Lukács: Praxis and the Absolute

Georg Lukács’s philosophy of praxis, penned between 1918 and 1928, remains a revolutionary and apocryphal presence within Marxism. His History and Class Consciousness has inspired a century of rapture and reprobation, perhaps, as Gillian Rose suggested, because of its ‘invitation to hermeneutic anarchy’.

In Lukács: Praxis and the Absolute, Daniel Andrés López radicalises Lukács’s famous return to Hegel by reassembling his 1920s philosophy as a conceptual-historical totality. This speculative reading defends Lukács while proposing an unprecedented, immanent critique. While Lukács’s concept of praxis approaches the shape of Hegel’s Absolute, it tragically fails to bear its weight. However, as López argues, Lukács’s failure was productive: it raises crucial political, methodological and philosophical questions for Marxism, offering to redeem a lost century.

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Daniel Andrés López, Ph.D. (2018), La Trobe University, is an Honorary Research Associate with the Thesis Eleven Forum for Social and Political Theory. He is a regular contributor to the journal Historical Materialism. His writing also appears regularly in Jacobin Magazine.
“For a long time Lukács’s detractors presented his early Marxist work as an idealist and subjectivist distortion of revolutionary Marxism. According to this critique, Lukács remained too much a Hegelian, willing to substitute the proletariat for the world spirit. Recent studies question this standard interpretation by pointing out neo-Kantian and phenomenological elements in Lukács’s early philosophy that significantly deviate from Hegelianism. Instead, Daniel Lopez radically reverses the interpretative focus: What if the young Lukács was too less a Hegelian? Adopting a higher, Hegelian philosophical standpoint, Lopez’s meticulous scholarly study offers a charitable reading of History and Class Consciousness and, at the same time, criticizes its theoretical limitations. A much needed, substantial contribution to an emerging critical discussion on Lukács and Hegelian Marxism.” - Konstantinos Kavoulakos, University of Thessaloniki

Lukács: Praxis and the Absolute, by Daniel Andrés López, is an outstanding piece of scholarship. His knowledge of Lukács' writings and of the vast secondary literature is simply impressive. As a philosophical reading of History and Class Consciousness (HCC), López proposes a much deeper and more systematic interpretation than most, if not all, previous works on Georg Lukács. The result is a remarkably rich and dense body of philosophical reflection; the whole is a brilliant essay in high theory, but with a strong historical and political dimension. It is a polemical piece, and makes a powerful refutation of the innumerable commentators who have criticised HCC - including Lukács himself, in his (in)famous 1967 "self-criticism". At the same time, it is not an un-critical piece, since López aims at an immanent critique of Lukács on the basis of his own viewpoint. While I may not agree with all its conclusions, Lukács: Praxis and the Absolute is a bold and original re-interpretation of Lukacs, which appears as a major contribution for rethinking the Marxist philosophy of praxis.” - Michael Löwy, Centre national de la recherché scientifique

“A fine study written with a Lukácsian attentiveness to the give-and-take of subjective and objective life - Daniel Lopez is touchingly sympathetic and incisively critical in equal parts.” - Esther Leslie, Birkbeck
Acknowledgements

Introduction
1 Prophet of Praxis: Lukács between 1918 and 1929
2 Lukács and Marxian Philosophy of Praxis
3 Reading Lukács Speculatively

Part One – Towards a Theory of Praxis

Introduction to Part One

1 – From Immediacy to Commodity Fetishism
1 Immediacy and Method
2 Form and content, Quantity and Quality, the Commodity

2 – Reification and Totality
1 Subjective and Objective Reification; Society as Second Nature
2 The Controversy over Reification
3 Fragmentation and Crisis

3 – The Standpoint of the Proletariat
1 The Principle of Labour and the Proletariat as Subject-Object of History
2 In defence of the standpoint of the proletariat
3 The self-consciousness of the commodity

Conclusion to Part One

Part Two – From Theory to Praxis

4 – Theory In Itself and for the Proletariat
1 The Contemplative Stance
2 The Ethical Idea of Praxis
3 The Critique of Naturalism

5 – The Critique of Ideology
1 The Standpoint of the Bourgeoisie
2 Sectarian, Reformism and Vulgar Marxism
3 The Actuality of Revolution

6 – The Party
1 The Party as Bearer of Imputed Consciousness
2 The Controversy over Lukács’s Leninism
3 Party and Class

7 – Praxis
1 The Concept of the Proletariat in and for Itself
2 The Actuality of Praxis

Part Three – Praxis and Philosophy

Introduction to Part Three

8 – Lukács’s Critique of Philosophy
1 The Antinomies of Bourgeois Philosophy
2 Lukács on Hegel and the Absolute
3 Once More on Hegel, via the Young Hegelians

9 – Praxis, the Absolute and Philosophy
1 The Philosophical Critiques of Lukács
1.1 Endless Mediation: Andrew Feenberg
1.2 Liberal Empiricism: Tom Rockmore
1.3 Shallow Immanent Critique: Richard Kilminster
1.4 Adorno as Alternative to Lukács: Timothy Hall (with Support from Gillian Rose)

2 The Critique from History
2.1 Praxis as Mediation: Trotsky and the New Left
2.2 Praxis as Logic: The Elder Lukács
2.3 Praxis as Genesis: The Baroque Melancholia of Benjamin
2.4 Praxis as Tragic Theology

3 The Critique from Philosophy
3.1 The Occluded Political Truth of Praxis
3.2 With what Should Philosophy of Praxis End?

Conclusion – Nihilism or the Virtuous Republic

Bibliography
Index
All readers (academic, post-graduate and educated laymen) interested in critical theory, Marxist, Hegelian and political philosophy. All university and public libraries that maintain collections including the work of Georg Lukács.