Bernard E. Harcourt | Evgeny Pashukanis & Yakov Staroselsky: On Soviet Legal Thought and Ideology

By Bernard E. Harcourt

I have been asked to comment on Igor Shoikhedbrod and Rafael Khachaturian’s expert translation of Yakov Staroselsky’s “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” originally published in the Revolution of Law in 1928.[1] But I must begin with a confession. Reading Staroselsky’s article resonated with me at a very personal level. When I was in college, it turns out, I wrote my Junior Paper on the intellectual relationship between Rousseau and Robespierre, under the title “The Concept of Popular Sovereignty: A Study of Rousseau and Robespierre.” I began the thesis, on page one, asserting that “Robespierre followed Rousseau’s footsteps: the tone, the framework, the basic principles were of Rousseauian origin…. The influence is unquestionable.”[2]

This personal coincidence raises an important question about Staroselsky’s text: How does Staroselsky’s article (and his later book, published in 1930) differ from a conventional work in intellectual history or contemporary political theory? In other words, in what way does Staroselsky’s piece differ from one that would be written by a non-Marxist intellectual historian or political theorist today trying to decipher the relationship between Rousseau’s ideas and Robespierre’s or Lenin’s. And if it could be written in a substantively similar manner (putting aside the rhetorical flourishes), then the question becomes: What does Staroselsky’s article contribute to our understanding of Soviet legal thought or Soviet thought tout court?

Critique & Praxis

A second question is what happens to the structure of Marxian thought and the interplay between theory and practice, or between ideology and praxis, in Staroselsky’s work. The article reads in a conventional manner regarding the relationship between ideas and practice: underlying the analysis, there is a somewhat conventional or non-materialist assumption that ideas shape practical reality. There is a sense, quite conventional, that Rousseau’s ideas influenced Robespierre and contributed to bringing about the practices under the Terror in 1794, in a way that leaves little room for forces of production, relations of production, or modes of production.

This is a puzzling aspect of Staroselsky’s work: it deploys all the language of Marxism (such as ideology, proletarian dictatorship, revolutionary class dictatorship, broad bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, party leadership, iron centralism, etc.), but the language seems divorced or unrelated to the structural and substantive content of that language. It leaves the reader with a puzzling question: How could it be that political ideology (here Rousseau’s political ideology) could play such a determinative role, or have such an influence, on Robespierre’s practice of petty bourgeois dictatorship?

One gets a sense of this early on, in the very formulation of the questions presented by Staroselsky because it is quickly becomes clear that he is addressing the mental, the conscious ideas, the ideological realm. His first question is: “to what degree were the politics of the class dictatorship of 1793-94 conducted consciously?[3] That’s a question about ideas, conscious to the mind. The second question is: “to what extent was the classical bourgeois revolution ideologically realized and prepared?”[4] Or, a few pages later, Staroselsky asks: “is it truly possible to consider Rousseau, the ideologues of the Jacobin dictatorship of 1793-94?”[5] Again, it’s a question of the actualization of ideas.

According to Staroselsky, the Terror represents a necessary stage in the historical development towards proletariat dictatorship. It constitutes “a preparatory stage, a necessary component of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat over the course of the entire nineteenth century.”[6] Staroselsky is asking how that preparatory stage was influenced by the ideas of Rousseau, or the influence of Rousseau’s ideas on Robespierre, his ideas, his practice. But the direction of influence is from ideas to practice—from ideas to materiality.

Staroselsky is, of course, aware of the problem in the context of liberal thought. He criticizes liberal historians, and liberal science, for writing books about the ideological lead-up to the French Revolution. He exclaims: “Unfortunately, these are always studies in the history of liberal ideology!”[7] (using the term ideology in the derogatory sense that would be associated with liberal thought). But in what sense is Staroselsky not, himself, exploring the ideological lead-up to the French Revolution? In what sense is this not a study of the history of radical ideology?

Staroselsky is, in fact, interested in proving—this is the burden of his article—that there is an “ideological lead-up of the bourgeois revolution.”[8] In consists in the dialectical conflict between the ideals of formal democracy on the one hand and a theory of revolutionary class dictatorship on the other—those contradictory ideas were present and dialectically gave rise to the petty bourgeois dictatorship. But what does this notion of “ideological lead-up” really mean, exactly? Is it not the fact that ideas have traction? And how then does that relate to Staroselsky’s historical materialism?

