An Attempt at Systematic Presentation of the History of Political Doctrines in Boris N. Chicherin’s Major Work

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This article examines the classification of political doctrines proposed by Boris N. Chicherin in his major work on the history of political thought. Chicherin uses two forms of systematization for political doctrines: in one, he draws attention to the main element used in explaining society (power, personal freedom, law, or the ideal goal of development); in the other, he refers to the initial level of explanation (rational principles, empirical facts, or a synthesis of the two). This article shows that, despite the great significance of Chicherin’s work in Russian philosophy, his proposed model does not correlate well with the real history of political thought and fails to provide an understanding of the general developmental logic of political ideas. The author demonstrates how a more accurate classification of types of political doctrines took shape in mainstream Russian philosophy, expressed in its final form by Semyon L. Frank in his book The Spiritual Foundations of Society. There are two false understandings of society: “singularism,” in which society is seen as an external combination of ontologically separate persons, and “universalism,” in which individuals are completely subordinated to a single national or universal spirit. Frank calls the accurate approach the “organic theory of society,” where the primary ontological unity of individuals is dialectically combined with their secondary, relative autonomy. This article shows that Chicherin’s main error in his philosophical analysis of society lies in rejecting this ontological unity of individuals as the basis of public life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-79
JournalRussian Studies in Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


  • history of political doctrines
  • organic theory of society
  • Russian philosophy
  • spiritual unity of individuals


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