Selected Philosophical Works
Alexander Herzen (1812 -1870) was a prominent nineteenth-century Russian social thinker and 'father of Russian socialism', Early in his intellectual ... Show synopsis Alexander Herzen (1812 -1870) was a prominent nineteenth-century Russian social thinker and 'father of Russian socialism', Early in his intellectual development, Herzen was influenced by German idealist thinkers such as Schiller and Schelling. He believed in the autonomy and dignity of the individual and opposed forces, such as family and state, that oppressed the individual. Later, under the influence of French socialist thinkers such as Charles Fourier, Herzen's thought became more radical. Herzen projected his earlier concern for the oppressed individual onto society at large and he became a supporter of socialism. The socialism he envisioned was a loose federation of self-governing communes. Only in such a system could the ideal society be achieved - according to Herzen that society would be a free association of individuals which provided for the full flowering of each personality. Herzen initially placed his hopes for this future order in the European socialist movement. After the failure of the 1848 revolutions to achieve socialist principles, however, Herzen became disillusioned about European prospects and turned his attention to Russia. Herzen argued that socialist transformation would actually come first to Russia because communal institutions such as the peasant commune survived and bourgeois attitudes hadn't yet emerged. This sense of the advantages of Russian 'backwardness' was influential among the Populists in the 1870s. Herzen has been called a 'gentry revolutionary.' The illegitimate son of a wealthy landowner, Herzen viewed the gentry as a progressive class. The revolution he envisioned was for the people but not necessarily by them. Also, his socialism was a nationaldestiny rather than a class one, and because he promoted the value of individualism in collectivist form - in other words, the full flowering of the individual could best be realized in a socialist order.