In , the family was admitted into the nobility. He worked and participated in intellectual circles in Budapest, Berlin where he was influenced by Georg Simmel , Florence and Heidelberg. Between and he worked on a first attempt to formulate a systematic approach to art, which remained unpublished during his lifetime GW In , he married the Russian political activist and convicted terrorist Jelena Grabenko. Later, when war broke out, he served as a political commissar in the Hungarian Red Army in this position, he also ordered the execution of several soldiers, see Kadarkay

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In , the family was admitted into the nobility. He worked and participated in intellectual circles in Budapest, Berlin where he was influenced by Georg Simmel , Florence and Heidelberg.

Between and he worked on a first attempt to formulate a systematic approach to art, which remained unpublished during his lifetime GW In , he married the Russian political activist and convicted terrorist Jelena Grabenko. Later, when war broke out, he served as a political commissar in the Hungarian Red Army in this position, he also ordered the execution of several soldiers, see Kadarkay Being in charge of coordinating the clandestine activities of the exiled communist party, he remained under constant threat of expulsion to Hungary.

This reformulation of the philosophical premises of Marxism, however, entailed a rejection of the then contemporary forms of simplistic materialism and naive scientism endorsed by many Soviet party intellectuals.

In this draft of a party platform, which was named after his party alias, he argued for a democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants in Hungary. These theses were condemned as a right-wing deviation by the party earning him the status of being condemned both as a left-wing and a right-wing dissident within a timeframe of five years.

Eventually, he was summoned by the Soviet party leadership to Moscow where he stayed from on, leaving only for Comintern missions in Berlin and for Tashkent during the war. However, it is clear from his writings that he publicly defended Stalinist dogmas both in aesthetics and politics during the s, s and s a, , while criticizing Stalin and Stalinism repeatedly later on see , In , he published his two-volume study titled The Young Hegel written partly during the s in Moscow and participated in debates about socialist realism in literature.

In , he also traveled to Paris to engage in a debate about existentialism and Marxism with Sartre. The works of this period reflect both his allegiance to orthodox Soviet Marxism and his uneasiness with the Stalinist post-war situation. A widely criticized example of his writing of this time is The Destruction of Reason, published in He also served in the short-lived Nagy government as minister for public education.

After the subsequent Soviet invasion, he was arrested and imprisoned in Romania. In contrast to other members of the government, he was not executed but merely expelled from the communist party, which he only rejoined in He also continued to publish extensively on literature and art.

This is most explicitly discussed in his two attempts at a systematic philosophy of art. Second, there is the sociological-historical question about the relation between individual and collective life and the aesthetic and ethical forms in modern bourgeois society.

This topic is dominant both in the History of the Modern Drama of and in the Theory of the Novel of Both individual and social life is in principle capable of forming an integrated totality. However, this is only the case if the essential properties of its elements are intelligible in terms of their relations to other particulars of life.

Only in this case, life can have a meaningful form which is not a mere restriction. This immanence of meaning and the totality it constituted was, however, lost in the subsequent historical development, transforming form into an external factor to life.

In regard to the relation between form and life, we can distinguish between forms that are forms of life itself, produced by that life, and abstract forms which are imposed onto life from the outside. When a form is imposed on life that is not a form of that specific mode of life or if the form in question cannot be realized in empirical life , such an imposition always runs the risk of distorting the meanings of the particular actions or persons.

But at the same time, form is necessary for life to become intelligible and unified see Bernstein 77— Within the sphere of individual agency, persons face this dilemma in regard to the choice of either authentically expressing the particular meanings of their own life, risking the loss of form and, consequently, the loss of intelligible access to these meanings, or of imposing an external form as a normative demand on their life, risking distortion, inauthenticity and even the denial of life itself.

Essayistic writing, however, is not only writing about form; it also must always examine the conditions under which life can be given a form in the first place. This problem becomes virulent in modernity where the form of life is no longer something unproblematically present. Rather, the existing ways in which life could give itself a form have become problematic and are experienced as abstractions.

In both cases, art turns against life. Instead, such an attempt must endorse a form of life that cannot be incorporated into ordinary life. But due to its inherent ambiguity and foreignness to form, ordinary life cannot ever be successfully lived in such a way c: The conclusion of this line of thought seems to point towards an insoluble dilemma. This framework is most clearly visible in his two systematic attempts to produce a philosophy of art in Heidelberg GW 16 and However, the inevitable desire to communicate meaning drives people to adopt different means of communication that, even though inadequate for expressing the reality of experience, enable persons to overcome their separateness by relating to each other in terms of other spheres of reality for example, the sphere of logical validity.

