Radovan Richta

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Radovan Richta (6 June 1924 – 21 July 1983) was a Czech sociologist and philosopher. He was a proponent of the concept of scientific-technological revolution (STR), ie. of the intellectual labour replacing the manual.

In 1966, he edited the volume Civilizace na rozcestí [Civilization at the Crossroads], a work of some sixty sociologists, economists, psychologists, historians, engineers, philosophers and politicians, evaluating STR theory (originally suggested in the early 1950s by the Western Marxists J.D. Bernal and Victor Perlo). In contrast to the Industrial Revolution, based on mechanical power and factory organization, STR was suggested to rest on principles of automation and cybernetic management. [1]

He graduated from the real grammar school in Prague's Smichov district, then was employed as a technical assistant at the Avia factory in Prague. He was also a member of the resistance group Předvoj. In 1944-1945, he was imprisoned in the Small Fortress in Terezín; his internment seriously damaged his health. From 1945 he was a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. In 1945-1949 he studied at the Faculty of Philosophy and the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Charles University in Prague, receiving his doctorate (PhDr.) in 1953 on the basis of his dissertation Česká otázka a Masarykova kosmopolitní filosofie [The Czech Question and Masaryk's Cosmopolitan Philosophy]. In 1949-1954 he was deputy editor-in-chief of the weekly Tvorba, and later a member of the editorial board of Rudé právo; in 1953-1954 he also served as head of the Marxism-Leninism department at the Ministry of Education. From 1954 he was employed in the Cabinet for Philosophy, later the Philosophical Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. In 1958-1964 he was treated in a sanatorium for tuberculosis. In 1963 he was appointed Doctor of Science (DrSc.) for his theses Člověk a technika v revoluci našich dnů [Man and Technology in the Revolution of Our Days] and Komunismus a přeměny života [Communism and the Transformations of Life]. In 1966 he headed an interdisciplinary research team to investigate the social and human context of the scientific and technological revolution. In 1968 he was appointed a corresponding member of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and in 1970 he became director of the Institute for Philosophy and Sociology of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. He was appointed an academician in 1977 and a professor at Charles University in Prague in 1982. He received the Order of 25 February (1949), the Klement Gottwald Standing Prize (1967), the Order of Labour (1983), the Order of Merit for Construction (1979), the František Palacký Gold Medal (1974) and the CSAS Gold Medal for Merit for Science and Humanity (1982).

Richta was one of the young communist intellectuals who helped build the institutions of the new regime after February 1948 and who, after 1954, gathered in the Cabinet for Philosophy of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, later the Philosophical Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. Gradually, he began to develop Marxist doctrines on the building of socialism, especially on the relationship between man and science and technology. He made a significant contribution to the development of Czechoslovak sociology as the head of an interdisciplinary team for research on the social and human context of the scientific and technological revolution. The team was set up at the instigation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and prepared its report for the 13th Congress of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in 1966; in the same year the report was published as Civilizace na rozcestí [Civilization at the Crossroads] (1966). The report was based on the assumption that there was a transition between two stages of social development. Production increasingly relies on science and technology (automation of production, artificial matter, nuclear energy, etc.), while human labour is freed from monotony and can devote itself to making production more efficient; the economy is moving away from the mechanical mass production that has prevailed since the Industrial Revolution. The report described this change as a "scientific and technical revolution", expecting it to transform the economy into a dynamic organism that would constantly renew the source of its own growth. In Marxist terminology, it was to be that "science would become a productive force". Under these conditions, investment in human capital, namely in science, education and the skills of the workforce, was a crucial social investment. The more manpower the scientific-technical revolution frees from mechanical labour, the more can be devoted to the further development of the economy - and since it will be creative labour, it will increase the overall self-fulfilment of human beings in the spirit of humanistic values. Part of the publication assessed the impact of this change on human life in areas such as the environment, work organisation, lifestyle, relationship with nature, etc. From another perspective, the authors viewed the realization of the scientific and technological revolution as the main line of the hitherto open competition between capitalism and socialism. The report therefore made a number of recommendations on how to improve the unsatisfactory performance of the Czechoslovak economy in order for it to live up to its task in this competition: in particular, it was recommended to abandon the extensive growth model and invest in education, science and technology, to increase income differentiation and make room for the initiative of the socialist intelligentsia, and to replace the "bureaucratic-directive" system of corporate management with a more flexible and rational system. In this, the report built on the parallel work of the teams on economic reform (Ota Šik) and the study of the social structure (Pavel Machonin), although their recommendations did not always overlap; for example, compared to Machonin's team, Richta's study proposed less radical measures in the social structure.

