Notes on selected chapters of Lukacs, G. (2023) [1919--23]  History & Class Consciousness. Translator: Rodney Livingstone

Dave Harris

[The context was the struggles to develop Marxism in the 20s, combined with the more theoretical work including the one on reification. Luxemburg and Lenin are assessed as contributing to methodology and theory in a practical sense. The approach is also orthodox in the sense of trying to interpret Marx to gain knowledge of the present, through dialectical method, but not as in what came to be called 'Orthodox Marxism' of the period. We should also credit Hegel, as Marx does, and in terms of categories. Marx's method is far more systematic than Hegel, however, and we must abandon Hegel's system and its mystical form, and its traces in contemporary bourgeois thought]

Transcendence is important in drawing attention to the function of abstract concepts as 'intellectual forms of historical realities' [no page numbers], parts of the true unity, but taking on a different meaning within the unity [leading to clever remarks about the false as an aspect of the true].

What is orthodox Marxism

The point is to change the world, but there has been increasing scholasticism inside Marxism. Orthodox Marxism however does not involve belief in particular theses or sacred books, but refers instead to method, dialectical materialism as a 'revolutionary dialectic'. Theory must be converted into practice, into revolution, by extracting its practical essence, enabling the masses to become conscious. Thought should try to realise itself, but '"reality must also strive towards thought"' [citing Marx], realising a dream, realising consciousness in practice when a class understands itself as the subject and object of knowledge. The proletariat is the 'anyone' that can do this.

Engels has discussed dialectics as a process of transition from one definition to the other, interaction rather than causality, but he ignores the more important 'dialectical relation between subject and object in the historical process' which is what causes revolutionary developments, and changes reality, despite all the attempts to make concepts themselves fluid. Without changing reality, we are left merely with 'scientific' speculation. Theories can be accepted or rejected according to what counts as science, which implies that reality itself is impenetrable and immutable. These 'intellectual reflexes' express the 'antagonisms of capitalist society and the intractability of its problems'.

We should abandon academic criticism which separates method and reality in the name of improvement or scientific rigour. The categories [of economics] after all are just '"forms of being, conditions of existence"' [Marx]. Scholasticism is an ornament, diverting from the study of facts. Bernstein said this best, although this has led to an objection to dialectic altogether and a more opportunist method of evolution.

Which facts or data are most relevant? Not all facts are equal. All imply interpretation. Science does not deliver pure facts via its idealised method, although capitalism encourages these abstract views by proposing a real world operating without outside interference, with a purely quantitative essence, operating abstractly. Marx analyses this primarily in the case of labour, where general abstractions spread as a peculiarity of capitalism. It develops as reification.

By contrast, dialectics examines the 'concrete unity of the whole'and the illusory nature of appearances 'necessarily engendered by capitalism'. This seems unscientific, but it is scientific method that fails to grasp actual developments [which are only seen as unforeseen, crises and so on]. Usually, science just accepts that its data and laws are grounded in capitalist society [and thus assume some natural universal quality].

We have to revive the notion of appearance and essence, form and 'inner core' the 'dialectical nexus' but  this is difficult for 'superficial readers imprisoned in the modes of thought created by capitalism'. Marx's own strategy is to describe capitalism in its pure state and then show that it is based on illusion, an aspect of the totality.

En route '"the concrete is concrete… Because it is a synthesis of many particular determinants, i.e. unity of diverse elements"' [Marx]. It is not the outcome that is produced by synthesis but its starting point. Pseudoscientists explain synthesis as combinations of isolated facts, via '"arbitrary unmediated connections between things"' but do not analyse the determinants: had they done so they would have discovered that these things '"belong together in an organic union"' [labour is the best example — Taylorism splits it  into separate subtasks which are then recombined under a rational process]. The determinants seem to be timeless and eternal, fetishised, combined by eternal laws. Historical understanding is clearly lost. [There seem to be to be a similarity with the ambiguities about when racism emerged]

We need to restore the idea of contradiction and antagonism, not just between particular theories accompanied by the claim that we have not yet approached perfection. Contradictions 'belong to the nature of reality itself and to the nature of capitalism'. When we grasp the totality they are seen as necessary and can be explained as real tendencies, with the possibility of real resolution.

So the development of scientific knowledge, criticism, or vulgar materialism furthers alternatives to Marxism and is thus 'an ideological weapon of the bourgeoisie', a part of its constant struggle to grasp itself as a matter of 'eternally valid categories', graspable by eternal laws and inexplicable contradictions. Classical economics arose in this ideological need, from the structure of capitalist reality itself.

