Recovering Georg Lukács

in Historical Materialism
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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.

Recovering Georg Lukács

in Historical Materialism

Sections

References

AratoAndrewBreinesPaul The Young Lukács and the Origins of Western Marxism 1979 London Pluto Press

AronowitzStanley Thompson ‘Georg Lukács’s The Destruction of Reason 2012 2012

BewesTimothy BewesHall ‘How to Escape from Literature? Lukács, Cinema, and The Theory of the Novel 2012 2012

BewesTimothyHallTimothy BewesHall ‘Introduction: Fundamental Dissonance’ 2012 2012

BewesTimothyHallTimothy Georg Lukács: The Fundamental Dissonance of Existence. Aesthetics Politics Literature 2012 London Bloomsbury

BronnerStephen Eric BewesHall ‘Lukács and the Dialectic: Contributions to a Theory of Practice’ 2012 2012

DayGail BewesHall ‘Realism, Totality and the Militant Citoyen: Or, What Does Lukács Have to Do with Contemporary Art?’ 2012 2012

Eiden-OffePatrick BewesHall ‘Typing Class: Classification and Redemption in Lukács’s Political and Literary Theory’ 2012 2012

EngelsFrederickMarxKarl The Holy Family or Critique of Critical Criticism 1975 [1845] Moscow Progress Publishers

FeenbergAndrew Thompson ‘Reification and Its Critics’ 2012a 2012

FeenbergAndrew BewesHall ‘Rethinking Reification’ 2012b 2012

FischerNorman Arthur Thompson ‘The Modern Meaning of Georg Lukács’ Reconstruction of Walter Scott’s Novels of Premodern Political Ethics’ 2012 2012

FracchiaJoseph ‘The Philosophical Leninism and Eastern “Western Marxism” of Georg Lukács’ Historical Materialism 2013 21 1 69 93

HallTimothy Thompson ‘Returning to Lukács: Honneth’s Critical Reconstruction of Lukács’ Concepts of Reification and Praxis’ 2012a 2012

HallTimothy BewesHall ‘Justice and the Good Life in Lukács’s History and Class Consciousness 2012b 2012

HegelGeorg Wilhelm Friedrich MillerA.V. Phenomenology of Spirit 1977 Oxford Oxford University Press

HemingwayAndrew BewesHall ‘The Historical and Political Context of Lukács’s “Art for Art’s Sake and Proletarian Writing” ’ 2012 2012

HohendahlPeter Uwe Thompson ‘The Theory of the Novel and the Concept of Realism in Lukács and Adorno’ 2012 2012

JamesonFredric ‘Realism and Utopia in The Wire Criticism 2010 52 3/4 359 372

JungWerner Thompson ‘Time – The Corrupting Principle: A Short Apology for Georg Lukács’s Poetics of the Novel’ 2012 2012

KavoulakosKonstantinos Thompson ‘Back to History? Reinterpreting Lukács’s Early Marxist Work in Light of the Antinomies of Contemporary Critical Theory’ 2012 2012

KelemanJános Thompson ‘Art’s Struggle for Freedom: Lukács, the Literary Historian’ 2012 2012

KeucheyanRazmig ElliottGregory The Left Hemisphere: Mapping Critical Theory Today 2013 London Verso

LarsenNeil BewesHall ‘Lukács sans Proletariat, or Can History and Class Consciousness Be Rehistoricized?’ 2012 2012

Le BlancPaul ‘The Spider and the Fly: The Leninist Philosophy of Georg Lukács’ Historical Materialism 2013 21 2 47 75

LihLars T. Lenin Rediscovered: ‘What Is To Be Done?’ in Context Historical Materialism 2008 Chicago Haymarket Press Book Series

LöwyMichael CamillerP. Georg Lukács: From Romanticism to Bolshevism 1979 London Verso

LöwyMichael Thompson ‘Revolutionary Dialectics against “Tailism”: Lukács’s Answer to the Criticisms of History and Class Consciousness 2012a 2012

LöwyMichael BewesHall ‘ “Fascinating Delusive Light”: Georg Lukács and Franz Kafka’ 2012b 2012

LukácsGeorg JacobsNicholas Lenin: A Study in the Unity of His Thought 1970 [1924] London New Left Books

LukácsGeorg LivingstoneRodney History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics 1971 London Merlin Press

LukácsGeorg LivingstoneRodney Tactics and Ethics: Political Writings 1919–1929 1972 London New Left Books

LukácsGeorg LeslieEsther A Defence of History and Class Consciousness 2000 London Verso

LukácsGeorg BewesHall ‘Art for Art’s Sake and Proletarian Writing’ 2012a 2012

LukácsGeorg BewesHall ‘An Entire Epoch of Inhumanity’ 2012b 2012

MartinStewart BewesHall ‘Capitalist Life in Lukács’ 2012 2012

MarxJohn BewesHall ‘The Historical Novel after Lukács’ 2012 2012

MarxKarl Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 1959 [1932] Moscow Progress Publishers

MarxKarl Theses on Feuerbach 1969 [1888] Moscow Progress Publishers

McNeillDougal Forecasts of the Past: Globalisation History Realism Utopia 2012 Pieterlen Peter Lang AG

