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The Trials of Arnošt K.: The Dark Angel of Dialectical Materialism

Author(s): Gordin, Michael D

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Abstract: The Prague-born philosopher and historian of science Arnošt Kolman (1892–1979)—who often published under his Russian name Ernest Kol’man—has fallen into obscurity, much like dialectical materialism, the philosophy of science he represented. From modest Czech-Jewish origins, Kolman seized opportunities posed by the advent of the Bolshevik Revolution to advance to the highest levels of polemical Stalinist philosophy, returned to Prague as an activist laying the groundwork for the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, was arrested and held for three years by the Soviet secret police, returned to work in Moscow and Prague as a historian of science, played vastly contrasting roles in the Luzin Affair of the 1930s and the rehabilitation of cybernetics in the 1950s, and defected—after 58 years in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union—to Sweden in 1976. This article argues that Kolman’s biography represents his gradual separation of dialectical materialism from other aspects of Soviet authority, a disentanglement enabled by the perspective gained from repeated returns to Prague and the diversity of dialectical-materialist thought developed in the Eastern Bloc. This essay is part of a special issue entitled THE BONDS OF HISTORY edited by Anita Guerrini.
Publication Date: 1-Jun-2017
Citation: Gordin, Michael D. "The Trials of Arnošt K. The Dark Angel of Dialectical Materialism." Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 47, no. 3 (2017): 320-348. doi:10.1525/hsns.2017.47.3.320.
DOI: doi:10.1525/hsns.2017.47.3.320
ISSN: 1939-1811
EISSN: 1939-182X
Pages: 320 - 348
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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