Crises were a constant problem, and some economists, even Ricardo, thought the answer was to moderate economic growth. Some Marxist revisionists thought they should downplay the role of crisis in Marxism. Others thought they should rewrite dialectics as a necessary conflict between individuals and social forms, thereby seeing bourgeois society and its characteristic ideological struggles as some universal form. [Symbolic racism is now seen some universal form although it is characteristic of late capitalism]

The idea of totality does not imply some undifferentiated uniformity. There is independence and autonomy in capitalism but this is an illusion a product of a dialectical relationship, the dynamism of the whole [Marx specifically refers to production and distribution exchange and consumption as members of one totality, with a mode of production determining forms of the others and relations between them [a contribution to the critique]. However interaction doesn't mean reciprocal causality as vulgar materialists think because interaction changes objective forms.

The example of slavery! Marx says: '"a Negro is a Negro. He becomes a slave in certain circumstances. The cotton spinning Jenny is a machine for spinning cotton. Only in certain circumstances does it become capital…' [The reference is Wage Labour and Capital]. Functions in totalities provide intelligibility, reality is a social process. Fetishism involves [a stasis]. These ideas are 'necessarily held by the agents of the capitalist system of production… Objects of knowledge… The ideology of its ruling class'. In this way, supra historical essences appear.

So do limits 'classical economics was unable to go beyond the distinction between fixed and circulating capital. This was not accidental' [because both are only historical manifestations of funds which labour is required to maintain themselves and their family, appearing as commodities in one direction and money in the other. I prefer the distinction between divisions of surplus value in the form of revenue, profit and so on]. The environment and the categories of economics appear 'immediately and necessarily in forms of objectivity' with the relations between men concealed and only when dialectic is applied do we see the fiction destroyed; relations between thingss are seen as relations between persons and classes.

This is not just a methodological gain. The real relations between human beings are revealed and brought to consciousness. We can understand any epoch of history as a matter of social relations never as a matter of pure economics or of some transcendental forces. There are affinities with Hegel and the development of self-knowledge, although Marx saw this as being realised in philosophy for Hegel, executed by the Spirit. Lukacs argues that Marx took Hegel back to his more progressive stages and emphasised the history, the real substratum that was embryonic in the young Hegel. Maybe the real forces driving history were still not fully visible to Hegel [or to Kant, is a possible reading].[NB Yancey is criticising philosophers who were working before Marx and were even working in the early days of capitalism in the case of Kant? He like all modern thinkers is much more aware of the dynamics of oppression and exploitation than they were because he's read Marx?].

If existence determines consciousness, there are implications for praxis. Existence is a social process and can be transformed. There are no fixed and immutable entities. Human beings are both the subject and object of the social and historical process. Capitalism did so much to destroy the constraints of feudalism although it is far more soulless and impenetrable. Now the proletariat can gain a new advantage point and grasp reality as a whole, and must, to resist the crushing material and spiritual impoverishment of capitalism. Marxism can only be based on the point of view of a class.

The proletariat must have undergone a necessary historical process to make it aware of its own position, to become a class for itself. Lukacs envisages an everyday total struggle, not a utopian one, an exploration of the facts [micro-politics?], concrete meanings. This can only happen through constant struggle against insidious bourgeois ideology, eternal vigilance.

Snippet from The Marxism of Rosa Luxemberg

The party is the effect of the movement of the proletariat, the 'bearer of the class consciousness of the proletariat and the conscience of its historical vocation'. It does have more specific tasks than the organisation, however, but its main job is to mobilise every available power of the proletariat, in excess of what is immediately required by economic necessity. The party must make demands to change reality.

Thus 'class consciousness is the "ethics" of the proletariat'. In consciousness theory becomes unified with practice and the economic necessity of struggle 'changes dialectically into freedom'. This ethics determines the politics of the party which 'may not always accord with the empirical reality of the moment', but 'the ineluctable course of history will give it its due'. It will also gain moral strength, it's 'true strength 'as it comes to realise that it is the incarnation of the class consciousness of the proletariat.

This is in contrast to various Social Democrat alternatives, the 'opportunists' who take advantage of immediate problems and crises. They see Bolshevism and revolutionary Marxism in terms of of religious faith. This is 'cloaking their negativity in the splendid mantle of the cool and objective "scientific method" '. Proper method must be tested by action by revolution not 'the objectivity of the academic study '. They do not recognise that temporary defeat can be a 'necessary prelude to victory ': Luxembourg at least 'argued that the necessarily "premature" seizure of power by the proletariat was inevitable 'and defeat should not be seen as terminal. For Lukacs, 'her death at the hands of her bitterest enemies… Is, logically, the crowning pinnacle of her thought and life '.