One answer may relate to the more complicated way in which people need to think about historical determinism and human agency from a materialist perspective. As Jeremy Kessler develops in his article on Critical Legal Studies, in response to the more vulgar determinism or the critique of historical materialism as being vulgar, people need to remember that historical relations (e.g. between relations of production and social relations) are fluid and in flux. On the most generous interpretation of Staroselsky’s article, it is precisely that flux that is at play with the conflicting ideas of formal democracy and class dictatorship in relation to forces of production and relations of production. That would be a generous interpretation of how Staroselsky’s article.

But it is not clear that Staroselsky is doing that work carefully in his article. The impression one gets from his article is more an idealist story about the influence of Rousseau’s thought on Robespierre’s practice (not too removed from the work of any young political theorist). This is due, in part, to the fact that there isn’t a deep engagement with the historical material (forces and relations of production) around 1793.

I think that one could rehabilitate the piece by suggesting that Staroselsky’s ideas could serve as the basis for a rich historical materialist interpretation. But one does not find it in this article. One would need to add the rich work that Kessler proposes in his article on Critical Legal Studies—which reflects a recurring problem with certain examples of Marxist work that do not put in the labor required to show history in flux.

To make this point in another way, the task would be to see how the shifting and conflicting ideas of Rousseau interact with forces of production, relations of production, social relations, rather than simply claiming that “the people of 1793 found in him [Rousseau] the ideological grounding of their politics.”[9] One could return here to Jeremy Kessler’s first response to the critique of vulgar Marxism: “the uneven tempo at which productive forces, relations of production, and other social relations change over time.”[10] Kessler writes:

When there is a development in the productive forces (such as the arrival of a parasite that ravishes an agricultural staple, or the invention of a new tool, or the discovery by some group of humans of a new skill), the social relations – of production, as well as of law, of politics, of religion, etc. – are not immediately transformed. To the contrary, the old social relations persist, explicable in terms of the earlier state of development of the productive forces. How those old social relations will relate to the new composition of productive forces is hard to predict, and impossible to predict without extensive study of the society in question. Many social relations will undoubtedly remain unchanged and untroubled; some may be transformed; some others may disappear – or persist in a state of increasing conflict with the social relations that have adapted to the new productive force. Such local changes, and the global conflicts they engender, are happening all the time. All societies are societies in flux – that is, societies in time. The fundamentally historical character of society – at least from the standpoint of the MHMAL [the minimal historical materialist account of law] – frustrates simplistically deterministic or reductive explanations of the character of a given social relation.[11]

That work does not seem to infuse Staroselsky’s article. There is perhaps only one sentence in this article that addresses forces of production. It is in section 16, on the bottom of page 34 of Staroselsky’s article, referring to the economic power that the revolutionary government had concentrated in its hands: “It wields a huge mass of national property, it initiates the organization of state factories, and it does not allow ‘members of the sovereign’ to freely dispose of their labor and property, compelling them to work for the state through a politics of taxation and the requisition of labor power.”[12] That’s about it in terms of the economic or material analysis—which raises an important critique or question for our discussion.

On Ideology

A third set of questions center on the use of the constellation of terms for “ideology” in this and the other Soviet texts. With a doctoral student in Paris, Guillaume Rouleau, we have been leading a seminar on the EHESS on the reception of the notion of ideology in French philosophy since 1945. As I approached these new translations of Soviet legal thought, I was keenly interested in trying to locate their use of the term “ideology” in relation to that of Raymond Aron, Louis Althusser, Étienne Balibar, Jacques Rancière, and others in the post-war period.

The problematic is, naturally, central to the Soviet legal theorists. It permeates their entire discussion of theories of law. The starting point of their debates, as Pashukanis makes clear in the second chapter of his general theory of law (aptly titled “Ideology and Law”), is precisely the ideological (or not) nature of law—the central question being, for Pashukanis: “Can law be conceived of as a social relation in the same sense in which Marx called capital a social relation?[13]

What conception of ideology did Pashukanis, Staroselsky, or Stučka retain in their legal theory? How do they use the term? What does it mean to them? (And, for our able translators, does any of this make sense given the original Russian language edition?)