Thus, the contrast between everyday life and art is not one between experience and validity but between the heterogeneity of everyday life and the homogeneous form appropriate to the autonomy of experience GW Consequently, in comparison to the logical and ethical spheres of validity, aesthetics has a distinct status. While in these other spheres of validity, objective norms and subjective attitudes are fully separable, the autonomy of experience legislates a normative standard that involves a specific relationship between subjective experience and objective norm.

Even though these activities are not constitutive for the value of works of art, they can still serve as a basis for reconstructing the independent normative status of the aesthetics. The result of this analysis is a conception of the work of art as an ideal of homogeneous unity of form and material.

In contrast, in the Aesthetics, it is brought about through a process in which the constitutive function of experience becomes completely autonomous, determining both form and content. Such an ideal work of art is, in virtue of this harmony, a Utopian fulfillment of the attitudes that are already operative in the ordinary world of experience GW This finally answers the question regarding the a priori conditions of art: as an ideal of a particular kind of possible experience, the work of art is always historically specific.

However, both the potentiality to become a totality in virtue of their form and the normative demand to do so are timeless, a priori conditions of the possibility of works of art in the Neo-Kantian sense GW He argues that drama is connected to specific historic circumstances: for drama to exist, there needs to be a prevailing Weltanschauung GW 44 that seeks drama as its preferred mode of expression. This tragic Weltanschauung only exists in periods of societal disintegration where individual emotions and objective facts are in a relation of mismatch so intense that they elicit heroic forms of the denial of social reality.

In each society, the ruling class legitimizes its own dominance with reference to certain valuations Wertungen. However, if that class then begins to experience these very same valuations as problematic or sterile, this signifies the beginning of its downfall GW In such situations, the formal element of drama and tragedy, which involves the paradoxical relation between highly universalized form and highly individualized content, mirrors the paradoxical relation between form and life that individuals experience in their own relation to society.

Epic poetry in Homeric times takes its starting point from a world which constituted a closed totality 33 , that is, a world in which life, culture, meaning, action and social institutions formed a harmonious whole. Furthermore, there was no gap between individual consciousness and objectified meaning in the world that would have required the individual to project meaning onto the world. Individuals in ancient Greece only had to accept the totality of meaning within their world, even if they were, in some particular situation or another, unable to understand it.

In contrast, modern society is constitutively alienated: merely conventional social institutions devoid of meaning exist disconnected from individuals and their highly individualized self-understanding. Therefore, in modern society meaning can only be found within the inner life of the individual and cannot become recognized in the world In the course of this movement, the sources of meaning became increasingly more external to immediate life.

Tragedy and philosophy have already realized the loss of a meaningful totality, whereas the possibility of epic poetry depends on its immanence. The novel is always relating to the development of such individuals. This development can take the shape of a subjective-idealist illusion e.

In modernity, epic writing has no longer any distinct form that could express any particular relation between life and essence within a totality. Rather, the form of the novel is an attempt to deal with the absence of this relation 59; see Jameson The form which commodities acquire due to this fetishism i. This process has both an objective and a subjective dimension: objectively, the qualitative homogeneity and continuity of human work is destroyed when industrial work processes become rationalized in a way that is appropriate to understanding them as commodity exchanges.

It is a process which affects four dimensions of social relations: the socially created features of objects primarily their features as commodities , the relations between persons, their relations to themselves and, finally, the relations between individuals and society as a whole Stahl These properties become independent, quantifiable, non-relational features that must remain alien to any subjective meaning that one could attach to them.

Additionally, by losing grip of the qualitative dimensions of their social relations, people become atomized and isolated. The core of this argument is the claim that the dominance of the commodity form in the economic sphere must necessarily lead to the dominance of rational calculation and formal reason in society as a whole.

Because a break with the organic unity and totality of human existence is a necessary precondition for this development, the commodity form must, over time, subject all social spheres to its rule. This development leads into a contradictory situation both on the practical and the theoretical level: because the process of rationalization precludes the grasp of any kind of totality, it cannot ever succeed in making the whole of society subject to rational calculation for it necessarily must exclude all irrational, qualitative dimensions from such calculation.

