Lukacs & Class Consciousness Redux

HANLY at BrandonU.CA HANLY at BrandonU.CA
Mon Apr 1 13:26:33 MST 1996

Recently Louis Godena wrote:

  Where Marx's identification of the
proletariat as the producer of surplus value, as the simultaneous cog in the
economic juggernaut (as well as its predestined victim and destroyer), were
firmly based on Marx's anti-empiricism (a clear departure from the
Descartian ethos), Lukacs' analysis was a quasi-metaphysical abstraction.
History and Class Consciousness sought to vindicate the Marxist method of
scholarship (an "orthodoxy" under attack from the muddled professors of the
day), but it lacked the dialectical struggle to unify the empirically
observed and the abstract theory.  Lukac's took Marx's visceral
anti-empiricism to a fault.

On the other hand, Marx's "proletariat" was an actual army of factory
workers; The Eighteenth Brumaire, which Lukacs nowhere mentions, is full of
acute empirical observations on the class situation.  It is this combination
of empiricism and abstraction that is the most fruitful, in my opinion, of
the marxist "methodologies" which have seemed to reproduce, exponentially,
since 1883.
  COMMENT: I have never run across the term "Descartian", the usual term
is Cartesian as in Cartesian geometry or the Cartesian cogito. Descartes
is the paradigmatic early modern rationalist thinker and as such
resolutely ANTI-EMPIRICIST. Marx is, of course, no Cartesian but if
he is anti-empiricist as you claim then this is no departure at all from
the Descartian ethos- whatever that might be. Marx was certainly influenced
by rationalism, particularly that of Hegel,
 and in that sense was anti-empiricist
but on the other hand insofar as empiricists base theory on careful
investigation of actual empirical conditions Marx is not anti-empiricist
at all, he simply thinks that one can abstract from the specific conditions
(the empirical data)
necessary, objective laws, and in this he departs from the empiricism of those
in the Humean empiricist tradition.
As you yourself note it is the combination of
acute empirical observations AND abstraction that is most fruitful. This
description though would be one that would fit even a Humean empiricist
methodology. As with the rationalists, I understand Marx as saying that simple
generalizations that show contingent correlations between variables
but not necessary relations do not give understanding of phenomena:
 only abstract necessary relationships such as he claims to find
 within capitalist
development do this. It is thought ultimately that brings one into contact with
objective reality not sensation or perception per se. (Of course for Marx
it is thought linked with action, praxis, not abstract thought as in
Hegel and unlike Hegel he does not think that thought is the basic substance
of the universe rather matter is, and matter creates thought, thought does
not create the world.)
   CHeers, Ken Hanly

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