The place to start is the second chapter of Pashukanis’s General Theory of Law, published in 1924, thus predating both the Yakov Staroselsky article on “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship” (1928), as well as Staroselsky’s book, The Problem of the Jacobin Dictatorship (1930),[14] and Pahukanis’s foreword to that book,[15] as well as Peteris Stučka’s 1927 manifesto. It will be helpful to proceed in three parts then—1924, 1927, 1928-1930.

By way of framing, though, one of the most important features of the concept of ideology is the way in which it often functions as a foil to other determinate concepts—whether that other  concept is “science,” or “politics,” or “material reality,” or “truth.” It is often the foil to ideology that marks the use of the term and its evolution and development. Without going into too much detail, one can identify the definition of ideology by its foil in the following sequence of writings:

  • Ideology as science of ideas, by contrast to mere politics (Destutt de Tracy)
  • Ideologues as petty politicians, by contrast to Napoleonic truth (Napoleon)
  • Ideology as idealism, by contrast to proletarian truth (Marx, German Ideology)
  • Ideology as fetish, by contrast to material reality (Marx, Capital)
  • Ideology as falsehood as opposed to science (Bachelard, Canguilhem)
  • The idea of scientific ideology as leading to scientific truth (Canguilhem)
  • Ideological state apparatus versus repressive state apparatus (Althusser)
  • Ideology as false consciousness versus true interests (Lukes)
  • Ideology as savoir-pouvoir or regimes of truth, by contrast to criteria of truth (Foucault)

The point is, it is in the contrast, the foil, the (structural) opposition that the term ideology gets its meaning.

Pashukanis in 1924

The first interesting point to note is the way in which Pashukanis uses interchangeably, or in parallel fashion, the notion of “ideology” and of “psychology.” For him, in 1924, the ideological is an experience at a psychological level.[16] It is not mere idealism, but rather bears an important experiential dimension. In part, this reflects the influence of Pavlovian ideas in Soviet psychology.

From there, and the second point, Pashukanis sets as the foil to ideology the concept of material reality, and more specifically, what he calls “objective social relations.” The key question for Pashukanis is whether the object of study is a merely ideological factor or reflects an “objective social relation.”[17] Using the example of concepts borrowed from political economy—this is his principle method—Pashukanis writes: “the general concepts of political economy are not merely ideological factors; rather they are abstractions of a kind which enables objective economic reality to be scientifically, that is theoretically, constructed.”[18]

And that is precisely the question that he poses to law: Is law merely an ideological, psychological experience, or can it be conceived as a social relation? (For anyone with a Foucaultian sensibility, this is the question whether regimes of truth have “effects of reality,” insofar as objective social relations are the functional equivalent of effects of reality, which are always tied to relations of power, so social relations.) Pashukanis defines “objective reality’ as “the reality which exists in the outside world, that is, external, and not merely subjective reality.”[19]

For Pashukanis, the foil of psychological and ideological processes are objective social relations. Insofar as law, like political economy concepts, have those effects, the question becomes: how does law regulate social relations?[20] For Pashukanis, law is not merely ideological because “the regulation of social relations can assume legal character to a greater or lesser extent, can allow itself to be more or less coloured by the fundamental relation specific to law.”[21] So, law is not merely subjective, it has objective reality because it has regulatory effects.

Pashukanis refers specifically to the notion of “superstructure,” in fact to “legal superstructure.”[22] He writes: “A basic prerequisite for legal regulation is therefore the conflict of private interests. This is both the logical premise of the legal form and the actual origin of the development of the legal superstructure.”[23] In other words, the conflict of private interests gives birth to law and creates the legal superstructure. Legal regulation is brought about by conflict and controversy; by contrast, technical regulation is brought about by unity of purpose.