The significance of Civilization at the Crossroads was multifaceted. The book attracted extraordinary public attention. It helped to open public discourse to the reformist rhetoric of the social sciences, on which much of the sociology of the 1960s was based. It was exceptional for its time not only for its truly multidisciplinary approach (the work involved scholars in philosophy, sociology, economics, urban studies, etc.), but also for its efforts to systematically compare developments in capitalist and socialist countries and to seek valid statistical indicators for this purpose. The report of Richta's team has been translated into at least twelve languages and is still one of the best-known works of the Czech social sciences.

After 1968, Richta joined the emerging so-called normalisation and in 1970 became the director of the newly founded Institute for Philosophy and Sociology of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. While the Institute of Sociology of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Philosophy, and the Cabinet for the Theory of Science were abolished, their male and female employees were selectively recruited to work at the newly founded institute. Richta's personality at the head of this institute helped to give the whole operation a semblance of continuity, even though it was a large-scale and well-thought-out purge. During the so-called normalization period, Richta collected the highest academic and non-academic distinctions; his work after 1970 focused on demonstrative joint projects with Soviet scientists or with scientists from other socialist countries (Člověk – věda – technika [Man - Science - Technology], 1974; Socialismus a věda [Socialism and Science], 1983). At this stage, he already considered the question of the competition between socialism and capitalism under the conditions of the scientific and technical revolution to have been decided in favour of socialism, and he devoted himself to proving the fallacy, or malevolence, of Western theories of post-industrial society.

Richta's work in the Czech social sciences, including sociology, is ambiguous at best. On the one hand, he helped formulate, stimulate, or at least defend the best results of the 1960s. On the other hand, from the beginning of normalisation, he actively participated in efforts to deny these results and to suppress their bearers. (Michael Voříšek, 2018, trans.)


Civilizace na rozcestí, 1966, HTML.

(in Czech unless noted otherwise)


