Discussion of Lukacs II

For this discussion, we enter into terrain that is not only fascinating but also strange. It is fascinating because we can see that Lukacs is crossing some line between conventional philosophizing in the tradition of Kant and Hegel and the authoritarian temptation. It is strange because Lukacs is trying to do something new and by no means obvious in his explorations of the boundaries of philosophy. Perhaps we can say that Gentile falls under this rubric as well.

What’s strange: Normally, when we have questions about philosophers and dictatorship, we ask, “How did they adapt their philosophies to the demands of practical politics, initiating revolutionary change, and setting up authoritarian regimes?” Of course, we can find elements of this activity in Lukacs’ writings. But, his work challenges us to raise another question: “How should philosophers attempt to change the world in order to satisfy the demands of their philosophies?” The strange thing about Lukacs is that he wants concrete solutions to what others would consider the abstract debates of bookish academics. If the world won’t change to resolve the big problems of philosophy (e.g., the debates over Kant’s antinomies), then so much the worse for the world!

Making Lukacs stranger still, he claims that he has found the answer to this challenge: Marx’s proletariat or, as he cryptically puts it, the “identical subject-object.” Lukacs writes: “Only when the consciousness of the proletariat is able to point out the road along which the dialectics of history is objectively impelled, but which it cannot travel unaided, will the consciousness of the proletariat awaken to a consciousness of the process, and only then will the proletariat become the identical subject-object of history whose praxis will change reality” (p. 197, “Reification”). What on earth can this mean?