In what follows, Pashukanis then establishes the proposition that the legal relationship, the legal form, is tied to the interrelationship of owners of commodities—which is what produces his commodity theory of law.[24]

It is this “inversion” of “ideology” that gives rise to Karl Korsch’s vicious critique of Pashukanis. Korsch’s argument is a searing critique of Pashukanis, accusing him of turning Marx on his head, insofar as the main point of the Marxist critique of law as ideology is that a materialist view of law and of the state puts the emphasis on the political economy; and that by equating the legal form and the commodity form, Pashukanis is actually putting the superstructure at the same level as the infrastructure. The result is that there is no longer a materialist critique of law.

Pashukanis is basically putting in doubt what Korsch calls “the Marxist idea which regards the economic relation as the fundamental one with the legal relation, on the contrary, like the political relation, as derived from it.”[25] Korsch writes:

What all this adds up to is a total picture of a critique of law and a “theory of law” which, despite its strictly materialist, and “orthodox Marxist” methodological starting point, distances itself in its actual execution and as it results from the materialist, critical, theoretical and at the same time potentially practical, revolutionary destruction and abolition of legal ideology and of the economic social reality of capitalist society on which it is based. What he tends towards is, at the level of theory, a renewed recognition and re-establishment of legal ideology and the reality it masks.[26]

So Korsch is taking Pashukanis to task for his constant equation between the legal form and the commodity form, which on his view undermines Marx’s critique of law.

Regardless of where you come down on Korsch, this raises an important question about Pashukanis’s use of the constellation of ideology terms.

Stučka in 1927

The 1927 manifesto by Peteris Stučka is interesting because it transforms what should be ideological, namely legal ideology, into science. Stučka writes “Soviet jurisprudence is not only becoming an actual legal science for the first time, but it finds a brilliant validation for itself among the experience of past revolutions. For the first time we have at our disposal all of the objective facts for the construction of a truly scientific legal theory, and simultaneously for the liquidation of that ‘break between theory and practice.’”[27]

It is fascinating that legal theory would become legal “science” and gain the character of being truly scientific. One of the most conventional foils for ideology (including legal ideology) is science. Here we need only think of the mid 20th-century French philosophies of science of Canguilhem and Bachelard: it is hard to imagine how something that would fit in the domain of ideology could be truly scientific. This raises a question about how law is conceived by Stučka at this point in time.

Note that, for Stučka, in the third stage of transition, so within the transition period towards revolution, law serves as the basis for the advance towards socialism.[28] Stučka writes about “the stage of a new advance towards socialism on the basis of the NEP, or in juridical terms, on the basis of Soviet Law.”[29] In other words, the NEP is “in juridical terms,” “Soviet Law,” and it is what is pushing towards a new economic form of socialism. It is not just the superstructure. It is not just an accoutrement. It is, in fact, the basis of the economic shift.

It is during the first period that there is a realization that law belongs to the system of social relations. Stučka writes that “the period of ‘lawlessness’ clarified that the basic moment of the law is not in the ordinance, but in the legal relation—that is, in the system of social, and only social, relations.”[30] What does that mean? It is a reference to the idea of law as being part of social relations and therefore, as being part of the superstructure.

How is it, then, that law can become science? In the third period, Stučka has this idea about the creation of a distinctive Soviet Law on a concrete and scientific basis. What this would mean is a Soviet Law that is not superstructural but somehow integral to the economic foundation. It is hard to understand, though, how bourgeois law would not have been equally foundational in this way and therefore equally scientific. It is not clear that there is a structural transformation of the legal relationship that has taken place or will occur.

The final paragraph uses the term “ideology” in a more classical meaning of a belief system, referring to the “entire class ideology of the broad masses in the direction of socialism.”[31] So here, the notion of ideology seems to revert to Karl Mannheim’s way of defining ideology from a more sociological perspective; but there is a reminder in the last sentence that law continues to play throughout the world, throughout worthwhile society, a key role in the bourgeoisie’s domination over the workers. It is, according to Stučka law that is “final or one of the final, refuges of the bourgeoisie’s rule over the workers.”[32]

Staroselsky in 1928

This brings us, then, to 1928 and Staroselsky. He places ideology at the heart of his study of “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship.” The terms “ideology,” “ideological,” “ideologically realized,” “juridical ideology,” “ideologues,” “ideological grounding,” and “ideologism” permeate the first five sections of the article. But he’s using the term in a very different way than Pashukanis in 1924. At times, his use resembles that of Hannah Arendt, who defined ideology in the final, added chapter to The Origins of Totalitarianism (Chap. 13, “Ideology and Terror,” published later in 1953 and added to the book in 1958), as the logic of an idea.

