Discussion of Lukács I

Our first discussion could be called "Lukács the philosopher." Our second discussion might be called "Lukács the political theorist," or perhaps even "Lukács the activist."

As you prepare for the first of our two discussions, you will have the opportunity to watch the "river" of Kant, Hegel, and Marx flow right before your eyes. Lukács is directly a part of this tradition. At the same time, arguably, he represents a qualitative break with that tradition. Here are some thoughts.

1. Please do not forget to bring Marx's "Manuscripts" and "Communist Manifesto" to class. Consider the similarities between these works and Lukács' study of "reification" (Verdinglichung, or “thingification”). "Reification" refers to the process under which something intangible, abstract, or even imagined is transformed--or seems to be transformed--into something concrete and tangible. Marx doesn't use the word very often in any of writings. But there are striking parallels between what Marx means by "alienation" and Lukács' thinking about what happens to the relationship between subject (man) and object (commodity) under "reified" capitalism. Man loses touch with the objects of his creation. Morever, the bonds among all people are undermined.

2. Craig rightly reminded me that Lukács did not have the benefit of reading Marx’s “Mauscripts” when he wrote this article. Thus, the similarities are notable. But there are also significant differences. Lukacs seems to go much further than Marx in identifying and addressing the maladies that affect humanity under capitalism. He is much more comprehensively focused on society as a whole. To appreciate the breadth of his approach, look closely at how he uses the following terms: "specialization"; "bureaucracy"; "quantification"; "rationalization"; and "contemplative nature." If you know anything about the sociologist, Max Weber, you will recognize many of these concepts from the latter's writings. Weber wrote out of the same neo-Kantian tradition known as the Heidelberg school. I believe they knew each other.

3. Finally, we will address what Lukács has to say about Kantian perspectives on the world. In this section “Antinomies of Bourgeois Thought,” I believe that it doesn’t really matter whether Lukács’ depiction of Kant is accurate (the same thing could be said about Gentile's critique of "the philosopher from Königsberg"). Rather, the critique itself gives us insight into the radical agenda that Lukács wants to pursue. To get a preview of things to come, pay close attention to what he says about the following dichotomies: subject/object; freedom/necessity; voluntarism/fatalism. Finally, what can Lukács possibly mean by “praxis”?