Merleau-PontyMaurice BienJoseph Adventures of the Dialectic 1973 Evanston Northwestern University Press

RockmoreTom Thompson ‘Lukács and the Recovery of Marx after Marxism’ 2012 2012

RubinIsaak Illich SamardžijaMilošPerlmanFredy Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value 1973 New York Black Rose Books

SimmelGeorg FrisbyDavidFeatherstoneMike ‘The Concept and Tragedy of Culture’ Simmel on Culture 1997 London Sage Publications

Sun LeeYoon BewesHall ‘Temporalized Invariance: Lukács and the Work of Form’ 2012 2012

TerezakisKatie Thompson ‘Living Form and Living Criticism’ 2012 2012

ThompsonMichael J. Thompson ‘Introduction: Recovering Lukács’s Relevance for the Present’ 2012a 2012

ThompsonMichael J. Thompson ‘Ontology and Totality: Reconstructing Lukács’s Concept of Critical Theory’ 2012b 2012

ThompsonMichael J. Georg Lukács Reconsidered: Critical Essays in Politics Philosophy and Aesthetics 2012 London Bloomsbury

ŽižekSlavoj ‘Postface to A Defence of History and Class Consciousness 2000 Lukács 2000

1

Bewes and Hall 2012p. 3.

2

McNeill 2012Chapter 1; Jameson 2010.

3

Keucheyan 2013Part 1 Chapter 1.

4

Löwy 1979Chapter 4; Merleau-Ponty 1973 Chapter 2.

5

Lukács 1971Preface.

6

Feenberg 2012ap. 172.

7

Thompson 2012app. 1–6.

8

Feenberg 2012ap. 173.

9

Thompson 2012app. 237–8.

10

Merleau-Ponty 1973pp. 48–9.

11

Merleau-Ponty 1973pp. 47–9.

12

Lukács 1970p. 9.

13

Fracchia 2013pp. 70–1 85.

14

Lukács 1972.

15

Rockmore 2012pp. 45–7.

16

Lukács 1971pp. 119–21.

17

Feenberg 2012ap. 188.

18

Aronowitz 2012.

19

Löwy 1979.

20

Löwy 2012ap. 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.

21

Lukács 2000pp. 54–9.

22

Lukács 2000pp. 77–9.

23

Lukács 1971p. 327.

24

Le Blanc 2013.

26

Hohendahl 2012pp. 92–6.

27

McNeill 2012Chapter 1.

28

Jung 2012.

29

Keleman 2012.

30

Le Blanc 2013.

31

Fischer 2012.

32

Sun Lee 2012. See Simmel 1997.

33

Sun Lee 2012.

34

Bewes 2012p. 41.

35

Bewes 2012pp. 37 38.

36

Hegel 1977§17.

37

Bewes 2012pp. 38 44.

38

Lukács 2000p. 79.

39

Eiden-Offe 2012.

40

Lukács 2012app. 159–62.

41

Lukács 2012ap. 162.

42

Hemingway 2012. 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.

43

Löwy 2012b.

44

Marx 2012.

45

Day 2012.

46

Lukács 2012bp. 225.

47

Hall 2012ap. 198.

48

Hall 2012ap. 199.

49

Hall 2012app. 201–2.

50

Marx 1959pp. 33–5 44; Lukács 1971 ‘The Standpoint of the Proletariat’ pp. 149ff.

51

Lukács 1971pp. 86–7; Rubin 1973 p. 3.

53

Feenberg 2012bp. 105.

54

Larsen 2012p. 87.

55

Marx 1959pp. 30–5.

56

Lukács 1971p. 168.

57

Martin 2012.

58

Lukács 1971pp. 93–4.

59

Thompson 2012bp. 229.

60

Hall 2012b.

61

Bronner 2012.

62

Lukács 1971‘Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat’ pp. 83ff.

63

Larsen 2012pp. 87 96.

64

Lukács 1971pp. 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.

65

Lukács 1971p. 39.

66

Lukács 1971p. 41; ‘The Antinomies of Bourgeois Thought’ pp. 110ff.

67

Kavoulakos 2012p. 153.

68

Kavoulakos 2012p. 156.

69

Feenberg 2012bp. 103.

70

Marx 1969.

71

Engels and Marx 1975.

72

Lukács 1971pp. 148–9.

73

Terezakis 2012pp. 224–5.

74

Feenberg 2012bp. 107.

75

Bronner 2012pp. 14 19.

76

Arato and Breines 1979p. 105.

77

Lukács 2000pp. 63–5.

78

Kavoulakos 2012p. 160.

79

Feenberg 2012ap. 181.

80

Thompson 2012ap. 1; Feenberg 2012b. See Zizek 2000.

81

Hall 2012ap. 201 n. 27.

82

Larsen 2012p. 95.

83

Löwy 1979Chapters 3 and 4.

84

Larsen 2012pp. 93–4.

86

Feenberg 2012ap. 182.

87

Feenberg 2012bpp. 109–10.

88

Lukács 1971p. 267.

90

Lukács 1971pp. 274–7.

91

Lukács 2000p. 57.

93

Merleau-Ponty 1973pp. 50–2.

94

Lukács 1971p. 80.

95

Lukács 1970pp. 63–8.

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