I review Georg Lukács Reconsidered and Georg Lukács: The Fundamental Dissonance of Existence from a Lukácsian point of view, informed by a close reading of his works from the 1920s. The essays in these books, despite their heterogeneity, contribute towards revivifying Lukácsian Marxism, both philosophically and literarily. Specifically, many of the contributors criticise Honneth’s appropriation of the theory of reification, rejecting readings of Lukács that hypostatise or reify aspects of his theory. They begin to explore Lukács’s labour-centred ontology and the resultant philosophy of praxis, most importantly, returning the emphasis to the mediations whereby reification is overcome as a process, in contrast to those who see him as a voluntarist or messianic thinker. This allows a deeper engagement with Lukács’s theory of politics. While I contend that the authors explore this insufficiently, I conclude that these two books signify an important rediscovery of Lukács.
Löwy2012ap. 67. This view is monotonously and frequently attributed to Lenin. However that this was Lenin’s position has been thoroughly debunked by Lars T. Lih. See Lih 2008.
Sun Lee2012. See Simmel 1997.
Bewes2012pp. 37 38.
Bewes2012pp. 38 44.
Hemingway2012. This said as noted above Lukács’s glowing reference to Trotsky’s Literature and Revolution cannot be read as naive or coincidental. In the political and intellectual atmosphere of 1926 this would have been provocative and most likely signifies an at least partially oppositional stance.
Marx1959pp. 33–5 44; Lukács 1971 ‘The Standpoint of the Proletariat’ pp. 149ff.
Lukács1971pp. 86–7; Rubin 1973 p. 3.
Lukács1971‘Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat’ pp. 83ff.
Larsen2012pp. 87 96.
Lukács1971pp. 125–6 175 177. Elsewhere in History and Class Consciousness Lukács uses the term praxis in slightly different ways all of which reinforce this key contention. For instance in opposition to Engels he roundly attacks the view that the modern relationship to nature mediated by experimentation industry and science is praxis (Lukács 1971 p. 132). He also attacks the Hegelian idea of Absolute Spirit on the grounds that philosophy’s advent post festum makes praxis impossible (Lukács 1971 p. 146). In his discussion of sectarianism Lukács argues that a sect has no connection with the real life of the working class. It is thus denied the ability to perceive reality is reduced to a sterile polarity between pragmatism and abstraction and is debarred from contributing towards praxis (Lukács 1971 p. 322). On the contrary Lukács argues that the growth of a party and the development of class consciousness are part of the same process of praxis (Lukács 1971 p. 329). Insofar as Lukács speaks of individual praxis – which he occasionally does – it is always demarcated as individual praxis and it is only possible within a party that has an organic connection to the class. In the Defence of History and Class Consciousness Lukács clarifies the definition of praxis even further arguing that it is conditioned by circumstance – struggle at the highest level of objective possibility (Lukács 2000 pp. 56–7). Moreover he quite explicitly argues that it is only possible in a historic conjuncture which offers the proletariat the possibility to overcome its immediate existence and alter the social totality (Lukács 2000 p. 128). On the other hand I have been unable to find a reference anywhere in Lukács’s works from the 1920s that reinforces the idea of praxis as an ontological foundation equivalent to labour in the sense that I have defined it.
Lukács1971p. 41; ‘The Antinomies of Bourgeois Thought’ pp. 110ff.
Engels and Marx1975.
Bronner2012pp. 14 19.
Arato and Breines1979p. 105.
Thompson2012ap. 1; Feenberg 2012b. See Zizek 2000.