  • Česká otázka a Masarykova kosmopolitní filosofie. Kvalifikační práce, Prague: Univerzita Karlova, 1953.
  • Člověk a technika v revoluci našich dnů, Prague: Čs. společnost pro šíření politických a vědeckých znalostí, 1963, 85 pp.
  • Komunismus a proměny lidského života (K povaze humanismu naší doby), Prague: Čs. společnost pro šíření politických a vědeckých znalostí, 1963, 54 pp. Thesis.
  • Richta, et al., Civilizace na rozcestí – společenské a lidské souvislosti vědecko-technické revoluce, Prague: Svoboda, 1966; 2nd ed., 1967, 236 pp; 3rd ed., exp., 1969.
    • Civilizácia na rázcestí: Spoločenské a ludské súvislosti vedeckotechnickej revolúcie, Bratislava: Vydavateľstvo politickej literatúry, 1966; repr., 1967; 1968. (Slovak)
    • Zivilisation am Scheideweg (Richta-Report): soziale und menschliche Zusammenhänge der wissenschaftlich-technischen Revolution, trans. Gustav Solar, Prague, 1968; repr., Freiburg: Verlag an der Basis, 1968, 203 pp. (German)
    • La via cecoslovacca: Civiltà al bivio: Le proposte di Praga per un nuovo socialismo, Milan: Franco Angeli, 1968. (Italian)
    • Valaszúton a civilizáció: A tudományos-technikai forradalom társadalmi és emberi összefüggései, Budapest: Kossuth Könyvkiadó, 1968. (Hungarian)
    • Civilization at the Crossroads: Social and Human Implications of the Scientific and Technological Revolution, trans. Marian Šlingová, White Plains: International Arts and Sciences Press, 1969; repr., Routledge, 2018. [2] (English)
    • La civilisation au carrefour, intro. Yves Barel, trans. Jean-Louis Glory and Ludmila Klimova, Paris: Anthropos, 1969, xli+468 pp; repr., Paris: Seuil, 1973. Reviews: Bernard (Le Monde), Durand (Soc du Travail). (French)
    • Civilizaţia la răscruce: Implicaţiile sociale şi umane ale revoluţiei ştiinţifice şi tehnice, Bucharest: Editura politică, 1970. (Romanian)
    • La civilización en la encrucijada: Implicaciones sociales y humanas de la revolución cientificotécnice, México: Siglo XXI, 1971. (Spanish)
    • Civilizacija na rasputě: Vzaimosvjazi naučnotechničeskoj revoljucii s obščestvom i čelovekom, Moscow: Progress, 1971. (Russian)
    • Cywilizacia na rozdroźu: Konsekwencie rewolucii naukowo-technicznei dla spoleczeństwa i dla czlowieka, Warsaw: Ksiąźka i Wiedza, 1971. (Polish)
    • Civilizacija na raskršću: Društvene i ljudske posledice naučnotehničeske revolucije, Belgrade: Komunist, 1972. (Serbo-Croatian)
    • Ο πολιτισμός στο σταυροδρόμι: Η επιστημονικοτεχνική επανάσταση και οι συνέπειές της για το μέλλον του ανθρώπου, trans. Καράς Νίκος, Athens: Κέδρος - Ράππα, 1976. (Greek)
    • Progresso tecnico e società industriale. Il contributo della scuola di Praga, Milan: Jaca Book, 1977. (Italian)
  • Karakter i implikacije naučno-tehničke revolucije, Zagreb: Ekonomski institut, 1969. (Serbo-Croatian)
  • with O. Klein, As Opções da Nova Sociedade, Rio de Janeiro: Nova Critica, 1969. (Brazilian Portuguese)
  • Progreso técnico y democracia, Madrid: Alberto Corazón, 1970. (Spanish)
  • editor, Richta-Report. Politische Ökonomie des 20. Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt: Makol Verlag, 1971. (German)
  • with Jindřich Filipec, Vědeckotechnická revoluce a socialismus, Prague: Svoboda, 1972, 114 pp.
    • Naučno-techničeskaja revoljucija i socializm, Prague: Svoboda, 1972. (Russian)
  • Richta, et al., Technischer Fortschritt und Industrielle Gesellschaft. Eingeleitet von Ossip K. Flechtheim, Frankfurt am Main: Makol Verlag, 1972. (German)
  • Economia Socialista e Revolução Tecnólogica, Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1972. (Brazilian Portuguese)
  • editor, with B.M. Kedrov and S.P. Odujev, Člověk – věda – technika: K marxisticko-leninské analýze vědeckotechnické revoluce, Prague: Svoboda, and Moscow: Politizdat, 1973, 374 pp; 2nd ed., 1975.
    • Čelovek – nauka – technika: Opyt marksističeskogo analyza naučno-techničeskoj revoljucii, Moscow: Politizdat, 1973; 2nd ed., 1975. (Russian)
    • Man-Science-Technology: A Marxist Analysis of Scientific-Technological Revolution, Prague: Academia, 1973. (English)
  • Revolução Científica e Técnica e Transformações Sociais, Porto: Colecção Textos Marginais, 1973. (Portuguese)
  • with B. Löwe and J. Filipec, Sozialismus – Imperialismus – wissenschaftlich-technische Revolution: die Wissenschaftlich-technische Revolution in der Klassenauseinandersetzung zwischen Socialismus und Imperialismus, Berlin: Akademie, 1974. (German)
  • Krize perspektiv buržoazní společnosti, c.1974, 47 pp; repr., abridged, in Nová mysl 1, 1975.
  • editor, with G.N. Volkov, Vědeckotechnická revoluce a její sociálně ekonomické důsledky za socialismu a kapitalismu: Sborník příspěvků, Prague: Ústav pro filosofii a sociologii ČSAV, 1975.
  • Richta, et al., Pravda proti lži, Prague: Rudé právo, 1978.
  • Richta, et al., Československo 2000: Prognóza vývoje socialistické společnosti do roku 2000, Prague: Ústav pro filosofii a sociologii ČSAV, 1980.
  • Richta, et al., Ke kritice buržoazní politologie, Prague: Academia, 1980.
  • Sovremennaja nauka i sociaľnyje projekty, Prague: Ústav pro filozofii a sociologii ČSAV, 1980. Talk given at Scientific Forum, Hamburg, 1980. (Russian)
    • Contemporary Science and Social Project, Prague: Ústav pro filozofii a sociologii ČSAV, 1980. (English)
  • with D.M. Gvishiani and M.B. Mitin, Technika, obščestvo, čelovek: Kritika buržoaznych koncepcij „filosofii techniky“, Moscow: Značenie, 1981. (Russian)
  • editor, with S.R. Mikulinskij, Socialismus a věda, Prague: Academia, 1982.
    • Socializm i nauka, Moscow: Nauka, 1981. (Russian)
    • Socialism and Science, Prague: Academia, 1983. (English)
  • editor, Člověk – věda – technika, Ke kritice buržoazních filosofických přístupů k soudobému vědeckotechnickému pokroku, 1983.
  • co-editor, Základy teorie vědy, Prague: Academia, 1988.
    • N. Stefanov, et al. (eds.), Osnovy naukovedenija, Moscow: Nauka, 1985. (Russian)
  • Cesta revoluční kritiky, Prague: Sdružení pro podporu vědy a výzkumu, 1999.

