In my previous notes I’ve stated that dialectics are a crucial part of Lukacs’ Marxism. Why is this and what do they do?
To begin with dialectics provide the basis for Lukacs’ conception of Marxism as a method. In What is Orthodox Marxism? he states:
orthodoxy refers exclusively to method. It is the scientific conviction that dialectical materialism is the road to truth and that its methods can be developed, expanded and deepened only along the lines laid down by its founders. It is the conviction, moreover, that all attempts to surpass or ‘improve’ it have led and must lead to over-simplification, triviality and eclecticism.
As I stated elsewhere this conception of Marxism as a dialectical method has an important influence. But why is dialectics tantamount to Marxism in Lukacs view?
In part this is because what I discussed in the last post:
theory is essentially the intellectual expression of the revolutionary process itself. In it every stage of the process becomes fixed so that it may be generalised, communicated, utilised and developed. Because the theory does nothing but arrest and make conscious each necessary step, it becomes at the same time the necessary premise of the following one.
the function of theory is also to understand its own basis, i.e. dialectical method.
For Lukacs “This point is absolutely crucial.”
The dialectical method, conceived as the relation between subject and object in history, in turn can provide a basis for knowledge that even Engels failed to grasp. (as well as a knowledge of the role of the proletariat as the subject object of history)
Furthermore, in contrast to other prevailing modes of understanding the dialectics can also grasp society. In Lukacs’s view it does this in a critical manner that contrasts with the outward appearances prevailing modes of thought are based on:
If such methods seem plausible at first this is because capitalism tends to produce a social structure that in great measure encourages such views. But for that very reason we need the dialectical method to puncture the social illusion so produced and help us to glimpse the reality underlying it. 5-6
Here an opposition is established between understanding based on the outward appearance of capitalism and the critical dialectical method. Whereas the former leads to treating isolated phenomena as facts–and in Lukacs’ view makes science analogous to capitalism– the later exposes the illusory status of these facts because they neglect the whole.
The fetishistic character of economic forms (fetischistische character), the reification of all human relations, the constant expansion and extension of the division of labour which subjects the process of production to an abstract, rational analysis, without regard to the human potentialities and abilities of the immediate producers, all these things transform the phenomena of society and with them the way in which they are perceived. In this way arise the ‘isolated’ facts, ‘isolated’ complexes of facts, separate, specialist disciplines (economics, law, etc.) whose very appearance seems to have done much to pave the way for such scientific methods. It thus appears extraordinarily ‘scientific’ to think out the tendencies implicit in the facts themselves and to promote this activity to the status of science. By contrast, in the teeth of all these isolated and isolating facts and partial systems, dialectics insists on the concrete unity of the whole. Yet although it exposes these appearances for the illusions they are-albeit illusions necessarily engendered by capitalism- in this ‘scientific’ atmosphere it still gives the impression of being an arbitrary construction. 5-6
Dialectics thus leads to grasping totality, the importance of which I will discuss in my next post.