Staroselsky is trying to determine whether the Jacobin ideas formed a preparatory stage for the proletariat revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries, and whether Rousseau’s writings served as a preparatory stage for the Jacobin terror. In this sense, Staroselsky is returning to a more classical understanding of ideology that traces back to its linguistic origins, to Destutt de Tracy and the Ideologues at the end of the 18th century in France. The use of the term Ideologues (in the English translation) signals a return to the original meaning of the term, to its invention. The “Ideologues” believed in a science of ideas. They believed that their work was not political in nature, but scientific. They embraced and claimed the term “ideologue” for their scientific purpose.

Staroselsky writes that, “Marx was an ideologue of proletarian revolution.”[33] He notes that “no one considers Rousseau to be the ideologue of bourgeois revolution in the same sense.”[34] The term does not have the negative connotation that it will come to have, first, when Napoleon turns it against the Ideologues, or later, when Marx turns it against the other Young Hegelians in the German Ideology. Staroselsky does not give it the negative connotation that it will develop in classical Marxist thought. Staroselsky is genuinely interested in determining whether Rousseau’s ideas prefigured the possibility of classical bourgeois revolution or proletariat revolution and dictatorship.

It is interesting that, for Staroselsky, there is an autonomy to ideas and to their effect on material reality. He is intrigued by Rousseau’s concepts of the unmediated popular rule and the indivisibility of the national sovereign.[35] These are, after all, pure political theories. These are ideas, and there’s a way in which Staroselsky is trying to assess whether ideas have consequences. He is asking whether Rousseau’s ideas were the condition of possibility of the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat during the ensuing 150 years.

It is an odd choice, after all, to be asking whether Rousseau was the ideologue of the Jacobin period of 1793-1794 because it places the engine of historical change in the realm of ideology, rather than in the realm of material economic development. There is something oddly liberal in this approach.

The selection of Rousseau as a thinker is also particularly intriguing, because he himself, at least according to Staroselsky, is an idealist, not a materialist. So Rousseau himself is someone who, according to Staroselsky, operates at the level of ideas only.[36]

Ultimately, in his article, Staroselsky turns Rousseau into Lenin. He reads Rousseau as advocating for the dictatorship of a single class of petty bourgeois equals, opposed to the possibility of multiple classes with rich and poor. He transforms the idea of general will into that of a democracy for one class and draws a close proximity between Rousseau’s egalitarian democratic instincts and the theory of class dictatorship.[37]

And then, in § 9, he very forcefully interprets Rousseau as embracing a strong centralist rule and party leadership along Leninist lines. He writes of “a theory of class dictatorship” in Rousseau, approximating it to, essentially, Lenin, as implying “the corresponding usage of the primary weapon of class violence, namely all of the concentrated power of the dictatorial class in the state apparatus: a class led by a party that represents it by no means, in a formal-democratic sense; and a party, constructed on the principles of iron centralism and discipline.”[38]

Staroselsky reads Rousseau as arguing for a form of true democracy that is not formal democracy, and that does not exclude “the strong rule and party leadership in politics by a class.”[39] He goes so far as to add that Rousseau would actually agree with Lenin on everything from indivisible class rule to discipline and the workers’ vanguard.[40] What Staroselsky reads in Rousseau is that he and he alone argued for a classless society or a society composed only of one class, of petty bourgeois, neither rich nor poor. Rousseau advocated for a form of democracy for that one class. And Staroselsky argues that that begins to approximate closely the theory of class dictatorship.[41] Staroselsky argues that Rousseau’s notion of democracy is not formal democracy, that he had a notion of “true” democracy that differed from formal democracy, and that his ideas did not exclude “the strong rule and party leadership in politics by a class; on the contrary, it assumes it.”[42]

