Georg Lukács’ Marxism Alienation, Dialectics, Revolution: A Study in Utopia and Ideology
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Finding Aid for the Victor Zitta Papers,
The nearly one hundred years of the reception of History and Class Consciousness demonstrates that there are many, quite divergent modes by which one can approach History and Class Consciousness. The diversity of approaches to History and Class Consciousness is no accident. It is an expression that has already been stressed, by the nonlinear intellectual biography of its author and the many sources from which his thinking draws, and at the same time a product of contemporary academic life with its peculiar rules.
Qualities such as these demonstrate that History and Class Consciousness is a mirror image of the rapid changes during the years between and Not least of all, it is an experimental attempt to address the increasingly critical situation of Marxism and the revolution by means of a theoretical approach.
Gyorgy Lukács Facts
The goal is just to provide an outline of the theory project proposed in History and Class Consciousness, in order to forestall truncated forms of reception and critique. Both understood Marx as a kind of Darwin of history, or society, without sufficient reflection on the methodological premise of his critique of political economy. Thus, together with Karl Korsch, he also initiates the debate that continues until the present, about the relationship between Marxism and philosophy.
He—and this, one will need to bear in mind during the following remarks—considers his studies in dialectics and their practical intentions about reification as a fresh impulse and as a large-scale research project. His diagnostic discourses on time are sketches whose elements and dimensions were to be elaborated on and increasingly filled with concrete content i. An entire series of potentially influential critical approaches has left a visible trace: in the domain of Marxist discourse, a critique in the tradition of Backhaus, based mainly in a philology of Marx, which avails itself of the progress in the development of the theory of value forms, the structuralist deviation of a Marxist historicism, in particular the anti-humanism of Althusser.
Fairness demands that we point this out that Habermas does not simply reject the reification paradigm; he makes an attempt to reformulate it. The high degree of de-radicalization in the approach of History and Class Consciousness, if one no longer shares its capitalism-theoretical and revolutionary premises, becomes apparent, at the latest, when one observes Habermas as he describes the social pathologies of our present time.
It is in particular the constitutional state that he pins his hopes on, in order to limit the colonialist tendencies of market money and power, and to curtail the total mediatization of the living world, along with the tools of an enlightened public and communicative reason. At the same time, Habermas does not believe that a revision, let alone a revolutionizing of the economic sphere, is necessary to defend it.
His primary concern is the safeguarding of the rules of law and of civil rights. There seems to be no longer any mention of a pathology of capitalist societies, nor as bold an idea as a systematically distorted interaction, in his recent writings. The Frankfurt philosopher begins by clarifying that the notion of reification is part of the incompletely processed intellectual legacy of Critical Theory.
The phenomenon of reification, long ignored, returns while masquerading in widely varying forms of literary as well as theoretical texts and contexts. Crass forms of reification surrogate motherhood, the marketization of romantic relationships, the explosive growth of the sex industry, as well as the observable trend toward emotional management, the pervasive social atmosphere of a cold practicality have induced writers like Martha Nussbaum to use the term reification.
The term can also be used for critical reflection on scientific trends; an example is brain research: we can speak of reification, for example, when we observe the attempt to explain human feelings and actions by a mere analysis of neuronal networks in the brain. At least they guarantee each other to recognize their status as persons. However much one might applaud this openness, suspicion remains with respect to the question of how one should react theoretically to the fundamental impulse of History and Class Consciousness , which consists in protesting against the totalizing of the commodity and exploitation principle as it produces reifying effects.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to protect domains of life against the logic of commodity production. He connects the discourse of alienation and reification, anchored as it is in the contemporary living world and contemporary scientific discourses, with the lives of contemporary humans, who are living in the realm of tension between personhood, role identity, the striving for self-actualization, and the requirement of self-marketing. In favour of this compatibility, however, Honneth sacrifices essential aspects of the paradigm.
Following the communication-theoretic turn, there is no room left for a materialist dialectic, however sophisticated. The critique of capitalism, as the critique of a system of naturally capitalist commodity production is replaced by a critique of pathological states of emergency, which claims that these aberrations can be compensated for, or in part eradicated, by a democratization of the family, a moralization of the economy, and of course a democratized public sphere.
These attributes are:. But their reach is too limited when the goal is to comprehend reified social conditions that elude the awareness, respectively the control, of individual subjects. The critique of reification is, at its a core, a radical critique of a form of life that can be described as bourgeois-capitalist socialisation, according to the definition of Hegel and Marx.
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In closing, I would like to refer back to my opening remarks once more. The experiences of our contemporary crises—according to our initial thesis—provoke the question whether it is feasible to simply renounce the great tradition of socialist and revolutionary thought. No one can simply advocate a renaissance of the practical philosophy of the s, of course.
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That was an ambitious attempt to respond to a revolutionary situation in theoretical terms. It is also indisputable that many of our contemporaries will reject, with some outrage, the thought that they are living in an age of reification, or respectively that they are subject to patterns of self-reification. It is a truly ambitious project waiting to be undertaken. Against a fixation on economics, he wants to see law and politics considered as following their own logics and thus as spheres to be treated separately.
In concrete terms, this means he wants to take the realm of the democratic formation of decisions much more seriously than has been the case in socialist traditions, especially of Marxist persuasions, to date. By this he wants to emphasize the normative foundations of a socialist alternative to existing society, instead of obscuring them in a philosophy of history.
A modern socialist understanding of politics, however, cannot ignore the fact that, in a reified world, people existing in reified forms of life are confronted with a process of forming political will in which it is not easy for them to recognize their own requirements and interests, to shape and articulate them in ways that are informed by solidarity. The phenomenon of the ideological crisis of the proletariat is not a Leninist invention, but a result of the inherent obscurity of the capitalist system, and of the profound reification of our thinking and living.
As late as , he rejected the Bolshevik revolution from a Kantian perspective—on the grounds of moral considerations. Since History and Class Consciousness , however, the Hungarian philosopher was convinced that the loss of autonomy of humans is not an individual-moral phenomenon, but a structural characteristic of capitalist commodity production. Revolutionizing the latter is a possible product of the historical process, and, having become realizable in this context, is the moral postulate of the struggle against the diverse forms of reification.
In the process of transcending the hic et nunc , a true democratic formation of collective will can take place, and culture and private life can find configurations that are appropriate to their domains. Zima , Entfremdung. Laika Verlag publication imminent.
Lannings examples from North Africa can be accompanied by counterparts in Europe and hereabouts. The right of co-determination is inconceivable without the class compromise following Word War II, any more than the institutionalization of minimum wage by the struggles of trade unions. Band II. GLW Bd. II Taschenbuch: Berlin Eine Spurensuche Bielefeld: 19ff. II, loc. It did not take place among the circle of recipients he had intended, that of politically engaged and even organized practical philosophers—with the aforementioned exceptions—but among theoreticists, who would later come to be renowned as Frankfurt School respectively as critical theory.
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Teil in: F. Jung eds. Zimmermann Ed. June 17, The privileging of the economic sphere is claimed to have bizarre consequences. Unchecked forms of dehumanizing reification express themselves in racism or in human trafficking, especially of women. Ibid, p