Georgi Plekhanov

Essays on the History of Materialism


From Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Vol.II, Moscow 1976, pp.31-182.
Written during 1892/93.
First published in German as Beiträge zur Geschichte des Materialismus, Stuttgart 1896.
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I. Holbach

II. Helvetius

III. Marx


Plekhanov envisaged his Essays as a series of articles for Neue Zeit, theoretical organ of the German Social-Democrats, already in 1892. The writing took him eighteen months, the work being completed towards the end of 1893.

In May 1893 Karl Kautsky, the editor of Neue Zeit, thanked Plekhanov for his article on Holbach; but two months later, on July 19, 1893, on receiving the article on Helvetius and expecting an article on Marx, Kautsky wrote a letter to Plekhanov in which he expressed his doubt as to the possibility of publishing these essays in Neue Zeit because they were too long; he suggested that they should be published as a separate book. Kautsky’s letter of January 27, 1894 testifies to his having received Plekhanov’s last essay on Marx. The Essays were published then neither in Neue Zeit nor separately. Only in 1896 did they appear in book form in Stuttgart, under the title Beiträge zur Geschichte des Materialismus. I. Holbach. II. Helvetius. III. Marx. The Preface, written by Plekhanov especially for their publication, was signed: “New Year’s Day, 1896.” In 1903, a second German edition was put out by the same publishers. The book did not appear in Russian in Plekhanov’s lifetime.


Last updated on 3.8.2008