The Problem of Lysenkoism

  • Richard Lewontin
  • Richard Levins
Part of the Critical Social Studies book series


The Lysenkoist movement, which agitated Soviet biology and agriculture for more than twenty years, and which remains attractive to segments of the left outside the Soviet Union today, was a phenomenon of vastly greater complexity than has been ordinarily perceived. Lysenkoism cannot be understood simply as the result of the machinations of an opportunist-careerist operating in an authoritarian and capricious political system, a view held not only by Western commentators but by liberal reformers within the Soviet Union. It was not just an ‘affair’, nor the ‘rise and fall’ of a single individual’s influence, as might be supposed from the titles of the books by Joravsky1 and Medvedev.2 Nor, on the other hand, can the Lysenko movement be regarded, as some ultra-left Maoists do, as a triumph of the application of dialectical method to a scientific problem, an intellectual triumph that is being suppressed by the bourgeois West and Soviet revisionism. None of these views corresponds to a valid theory of historical causation. None recognises that Lysenkoism, like all non-trivial historical phenomena, results from a conjunction of ideological, material and political circumstances, and at the same time is the cause of important changes in those circumstances. It is not particularly surprising that bourgeois commentators have such a view of the Lysenkoist movement, for it is entirely within their tradition that major historical changes can be the result of individual decision and caprice of powerful persons or of unique historical accidents with no special causal relations.


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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© Hilary Rose and Steven Rose 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Lewontin
  • Richard Levins

There are no affiliations available

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