gallery of russian thinkers...

selected by Dmitry Olshansky

'To analyze the world as a social practice means to see a collective labour, where human activities encounter natural elements, where humankind conquers nature. Therefore the aim of philosophy is to reorganize the forms of the world.'

Alexander Bogdanov 1899

Alexander Bogdanov
Yury Lotman
Alexander Alexandrovich BOGDANOV [penname of Malinovsky] (10. 08. 1873, Sokolka — 7. 04. 1928, Moscow) — Russian philosopher and revolutionary; founding member, with Lenin, of the Bolshevik Party in Geneva in 1904; and one of the leaders of the revolution of 1917. Son of a village school teacher, Bogdanov graduated from the Department of Medicine of Kharkov University in 1895, but his main works were devoted to philosophy, sociology, economics, and to the idea of a 'Union of Socialist Culture,' which he supposed to be a necessary adjunct to the political and trade union activities of the labour movement. In 1912 he published the first volume of his Universal Science of Organization, or 'Tektology,' which he conceived as an alternative epistemology to Hegelian dialectics for the social sciences, and, indeed, as a 'science of sciences.' From 1918–1921 Bogdanov worked in the Russian Proletarian Cultural Educational Association; from 1918 to 1926 he was a member of the Presidium of the Socialist Academy, also lecturing on management, economics, and political economy at Moscow State University. In 1923 Bogdanov was arrested and imprisoned in the Lubyanka. Bogdanov's memoir, 'Five weeks with the GPU,' makes it clear that his arrest was politically motivated. In 1924 Bogdanov turned again to the study of medicine and, in 1925, he founded the world's first Institute for Clinical and Experimental Hematology and Blood Transfusion. He also took part in research on reciprocal blood transfusion and tragically died of the effects of an unsuccessful experiment on 7 April 1928.

We can clarify three points of Bogdanov's 'monist method':

1. The natural-historical approach to the study of the natural world (following Darwin and Timiryazev), of socio-economic phenomena (like Marx), of language (Max Muller), of cognition (in Ernst Mach and Georg Simmel), and of the emotions (in Spinoza, Meynert, W. James, and Lange).

2. The deduction of general scientific principles— the energetic by chemist W. Ostwald, the principle of natural selection F. Le Dantec, and the 'analogy' by E. Mach.

3. The idea that collective labour is the origin of culture: applying that idea to speech (L. Noire), myth (Max Muller), the arts (K. Bucher), logic (J. Dietzgen), and to scientific cognition (E. Mach). The poet-encyclopaedist and 'great teacher of the creative process,' Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, had a great influence upon Bogdanov, who interpreted Faust as a metaphor for the striving of the soul for an 'harmonious integral life' devoted to work for the collective well-being of humanity.

In an autobiography of 1925, Bogdanov divided his works into five categories: Political Economy; Historical Materialism; Philosophy; Management; and Proletarian Culture.

Even in 1903, in his article 'Exchange and Value,' he proved for the first time that 'the theory of labour and value [is] based on the principle of equilibrium.' In 'On the Psychology of Society' (1901-1904) and in 'The Science of Social Consciousness' (1914) he further developed Marx's theory of social ideologies, demonstrating that ideas were not simply passive and reflective, but had an active and organizational function in society. Both in his earlier philosophical work, 'Empiriomonism' (1903 — 1907), and in his later 'General Science of Organization' (1913-1922), he provided 'a general study of all elements of nature, practice and thought.' It seems that Bogdanov had a direct influence on Gramsci's ideas about cultural hegemony and the social role of intellectuals.

In 1961 the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, T. Kotarbinski, began a major reappraisal of Tektology, which he described as 'a work full of penetrating insights and original ideas.' For Kotarbinski, a leading representative of the widely respected Lvov-Warsaw school of logicians and philosophers, Bogdanov's work had anticipated the new discipline of 'Praxiology,' the 'general theory of optimization of work' at that time being developed by Polish scholars. Earlier, in 1960, French socialist L. Apostel described Bogdanov's universal organizational science as an attempt to 'enlist cybernetics in the renewal of Marx's general theory of labour.' However, credit for initiating the scholarly study of Bogdanov in the West belongs to D. Grille for his Lenins Rivale. Bogdanov und seine Philosophie (1966) and to A. Yassour, whose bibliography, 'Bogdanov et son oeuvre,' in Cahiers du Monde Russe et Sovietique (1969), resulted from doctoral research at the University of Paris. In 1978 and 1979 G. Haupt and J. Scherrer began to publish some of the results of their research on Bogdanov's early political career. The contribution of German scholarship was augmented in 1980 by the publication of G. Gorzka's A. Bogdanov und der russische Proletkult and, in 1982, of Krisztina Manicke-Gyongyosi's 'Proletarische Wissenschaft' und 'sozialistische Menschheitsreligion' als modelle proletarischer Kultur.

