Lukacs, Reification and Crisis.

Preparing to write a long overdue article on Lukacs. I say long overdue because its been in planning since last summer and described in the hundred-odd cover letters I have sent out which have generally kept me too busy to write what they describe.

The motives that underlie the paper are perverse in a double sense. In the first, I am trying to be highly opportunistic by jumping into the debate about how to revive reification that involves some schmancy names as well the seeming inability of contemporary critical theory to address the crisis. (Last I checked Nancy Fraser was the contemporary critical theorist to even try to address the crisis in a coherent manner) In the second, my proposal to revive reification will take the opposite tact of these schmancy names; rather than moving away from the Marxian element of Lukacs’ theory by drawing on one aspect of it and generalizing it into a theory of intersubjectivity, technology or political passivity — ironically mirroring the criticisms of Lukacs’ method that these revivals rely on — I am going to argue that it can be revived by focusing in on his comments on crisis which can be rendered more rigorous by drawing on Marx’s account crisis as inherent to the capitalist mode of production.

Some of the former can be seen below:

‘This rationalisation of the world appears to be complete, it seems to penetrate the very depths of man’s physical and psychic nature. It is limited, however, by its own formalism. That is to say, the rationalisation of isolated aspects of life results in the creation of formal laws. All these things do join together into what seems to the superficial observer to constitute a unified system of general ‘laws’. But the disregard of the concrete aspects of the subject matter of these laws, upon which disregard their authority as laws is based, makes itself felt in the incoherence of the system in fact. This incoherence becomes particularly egregious in periods of crisis. At such times we can see how the immediate continuity between two partial systems is disrupted and their independence from and adventitious connection with each other is suddenly forced into the consciousness of everyone. It is for this reason that Engels is able to define the ‘natural laws’ of capitalist society as the laws of chance. [26]

‘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.’

‘The proletariat is, then, at one and the same time the product of the permanent crisis in capitalism and the instrument of those tendencies which drive capitalism towards crisis. ‘



About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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2 Responses to Lukacs, Reification and Crisis.

  1. cominsitu says:

    The reification of the article-writing proletariat gets into crisis when it’s subjective objectivity is forced to entäußern its objective subjectivity through self-positing its cv in a bad infinity.

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