Sunday, November 29, 2009

A. Bogdanov - Essays in Tektology

Modern European Intellectual History - 4

Tektology, from the Greek word “tekton,” which means builder, is A. Bogdanov’s[1] dynamic science of complex wholes. It is organizational science. According to Bogdanov, in our struggle with the elements our aim is dominion (which he defines as a relationship of the organizer to the organized) over nature and to that end we organize the universe. To help us do this we have developed tools, which he calls the instruments of organization.

The first instrument of organization is the word, because every conscious collaboration of people is organized by means of words. The second instrument is the idea, which for Bogdanov always appears as an organizational scheme. The third instrument is social norms (custom, law, morals and decorum), which establish and regulate the relations among people in a collective and thus strengthen their connections. These instruments are the product of organized experience. Where Engels (according to Bogdanov) expressed the content of human life as production of people, production of things, and production of ideas, Bogdanov saw the concept of organization hidden in the term ‘production’ and expresses the content of human life as the organization of external forces of nature, organization of human forces, and organization of experience. In his view mankind has no other activity except organizational activity, since the only problems are organizational problems.

He saw the conflict between societies, classes and groups as a struggle of organizational forms. He also saw the unity of organizational methods everywhere, in living and dead nature, in the work of elemental forces and the work of people. His goal was to investigate this unity through the establishment of a general organizational science.

In primitive and religious societies the organization of thought was determined by the organization of labor, whose ends it served. If a man was not acting on the instructions of another, it was assumed that he was acting on internal instructions and that he was thus his own organizer. The organizational side of man Bogdanov equated with the soul, the passive side of man that carried out these instructions was equated with the body. The unity of the organizational point of view at this point is maintained by the authoritarian mode of life in which the laws of nature and the laws of man are prescriptions of divine power.

As mankind evolved this original unity was broken up by changing social relationships, the increased division of labor and specialization of skills and by the increase of knowledge that was secular. As this knowledge grew it was organized into separate sciences. The growing specialization of society and the accumulation of facts led to increasing specialization in the sciences and their continued fragmentation. An understanding and awareness of the underlying unity was lost so that the world of Bogdanov’s day appeared uncoordinated and anarchic both in thought and in practice. In his view this is the organizational experience of the bourgeois world.

What was needed to change this was a new mode of thought, but he felt that this would only come about through a new organization of society characterized by a new social class: the industrial proletariat. In his view the obstacles to a monistic and scientifically organized thinking were specialization and the splintered system of labor, which he considered anarchic. The industrial proletariat with machine production and a generally stable social life was to be the point of departure for overcoming this specialization and anarchy. The perfection of the machine and the resulting industrialization changed the character of the role of the worker. No longer did a worker have to specialize in a trade or craft. No matter what sort of machine a worker was controlling there was a commonality with all other workers controlling machines.

In Bogdanov’s vision the social anarchy, which arose out of the division of labor and the competition and struggle of man against man would lose its influence with the growth of the labor class. Common interests with respect to capital would continue to strengthen the influence of the labor class leading gradually but inevitably to a world union. The working class would combine the organization of things in its labor with the organization of its human forces in its social struggle in a special ideology: the organization of ideas. This organization of ideas is the science of tektology.

Tektology unifies and controls the particular sciences. All the results they obtain form the basis of its work and all of their generalizations and conclusions are subject to its verification. For tektology the methods of the sciences are only modes for the organization of material supplied by existence. It is a universal natural science and the entire organizational experience of mankind belongs to it.


[1]A. Bogdanov was the pseudonym of A. A. Malinovskii, a medical doctor born in 1873. He was also a prominent Russian philosopher, economist, biologist, writer, revolutionary and political figure.

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