By 1984, in a note on the state of 'Bogdanov studies,' Z. Sochor was able to write that 'A.A. Bogdanov is undoubtedly coming into his own in the West.' Soon afterwards, a number of important books appeared that illuminated our understanding of Bogdanov's place in the history of Russian politics and social thought. These were Robert Williams's The Other Bolsheviks: Lenin and his Critics 1904-1914 (1986) and Lynn Mally's Culture of the Future: The Proletkult Movement in Revolutionary Russia (1990). The publication in 1990 of a special issue of The Russian Review testified to a still growing interest in Bogdanov. By this time, however, it had become apparent that for Bogdanov to be accorded an appropriate place in the history of Russian thought, a far greater number of his works would have to be translated. An English-version of his key work Tektology was published in 1996. In January 1995 an international conference on the importance of Tektology in the history of organization theory was convened in Norwich.


by Bogdanov:

Bogdanov A. Short Course of Economic Science. Moscow, 1897; St. Petersburg, 1899; 1905; Moscow, 1920; 1922; 1923; 1924; Petrograd, 1922; 1923; Kharkov, 1922; 1923; Kursk, 1922; Novgorod, 1922; [15 editions]

Bogdanov A. Key Elements of Natural Studies. St. Petersburg, 1899

Bogdanov A. Cognition from Historical Point of View. St. Petersburg, 1901

Bogdanov A. On Psychology of Society (Articles of 1901-1904). St. Petersburg, 1904; 1906

Bogdanov A. (as Ryadovoy). Olminsky M. Our Misunderstandings. Geneva, 1904

Bogdanov A. Empiriocriticism: Articles on Philosophy. Vol. 1. Moscow, 1904; Vol. 2. Moscow, 1905; Vol. 3. Moscow, 1906

Bogdanov A. Red Star: Roman-Utopia. St. Petersburg, 1908; Moscow — Leningrad, 1924; 1929; [6 editions]

Bogdanov A. Destruction of a Great Fetishism. Faith and Science. St. Petersburg, 1910

Bogdanov A., Stepanov N. Course of Political Economy. Vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1910; Vol. 2. Moscow-Prague, 1919-1920; 1925; [3 editions]

Bogdanov A. Cultural Aims of the Present. St. Petersburg, 1911

Bogdanov A. Engineer Manny. Fantastic Novel. St. Petersburg, 1912; Moscow, 1918

Bogdanov A. General Science. Tektology. Vol. 1, 2. St. Petersburg, 1913; Berlin — Petrograd, 1922; 1927; Vol. 3. Berlin — Petrograd, 1922; 1925; 1929; [3 editions]

Bogdanov A. Philosophy of Alive Experience: Essays. St. Petersburg, 1913; Moscow, 1920; 1923

Bogdanov A. Introduction in Political Economy (in Questions and Answers). St. Petersburg, 1914; Moscow, 1917

Bogdanov A. Science about Common Consciousness. Moscow, 1914; 1918; 1923

Bogdanov A. Question of Socialism. Moscow, 1918

Bogdanov A. (as Werner N.) For What does Society Develop? Vyatka, 1918

Bogdanov A. Introductory Course of Political Economy. Moscow, 1918; 1920; 1924; Kazan, 1918; Tashkent, 1918; Tyumen, 1920; Kharkov, 1921; Yekaterinoslav, 1921; Ryazan, 1923; Saratov, 1923; [11 editions]

Bogdanov A. The Elements of Proletarian Culture in Development of Working Class. Moscow, 1920

Bogdanov A. Essays on General Science. Tektology. Samara, 1921

Bogdanov A. On Proletarian Culture: 1904 — 1924. Leningrad — Moscow, 1924

Bogdanov's books in English:

Bogdanov A. A Short Course of Economic Science. Ed. by S. M. Dvolaitsky. London: Communist Party of Gr. Britain, 1923; 1927

Bogdanov A. Makers of the Russian Revolution. Ed. by Y. Haupt and J. Marie. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974

Bogdanov A. Essays in Tektology. The General Science of Organization. Transl. by George Gorelik. Seaside California, 1980

Bogdanov A. Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia. Ed. by Richard Stites, Ann Arbor: Ardis Publishers, 1982; Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984; 2006

Bogdanov A. The Struggle for Viability: Collectivism Through Blood Exchange, 2002

Bogdanov's books in German:

Bogdanow A. Die Kunst das Proletariat. Leipzig Wolgast, 1918

Bogdanow A. Uber der Kunstnachloss; Die Kritik des Prolet. Kunst. Leipzig, 1919

Bogdanow A. Was ist proletarische Dichtung. Berlin: Seenol, 1920

Bogdanow A. Die Wissenschaft und die arbeiter Klasse. Berlin— Wilmersdorf: Dia Diaktica, 1920

Bogdanow A. Algemeine Organisationslehre (Tektologie). Bd. I. Berlin, 1926; Bd. II. Berlin: Hirzel, 1928

Bogdanow A. Ruga Stelo. Fantasia romano. Leipzig, 1929

Bogdanow A. Sowjetphilosophie. Darmstadt: Hrsg. W. Goerdt, 1980

on Bogdanov:

John Biggart, Ed. Alexander Bogdanov and the Origins of Systems Thinking in Russia. 1998

Biggart J., Gloveli G., Yassour A. Bogdanov and His Work: A Guide to the Published and Unpublished Works of Alexander A. Bogdanov (Malinovsky) 1873 — 1928, 1998

Jensen K.M. Beyond Marx and Mach: Aleksandr Bogdanov's Philosophy of Living Experience, 1978

Sochor Z.A. Revolution and Culture: The Bogdanov — Lenin Controversy, 1988


Valerian V. Popkov, Ph.D., Prof.

Director of the International Alexander Bogdanov Institute



International Society for Philosophers