodied for Kosík one of the versions of positivism, his own discouse still retained the diamat elements. Accordingly, what has to be done is to distinguish different meanings of “positivism” and to separate various threads in Kosík’s critique, such as holism, structuralism and materialism (dialectical or otherwise). When it comes to a historical significance of Kosík’s critique, I propose that while it challenged the local supremacy of the Soviet-style diamat, it unfortunately belongs within the tradition of the “dialectical” social thought which can be traced back to the 1930s critique of logical positivism by Horkheimer—a tradition which is now by and large defunct.