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Antropologicheskij forum, 2020, no. 47

 

ON PERSONS AND ELEMENTALS: LATE-SOVIET SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY FROM MARXIST HUMANISM TO THE IDEA OF HOMO SOVIETICUS

Sergei Alymov

Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences
32а Leninskiy Av., Moscow, Russia
alymovs()mail.ru

Abstract: The article considers the ideas of personality, humanity, and society in the works of four prominent Russian philosophers and sociologists: G. Batishchev (1932–1990), A. Zinovyev (1922–2006), Yu. Levada (1930–2006), and M. Mamardashvili (1930–1990). The main argument of the article is that the social philosophy of these thinkers evolved along similar lines, which the author describes as an evolution from Marxist humanism to the idea of the society of “Homo Sovieticus”. Comparing the notions of personhood and society expressed in the works of these thinkers, the author traces the shift in their conceptualization. Its starting point was a vision of a harmonious relations between the interests of the person and (Soviet) society. The endpoint was quite the opposite — the idea of their incompatibility. In the late period of their work, the philosophers developed a highly pessimistic view of social life in general. They saw it as a suffocating “communality”, while the people that inhabited it were perceived as semi-illusionary macabre creatures who lived by “natural” social laws. They viewed “civilization” as an antidote to “natural” sociality. At the same time, they developed survival strategies for presumed highly-spiritual “persons” in this harsh environment. The author argues that this intellectual trajectory might be a result of the institutional marginalization and ideological critique aimed at these philosophers. The article also analyses the discussion about the subject matter of philosophy in the late 1960s to early 1970s. It demonstrates that the discussion resulted in an unsuccessful attempt at realizing the development of Marxist humanist anthropology in the USSR. The article is based on fresh archival material which also includes an analysis of the criticism expressed against G. Batishchev and Yu. Levada for their “ideologically incorrect” understanding of the notion of the “person”.

Keywords: personality, humanism, social philosophy, Soviet philosophy, Soviet sociology, Homo Sovieticus, Batishchev, Zinovyev, Levada, Mamardashvili.

Acknowledgments: The research for this paper was funded by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), grant no. 19-09-00126 “Personality and Collective in Provincial Russia: Transformations of Culture and Historical Memory”.

To cite: Alymov S., ‘O lichnostyakh i elementalakh: pozdnesovetskaya sotsialnaya filosofiya ot marksistskogo gumanizma k idee Homo sovieticus’ [On Persons and Elementals: Late-Soviet Social Philosophy from Marxist Humanism to the Idea of Homo Sovieticus], Antropologicheskij forum, 2020, no. 47, pp. 11–52.

doi: 10.31250/1815-8870-2020-16-47-11-52

URL: http://anthropologie.kunstkamera.ru/files/pdf/047/alymov.pdf