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The end of politics: democracy, bureaucracy, and utopia after lenin

Polan, A. J. (1984) The end of politics: democracy, bureaucracy, and utopia after lenin. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The thesis is an attempt to offer a reconsideration of Lenin’s book The State and Revolution. The argument is that commentators have failed to appreciate the centrality of its concepts to Lenin’s mature theory of politics„ and to the body of ideas that subsequently became Leninisms. It further argues that an understanding of the present Soviet regime, and others of a similar nature, is aided by a realisation that the themes of The State and Revolution are present in the institutional arrangements of those societies. The Introduction takes as starting point recent events in Poland, and suggests that an understanding of those events may be gained by an investigation of the discourse on political forms that Marxism offers. Chapter one presents the origins of the text, its theses in summary form, and the reception given to the text by subsequent commentators. These are divided into those taking a "historical” and those taking a ‘political’ approach. Suggestions are made of the inadequacy of both approaches, reasons for such inadequacies are proposed, and an attempt is made to offer an alternative approach based upon hermeneutics, in particular Gadamer’s concept of ‘effective-history’. Chapter two examines the way Lenin conceptualised the problems of state and politics in post-revolutionary society, and the measures he proposed for the solution of these problems. It is argued that the libertarian arrangements suggested in the text in fact provide a cultural and institutional foundation for an authoritarian state. Chapter three attempts to investigate further the assumptions on the phenomena of bureaucracy and democracy that underlie the text. Its debilitating effect on subsequent theorists of the contemporary state is suggested, and an interpretation of Weber’s thoughts on the issues is provided as a means of discovering the weakness of such theories. Chapter four attempts to examine more closely the elements of Lenin s thought and culture that made the concepts of The State and Revolution both possible and necessary. This leads to an attempt elaborate the theory of political motivation that is an unspoken assumption in Lenin’s writings, and criticises that theory as reducing politics to an ontological impossibility. It is suggested that this is a necessary assumption for Lenin"s commune-state to function. Chapter Five offers an interpretation of Sartre’s ‘Critique of Dialectical Reason’ in order to establish the paradoxical absurdity and inevitability of Lenin"s thesis. Sartre’s sociology of revolution is emphasised for its understanding of the relationship between politics and time, and Lenin"s text is then finally assessed as an attempt to provide the constitutional arrangements for a society outside of time.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1984
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 May 2013 14:14

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