Boris Hessen at the Crossroads of Science and Ideology. From International Circulation to the Soviet Context


Boris Hessen at the Crossroads of Science and Ideology. From International Circulation to the Soviet Context

Gerardo Ienna

Giulia Rispoli


Abstract. This article is based on a joint endeavor. The first part introduces Hessen‘s theses and reconstructs their reception from the 1930s to the most contemporary research in Science and Technology Studies in an attempt to understand how and why Hessen‘s work has been recognized as a ―classic‖ in various disciplinary fields and contexts.2 The second part frames Hessen‘s ideas within the context of the early establishment of dialectical materialism, arguing for the proximity of his thought to the positions of the Russian Machists, in particular, Alexander A. Bogdanov. The reception of Hessen‘s theses clearly shows how his work has been at the center of symbolic negotiations and historiographical re-interpretations. His consecration as a ―precursor‖ of both externalism and the contemporary field of STS shows how it is necessary to reinterpret Hessen‘s theses within the context of the Soviet debates of his day. The paper draws the conclusion that the connection between Hessen and Russian Machism is consistent with the international reception of his work as it emerges in the historiography of science studies. Furthermore, it allows for a way to approach Hessen‘s contribution under a new light in the present.

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