Main Currents of Marxism

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Main Currents of Marxism: Its Origins, Growth and Dissolution
Main Currents of Marxism (Polish edition).jpg
The Polish edition
Author Leszek Kołakowski
Original title Główne nurty marksizmu. Powstanie, rozwój, rozkład
Translator P. S. Falla
Country France
Language Polish
Subject Philosophy
Genre Non-fiction
Media type Print
Pages 434 (English ed., vol. 1)
542 (English ed., vol. 2)
548 (English ed., vol. 3)
1284 (one volume edition)
ISBN 0-19-285107-1 (vol. 1)
0-19-285108-X (vol. 2)
0-19-285109-8 (vol. 3)
978-0-393-32943-8 (one volume edition)

Main Currents of Marxism: Its Origins, Growth and Dissolution (Polish: Główne nurty marksizmu. Powstanie, rozwój, rozkład) is a work about Marxism by political philosopher Leszek Kołakowski. Its three volumes in English are: 1: The Founders, II: The Golden Age, and III: The Breakdown. It was first published in Polish in Paris in 1976. In 2005, the series was republished as a single volume, with a new preface and epilogue by Kołakowski.[1]


Kołakowski provides an analysis of the origins, philosophical roots, golden age and breakdown of the Marxist ideology. In his epilogue, he describes Marxism as "the greatest fantasy of the twentieth century", a dream of a perfect society which became a foundation for "a monstrous edifice of lies, exploitation and oppression." He argues that the Leninist and Stalinist versions of communist ideology are not a distortion or degenerate form of Marxism, but one of its possible interpretations.[2]

Scholarly reception[edit]

Main Currents of Marxism was commended by political scientist David McLellan for the thoroughness of its philosophical discussion of Karl Marx.[3] Marxist historian G. E. M. de Ste. Croix considered the work overpraised, but was influenced by it nevertheless and granted that it accurately delineated some of the disastrous developments of Marx's thought by many of his followers.[4] Philosopher Richard Rorty writes that people in eastern and central Europe who have read Kołakowski, "suspect that the last eight pages of his Main Currents of Marxism tell you pretty much all you will ever need to know about Marx and Marxism-Leninism."[5]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Kołakowski 2005.
  2. ^ Kołakowski 2012. p. vii.
  3. ^ McLellan 1995. p. 443.
  4. ^ Croix 1981. p. xi.
  5. ^ Rorty 1999. p. 210.


  • de Ste. Croix, G. E. M. (1981). The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World: from the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-9597-0. 
  • Kołakowski, Leszek (2012). Is God Happy? Selected Essays. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-141-38955-4. 
  • Kołakowski, Leszek (2005). Main Currents of Marxism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-32943-8. 
  • McLellan, David (1995). Karl Marx: A Biography. London: Papermac. ISBN 0-333-63947-2. 
  • Rorty, Richard (1999). Philosophy and Social Hope. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-026288-1.