Praxis School

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The Praxis school was a Marxist humanist philosophical movement. It originated in Zagreb and Belgrade in the SFR Yugoslavia, during the 1960s.

Prominent figures among the school's founders include Gajo Petrović and Milan Kangrga of Zagreb and Mihailo Marković of Belgrade. From 1964 to 1974 they published the Marxist journal Praxis, which was renowned as one of the leading international journals in Marxist theory. The group also organized the widely popular Korčula Summer School in the island of Korčula.

Basic tenets[edit]

Due to the tumultuous sociopolitical conditions in the 1960s, the affirmation of 'authentic' Marxist theory and praxis, and its humanist and dialectical aspects in particular, was an urgent task for philosophers working across the SFRY. There was a need to respond to the kind of modified Marxism-Leninism enforced by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (see Titoism). To vocalize and therefore begin to satisfy this need, the program of Praxis school was defined in French in the first issue of the International edition of Praxis: A quoi bon Praxis. Predrag Vranicki (On the problem of Practice) and Danko Grlić (Practice and Dogma) expanded this program in English in the same issue (Praxis, 1965, 1, p. 41-48 and p. 49-58).

The Praxis philosophers considered Leninism and Stalinism to be apologetic due to their ad hoc nature. Leninist and Stalinist theories were considered to be unfaithful to the Marxist theory, as they were adjusted according to the needs of the party elite and intolerant of ideological criticism.

The defining features of the school were: 1) emphasis on the writings of the young Marx; and 2) call for freedom of speech in both East and West based upon Marx's insistence on ruthless social critique. As Erich Fromm has argued in his preface to Marković's work From Affluence to Praxis, the theory of the Praxis theoreticians was to "return to the real Marx as against the Marx equally distorted by right wing social democrats and Stalinists".[1]

Different theorists emphasized different aspects of the theory. Where Mihailo Marković writes of alienation and the dynamic nature of human beings, Petrović writes of philosophy as radical critique of all existing things, emphasizing the essentially creative and practical nature of human beings. Milan Kangrga emphasizes creativity as well, but also the understanding of human beings as producers humanizing nature.

Another defining feature of the Praxis theory is the incorporation of existential philosophy into the Praxis brand of Marxist social critique, spearheaded by Rudi Supek.

Organizing Korčula Summer School and publishing the international edition of Praxis were ways to promote open inquiry in accordance with these postulates. Erich Fromm's collection of articles from 1965 entitled Socialist Humanism: An International Symposium has been of much help in promoting the Praxis school. As many as six members of the Praxis school have published articles in this collection: Marković, Petrović, Danilo Pejović, Veljko Korać, Rudi Supek and Predrag Vranicki.

The Praxis journal[edit]

The Praxis journal was published by a group of praxis theoreticians, mainly from Zagreb University. It was published in two editions: Yugoslav and foreign. The first issue of the Yugoslav edition was published on 1 September 1964 and was published until 1974. As for the foreign edition, it was published between 1965 and 1973. Its founders were Branko Bošnjak, Danko Grlić, Milan Kangrga, Rudi Supek, Gajo Petrović, Predrag Vranicki, Danilo Pejović and Ivan Kuvačić. The first editors of the journal were Petrović and Pejović, but in 1966 Pejović resigned from Praxis. After that, Supek was the co-editor of the journal together with Petrović. In January 1974 Supek also resigned and was replaced by Kuvačić as the co-editor of Praxis.

Praxis has helped to restore the creative potential of Marxism. It drew inspiration from the works of Antonio Gramsci, Karl Korsch, Georg Lukács, Ernst Bloch, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm and Lucien Goldmann. The texts in the magazine featured articles by writers from both the East and the West. Praxis editors had a strong tendency to publish articles that went against the Leninist theory and praxis promoted and enforced by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia.

Korčula Summer School[edit]

Korčula Summer School was preceded by a symposium organized by Gajo Petrovic and Milan Kangrga in the summer of 1963 in Dubrovnik. The summer school was organized by the publishers of the journal Praxis from 1964 to 1974 in the Croatian island of Korčula, with the exception of 1966, when the gathering was cancelled due to the intense attacks by the League of Communists of Croatia.

