Jerzy Topolski’s Marxist Anthropocentrism

Abstract In this article I demonstrate that the ideas outlined in Jerzy Topolski’s Methodology of History (Polish 1968, English translation 1976) could not only offer a reference point for and indeed enrich ongoing debates in the philosophy of history, but also help to set directions for future developments in the field. To support my argument, I focus on two themes addressed in Topolski’s work: 1) the understanding of the methodology of history as a separate discipline and its role both in defending the autonomy of history and in creating an integrated knowledge of the past, which I read here through the lens of the current merging of the humanities and natural sciences; and 2) the role of a Marxist anthropocentrism based on the notion of humans as the creators of history, which I consider here in the context of the ongoing critique of anthropocentrism. I point to the value of continuing to use concepts drawn from Marxist vocabulary, such as alienation, emancipation, exploitation and overdetermination, for interpreting the current state of the world and humanity. I stress that Marxist anthropocentrism, with its support for individual and collective agency, remains crucial to the creation of emancipatory theories and visions of the future, even if it has faced criticism for its Eurocentrism and might seem rather familiar and predictable when viewed in the context of the contemporary humanities. Nevertheless, new manifestations of Marxist theory, in the form of posthumanist Marxism and an interspecies historical materialism that transcends anthropocentrism, might play an important role in redefining the humanities and humanity, including its functions and tasks within human and multispecies communities.