The Practical Essence of Man

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Published Nov 2016
ISBN: 9789004273139

The 'Activity Approach' in Late Soviet Philosophy

Edited by Andrey Maidansky, Belgorod National Research University and Vesa Oittinen, University of Helsinki

For the first time, this book presents to Western readers a current in the late Soviet philosophy of the 1960s and 1970s known as the ‘activity approach’. It had to some degree a counterpart in so-called cultural-historical psychology, but whilst the work of Vygotsky and Leontyev was received in the West decades ago, its sibling in philosophy has remained virtually unnoticed. Started by Evald Ilyenkov and other young Moscow philosophers in the early 1960s, the activity approach soon became an intellectual mode, leading to several different interpretations of human activity and challenging Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy. The book depicts in detail the rise and fall of this remarkable phenomenon in Soviet Marxism.

Contributors are: David Bakhurst, Aleksandr Khamidov, Vladislav Lektorsky, Alex Levant, Pentti Määttänen, Andrey Maidansky, Sergei Mareyev, Elena Mareyeva, Vesa Oittinen, Edward Swiderski, and Inna Titarenko.

Biographical note

Vesa Oittinen, Ph.D. (1994), University of Helsinki, is Research Chief at the Aleksanteri Institute. He published monographs and
articles on Nordic and Russian philosophy, Spinoza, and Hegel.Last publication with Brill is the co-edited volume with Alex Levant, Dialectics of the Ideal (2014).

Andrey Maidansky, Ph.D. (1993), Professor, Belgorod State University, Russia, published monographs and articles on
Spinoza, Marx, and Soviet philosophy, and the anthology Spinoza: Pro et contra (St Petersburg: RHGA, 2012).


All interested in the intellectual history of Russia in the 20th century, and anyone with interest on Marxist philosophy, further those with interest on Soviet psychology (Vygotsky and Leontyev).

Table of contents

Andrey Maidansky and Vesa Oittinen

1. Activity and the Search for True Materialism
David Bakhurst

2. ‘Praxis’ as the Criterion of Truth? The Aporias of Soviet Marxism and the Activity-Approach
Vesa Oittinen

3. Reality as Activity: The Concept of Praxis in Soviet Philosophy
Andrey Maidansky

4. The Category of Activity in Soviet Philosophy
Inna Titarenko

5. The Activity-Approach and Metaphysics
Edward M. Swiderski

6. Abstract and Concrete Understanding of Activity: ‘Activity’ and ‘Labour’ in Soviet Philosophy
Sergey Mareyev

7. The Kiev Philosophical School in the Light of the Marxist Theory of Activity
Elena Mareyeva

8. The Evolution of Batishchev’s Views on the Nature of Objective Activity, and the Limits of the Activity-Approach
Alexander Khamidov

9. The Activity-Approach in Soviet Philosophy and Contemporary Cognitive Studies
Vladislav Lektorsky

10. The Concept of the Scheme in the Activity-Theories of Ilyenkov and Piaget
Pentti Määttänen

11. The Ideal and the Dream-World: Evald Ilyenkov and Walter Benjamin on the Significance of Material Objects
Alex Levant