Lukacs, Reification and Crisis.

Exemplary of the third generation of the Frankfurt School’s rejuvenation of reification is that it has not broached Lukacs’ discussion of crisis. (Now why would you want to criticize capitalism and make a stab being relevant when you can write books with philosophies of history also seen in PBS documentaries.)

Seems to me that some of these passages might be drawn on to give ol’ Georgy von some relevance:

On closer examination the structure of a crisis is seen to be no more than a heightening of the degree and intensity of the daily life of bourgeois society. In its unthinking, mundane reality that life seems firmly held together by ‘natural laws’; yet it can experience a sudden dislocation because the bonds uniting its various elements and partial systems are a chance affair even at their most normal. So that the pretence that society is regulated by ‘eternal, iron’ laws which branch off into the different special laws applying to particular areas is finally revealed for what it is: a pretence. The true structure of society appears rather in the independent, rationalised and formal partial laws whose links with each other are of necessity purely formal (i.e. their formal interdependence can be formally systematised), while as far as concrete realities are concerned they can only establish fortuitous connections…..

These are no more than random instances. It is evident that the whole structure of capitalist production rests on the interaction between a necessity subject to strict laws in all isolated phenomena and the relative irrationality of the total process. “Division of labour within the workshop implies the undisputed authority of the capitalist over men, who are but parts of a mechanism that belongs to him. The division of labour within society brings into contact independent commodity-producers who acknowledge no other authority than that of competition, of the coercion exerted pressure of their mutual interests…..

The capitalist process of rationalisation based on private economic calculation requires that every manifestation of life shall exhibit this very interaction between details which are subject to laws and a totality ruled by chance. It presupposes a society so structured. It produces and reproduces this structure in so far as it takes possession of society. This has its foundation already in the nature of speculative calculation, i.e. the economic practice of commodity owners at the stage where the exchange of commodities has become universal. Competition between the different owners of commodities would not be feasible if there were an exact, rational, systematic mode of functioning for the whole of society to correspond to the rationality of isolated phenomena. If a rational calculation is to be possible the commodity owner must be in possession of the laws regulating every detail of his production. The chances of exploitation, the laws of the ‘market’ must likewise be rational in the sense that they must be calculable according to the laws of probability. But they must not be governed by a law in the sense in which ‘laws’ govern individual phenomena; they must not under any circumstances be rationally organised through and through. This does not mean, of course, that there can be no ‘law’ governing the whole. But such a ‘law’ would have to be the ‘unconscious’ product of the activity of the different commodity owners acting independently of one another, i.e. a law of mutually interacting ‘coincidences’ rather than one of truly rational organisation. Furthermore, such a law must not merely impose itself despite the wishes of individuals, it may not even be fully and adequately knowable. For the complete knowledge of the whole would vouchsafe the knower a monopoly that would amount to the virtual abolition of the capitalist economy.


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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