A philosopher Against the Grain: The Actuality of Georg Lukács



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A Philosopher Against the Grain: The Actuality of Georg Lukács

  • Paul RJ Falger, PhD
  • Master Student
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • Maastricht University, the Netherlands
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Georg Lukacs (1885-1971)

  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Georg Lukács (1885-1971)

  • Hungarian philosopher, published History and Class Consciousness * (1923), the most influential 20th century Western Marxist text
  • Was NOT involved with “Star Wars” episodes.
  • *original title: Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein.
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Georg Lukács (1885-1971)

  • Crucial philosophical texts 1st half, 20th century:
  • ‘Tractatus Logico–philosophicus’ (Wittgenstein, 1922)
  • ‘Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein’ (Lukács, 1923)
  • ‘Sein und Zeit’ (Heidegger, 1927)
  • ‘Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein’: little known & studied (English transl., 1971), politically most important.
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Actuality of Georg Lukács

  • Precursor, ‘Existentialism’: Heidegger & Sartre (Goldmann, 1977)
  • Founding father, ‘Critical Theory’ of Frankfurter Schule: Adorno, Horkheimer, Fromm & Marcuse (Jay, 1973; Bronner, 2011)
  • Grandfather, radical 1967-8 student uprisings: W. Germany, France, the Netherlands, US et al. (Dannemann, 2009)
  • Unintended instigator, Hungarian Uprising, October 1956, Minister of Education, Nagy administration (Kadarkay, 1991).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Actuality of Georg Lukács

  • Urgently Needed: Critical theory building for analyzing, understanding & changing Totalität of present ‘neo-liberal market’ capitalist thinking
  • Urgently Needed: Philosophy & philosopher as radical political actor: Badiou, Todorov, Žižek et al.
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Actuality of Georg Lukács

  • January 1st 2012, the Hungarian Government officially closed Lukács Archivum (Budapest) because of “…lack of need for further scientific study of Lukács (and his [Leftist-Messianic-Utopian] ideas)” (e-mail December 23, 2011).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Georg Lukács (1885-1971)

  • “…Is a new reading of Lukács possible? Perhaps a more pertinent question would be:
  • Is a new reading of Lukács necessary?” (Bewes & Hall, 2011; Thompson, 2011).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Georg Lukács (1885-1971)

  • “…Jewish by birth, raised in a Catholic country, and turned Protestant, Lukács incarnated alienation in its deepest and broadest sense”
  • “…Archetype of the rebellious son”; …His father is the key to his tragedy” (Kadarkay, 1991).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Georg Lukács (1885-1971)

  • Rejected his haut bourgeois upbringing: father bank president, mother from wealthiest Jewish family in Central Europe
  • Sought & lived cultural & political alternatives
  • ‘From Romanticism to Bolshevism’ (Löwy, 1979).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Georg Lukács (1885-1971)

  • Before Marxism, Lukács already was influential European literary & art critic* in mostly a-political literary ‘circles’ (Weber Circle: Heidelberg – Lukács Circle: Budapest)
  • Becoming Marxist: defeat Austrian-Hungarian monarchy in World War I, Lenin, Russian Revolution 1917, revolutionary ‘events’ Germany & Hungary 1918-23 (‘Soviet councils’).
  • * Soul and Form (1911), Theory of the Novel (1915-20).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

