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The Parallels Between Neo-kantianism and Stalinism

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A brief definition of Neo-Kantianism is a philosophy that derives from that of Kantian Ethics. “The Neo-Kantians thought of themselves as reviving, defending, and extending Kant’s philosophy. They self-consciously adopted Kant’s vocabulary, and some of his key ideas and arguments”. Some of the thinkers from this school of thought vary from Schopenhauer, Mach and Foucault to name a few.

The Neo-Kantianists not only solely substantiate and support the idealism and opposition of Kant’s utilitarianism but also project their views within his terminology. This school of thought was largely popular in Germany from the 1870’s until the First World War. Post Kant’s death his philosophies were swept away by the then ongoing debates of idealism-materialism that dominated the intellectual fields, however during the late 1860’s Neo-Kantianism made it’s appearance for the first time in Otto Liebmann’s, Kant und die Epigonen (1865) that heralded the beginning of a new movement. It criticised the followers of Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling ,who the German philosophy department followed, for “their lack of in-depth adaptation of Kant’s system-building,” this coupled with the vacuum left by the Hegelian decline gave rise to the several works that looked to sway from the idealist-materialist arguments by reviving the fundamentals of Kantian Transcendental Deduction. They maintained the “transcendental realism in the spirit of a general epistemological critique of speculative philosophy,” essentially returning to Kant and ingraining the nuances of his ideals and purpose, moral-psychology and epistemology to shape the next few years of German Philosophical Schools which in turn affected the sciences and arts as well.

Stalinism refers to the policies and regime of Josef Stalin, leader of the the Soviet Socialist state from 1929 to 1953 which was marked by a totalitarian rule and a regime of terror.

Stalinist policies were devoid of rhetoric thinking and looked to deal with problems, revolutions, etc, with a practical approach. Much like his predecessor Lenin believed that a viable classes world could exist within the soviet boundaries and thus his policies appealed to both socialist revolutionaries and Russian nationalists. With the absolute control of power and the cultist spread of his popularity as the “infallible heir” to codify Lenin’s vision, Stalin’s doctrine of “socialism in one state” led to the collectivisation of several industries the major one being agriculture. The Marxist utopia of a classless society could only be maintained by absolute control and thus he labelled anyone against the party ideology as a traitors who were executed, several of these included the Old Bolsheviks who initiated the Revolution and many others sent to “forced-labour camps” established as an integral part of the economy. The spread of this regime across a large part of Europe made it a far reaching ideology in most socialist states. These cultural politics of Stalinism eventually found themselves manifesting in different areas such as art, architecture and design as well.

The almost parallel existence of Neo-Kantian aesthetics and the politics of the cultural politics of Stalinism; both with their individual ideologies of realism and epistemology and that of practical approach and a progressive working classes, and given their far-reaching influence in the realm of art and design added to the speedy decline of the Avant-garde culture due to the reducing “need” for art beyond that of a commodity or entertainment.

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The Parallels Between Neo-Kantianism and Stalinism. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from
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