Georg Lukacs’ Understanding of Contract and Class ConsciousnessJune 27, 2021
According to Lukacs, with capitalism, for the first time in world history, a subject emerged that could make social life in its entirety or in its entirety the object of its purposeful activity.
This subject is the proletariat, and it is the structural features of the objective world, capitalism, that make it possible. Capitalism is the generalized order of commodity production, and commodity production leads to reification, a reification with objective and subjective aspects. The laws of the capitalist market constitute the objective aspect of this process. Labor becomes a mere matter of quantity in this process, human labor is rationalized.
With the addition of the alienation of man from his own labor to this process, the subjective dimension of reification emerges. Thus, Lukacs states that human activity becomes independent of man and turns into a commodity that goes its own way. The result of this disintegration of the organic unity of production and product is the disintegration of human thought, of social consciousness. As a result of this fragmentation, a holistic view becomes impossible. According to Lukacs, the current state of specialization is due to the fact that the bourgeois sciences are the products of this fragmentation. According to Lukacs, subject-object disconnection comes to the fore as an inevitable consequence of this reification. This brings with it the breaking of the ties between theory and practice. Thus, he renounces his thought-modifying qualities and is pushed to the position of mere observer.
Lukacs attempts to seek the solution of this set of problems in Hegel. According to him, Hegel is the person who establishes the subject-object identity, the theory-practice unity. For Hegel, the subject is both the maker of history and something made by history. There is a distinct interpretation of this view, especially in Marx’s early works. Here Hegel identifies the subject and object of history, and this, according to Lukacas, is the only way to understand socio-historical reality. While the subject sees himself as a product of history, he must also see history as his own action. Hegel’s subject is Spirit, as is known. From this point on, Lukacs wants to turn to the overcoming of Hegel and the evaluation of his theory on a Marsist materialist basis.
According to Lukacs, the capitalist social structure analyzed by Marx and the position of the working class in this structure is a development that will bring Hegel’s thesis to real value. The objective position of the working class makes it possible to realize the historical subject position. Of course, the proletariat also lives in the world of reification, but despite this, it can see its conditions in their entirety.
Lukacs does not fully explain how this could happen, but assumes that somehow the working class can see its immediate existence, that is, reach knowledge of reality beyond the visible side of its real being at the level of facts. So much so that this situation is almost a necessary consequence of the conditions in which the working class itself lives. These conditions somehow command the working class to transcend this immediate existence. The working class also has specific categories of mediation that make it possible to reach this consciousness.
The states of consciousness are thus brought to the material necessity of the capitalist social structure through class positions and Hegel’s idealist theory is materialized. While this social process brings about the loss of Totality in general, it also brings with it the possibility of comprehending Totality for the working class. According to Lukacs, the worker is at a point where he can perceive the alienation he is in and reach the consciousness of the disconnection between his subjectivity and objectivity, since he is in a position to sell his labor power.
At this point, we can come to Lukacs’s assessment of class consciousness. As it is said, the proletariat gets the opportunity to have a holistic perspective in relation to the negative conditions in which it finds itself. It is this possibility that is the basis of the revolutionary consciousness that Lukacs attributes to the working class. Because this class has knowledge of the practice of changing the totality of the social. What has been said, in a way, gives the basic elements of Lukacs’ understanding of “class consciousness”. In his book History and Class Consciousness, Lukacs shapes the idea of class consciousness on this axis.
Class consciousness, according to Lukacs, is not the sum of the consciousness of individual individuals, but a consciousness that originates from or is determined by the place of the class in production. Lukacs makes a definition here as “ascribed consciousness”. Its position in production allows the working class to attribute class consciousness in terms of seeing the holistic reality. This consciousness is both the product of the objective conditions of the proletariat and is in accordance with its interests. This objective position brings the subject-object identity and the continuation of the theory-practice unity.