History and Class Consciousness

  • Written 1919-1922
  • Published (German), 1923
  • Repudiated, after severe CP criticism, 1924
  • Re-printed, with New Introduction (1967), 1970
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • Essays, reflecting Lukács’ development as radical Western Marxist thinker (1919–1922)
  • Rethinking Kantian-Hegelian roots of Marxism
  • Defining alternative concept Verdinglichung (Reification) vs. Entfremdung (Alienation) (Marx)
  • Opposing Engels’ interpretation of Marxism.
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • Theoretical: What is Orthodox Marxism (1919); Class Consciousness (1920); Reification and Proletarian Consciousness (1922)
  • Political: Legality and Illegality (1920); Towards a Methodology of the Problem of Organization (1922).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • Major philosophical & political themes (Löwy, 1979):
  • “…A revolutionary humanism defined from standpoint of the proletariat”:
  • Critique of Verdinglichung
  • Critique of inhuman effects capitalism
  • Guideline for human emancipation through socialist revolution.
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • “…A philosopher and critic: but not much of a writer. […] He wrote Hungarian badly. […] Essentially a German thinker and writer” (J Lukacs, 1988)
  • “…Lukács expressed himself in Hegelian terminology impenetrable to anyone lacking postgraduate competence in philosophy” (Service, 2007).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • Footnote to Marx’s 11th thesis on Feuerbach:
  • “…Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretiert ; es kommt darauf an, sie zu verändern ” (Marx, 1845-6).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • Philosophical discourse & understanding:
  • Kant: ‘Idealism’: Subject-Object dualism
  • Hegel: ‘Idealism’: Subject-Object identity Conservative dialectics & ‘History’ (bourgeoisie)
  • Marx: ‘Materialism’: Revolutionary dialectics & ‘History’ (proletariat).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • Practical-political discourse & understanding:
  • 4) Proletariat negates Verdinglichung by revolutionary action, creating new Totalität (cycle thesis-antithesis-synthesis)
  • 5) Communist Party (CP) leads proletariat into action
  • 6) Critique of Lenin’s view of role of CP.
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • Verdinglichung: (from ‘commodity fetishism’, Marx):
  • Psychic structure of man in capitalist society
  • Interhuman relations determined by production relationships (exchange values)
  • Qualitative human values transformed into quantitative ones
  • Perception & understanding of Totalität increasingly lost (alienation).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • Totalität:
  • The total societal process made up of all relations between social classes & nature
  • Dynamic entity, continuously in the process of structuration & destructuration through interactions of social classes
  • No psychological perspective outside Totalität
  • All elements dialectically referring to each other.
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • Geschichte: man’s inseparable state from his (subjective) meaning and his surrounding (objective) world (as in Hegelian ‘History’)
  • Klassenbewuβtsein: consciousness of possibility & necessity fully understanding (dialectical process of) Totalität, thereby changing Totalität.
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

History and Class Consciousness: Its Defence

  • Written, 1925-6, not published, thought lost
  • Discovered late 1980’s
  • Published, 1996 (German), 2000 (English)
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • Lukács ‘encouraged’ to repudiate his masterpiece in 1924
  • CP pressure: deviating from Marx – Engels orthodoxy & criticizing Leninist CP line
  • Increasing influence authoritarian Stalinism
  • Wrote defence Chvostismus und Dialektik * in 1925-6; lost manuscript, first published 1996!
  • * A Defence of H and CC: Tailism and the Dialectic (2000).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein

  • In 1932, early, unknown works by Marx were published (Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844)
  • Corroborated Lukacs’ ideas of Verdinglichung and the Hegelian roots of Marxism
  • Embarassment of CP doctrine; no rehabilitation, silent career as philosopher in Moscow.
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Life-Span Evaluation

  • Lukacs’ lived rebellious life (1919 & 1956 uprisings), courageous in developing humanistic, Utopian Marxism, going ‘against the grain’ of orthodox CP doctrine, while staying loyal to & fighting for personal beliefs and ‘the right cause for mankind’.
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

On the Barricades

  • Georg Lukács, ‘Volkscommissar’ for Education, Budapest Soviet Council, 1919, lecturing ‘the proletariat’
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Selected References

  • G Lukács: Geschichte und Klassenbewuβtsein (1923).
  • G Lukács: Chvostismus und Dialektik [1925-6] (1996); A Defence of History and Class Consciousness: Tailism and the Dialectic (2000).
  • T Bewes & T Hall: Georg Lukács - The Fundamental Dissonance of Existence (2011).
  • SE Bronner: Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction (2011).
  • R Dannemann: Georg Lukács: Eine Einführung (n.d.).
  • R Dannemann: Lukács und 1968 (2009).
  • L Goldmann: Lukács and Heidegger - Towards a New Philosophy (1977).
  • M Jay: The Dialectical Imagination - A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research 1923-1950 (1973).
  • A Kadarkay: Georg Lukács: Life, Thought, and Politics (1991).
  • M Löwy: Georg Lukács - From Romanticism to Bolshevism (1979).
  • M Thompson: Georg Lukács Reconsidered (2011).
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24

Kösönum sepen, Thank You!

  • Any Questions Anyone?
  • GLS Symposium 2012, USC, June 23-24


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