Class consciousness

Marx never defined social class so it had to be reconstructed, especially the meaning of class consciousness and how it should be understood both in theory and practice, whether class consciousness was special in the case of the proletariat, or a more general sociological issue, whether it was homogenous or divided.

Engels argued that individual motives are only of secondary importance compared to historical causes which transform themselves into motives, motor forces which were 'independent of man's (psychological) consciousness of them '. This appeared first as a belief in eternal laws of nature, appearing even in classical German philosophy and early political economy. It was to be combated by historical criticism to dissolve the apparently natural and unhistorical 'appearance of social institutions '. History is not just about contents but about principles and how institutions work to control relations between human beings.
Bourgeois history has always been 'an apologia for the existing order of things or at least the proof of their immutability '. This implies that there is no longer any history in capitalism, in effect an 'intractable problem '— present institutions must somehow represent eternal laws of nature although these somehow could not establish themselves fully in the past [Lukacs says this haunts bourgeois sociology --  but there was social evolution and functional adjustment to take care of it?]. There were individual epochs [sounds like bourgeois history to me], perfect in their own way, a formalism, which makes the relations between men invisible and absent. It took Marx to point out that social relations are produced as much as commodities. Without that understanding, history could only be the irrational progress of blind forces, maybe embodied in spirit, or the unfolding of eternal ethical principles [as in Kant].

For Marxist is an illusion, disguised in formalism. We see this disguised best in the 'purely natural and rational laws of classical economic ', to be countered by an historical critique focused on the 'totality of the reified objectivites of social and economic life into relations between men ', especially capital and every form in which it is objectified. Once we understand objectivity we can proceed to move beyond the will and thoughts of individuals, recognising that 'this objectivity is the self objectification of human society ', limited by the historical context which produced it.

Consciousness still has a role and 'conscious reflexes 'can still access historical facts of great importance 'including dialectical materialism '. However, 'as Engels emphasises in a letter to Mehring [found it at last — settles the dispute I had with Steve Crook more than 40 years ago] this consciousness is false '. This is not a persistent inflexible confrontation of true and false however — false consciousness needs to be investigated concretely as a part of historical totality and a stage in historical processes.

This looks like what bourgeois historians do, but they go wrong in trying to locate concrete analysis in empirical individuals, whether men or classes or peoples, and by taking immediately 'empirically 'given consciousness. This misses the mark and erected something abstract for the concrete. As Mark says the relations involved are not between individuals but between [roles or functions] — '"worker and capitalist, tenant and landlord, et cetera"' — and these constitute society.

We have to examine society as a whole and the relations that constitute it and only then is the consciousness that men have of them relevant. This consciousness can confirm something is subjectively justified in the circumstances, something 'right', but it 'still appears as a "false consciousness" 'from an objective point of view. This explains why such subjective consciousnesses do not reach their own goals but often further the 'objective aims of society of which [they] is ignorant and which [they] did not choose [I've put a note here that says this could well explain perceptions of racism as central to capitalism]. We have a twofold analysis, not just a simple empirical description of what men thought they wanted: that might be important but we need to transcend pure description to get to 'objective possibility '

We need to get to a position where 'it becomes possible to infer the thoughts and feelings which men would have in a particular situation if they were able to assess both it and the interests arising from it in their impact on immediate action and on the whole structure of society… The thoughts and feelings appropriate to their objective situation '. We need to do this by relating their subjective consciousness to the whole of society. The number of available types of position are restricted by the process of production. This brings with it 'appropriate and rational reactions "imputed" to a particular typical position in the process of production '. This is not the sum nor the average of what is felt by the actual individuals. It is historically significant because actions are 'determined in the last resort by this consciousness and not by the thought of the individual 'and we can only understand actions 'by reference to this consciousness'[note 11 says these remarks can be extended by looking at the category of the 'economic persona 'in Marx and 'comparable trends in bourgeois thought (such as Max Weber's ideal types)'.

It's clear that we are not just analysing what is empirically given nor what can be described as 'psychologically describable and explicable ideas '. The question is whether the classes differ so much in relation to society as to produce qualitative distinctions and what the practical significance might be — 'the practical historical function of class consciousness '. This in turn will lead to examining objective possibilities.

