There are a number of reasons for my recent lack of posts. One is logistical – I just moved from one continent to another. But another is that I have been working on getting several projects off the ground with the aim of putting myself in a position where I have a chance of landing some sort of academic job. So I have a summer of writing proposals and articles ahead of me.
One of the articles I am starting to think about now is aimed at implementing my examiners advice and engaging with the recent Lukacs revival. Having now read up on the revival, I’ve been struck by the following – several articles argue for a revitalized notion of reification, but the manner in which they propose such a revitalisation has a peculiar relationship with Lukacs’ theory. This is because such efforts seem to generally follow a line of reasoning that dismisses Lukacs’ theory of reification for being overblown and propose to remedy it by focusing on a particular aspect of this theory that has nothing to do with commodification. What seems problematic to me is that surely the underlying point of Lukacs’ theory was its attempt to tie everything together via the totalizing pervasiveness of commodification. Whilst it true that Lukacs’ did so in a problematic manner – both in terms of how it derived these qualities and in its pervasiveness — I question both the point and the efficacy of retaining the theory of reification and constraining it to particular phenomena such a law, passivity, inter-subjective behaviour etc. After all there are surely better theories that account for these phenomena in the manner that the authors are concerned with, so it is not immediately clear just what using the term reification provides these theories.
I am toying with entering the debate by trying to argue for what I still think are useful aspects of Lukacs’ use of Marx in terms of his account of the supraindividual and dominating aspects of capitalist production. As I note above there are certainly problems with this account, but at least in the confines of a journal article, it might be possible to show how, in contradistinction to the other attempts to revitalize reification, Lukacs’ comments on crisis provide a description of the function of capitalism as a supraindividual form of social domination that counteracts the overly pervasive and one-dimensional aspects of the reification by positing the function of capitalist totality as rational segements functioning in and as part of an irrational whole. Such a description, I could further argue, has parallels with Marx’s account of capitalist crisis as inherent to the very mechanisms of capitalist production in which the rational segments become discongruent causing a crisis in the whole. Drawing on such a strand of Lukacs’ theory might therefore revitalize the theory of reification without revising it and in doing so point to its relevance in our crisis-ridden conjuncture.