Book Pages: 356 Illustrations: Published: August 1996

Author: Neil Harding

European Studies > Eastern Europe and Russia, History > European History, Politics > Political Theory

In this volume, Neil Harding presents the first comprehensive reinterpretation of Leninism to be produced in many years. Challenging much of the conventional wisdom regarding Leninism’s effectiveness as a mobilizing body of ideas, its substance, and its origins and evolution, Harding offers both a controversial exposition of this ideology and a critical engagement with its consequences for the politics of contemporary communism.
Rather than tracing the roots of Leninism to the details of Lenin’s biography, Harding shows how it emerged as a revolutionary Marxist response to the First World War and to the perceived treachery—the support of that war—by social democratic leaders. The economics, politics, and philosophy of Leninism, he argues, were rapidly theorized between 1914 and 1918 and deeply imprinted with the peculiarities of the wartime experience. Its complementary metaphysics of history and science was as intrinsic to its confidence and sureness of purpose as it was to its contempt for democratic practice and tolerance. But, as Harding also shows, although Leninism articulated a complex and coherent critique of capitalist civilization and held a powerful appeal to a variety of constituencies, it was itself caught in a timewarp that fatally limited its capacity to adapt. This book will engage not only Russian and Soviet specialists, but also readers concerned with the varieties of twentieth-century socialism.


“This extensively researched and eloquently written work serves as a review of Lenin’s thought and a summary of Harding’s distinctive interpretation of Lenin’s ideas. The central thesis of the book is that Leninism as an ideological system took shape during the period from 1914 to 1917, under the influence of World War I.” — Alfred B. Evans Jr., Slavic Review

“This is an important book, an extremely impressive work, erudite and accessible. Harding has put forward a strong and stimulating interpretation of Lenin’s thought.” — Richard Sakwa, University of Kent at Canterbury


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