Lukacs Translation Error.

I spent too much time today panicing and trying to wrap my head around the following paragraph from the Reification essay:

 man has become the measure of all (societal) things. The conceptual and historical foundation for this has been laid by the methodological problem of economics: by dissolving the fetishistic objects into processes that take place among men and are objectified in concrete relations between them; by deriving the indissoluble fetishistic forms from the primary forms of human relations. At the conceptual level the structure of the world stands revealed as a system of dynamically changing relations in which conflicts between man and nature, man and man (in the class struggle, etc.) are fought out. 185.

I couldn’t for the life of me understand why Lukacs was suddenly stating that these fetishistic forms were indissoluble when: (1) the previous portion and the following sentence speaks of their dissolution. (2) He makes this point in numerous other places in the essay and (3) the entire essay is premised on the fact that these forms can be dissolved. I figured it might be some sorta fancy dialectical logic I couldn’t grasp or figured he was just being inconsistent. Then I had a look at the original. It turns out the word unauflösbar can be translated as indissoluble, inextricably and infusible. Look how much more sense the passage makes with the inextricably substituted for indissoluble

man has become the measure of all (societal) things. The conceptual and historical foundation for this has been laid by the methodological problem of economics: by dissolving the fetishistic objects into processes that take place among men and are objectified in concrete relations between them; by deriving the inextricably fetishistic forms from the primary forms of human relations. At the conceptual level the structure of the world stands revealed as a system of dynamically changing relations in which conflicts between man and nature, man and man (in the class struggle, etc.) are fought out.

For now, it seems to me that the passage states not that these fetish forms can’t be dissolved but that their inextricably fetishistic properties–as the necessary appearance of thingified false objectivity– are constituted by the capitalist class relation. This also corresponds to how he defines fetishism and its dissolution in the rest of the passage and the rest of the essay.
But go ahead and correct me if I’m wrong.

 

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About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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9 Responses to Lukacs Translation Error.

  1. Tim (yeah that's right, I follow your blog). says:

    but you’ve changed it from an adjective to an adverb, and it can’t be an adverb there.

    • HR says:

      ha. all the more reason why i shouldn’t be a translator.
      inextricable?

      • Tim (yeah that's right, I follow your blog). says:

        actually i suppose it could be modifying the adjective ‘fetishistic’ rather than the noun, so it could be an adverb (except you would have changed the thing it’s modifying, if you get me). There may be a way of telling which is intended from the German, not sure though…

      • HR says:

        That’s how I interpreted it. In the sense that these forms are inextricably fetishistic. But i am also coming to realize that grammar will be the death of me. the german is unauflosbar fetischistischen formen.

      • Tim (yeah that's right, I follow your blog). says:

        still, it sounds odd to say something is “inextricably fetishistic”. What is it inextricable from? The usual way of using “inextricably”, would be something like “x is inextricably tied to y” – i.e. you need at least two things. Do you see what I mean? Whereas no such problem arises if unaufloesbar is being used as an adjective, since “forms” might well just be “indissoluble”. In which case I think the translation is probably right.

      • HR says:

        Yes. That is how I was trying to make sense of it. In my interpretation the fetishistic properties of these forms are inextricable from their objectification by social relation. But I could well be wrong.

        I’m curious to hear how you would interpret the passage in the way Livingstone translated it. Since at the beginning of the sentence he seems to say that the objects can be dissolved but then he says that their forms can’t. I can’t wrap my head around it.

        But since my main objection is that he seems to be arguing that they cannot be dissolved would you accept the other possible adjective such as inextricable or infusible. Not that the later makes much sense. blarg.

      • Tim (yeah that's right, I follow your blog). says:

        I don’t know how to interpret it. But if he (does he?) uses aufloesen (to dissolve) and then unaufloesbar in the following clause, it surely cannot have been a coincidence – he presumably intended it to have a slightly paradoxical air?

      • HR says:

        stupid dialectics.

      • HR says:

        fuck knows. stupid dialectics.

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