Articles (selection)[edit]

  • "O podstatě sociologické a filosofické soustavy „masarykismu“", in Filosofie v dějinách českého národa. Protokol celostátní konference o dějinách české filosofie v Liblicích ve dnech 14.-17. dubna 1958, eds. Jiřina Popelová-Otáhalová and Karel Kosík, Prague: NČSAV, 1958, pp 186-221.
  • "Vědecko-technická revoluce a marxismus", Otázky míru a socialismu / Проблемы мира и социализма 10:1, Prague, 1967.
  • "Ekonomika jako civilizační dimenze", in Úvahy o socialistické ekonomice, ed. Karel Kouba, Prague: Svoboda, 1968, pp 11–64.
  • Richta, et al., "The Perspective of the Scientific and Technological Revolution", in Mankind 2000, eds. Robert Jungck and Johan Galtung, Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, and London: Allen & Unwin, 1969, pp 199-204. Short summary of the findings of the book Civilization at the Crossroads. Proceedings of the conference organised by Institut für Zukungsfragen, Vienna, and International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, in Sep 1967. [5] [6] [7] (English)
  • "Socialismus a kritické myšlení", Věda a naše současnost, Prague: Academia, 1969, pp 13-34.
  • "Naučno-techničeskaja revoljucija i razvitije čeloveka", Voprosy filosofii 24:1-2, 1970. (Russian)
  • "Marxova cesta revoluční kritiky", in K.H. Marx, Rukopisy „Grundrisse" (Ekonomické rukopisy z let 1857–1859). I: Dodatky k Marxovým a Engelsovým spisům, Prague: Svoboda, 1971, pp 7-25. Written 1969.
  • "Die wissenschaftlich-technische Revolution und die Alternativen der modernen Zivilisation", in Richta, et al., Technischer Fortschritt und Industrielle Gesellschaft, Frankfurt am Mein: Makol Verlag, 1972. (German)
  • "Marxisticko-leninské koncepce řízení společenských procesů a krize buržoazních sociálně-politických teorií", in Ke kritice buržoazní politologie, ed. Radovan Richta, Prague: Academia, 1980.
  • "The Role of the Social Sciences", in The Social Implications of the Scientific and Technological Revolution, a UNESCO Symposium, Paris: Unesco, 1981, pp 39-100. Part of the proceedings from UNESCO Symposium on the Scientific and Technological Revolution and the Social Sciences, Prague, 1976. [10] (English)
    • "Le Rôle des sciences sociales", in Les Incidences sociales de la révolution scientifique et technologique: un colloque de l'UNESCO, Paris: Unesco, 1981, pp 61-126. (French)
    • "La Función de las ciencias sociales", in Repercusiones sociales de la revolución científica y tecnológica: simposio de la UNESCO, Paris: Unesco, 1981, pp 39-100. [11] (Spanish)
  • Richta, et al., "Ke kritice buržoazních filosofických přístupů k soudobému vědeckotechnickému pokroku", Filosofický časopis 31:1, Prague: ČSAV, 1983, pp 38-55.



  • "Životní jubileum dr. Radovana Richty, DrSc, člena korespondenta ČSAV", Filosofický časopis 22, Prague: ČSAV, 1974, pp 601–603.
  • "Radovan Richta", Filosofický časopis 31, Prague: ČSAV, 1983, pp 931–934.
  • Památce Radovana Richty (1924–1983), Prague: Ústav pro filosofii a sociologii, 1983.
  • Michael Voříšek, "Richta Radovan", in Sociologická encyklopedie, ed. Zdenek Nespor, Sociologický ústav AV ČR, 2018.

Documentary films[edit]

  • Šest naléhavých disputací, 1967, 6 x c.30 min. Dedicated to Civilization at the Crossroad. Broadcasted on Czech TV in Oct-Dec 1968. Richta is featured in eps. 1, 3, 5.