The same holds true for a formalist model of law, which cannot theoretically acknowledge the interdependence of its principles with their social content and therefore must treat this content as an extra-legal, irrational foundation a: — This dualism between subject and object—and in ethics, between norms and facts—haunts modern philosophy.

As Fichte and Hegel recognize, this problem arises only because modern thought takes the contemplative subject of reified self-world relations as its paradigm, ignoring the alternative of an active subject that is engaged in the production of the content.

However, the conceptualization of practice from the standpoint of aesthetics obscures its historical dimension. Initially, both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie face the same immediate reality of an alienated world. Bourgeois thought, however, endorses this facticity and sees every possible normative stance only as a subjective projection onto a world of immediate facts.

In contrast, the proletariat is unable to remain within bourgeois ideology. In capitalism, the activity of workers is reduced to a completely quantifiable process. But, at the same time, workers cannot have any immediate self-consciousness of their work other than of a qualitatively determined activity.

However, the process of the proletariat becoming self-conscious does not only describe a theoretical insight. By realizing that it is the subject-object of history, the proletariat discovers itself to be the subject of the process of social reproduction see a: ; Jay f , not an object of contemplation.

The proletarian situation does not necessarily entail an immediate consciousness of the totality. This consciousness remains only an objective possibility, always threatened by the seductions of the immediate consciousness.

This makes the agency of the communist party a necessary condition for the revolution. This ontology of pure processuality finally entails a normative conception of society that is critical towards all forms of institutional rationalization which are rejected as forms of alienation across the board. The party orthodoxy, however, was not quite so enamored. In Germany and Hungary, party intellectuals such as Hermann Duncker and Laszlo Rudas disapproved of the book because of its idealist tendencies, culminating in its condemnation by Grigory Zinoviev in his opening address to the June World Congress of the Third International Arato and Breines This conception imports moments that are alien to a Marxist view of history into his theory even on a non-orthodox reading of Marx.

He admits, however, that the notion of totality as the product of a collective subject, as he developed it in , needed to be modified in order to remedy these problems. Instead, he tackled the philosophical foundations of these problems in the context of a new reading of the philosophical tradition, and especially of Hegel. His writings on Hegel, most prominently The Young Hegel and the relevant sections in the Ontology of Social Being, can be read as a defense of this commitment.

Hegel, however, subordinates this objectivist ontology to logic in the course of the development of his system. Hegel sees externalization that is, the fact that the objects of our labor and the institutions of society are independent of our consciousness not as a deficiency, but rather as a necessary stage in the development of self-consciousness.

On this view, the externalization of the social is not problematic in itself. Rather, it is alienation the causes of which Marx uncovered that should be the object of the critique of reification see also Pitkin This distinction entails the possibility of a critique of reification that does not require a complete reappropriation of objective social forms by a collective subject.

This ontology is intended, at least outwardly, to be a faithful interpretation of the ontological implications of Marxism.


Georg [György] Lukács

Axel Honneth 1 has pointed out that it is folly to simply dispense with the great 19th century idea of socialism. He gives several reasons for his view. Certain completely inappropriate responses fail to recognize that Honneth is not aiming to rediscover some long-dead spectre. These critics fail to appreciate the profound and widespread antipathy towards the global capitalist, economic system and the post-democratic conditions closely connected to it. He believes that reclaiming the attractiveness of socialism should go hand in hand with a turning away from Marx and his philosophical legacy. Honneth gives three chief reasons that make such a renunciation unavoidable in his eyes. Second, even when Honneth admits at times that it has become difficult to demonstrate that any modern institution, or social subsystem, remains a sphere unaffected by the logic of exploitation, he insists on the notion that there are several social subsystems, which are to be examined individually and that follow their own separate logics.


Georg Lukács' Theory of Reification and the Idea of Socialism

Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat To be radical is to go to the root of the matter. For man, however, the root is man himself. IT is no accident that Marx should have begun with an analysis of commodities when, in the two great works of his mature period, he set out to portray capitalist society in its totality and to lay bare its fundamental nature. For at this stage in the history of mankind there is no problem that does not ultimately lead back to that question and there is no solution that could not be found in the solution to the riddle of commodity-structure.


Lukacs' Theory of Reification



Reification (Marxism)


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