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Top Five Political Books

Nonfiction, that is.

This is going to be yet another challenging task, because I have three bookshelves in my little library room (and I need to buy fourth one soon). 

Give me a moment to think. *sipping ginger tea* 


1. “Main Currents of Marxism: The Founders, the Golden Age, and the Breakdown” by a Polish author Leszek Kolakowski

I actually bought this book after Kolakowski’s death back in 2009. This book is more of a political philosophy. This is his best work ever. 

The author is something of a Marxist revisionist (in which the idea broke off with Stalinism and advocate a humanist interpretation of Marx). Although a Communist, he was expelled from Polish United Workers’ Party after his published critique of Soviet-Marxist dogmas (such as historical determinism). This occured a year after 1956 Polish October (something akin similar to the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, but on smaller scale).    

He came to conclusion that the totalitarian cruelty of Stalinism resulted as a logical end product of Marxism. This is how this book began. 

Although his works were banned in Poland, there were underground copies that influenced the dissident intellectual opposition. He was particularly the reason why Polish Solidarity movements was formed in 1970s that led to the collapse of Communism in Europe in 1989. 

This has to be the most difficult book ever. It is written in constructive jargon, providing a dozen of pages to prove a point. It is too philosophical for my tastes. It covers EVERYTHING from Adam and Eve to modern times. It is over 1,200 pages, which took me a while to finish it. My mind was overwhelmed and exhausted after that, but greatly enlightened nonetheless as of to the idea of what Marxism truly is. 

To give you an idea, I’m going to randomly flip a page and select a paragraph (sometimes that can be pretty lengthy). Aha, I landed in The Motive Forces of the Historical Process, fourteenth chapter. I think I’ll skip the first section, Productive forces, relations of production, superstructure, to the second section, Social being and consciousness. 

I will present the final paragraph of that section. The part should be easy to comprehend.   


Nor should it be supposed that ‘Social being determines consciousness’ is an eternal law of history. The Critique of Political Economy describes the dependence of social consciousness on the relations of production as a fact that has always existed in the past, but it does not follow that it must be so for ever. Socialism, as Marx saw it, was vastly to enlarge the sphere of creative activity outside the production process, freeing consciousness from mystification and social life from reified forces. In such conditions, consciousness, i.e. the conscious will and initiative of human beings, would be in control of social processes, so that it would determine social being rather than the other way about. The maxim, in fact, appears to relate to ideological consciousness, i.e. that which is unaware of its own instrumental character. On the other hand, The German Ideology assures us that consciousness can never be anything other than conscious life, i.e. the manner in which men experience situations that arise independently of consciousness. It may be, however, that these two views can be reconciled. The rule that social being determines consciousness can be regarded as a particular case of the more general rule that consciousness is identical with conscious life- a particular case applying to the whole of past history, in which the products of human activity have turned into independent forces dominating the historical process. When this domination ceases and social development obeys conscious human decisions, it will no longer be the case that ’social being determines consciousness’; but it will still be the case that consciousness is an expression of ‘life’, for this principle is one of epistemology and not of the philosophy of history. Consciousness of life is a function of ‘preconscious’ life, not of course in the sense of Schopenhauer or Freud but in the sense that thought and feeling and their expression in science, art, and philosophy are instruments related positively or negatively to man’s self-realization in empirical history. In other words, the situation in which social being determines consciousness is one in which consciousness is ‘mystified’, unaware of its true purpose, acting contrary to man’s interest and intensifying his servitude. When consciousness is liberated it becomes a means of strength instead of enslavement, aware of its own participation in the realization of man and of the fact that it is a component of the whole human being. It controls the relations of production instead of being controlled by them. It is still the expression and instrument of life aspiring towards fullness, but it furthers that aspiration instead of impoverishing life, and is a source of creative energy instead of a brake on it. In short, the liberated consciousness is de-mystified and aware of its contribution to the expansion of human opportunities. Consciousness at al times is an instrument of life, but throughout history up to now (prehistory) it has been determined by relations of production that are independent of the human will. This interpretation, at all events, is consistent with Marx’s writings, though he does not anywhere expressly adopt it.  

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