Sunday, August 2, 2009
La revista "The Economist" publica su obituario.
His magnum opus was the three-volume “Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution”, published in the 1970s. It calmly and expertly demolished the pillars of Marxist thought: the labour theory of value, the idea of class struggle, historical materialism and the like. He also pointed out, again without unnecessary polemics, the practical shortcomings of communist systems. Stalinism was not an aberration, he argued, but the inevitable consequence of pursuing a communist utopia. For that, powerful left-wing voices such as the historian E.P. Thompson berated him as a traitor to the noble socialist ideals that he once espoused.
“Philosopher” was his usual label, but not a wholly accurate one: historian of ideas would be better. Mr Kolakowski showed little interest in the Oxford tradition of analytical philosophy; like his great Oxonian philosophical contemporary, Isaiah Berlin, he formulated no grand scheme of ideas."
In the late 1960s, he made his way to America but found the radical campus leftism “pathetic and disgusting”; no place to bring up his daughter, he felt.
He visited America regularly, though, and it was in his Jefferson lecture, the highest honour the federal government gives for intellectual achievement, that he coined his best-known aphorism: “We learn history not in order to know how to behave or how to succeed, but to know who we are.”