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Lenin without dogmatism

Pateman, Joe

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Joe Pateman


A longstanding criticism of Lenin is that his epistemological contributions to the theory of scientific socialism prompted the decline of Marxism in dogmatism and despotism in the twentieth century. According to this narrative, Lenin claimed to possess the objective truth, and he therefore refused to tolerate alternative perspectives. This article subjects these claims to a textual analysis, and it argues that they are erroneous. Lenin defends a fallibilist account of science that affirms the uncertainty of knowledge in the natural, philosophical and social sciences. This fallibilism pervades the text that supposedly showcases his intolerance, Materialism and Empirio- Criticism. Lenin’s scientific socialism opposes rigid conceptions of socialism, and it encourages an atmosphere of democratic debate. Whilst Lenin’s writings have their flaws, they are not the founding documents of Marxist dogmatism that they are often portrayed as being. Lenin is not the narrowminded vulgariser of Marxism that he is routinely taken to be.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 23, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 8, 2019
Publication Date Jun 30, 2019
Deposit Date Feb 7, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 10, 2019
Journal Studies in East European Thought
Print ISSN 0925-9392
Electronic ISSN 1573-0948
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 71
Issue 2
Pages 99–117
Keywords Lenin; Scientific socialism; Marxism; Dogmatism; Epistemology; Philosophy of science
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