Friday, June 8, 2007

Espíritu

It would be useful to have a general post concerning the content of Thursday's discussion and where the group is with the reading, since I would like to follow along from afar as much as possible.

Having finished section two, one of the most striking assertions of Lukacs is regarding the undialectical nature of Hegel's absolute spirit in the end of the Phenomenology. Lukacs' argument here seems related to his comments in the 1967 preface regarding the human quality of objectification. The delineation of objectification from alienation (xxiv) leads Lukacs into an explicitly humanist position stating that (1) objectification is human, and (2) alienation is the deformation of the human. For Lukacs Hegel's conclusion to the Phenomenology is irrational (147). Absolute spirit appears as a leap necesitated by the unconcrete or (over) determining nature of World Spirit. Which leads us into the next section.

Regardless of whether World Spirit is an adequate concept to Hegel's meaning or not (I think it is), does Lukacs' critique of the final turn of the Phenomenology as being "mythical" and leaving history in its attempt to wholly enter it adequately represent what Hegel is doing? Furthermore this attempt to fully enter history seems to be intimately related to the problem of objectification, in that the end of history is for Hegel the culmination of a journey through alienation and the concept coming into its own, etc. Does Marx's distinction beteen alienation and objectification allow him to conceive of the end of history in a distinct and more concrete form than that of Hegel's? If objectification partly defines the human, and communism is somehow the realisation of human nature, the supercession of specifically capitalist alienation would not be an end to objectivity as such, i.e. history. Lukacs trajectory here seems essential to the problem of history in Western Marxism generally. But is his reading of Hegel (after Marx) adequate to the Phenomenology itself? Or does Hegel (as when he speaks of work) see absolute spirit as exhibiting the human not as "achieved", but by definition as "fleeting"?

Lukacs relates the error of not distinguishing alienation form objectification (a distinction which I am suggesting might be there implicitly in his critique of absolute spirit) to the "success enjoyed by History and Class Consciousness". (xxiv) I am tempted to read this success in relation to Lukacs identification of his own messianic tendency and that of the ultra-left in general. By this I mean that the drive to superceed objectification (and history) is by its very nature messianic, and so Lukacs states that his argument in H & C C had great appeal because of this. Neverthless, at least in his conclusion to the second part of the essay I am tempted to read his argument the other way around (from how he read it in 1967).

3 comments:

Andrew said...

Joel

I'll only comment on the first bit of your second paragraph because I get lost after that.

You say: "Having finished section two, one of the most striking assertions of Lukacs is regarding the undialectical nature of Hegel's absolute spirit in the end of the Phenomenology. Lukacs' argument here seems related to his comments in the 1967 preface regarding the human quality of objectification. The delineation of objectification from alienation (xxiv) leads Lukacs into an explicitly humanist position stating that (1) objectification is human, and (2) alienation is the deformation of the human."

Distinguishing alienation from objectification does not seem to me necessarily to make someone a humanist. In the Marx of 1844, at least, it simply meant insisting that one could have a non-alienated relation to objects without having to construe those objects as the positings of one's own self-consciousness, or of self-consciousness as such, or of an absolute I - that is, without becoming an idealist. The Marx of 1844 was in fact a humanist but not in virtue of distinguishing alienation from objectification.

Therefore the Lukacs of 1967 is not a humanist just by virtue of distinguishing alienation and objectification either. And even if he were this would not make the Lukacs of 1923 a humanist since (at least according to the Lukacs of 1967) in 1923 he does not distinguish them.

Andrew

Joel said...

Yes, the concept if alienation doesn´t imply a humanist position. My feeling though is that the concept of reification does. So distinguishing alienation form reification would it seems be an essential aspect of the group´s reading.

Lukacs does write (xxiv) that ¨only when man´s nature is subjugated, deformed and crippled can we speak of an objective societal condition of alienation¨. In this case the concept of alienation is being used as equivalent to the crippling of man´s nature. If Lukacs is not thinking resistance to this crippling as a re-assertion of man´s nature then what is he concerned with?


Or elsewhere (92): the ¨transformation of a human function into a commodity reveals in all its starkness the dehumanised and dehumanising function of the commodity relation.¨ But I agree that this is not a proof of Lukacs thinking of the human as an essentiality deformed by capital, i.e. a conservative position.

This goes back to what I was trying to say regarding page 86 in our first meeting. That the standpoint Lukacs there has the human resisting ¨the subjugation of men´s consciousness¨ from is one which can rebel so as to liberate itself [the standpoint] from servitude to it´s ¨second nature¨. Is the choice of this term "second nature" erroneous or does Lukacs see this rebellion as that of an essential first nature which has somehow been veiled via reification?

More to the point, do you think Postone´s critique of the term "reification" as undialectical is valid? If it is valid then it seems that the standpoint from which Lukacs has the rebellion against reification taking place is that of a humanist (un-alienated) human.

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