Marxism and Culture: Georg Lukacs, Revolution, and Consciousness
178 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002
“Materialist dialectic is a revolutionary dialectic.” So wrote the Hungarian philosopher Georg Lukács in March 1919 as a participant in the proletarian revolutions sweeping Europe in the wake of World War I. In a series of essays written in response to the Bolshevik Revolution, Lukács re-conceptualized orthodox Marxism in Hegelian terms, at once restoring dialectical materialism to the center of Marx’s thought and orienting modernist ideas of art and consciousness within revolutionary politics. These essays established Lukács as one of the founding figures of Western Marxism and critical theory. But unlike many Western Marxists, Lukács famously “went East,” remaining loyal to the principles of the Bolshevik Revolution even as he cautiously dissented from Stalinist bureaucracy and terror.
This course will closely examine the historical development of Lukács’ thought, specifically his adaptive mediations of the rapidly shifting terrain of European politics – the nationalist fervor of wartime Germany, the hopes and disillusionment of post-war revolutions, the rise of Stalinism, and the effort to articulate a radical democratic popular-front strategy to oppose fascism. Analyzing excerpts from Theory of the Novel, History and Class Consciousness, and his aesthetic debates with Ernst Bloch and Bertolt Brecht, as well as post-1989 readings of Lukács, we will consider the continuing relevance of his thought. As recent political events continue to expose the fissures within late capitalism as a global system, it is important to ask whether Lukács’ concepts of totality, reification, and dialectical method have something to offer in understanding and acting upon the politics of the present and future.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm
February 23 — March 15, 2016