A Defence of History and Class Consciousness: Tailism and the Dialectic

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Verso, 2000 - Philosophy - 182 pages
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Georg Lukács was dubbed "the philosopher of the October Revolution" and his masterpiece History and Class Consciousness (1923) is commonly held to be the foundational text for the tradition known as "Western Marxism" which includes the work of Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse.

As the liberating energies of the Russian Revolution were sapped by Stalinism, Lukács was subjected to ferocious attack for "deviations" from the "party line" in History and Class Consciousness. In the mid-1920s, he wrote Talism and the Dialectic, a sustained and passionate response to this onslaught. Unpublished at the time, Lukács himself thought the text had been destroyed. However, a group of researchers recently found the manuscript gathering dust in the newly opened archives of the CPSU in Moscow. Now, for the first time, this fascinating, polemical and intense text is available in English, in an accomplished translation by Esther Leslie and published here with an introduction from John Rees and a postface by Slavoj Zizek. It is a crucial part of a hidden intellectual history and will transform interpretations of Lukács's oeuvre.

"Some critiques of my book History and Class Consciousness have appeared (written by Comrades Rudas and Deborin) which I simply cannot let pass without a response ... It is certainly not my intention to defend the book itself. I would be only too glad if I could regard it as completely redundant, if I could see that its purpose had been full accomplished. What is this purpose? To demonstrate methodologically that the organisation and tactics of Bolshevism are the only possible consequence of Marxism; to prove that, of necessity, the problems of Bolshevism follow logically—that is to say logically in a dialectical sense—from the method of materialist dialectics as implemented by its founders.

But my critics move instead in the opposite direction. They use their polemics to smuggle Menshevik elements into Marxism and Leninism. I have to retaliate. I am not defending my book. I am attacking the poen Menshevism of Deborin and the tail-ending of Rudas."
  

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About the author (2000)

Georg Lukács (1885–1971) was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic. Most scholars consider him to be the founder of the tradition of Western Marxism. He contributed the ideas of reification and class consciousness to Marxist philosophy and theory, and his literary criticism was influential in thinking about realism and about the novel as a literary genre. He served briefly as Hungary's Minister of Culture following the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

Esther Leslie is a lecturer in English and Humanities at Birkbeck College, London. She is the author of Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism and sits on the editorial boards of Historical Materialism, Radical Philosophy and Revolutionary History.

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