Irrationalism: Lukacs and the Marxist View of Reason

Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This is the first detailed study, following the recent collapse of political Marxism in Eastern Europe, of twentieth-century Hungarian philosopher Georg Lukács and his position as the leading proponent of the Marxist theory of reason. Lukács'sHistory and Class Consciousnesshas been called one of the three most influential philosophical works of this century, and he, the outstanding Marxist philosopher. Marxism has long suffered relative neglect in philosophical discussion as a result of its own invidious distinction between itself and the supposed irrationality of what it regards as bourgeois philosophy.

    Tom Rockmore offers a uniquely detailed philosophical analysis of Lukács's entire position as a theory of reason, based on the distinction between reason and unreason, or irrationalism. The author gives special emphasis to Lukács's connection to German neo-Kantianism, particularly Lask, and on his last, unfinished work.

    Rockmore begins with an account of the roots of Lukács's Marxism, followed by an in-depth analysis of his often mentioned, but still incompletely understood, seminal essay "Reification and the Class Consciousness of the Proletariat." He then traces the evolution and later demise of the distinction between reason and irrationalism in Lukács's final thought. The author thus makes available for the first time in English a strictly philosophical discussion of Georg Lukács's Marxist phase and brings consideration of his thought into the wider philosophical discussion.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0451-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[v])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vi]-[ix])
  3. INTRODUCTION Irrationalism: Lukács and the Marxist View of Reason
    (pp. 1-14)

    At the very least, Karl Marx and Marxism are committed to a form of contextualism, to a view that theory, any theory, must be understood in relation to, and not in isolation from, the context in which it emerges. If some form of contextualism is assumed, if thought is dependent on social being as Marx and Marxism assert, then we cannot ignore the significance of the political evolution of Eastern Europe since 1989 for an understanding of the philosophical tendency. The political demise of Marxist politics may well offer the best opportunity in decades to penetrate beyond the orthodox political...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Marx on Philosophy and Ideology
    (pp. 15-32)

    A claim for the continuity between Marx and Marxism is not merely a scholastic problem of interest to specialists; it is immediately important for the understanding of Marx’s position. The task of the present chapter is to bring out some of the differences between Marx and Marxism and their significance for Lukács’s Marxist view of reason. A key theme in Lukács’s Marxism is the effort to make a case for Marxism as a viable theory, more precisely as providing the solution to what he regards as the central problem of German philosophy. As part of his argument, Lukács offers a...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Philosophy and Science, Ideology and Truth
    (pp. 33-54)

    As the first step in the discussion of the conceptual background of Lukács’s Marxism, the preceding chapter examined Marx’s views of philosophy and ideology. Examination of Marx’s writings, particularly his critique of Hegel, led to two conclusions. First, neither his critique of absolute idealism nor his notion of ideology is inconsistent with an acceptance of at least some kinds of philosophy as a source of knowledge of the social context. Second, neither his critique of absolute idealism nor his notion of ideology is incompatible with the interpretation of his own theory as a form of philosophy. The importance of these...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Epistemological Irrationality
    (pp. 55-78)

    Engels’s formulation of the marxist view that philosophy is ideology suggests two epistemological conclusions. First, from the perspective of a nonidealistic, materialistic science Marxism surpasses ideology to attain truth. Second, philosophy in general is intrinsically unable to grasp its object. Now, if epistemological claims are to be accorded philosophical weight, they must be argued on an epistemological level, not merely asserted. According to Engels and later Marxists, the purported philosophical failure to provide knowledge derives from its bourgeois, or idealistic, character, in virtue of which it is ideology, not science. Here as elsewhere, for Marxism the terms “bourgeois thought” and...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Marxian Economics and Neo-Kantian Philosophy
    (pp. 79-102)

    The prior discussion has sketched the background in Marx, Marxism, and German neo-Kantianism of Lukács’s effort to refute non-Marxist philosophy and to argue for Marxism. This argument depends on a conception of reason. Marxism maintains that non-Marxism is incapable of knowing its object, the social context, which is known by Marxism. The alleged epistemological deficiency of the non-Marxist view of reason is due to its defective notion of reason, which is remedied in the Marxist conception.