Much of the analysis, though, is ordinary, conventional, textual interpretation of Rousseau’s writings on the social contract, the Corsican project for a constitution, and the Polish case, as well as Rousseau’s letters. But the analysis comes to a stunning climax when Rousseau is enlisted to agree “naturally” with Lenin and Lenin’s belief that class rule involves the organization and discipline of the workers’ vanguard.[43]

In closing on Staroselsky, it is worth noting that there is one object that seems truly ideological, although it does not get the name ideology, and that is law itself, at least according to Staroselsky’s reading of Rousseau: “He knows well that law [….] in contemporary society is simply a tool of exploitation and violence.”[44] Quoting Rousseau, he writes: “Laws and the administration of justice in our time are nothing other than the art of protecting the powerful and rich from the just vengeance of the poor.”[45] So law is purely ideological in the sense of purely justificatory of inequalities and of power relations. But note that here, Staroselsky does not use the term “ideology.”

Pashukanis’ Foreword to Staroselsky (1930)

Finally, in Pashukanis’s foreword to Staroselsky’s book published in 1930, the first occurrence of “ideology” is used in a classical way, in the sense that it represents the world view of a group. Pashukanis writes, “This is why the study of the political ideology and state practices of the petty bourgeois dictatorship is not merely of academic interest to us.”[46] The petty bourgeois dictatorship here is the reign of terror during the French Revolution. And what is interesting for Pashukanis to study, then, is both the state “practice” with regard to that dictatorship, as well as its political “ideology”—in other words, as well as its ideas. “Political ideology” constitutes the principles and beliefs of the period, including the principle, as Pashukanis writes, “of the sanctity and inviolability of private property.”[47] That is the political ideology that is being discussed here.

In a later passage, Pashukanis writes about “the purely bourgeois ideology of formal democracy.”[48] In other words, the bourgeois political belief in formal democracy. In that context, Pashukanis refers to the Jacobins as “ideologues”: they were, he writes, “ideologues of formal democracy abstracted from class.”[49]

Pashukanis is describing the contradiction, the conflict, the odd combination, or odd conjoining of a belief in formal democracy and an egalitarian dictatorial aspiration. The Jacobins had a belief in an ideology of formal democracy; at the same time, they carried out a form of dictatorship that came closest to being a form of class dictatorship. The ideology is the theory by contrast to the practice. It is called ideological or ideology rather than simply “theory” (even though it is sometimes referred to as theory), because it has a false element to it, an illusory element. “Theory and practice” are less weighted or heavy than “ideology and dictatorship.” The term “theory” is more neutral than “ideology.”

A Paradox

On the one hand, Staroselsky takes the position, regarding Rousseauism, that, “unexpectedly for itself, it helped to ideologically organize revolution.”[50] On this account, Rousseau’s ideas had material effects. On the other hand, at the end of his article, in Section 16, page 32, Staroselsky notes that it is “of course” obvious that the Jacobins “stumbled upon the practice of revolutionary dictatorship by accident.”[51] That is a puzzling claim, but in a way, it helps to bring together the three sets of questions I have posed in these comments.

On reflection, it seems, it may not be ideas ultimately that shape practices on Staroselsky’s view, any more than it is forces or social relations of production. It may be happenstance. “Accident.” Ideas, it turns out, may foment more ideas and actions in a contingent way, without the need for an analysis of the historical conditions or modes of production. Ideas repeat themselves and may inadvertently produce action. As Staroselsky suggested, Saint-Just, Robespierre, and Couthon were “actually only repeating Rousseau’s main postulates, sometimes directly from the text.”[52]

If that is true, it presents a real challenge to Soviet legal thought, as well as to Jeremy Kessler’s minimal historical materialist account of law. It introduces a large element of contingency, which may be difficult to square with historical materialism. In the end, this may bring Yakov Staroselsky closer to Nietzsche and Foucault, than to Marx.


[1] Yakov Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship” Revolutsiia Prava [Revolution of Law], No. 2, March-April 1928, pp. 21-56.

[2] Bernard E. Harcourt, “The Concept of Popular Sovereignty: A Study of Rousseau and Robespierre,” Junior Paper, Princeton University, Department of Politics, Professor Bernie Yack, submitted on January 8, 1983, at p. 1.

