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Aleksandr Bogdanov’s Sociology of the Arts

   | 22 gru 2021


Aleksandr Bogdanov’s theory of culture has been outlined in a number of key works on his life and work.

See Sochor (1998); Mally (1990); White (2019b).

The purpose of the present article is to situate his ideas on the social function of the arts within the framework of his theory of culture. I point out that, whereas in his general theory of social consciousness Bogdanov acknowledged his indebtedness to Marx, he considered that in respect of the arts he had improved on Marx, who had viewed the arts as a mere “embellishment of life”. I argue that for Bogdanov, “proletarian culture” was not the working class “mentalité” of his time, but a state of mind that with the assistance of his brainchild, the Proletarian Cultural-Educational Organization, would evolve in the direction of a collectivist, “all-human”, culture. I explain that the didacticism of this approach antagonized a number of writers of proletarian origin. This article is based on works by Bogdanov, few of which have been re-published in post-Soviet Russia and most of which are not available in other languages. It will enable culturologists and other scholars to include Bogdanov in the history of the sociology of the arts, an exercise that has hitherto been impeded by Soviet censorship of his works, under-tuition of the Russian language, and a scarcity of relevant translations.