Notes On Lukacs II: Hegelian Marxism as a Method.

There is a widespread conception that History and Class Consciousness is the founding document of Western Marxism. This conception is based on a notion of continuity between History and Class Consciousness and Western Marxism. Although the exception is often made for Althusser, as it should be, it is therefore held that there is a continuity between Lukacs and other Western Marxists. One example of this is the category of reification which the Frankfurt School are said to adopt from Lukacs. While I disagree with this I do think there are interesting points of continuity between Lukacs and Western Hegelian Marxists in their conceptions of Marxism consists in.

Lukacs lays out his conception of Marxism in What Is Orthodox Marxism? which is the first essay in History and Class Consciousness. The conception of Marxism that Lukacs lays out in this essay is symptomatic of his self criticism in the 1967 preface:

It is undoubtedly one of the great achievements of History and Class Consciousness to have reinstated the category of totality in the central position it had occupied throughout Marx’s works and from which it had been ousted by the ‘scientism’ of the social- democratic opportunists. I did not know at the time that Lenin was moving in a similar direction. (The philosophical fragments were published nine years after the appearance of History and Class Consciousness.) But whereas Lenin really brought about a renewal of the Marxian method my efforts resulted in a – Hegelian-distortion, in which I put the totality in the centre of the system, overriding the priority of economics.

In my view this passage can be read in two ways. Some undoubtedly criticize it as an example of Lukacs towing the party line and returning to some sorta economist base superstructure view. But it can also be seen as Lukacs criticizing the method he advocates in HCC. Thus in Lukacs words

It is in line with such philosophical misconceptions that History and Class Consciousness should begin its analysis of economic phenomena not with a consideration of work but only of the complicated structures of a developed commodity economy.

In other words, in contrast to the way that Marx moves to derive the commodity economy from the historically specific capitalist form of social labour, Lukacs begins with the commodity. Instead of moving from the commodity to different levels of abstraction, he presupposes that capitalism is a totality in which all aspects are dialectically linked. As a result the notion that Marxism is a method consists in mapping this totality by showing the objective and subjective aspects disparate phenomena share in analogy with the commodity. This method of social analysis can indeed be seen in the theory of members of the Frankfurt School and other purveyors of Hegelian Marxism. As I move to write the section that unpacks this I will outline this method in more detail.


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Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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