Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"What Is Orthodox Marxism?"

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I first wrestled with "History and Class Consciousness" in my early twenties; it remains my favourite book of Marxist theory.

Georg Lukács was
"... a Hungarian Marxist philosopher, aesthetician, literary historian, and critic. He was one of the founders of Western Marxism, an interpretive tradition that departed from the Marxist ideological orthodoxy of the USSR. He developed the theory of reification, and contributed to Marxist theory with developments of Karl Marx's theory of class consciousness. He was also the philosopher of Leninism. He ideologically developed and organised Lenin's pragmatic revolutionary practices into the formal philosophy of vanguard-party revolution.

"As a literary critic Lukács was especially influential, because of his theoretical developments of realism and of the novel as a literary genre. In 1919, he was the Hungarian Minister of Culture of the government of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic (March–August 1919).

"Lukács has been described as the preeminent Marxist intellectual of the Stalinist era, though assessing his legacy can be difficult as Lukács seemed to both support Stalinism as the embodiment of Marxist thought, and yet also champion a return to pre-Stalinist Marxism."
This morning I re-read "What Is Orthodox Marxism?", the first essay in the collection - and marvelled at the abstraction, erudition and sophistication of Lukács's thought.

It's slightly jolting to be reminded of just how conceptually deep Marxist theory actually is - not that you would know it from most professed 'Marxists'.

I considered writing a summary but found Phil Burton-Cartledge had done the job already- and much more diligently.

One feels that criticising Lukács without having immersed oneself in decades of study of the Western Marxism tradition would be like an arts journalist debating General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory with Stephen Hawking as a self-presumed equal (although that's happened).

Look, I buy into all this totality stuff, I like dialectical materialism and can accept that 'the proletariat is at one and the same time the subject and object of its own knowledge'. But once we've done all that, destroyed capitalism and removed capitalist reification and alienation, what next? Lukács sees the full liberation of mankind.

For me, on a bad day, it's dramatically relaxed selection.

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