Interpretation of Kant in Eastern European Thought: Τhe Case of Mikhail Bakunin

Published: Mar 15, 2023
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

For many people Mikhail Bakunin is considered to be much more
a poltiical activist than a political thinker. And for many of those
who regard him as serious political thinker Bakunin’s philosophy is
approached as another version of socialism mostly influenced by Marx,
but more simplified and less scientific. To use the terminology preferred
by Engels, Bakunin’s thought closely resembles utopian socialism. It is
a kind of primitive version of historical materialism. It is fairly easy to
support this view. In his writings, especially in his later period, Bakunin
accepts many of the principles which are linked to hard core materialism.
Nonetheless, if we follow his thinking under this perspective we will fail
to understand the passion with which the Russian thinker defends liberty.
Liberty is almost metaphysical in Bakunin’s thought. Anything that stands
against liberty has to be terminated. Liberty is good, it is only good and
it is the outmost of goods. Ιt is difficult to reach this conclusion starting
from a purely materialist basis. Moreover it is impossible to reach this
conclusion from an authoritarian marxist basis. This is the reason why
the most popular approaches of Bakunin fail to understand the depth
of his thought. In contrary, if the scholar is willing to follow Bakunin’s
early tracks, to focus in his first philosophical readings that helped the
formation of his thought, a different portrait will come to life. Bakunin’s
thougth has been inspired by the readings on the field of German Idealism.
Kant, Fichte and hegel played a significant part in forimg the core of
Bakunin’s thought. There is no doubt that Proudhon, Marx and others
influenced him later on in his life. But the idea of liberty, the keystone of
Bakunin’s philosophy can not be fully understood independentely of his
early Kantian studies.

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