[3] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” p. 1.

[4] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” p. 1.

[5] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 4, p. 6.

[6] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” p. 2.

[7] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” p. 2.

[8] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” p. 3.

[9] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” p. 4.

[10] Jeremy Kessler, “Don’t Reconstruct Critical Legal Studies,” working paper new version page 14; early version page 10.

[11] Kessler, “Don’t Reconstruct Critical Legal Studies,” working paper new version page 14; early version page 10.

[12] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 16, p. 34.

[13] Evgeny Bronislavovich Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2009), p. 74.

[14] Yakov Staroselsky, The Problem of the Jacobin Dictatorship (1930).

[15] Evgeny Pashukanis, Foreword to Yakov Staroselsky, The Problem of the Jacobin Dictatorship (1930).

[16] Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, p. 73-74.

[17] Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, p. 74.

[18] Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, p. 74.

[19] Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, p. 74-75.

[20] Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, p. 78.

[21] Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, p. 79.

[22] Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, p. 81.

[23] Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, p. 81.

[24] Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, p. 82.

[25] Karl Korsch, “Appendix: An Assessment by Karl Korsch,” 189-195, in Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism, p. 195.

[26] Korsch, “Appendix: An Assessment by Karl Korsch,” p. 195. Korsch also criticizes Pashukanis for something else that I think is more intriguing, which is his failure to abide by his idea of the withering of law in the penal sphere. Korsch contends that, in analyzing the problems of law and law breaking in the final chapter of the work, Pashukanis even goes so far as to make explicit mention of a new system of penal policy to be created after the complete disappearance of classes. In other words, reform rather than abolition. See Korsch, “Appendix: An Assessment by Karl Korsch,” p. 191 and 193.

[27] Peteris Stučka, “Three Stages of Soviet Law,” p. 3.

[28] Peteris Stučka, “Three Stages of Soviet Law,” p. 2.

[29] Peteris Stučka, “Three Stages of Soviet Law,” p. 2.

[30] Peteris Stučka, “Three Stages of Soviet Law,” p. 3.

[31] Peteris Stučka, “Three Stages of Soviet Law,” p. 6.

[32] Peteris Stučka, “Three Stages of Soviet Law,” p. 6.

[33] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 5, p. 7.

[34] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 5, p. 7.

[35] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 3, p. 4.

[36] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” p. 4.

[37] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 8, p. 17-18.

[38] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 9, p. 19.

[39] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 9, p. 19.

[40] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 13, p. 28.

[41] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 8, p. 18.

[42] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 9, p. 19.

[43] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 13, p. 28.

[44] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 6, p. 11.

[45] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 6, p. 11.

[46] Pashukanis, “Foreword to Yakov Staroselsky,” p. 1.

[47] Pashukanis, “Foreword to Yakov Staroselsky,” p. 1.

[48] Pashukanis, “Foreword to Yakov Staroselsky,” p. 2.

[49] Pashukanis, “Foreword to Yakov Staroselsky,” p. 2.

[50] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 5, p. 9

[51] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 16, p. 32.

[52] Staroselsky, “Rousseau and the Jacobin Dictatorship,” § 15, p. 31.

Bernard E. Harcourt | Angela Davis on Marcuse, Adorno, and the German SDS Student Movement

In a brilliant and wide-ranging interview from 2020, Angela Davis returns to her years at the University of Frankfurt and reexamines her intellectual engagement with Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, and fellow graduate students at the University of Frankfurt in the late 1960s. The encounter with Adorno and Marcuse, Davis now suggests, provides a crucial theoretical piece in the development of her abolition-feminist method. That piece was the experience of a contradiction that could not simply be resolved or overcome, but served instead productively to generate new understandings and practices—new forms of critique and praxis. This raises, for me, the fascinating question whether there is more continuity from the first generation of the Frankfurt School to the critique and praxis of Angela Davis (as well as of Hans-Jürgen Krahl and the SDS students), than there is to that of critical theorists who are generally identified as the second or third generation of the Frankfurt School. I don’t mean to be provocative, I am totally genuine here. Maybe we have gotten our genealogies all wrong. Maybe the spirit of the Frankfurt School went in a very different direction [continue reading here …]