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Evald Ilyenkov

Evald Vasilievich Ilyenkov
Born (1924-02-18)18 February 1924
Smolensk, Soviet Union
Died 21 March 1979(1979-03-21) (aged 55)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Soviet Philosophy
School Marxism
Main interests
Dialectics · Epistemology
Notable ideas
Dialectical Logic · Dialectics of the Ideal · Dialectics of the abstract and concrete

Evald Vassilievich Ilyenkov (Russian: Э́вальд Васи́льевич Илье́нков; 18 February 1924 – 21 March 1979) was a Marxist author and Soviet philosopher.


  • Biography 1
  • Bibliography (English translations) 2
  • About Ilyenkov 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Evald Ilyenkov did original work on the materialist development of Hegel's dialectics, notable for his account of concrete universals. His works include Dialectical Logic (Russian, 1974; English trans. 1977), Leninist Dialectics and the Metaphysics of Positivism (Russian, 1980 (posthum.); English trans. 1982) and The Dialectics of the Abstract and Concrete in Marx's Capital (Russian, 1960; English trans. 1982). Ilyenkov committed suicide in 1979.

David Bakhurst wrote in his article; "Meaning, Normativity and the Life of Mind":

Ilyenkov was important in the revival of Russian Marxist philosophy after the dark days of Stalinism. In the early 1960s, he produced significant work in two main areas. First he wrote at length on Marx's dialectical method (‘the method of ascent from the abstract to concrete’). This work, though it now seems obscure, has an important political sub-text: its critique of empiricism is aimed at the positivism and scientism that Ilyenkov thought prevalent in Soviet political and intellectual culture. Second, Ilyenkov developed a distinct solution to what he called ‘the problem of the ideal;’ that is, the problem of the place of the non-material in the natural world. The latter involves a resolute defence of the objectivity of ideal phenomena, which are said to exist as aspects of our spiritual culture, embodied in our environment. ... there are important continuities between Ilyenkov’s ideas and controversies in Soviet philosophy and psychology in the 1920s and ‘30s, particularly ... with Vygotsky’s socio-historical psychology... After the insightful writings of the early 1960s, his inspiration diminished as the political climate became more oppressive. ... He died in 1979, by his own hand.
— David Bakhurst, Language and Communication, 17 (1), 33–51

An abridged version of his article, "Marx and the Western World," was published in English in a book of the same name in 1967, but this work is little known.

On the other hand, Ilyenkov's work (especially his masterpiece, the study on Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx's Capital from 1960, and the collection of essays entitled Dialectical Logic from 1974) deeply influenced the reception of Marx' economic writings from the 1960s onwards, in the Soviet Union and the GDR as well as in the West. His influence can be witnessed in the international research effort concerned with the publication of Marx' economic manuscripts (in Marx/Engels: Gesamtausgabe, or MEGA, section II, 1976 ff.). His influence is also evident in the intense debates on economic reform that was going on in the Soviet Union in the 1970s (e.g., in the works of A. K. Pokrytan).

Ilyenkov's works have been published in about 20 languages. His Dialectical Logic (1974) was published in English by Progress Publishers in Moscow in 1977. A German translation of his Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx’s Capital (1960), was published by the same publisher in 1979 (and simultaneously by Das europäische Buch, West Berlin); an English translation of the book was published by Progress Publishers in Moscow in 1982. Leninist Dialectics and the Metaphysics of Positivism (first published in Russian in 1980) was published by New Park Publications in 1982.

Bibliography (English translations)


  • 1960. Dialectics of the Abstract & the Concrete in Marx’s Capital
  • 1974. Dialectical Logic, Essays on its History and Theory
  • 1979. Leninist Dialectics and the Metaphysics of Positivism


  • 1974. Activity and Knowledge
  • 1974. From the Marxist-Leninist Point of View
  • 1974. The Universal
  • 1974. A Contribution to a Conversation About Esthetic Education
  • 1975. A Contribution to a Conversation About Meshcheriakov
  • 1975. Humanism and Science
  • 1976. Dialectics of the Ideal
  • 1977. Concept of the Ideal
  • 1979. The problem of contradiction in logic (fragment)
  • 1979. Materialism Is Militant and Therefore Dialectical
  • Date unknown. Psychology
  • Date unknown. Our Schools Must Teach How to Think!
  • Date unknown. A Contribution to the Discussion on School Education
  • Date unknown. On the Nature of Ability
  • Date unknown. The Biological and the Social in Man
  • Date unknown. A Contribution on the Question of the Concept of “Activity” and Its Significance for Pedagogy
  • Date unknown. Knowledge and Thinking
  • Date unknown. Ideals (Social, Esthetic, Moral)
  • Date unknown. Mind and Brain (An Answer to D. I. Dubrovskii)
  • Date unknown. The Question of the Identity of Thought and Being in Pre-Marxist Philosophy

About Ilyenkov

  • Dialectics of the Ideal: Evald Ilyenkov and Creative Soviet Marxism (Historical Materialism Book Series) by Alex Levant
  • Evald Ilyenkov's Philosophy Revisited, (Kikimora publications) by Vesa Oittinen (Dec 2000)
  • Consciousness and Revolution in Soviet Philosophy: From the Bolsheviks to Evald Ilyenkov, by David Bakhurst (Jun 28, 1991)
  • E. Ilyenkov and the Deaf-Blind Children:Soviet Psychologists Show Pavlov the Door, by Susan Welsh (1977).
  • Spinoza, Ilyenkov & Western Marxism – meeting the challenges of the global crisis, by Corinna Lotz and Penny Cole (2012).
  • On trends in the status of dialectical logic: A brief study of Lefebvre, Ilyenkov and Wald, by Claude M. J. Braun (1989)
  • A philosopher under suspicion, by Sergey Mareev (1990)
  • Review of E.V. Ilyenkov, "The Ideal in Human Activity", by Alex Levant (2011)
  • Symbols, tools, and ideality in Ilyenkov, by Peter Jones (1998)
  • Ideality, Symbols, and the Mind(Response to David Bakhurst), by Peter Jones (1998?)
  • Re-reading Soviet philosophy: Bakhurst on Ilyenkov, by Brendan Larvor (1992)
  • Lessons from Ilyenkov, by David Bakhurst (1995)
  • Review-essay: From the History of Soviet Philosophy: Lukacs-Vygotsky-Ilyenkov, by Alex Levant (2011)
  • From the History of Soviet Philosophy: Lukács – Vygotsky – Ilyenkov, by Sergey Mareev, Moscow:Kul’turnaia revoliutsiia, 2008 [Russian]
  • About the Last Soviet Marxist, by Aleksey Tsvetkov (2013) [Russian]
  • E.V. Ilyenkov and Creative Soviet Theory: An Introduction to Dialectics of the Ideal, by Alex Levant (2012)

See also


  • Ilyenkov, E.V., The Ideal in Human Activity, includes "Dialectical Logic" and essays on the ideal and activity, such as “The Universal,” "Activity and Knowledge" and “The Concept of the Ideal,” published by Erythrospress, see

External links

  • Evald Ilyenkov Archive at Marxist Internet Archive
  • Biography including Archive of Writings in English/Russian
  • Evald Ilyenkov in the Gallery of Russian Thinkers
  • A Philosopher Under Suspicion by Sergei Mareyev
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