The “New” Lukács

An on-line talk to mark the anniversary of the publication of History and Class Consciousness
Speaker Andrew Feenberg

The initial reception of Lukacs’s History and Class Consciousness was almost entirely negative. Non-Marxists didn’t like his Marxism and Marxist disliked his borrowings from contemporary social science and philosophy. From 1923, when the book was first published, until the 1960s when a new generation of readers discovered it, History and Class Consciousness largely disappeared from both history and consciousness. I published one of the early books of this second reception in 1981 and revised it extensively in 2014. Between these dates the fate of Lukacs’s book changed dramatically. At first the original attacks were renewed by Frankfurt School Critical Theorists and Althusserians who treated reification as a romantic ideology, alien to the concerns of Marxism, but by the time my revised book appeared a new generation of scholars had begin to discover the real meaning of Lukacs’s complicated text. The key to the new approach was a reconceptualization of reification as a cultural phenomenon encompassing all aspects of capitalist society, including its material base and its forms of rationality. From that standpoint reification could be shown to have relevance to contemporary issues of concern.

Andrew Feenberg studied with Herbert Marcuse at the University of California, San Diego. He served as Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Technology in the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, and as Directeur de Programme at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. His books include Questioning Technology, Transforming Technology, Between Reason and Experience, The Philosophy of Praxis, and Technosystem: The Social Life of Reason. His most recent book is entitled The Ruthless Critique of Everything Existing: Nature and Revolution in Marcuse’s Philosophy of Praxis.