The school was a meeting place for philosophers and social critics from the entire world. Some of the prominent attendees included Ernst Bloch, Eugen Fink, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Jürgen Habermas, Henri Lefebvre, Richard J. Bernstein and Shlomo Avineri, to name a few. Another peculiarity is that one of the attendants was from the Vatican, Father Gustav Wetter, which testifies to the fact that Korčula Summer School was not merely a Marxist symposium - the attendees held interests ranging from phenomenology to theology.

The articles produced during the meeting were published in the journal during the following year. Each summer, the gathering focused on a particular topic:

  • 1963: Progress and Culture (held in Dubrovnik)
  • 1964: Meaning and Perspectives of Socialism
  • 1965: What is History?
  • 1966: The summer school was canceled due to the intense attacks by the League of Communists of Croatia
  • 1967: Creativity and Creation
  • 1968: Marx and Revolution
  • 1969: Power and Humanity
  • 1970: Hegel and Our Time (celebrating the anniversary of 200 years since Hegel's birth)
  • 1971: Utopia and Reality
  • 1972: Freedom and Equality
  • 1973: The Essence and Limits of Civil Society
  • 1974: Art in a Technologized World

The aftermath[edit]

Due to its critical nature - the editors and authors were referred to as "professional Anti-Communists" and "enemies of self-managing socialism" - the journal was banned on several occasions. By 1975 it became impossible to publish the journal under the increasingly repressive conditions in SFRY. In the same year, in January, eight university professors, members of the Praxis school (Mihailo Marković, Ljubomir Tadić, Zagorka Golubović, Svetozar Stojanović, Miladin Životić, Dragoljub Mićunović, Nebojša Popov and Trivo Inđić) were expelled from the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade on the basis of a decision of the Serbian Assembly.

The Praxis members tried in several occasions to resume publishing of Praxis and reopening Korčula Summer School. Their efforts failed, which was the main motive for several Praxis members to try to publish the journal abroad. They succeeded in achieving this and by April 1981, the Praxis International journal was edited and published in Oxford in the spirit of the original Praxis journal. However, not all Praxis members supported this move. This move was supported by four members of the editorial board of the Praxis: Supek, Marković, Tadić and Stojanović. The majority of the Praxis theorists, however, led by Kangrga, disagreed on the basis of the fact that an international journal with the same or similar name as the original journal would reduce the possibilities of republishing the journal inside Yugoslavia. First co-editors of Praxis International were Richard J. Bernstein and Mihailo Marković. From 1986 the co-editors were Seyla Benhabib and Svetozar Stojanović.

Praxis International was published until January 1994 when it continued to be published under the name Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory.

Influence[edit]

The influence of the Praxis school is mainly through its intellectual legacy as a heterodox interpretation of Marxism. This interpretation has been popular among Western Marxists and academics, notably Marshall Berman, who references the Praxis group in his major works. Many praxis theoreticians taught at various universities in Europe and US. The praxis approach was appealing to Western academia due to its emphasis on the dialectical, humanist Marx.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Mihailo Markovic and Robert S. Cohen Yugoslavia: The Rise and Fall of Socialist Humanism. A History of the Praxis Group, Nottingham, Spokesman Books, 1975.
  • Oskar Gruenwald The Yugoslav search for man: Marxist humanism in contemporary Yugoslavia. J.F. Bergin Publishers, South Hadley, MA. 1983.
  • Nebojša Popov (ed.) Freedom and Violence: a conversation about the Praxis journal and Korčula Summer school ("Sloboda i nasilje: Razgovor o časopisu Praxis i Korčulanskoj letnjoj školi"), "Res publica", Beograd, 2003 (in Serbian)
  • Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd Edition. Gen. Ed. Robert Audi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Gerson S. Sher, Praxis: Marxist Criticism and Dissent in Socialist Yugoslavia. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1977.
  1. ^ Erich Fromm, "Foreword". In From Affluence to Praxis, Mihailo Markovic. The University of Michigan Press, 1974. pp. vii.

External links[edit]