    This analysis carried further Kant’s examination of the conditions of knowledge on the basis of the relation of subjectivity to objectivity. Marx’s critique of...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Antinomies of Bourgeois Thought
    (pp. 103-128)

    The previous chapter discussed Lukács’s analysis of political economy in his groundbreaking essay “Reification and Class Consciousness.” His argument employs a Marxist reading of Marx’s theory with Kantian and neo-Kantian elements. He comprehends Marx’s theory as a form of commodity-analysis. From Kantianism he appropriates the Kantian approach to the possibility of knowledge through the examination of the relation of subjectivity to objectivity, and the neo-Kantian distinction between rationality and irrationality. He argues that only Marxist political economy is capable of comprehending the economic structure of advanced industrial society. His argument consists of two main points. First, non-Marxist political economy cannot...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Standpoint of the Proletariat
    (pp. 129-152)

    The discussion of the proletarian angle of vision forms the third and final part of Lukác’s great essay. In the first section, devoted to the phenomenon of reification, he argued the absolute superiority of Marx’s view of political economy over all alternatives. In the second, he maintained that classical German philosophy is confronted with real problems that, for intrinsic methodological reasons, it cannot solve. In the concluding part, he argues that the real but unsolved problems of classical German philosophy are resolved from the perspective of Marx’s commodity-analysis identified with the proletarian point of view.

    This argument rests on two...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Hegel’s Objective Idealism and Dialectical Materialism
    (pp. 153-174)

    The three preceding chapters have reviewed in some detail the central part of Lukács’s brilliant but flawed argument for Marxism as the truth of classical German idealism in his initial, best-known Marxist work,History and Class Consciousness. His argument turns on a distinction between reason and irrationalism, or an intrinsically defective form of reason. Lukács’s discussion combines insights drawn from Marx, Marxism, and German neo-Kantianism. In particular, it applies the neo-Kantian idea of the irrationalism of the object of knowledge as incompletely cognizable to classical German philosophy. The methodological flaw of the German philosophical tradition, which disqualifies it as a...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Philosophical and Political Irrationalism
    (pp. 175-214)

    There is an obvious continuity betweenHistory and Class ConsciousnessandThe Young Hegel. Lukács’s distinction between reason and unreason, or irrationality, describes his comprehension of the difference between Marxism and its philosophical rivals. In both instances classical German philosophy is presented as incapable of knowing an object, which, like the thing-in-itself, is uncognizable by a form of reason vitiated by its methodological limitations and relation to advanced industrial society. The nature of the contemporary social world is grasped only from the proletarian standpoint of the proletariat, that is, from within Marxism, the only theory rationally attuned to its object....

  12. CHAPTER NINE Lukács’s Social Ontology
    (pp. 215-242)

    Marxism since engels has always maintained two claims: a distinction in kind between itself and classical German philosophy, even philosophy as such; and a view of its absolute superiority over classical German philosophy. Lukács, who accepts these claims, innovates in his effort to demonstrate the absolute philosophical superiority of Marxism. His argument for the superiority of Marxism rests on a Marxist theory of reason. On the basis of the neo-Kantian distinction between rationality and irrationality, he develops a dualistic analysis of two incompatible points of view: Marxism as rational, and non-Marxism as irrational. The rationality of Marxism lies in its...

  13. CONCLUSION A Marxist View of Reason?
    (pp. 243-252)

    This book has examined Lukács’s Marxist view of reason. The nature and use of reason are central themes in the philosophical tradition. Marxism has always been concerned with a socially responsible form of reason as the condition of a better form of life. In his early writings, Marx criticizes Hegel and related forms of philosophy as irrelevant to human being and advances his own position as a proposed alternative. Marxism follows Marx’s lead in its effort further to develop a distinctive alternative to the traditional philosophical perspective. In our own time, this aim has been most powerfully addressed by the...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 253-310)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 311-316)