Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Bogdanov

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Bogdanov, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich


(pseudonym of A. A. Malinovskii; other pseudonyms, Verner, Maksimov, and Riadovoi). Born Aug. 10 (22), 1873, in Sokolka, Grodno Province; died Apr. 7,1928, in Moscow. Economist, philosopher, political activist, and experimental scientist.

Bogdanov graduated from the medical department of the University of Kharkov in 1899. He participated in the Narodnik (Populist) movement and in 1896 became a member of the Social Democratic Party. In 1903 he sided with the Bolsheviks and was elected to the Central Committee at the third (1905), fourth (1906), and fifth (1907) congresses of the RSDLP. Even at that time, Bogdanov’s theoretical differences with V. I. Lenin made themselves apparent; however, they did not affect the possibility of collaboration between the two men. In a letter to A. M. Gorky, Lenin wrote: “In the summer and autumn of 1904, Bogdanov and I came to an agreement as Bolsheviks and made that tacit alliance that set philosophy aside as a neutral zone and... gave us the possibility of jointly carrying out during the revolution ... the tactic of revolutionary social democracy” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 47, p. 142).

From 1905 to 1907, Bogdanov and L. B. Krasin headed the Bolshevik military technical group. After being arrested and exiled from the country, Bogdanov returned to Russia illegally and served on the editorial boards of the Bolshevik press publications (Proletarii, Vpered, and Novata Zhizn’). On the question of Bolshevik participation in the Third State Duma, Bogdanov took the position that this duma should be boycotted. In 1908 he headed the group of so-called Ultimatumists, who protested against the work of the Bolsheviks in legal bodies, and was one of the organizers and lecturers at the Capri school, from which the factional Vpered (Forward) group later arose. He was later an organizer and lecturer at a similar school in Bologna. In 1909, Bogdanov was expelled from the party for factional activity. During World War I he took an internationalist stand. After the October Revolution he became a member of the Communist Academy and gave lectures on economics at Moscow University. In this period Bogdanov opposed the policies of the party primarily in the field of culture. In 1918 he became an ideologist of Proletkul’t (Proletarian Culture) and participated in the organization of the so-called Proletarian University. After 1921 he devoted himself entirely to scientific experiments, primarily in the fields of gerontology and hematology. Bogdanov was the organizer and director of the first institute for blood transfusions in the world (1926), now called the Central Order of Lenin Institute for Hematology and Blood Transfusions. He died as a result of an experiment in blood transfusion that he performed on himself. His name was then conferred on the institute.

The evolution of Bogdanov’s philosophical views went through four stages. The first three were elemental materialism (The Fundamental Elements of the Historical Outlook on Nature, 1899); fascination with the energetics of W. F. Ostwald (Cognition From the Historical Viewpoint, 1901); and the transition to mechanism and Machism (Empiriomonism: Articles on Philosophy, books 1–3, 1904–06). The fourth and last stage is connected with Bogdanov’s denial of philosophy in the traditional sense and his substitution for it of strictly scientific values. In his view, philosophical concepts such as spirit, matter, and substance are essentially “idols and fetishes of cognition” which are brought into being by the labor relations of particular epochs and do not make any sense outside those epochs (see Essays on the Philosophy of Marxism, St. Petersburg, 1908, pp. 215–42). Truth, for Bogdanov, is a form in which collective experience is organized (see The Philosophy of Living Experience,1913). Regarding the Marxist dialectic as a form for the organization or ordering of knowledge, Bogdanov advocated his own “organizational dialectic” as a more complete form (see Tectology, part 3). Production relations, in his view, are in essence “groups of ideological combinations which organize at the primary level” (Empiriomonism, book 3, St. Petersburg, 1906, p. 54, footnote) and therefore “social existence and social consciousness are, in the precise sense of these words, identical” (From the Psychology of Society, St. Petersburg, 1906, p. 57). “Whatever ’exact’ meaning Bogdanov may have invented for the terms ’social existence’ and ’social consciousness,’ there can be no doubt that the statement we have quoted is incorrect” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 18, pp. 342–43). Bogdanov’s conception was criticized by Lenin, who categorized his philosophical views as idealistic and reactionary. At the same time Lenin stressed that “personally, Bogdanov is a sworn enemy of reaction in general and of bourgeois reaction in particular” (ibid., p. 346). In his work The Universal Science of Organization (vols. 1–2, 1913–17), Bogdanov proposed the idea of creating a science of general laws of organization, which he called “tectology”; thus, he became one of the pioneers of the systems approach in modern science. It has been noted in a number of recent investigations by Soviet and foreign authors that some of the propositions of Bogdanov’s tectology anticipated the ideas of cybernetics (the principle of feedback, the idea of constructing models, and so forth). Bogdanov’s mechanistic errors were also reflected in tectology.

Bogdanov was the author of several economics works, including A Short Course in Economic Science (1897), which was praised highly by Lenin (see Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 4, pp. 35–43). Bogdanov reviewed economic development from primitive society to socialism. He was one of the first to correctly evaluate the establishment of trusts and syndicates as “the highest form of capitalism.” Bogdanov developed the Marxist concept of the theory of value in connection with the history of the development of trade. However, in his later works (Introduction to Political Economy, 1914, and A Course in Political Economy, vols. 1–2, 1910–19), he viewed value from the standpoint of the “energetics approach.”

Bogdanov was also the author of science fiction novels about the future of society— Red Star (1908) and The Engineer Menni (1912).


Revoliutsiia i filosofiia. St. Petersburg, 1905.
“Filosofiia sovremennogo estestvoispytatelia.” In Ocherki filosofii kollektivizma, collection 1. St. Petersburg, 1909.
Bor’ba za zhiznesposobnost’. [Moscow], 1927.
“Predely nauchnosti rassuzhdeniia (Doklad . . . ).” Vestnik Kommunisticheskoi Akademii, 1927, book 21, pp. 244–290.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., part 2. Moscow, 1970. Page 418. (Index volume.)
Asmus, V. F. “Logicheskaia reforma A. Bogdanova.” Vestnik Kommunisticheskoi Akademii, 1927, book 22.
Setrov, M. I. “Ob obshchikh elementakh tektologii A. Bogdanova, kibernetiki i teorii sistem.” Uch. zap. kafedr obshchestvennykh nauk vuzov g. Leningrada 1967, issue 8.
Belova, A. A. “Odnaiz pamiatnykh stranits proshlogo.” Problemy gematologii i perelivaniia krovi, 1967, no. 6, pp. 54–57.
Chistova, S. P. “Rol’ A. A. Bogdanova v razvitii sovetskoi meditsiny.” Sovetskaia meditsina, 1967, [no.] 6, pp. 147–50.
Kotarbiński, T. “Rozwój prakseologii.” Kultura i Spoleczenstwo, 1961, vol. 5, no. 4.
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