Roger’s Rules

Further thoughts about Leszek Kolakowski

Last week, the day that the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski died, I posted a brief notice about his passing and mentioned that I would be writing at greater length elsewhere. That longer piece has just appeared in The Weekly Standard and is available on their web site. Here’s a taste:

A corollary of Kolakowski’s criticism of Marxism was his appreciation of the virtues of capitalism and the free market as indispensable enablers of freedom. “Capitalism,” he noted, in 1995,

developed spontaneously and organically from the spread of commerce. Nobody planned it, and it did not need an all-embracing ideology, whereas socialism was an ideological construction. Ultimately, capitalism is human nature at work–that is, man’s greed allowed to follow its course–whereas socialism is an attempt to institutionalize and enforce fraternity. It seems obvious by now that a society in which greed is the main motivation of human action, for all of its repugnant and deplorable aspects, is incomparably better than a society based on compulsory brotherhood, whether in national or international socialism.

Main Currents of Marxism is not of historical interest only. As Kolakowski reminded us in the preface to the 2004 edition, notwithstanding the collapse of the Soviet Union, Marxism remains eminently worth studying, not least because its aspirations continue to percolate in the dreams of various utopian planners. (You needn’t go to China or even Cuba: Just look at the increasingly pink and authoritarian complexion of the European Union.)

The whole piece is available on line here.