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The Yogi and the Commissar and Other Essays Hardcover – Dec 1945


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First Edition, First Printing edition (Dec 1945)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224603884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224603881
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,054,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. P. Vernee on 21 Mar 2009
Format: Hardcover
Koestler, A. (1947) The Yogi and the Commissar

Having been a member of the Dutch social-democratic party with Marxist tendencies when I was in my twenties, of course I should have read this book at that time. It was mentioned a lot at that time, but always with a certain disdain. But actually it is well informed, well written and raises important issues.

Already in 1947 it gives a lot of facts about the Soviet Union that makes it very clear that it in no way can be understood as a socialist state or even a state that is striving to become one. Rather, under Stalin it was reformed back to a Tsarist - but now totalitarian - regime. Koestler paints a very specific picture about changes in the law and assigning state heroes from the old regime that leave no doubt about how Stalin saw himself. Even now worth the read I think.

Still, Koestler defines himself as a socialist at that time. In his analysis about what went wrong and how to escape, he points to the ethics of the Commissar as against that of the Yogi. Ethics has been reduced to psychology (Freud - Superego), physiology, self-interest etc. This leads of course to cynicism and a practice where attaining a goal justifies the use of any means. It leads to the power politics of the Commissar.

Using insights from science about the irreducibility of complex phenomena to `lower' levels - insights that are broadly in line with contemporary ideas about it -, Koestler argues for the irreducibility of ethics as an experience of human beings in society.

Now, whereas normally our practices are done in a specific level of complexity, Koestler sees the Yogi as looking `sideways' at these levels and thus having a broad view of reality.
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