How far can we describe a whole economy from inside it? We have to go beyond the limits of particular individuals but also remain within the actual economic system. In effect this amounts to 'a class conditioned unconsciousness of one's own socio-historical and economic condition '. This is itself a structural relation, 'a definite formal nexus ', not arbitrary but produced by the objective economic structure itself. For example the value or price of labour power appears as the price or value of labour itself, because labour in total appears to be paid [and there is an interesting aside that under slavery, portions of labour are paid but appear to be unpaid] [references here are to Capital I, presumably chapter 1, and Wages, Prices and Profit]. Without proper historical analysis, and the notion of objective possibility, these illusions are impossible to penetrate and classes can only play subordinate role [more implications for racism]. Any class that is 'ripe for hegemony' must be able to organise the whole of society so the crucial question is 'which class possesses this capacity in this consciousness at the decisive moment? '

[Lukacs does not rule out the use of force, which may be unavoidable, but argues that force is never the decisive factor]

Class consciousness does not always have the same structure. Classes can perform the necessary actions 'history has imposed on it 'consciously or unconsciously, with a true or a false consciousness, and these are crucial practical matters. The thoughts of individuals and the state of scientific knowledge are not decisive here, although they may be important. For example the limitations of slavery overthrew it, without any class being aware of it, and the rise of the modern bourgeoisie never perfected its own science of classes or a solution to the problem of crises. Its own class standpoint was too limited and incapable of observing society from outside: its consciousness was converted into false consciousness by an 'objective 'barrier, 'the class situation itself '. It cannot solve problems where solutions lie beyond the limits of capitalism. Its success in solving problems of organisation within its jurisdiction, compared with feudalism, are still based on a residual '"unconsciousness of those who are involved in them" — the laws of economics are seen as natural laws. This is 'the objective result of the economic set up and is neither arbitrary, subjective, nor psychological '.

[These limitations of history: (a) social conditions have to bring together a mass of proletarians and reduce the petty bourgoisise etc? (b) the bourgeois theorists are too devoted to the immediately practical to see the future? (c) they imagine limitations like natural laws or peacable evolutions ungraspable because they are reified ? (d) conflicting and confusing interretations and historical residues (e) threir moral mission-- see below]

 [So white privilege is also seen as natural or eternal? Alternatives are unthinkable? Emiseration has not brought Black people together. Colonial independence weakens natural laws? Practical problems are still at the stage of crisis resolution -- urban riots, immigration, crime waves?]

It is probable that there are degrees of class consciousness, types of which emerge at particular stages in the processes of production, but that would be a long-term study. It might be in the interests of classes to go beyond immediacy and transcend immediate interest, and suddenly see these as factors in the totality, and to conceive of a new totality, which may approach to a greater extent the true totality. Sometimes class consciousness will remain stationary, or fixated on aspects of the economy, like consumption or circulation, and this could be crucial for the activity of classes in society.

Complete clarity, sufficient to actually influence the course of history is unavailable. Class interests in precapitalist formations are never fully articulated but are always mixed with political and religious factors. The bourgeoisie needs first to eliminate estates and other vestiges.

Precapitalist societies are less cohesive than capitalist ones anyway with parts that are more self-sufficient, less united by commerce or production or the state. Communities are more self-sufficient and can reproduce themselves in the same form, hence the apparent immutability of 'Asiatic Societies 'as opposed to Asiatic states. The state also acts as 'unmediated dominance itself ', acting to appropriate land or slaves, combining rent and taxes. Even commerce has a superficial impact, unable to buy free labour, for example. There are class struggles but of a different form — in Greece and Rome there is a conflict between '"debtors and creditors" '[Marx]. Here, the money relationship is still crucial and reflects a deeper lying antagonism in the economic conditions of existence, but it was not possible [why not exactly?] for the classes concerned to become conscious of this economic basis: instead they assumed natural or religious forms, or political and legal ones.

The same goes with the divisions into estates or castes as seemingly natural forms without an economic basis — there is one, but it is difficult to raise it to consciousness. Legal and political institutions do not just stabilise economic forces as in capitalism, but can actually intervene 'substantively in the interplay of economic forces ' [so there is a role for ideology] , since purely economic categories have not yet appeared or have been given legal form. There are still interwoven with legal categories, as in labour rent or slavery. In these circumstances, the economic basis of social relations 'could [not] be made conscious '.

There were objective economic foundations nevertheless, seeing when apparently stable feudal estates began to disintegrate as a result of economic development. The juridical form still retained importance, however, by focusing consciousness on privileges or on 'the particular element of society from which the privileges emanated (as in the case of the Guilds) '. Estates can retain an ideological incoherence even when they have actually been absorbed into different classes [Lukacs uses the phrase 'status {same as} consciousness 'which masks class consciousness or 'prevents it from emerging at all ']. There can be privilege groups lacking any immediate economic base, although some can capitalise themselves, turning their privilege into 'economic and capitalist forms of control 'as with landowners.

It took historical materialism and its methods to trace this connection in precapitalist society, a proper knowledge of history that emerged only [backwards-- the Owl of Minerva] with capitalism where economic class emerges as 'the motor of history'. No one could be conscious of that in precapitalist societies, not even as an imputed consciousness. The true forces were hidden behind motives, they were blind. Ideological factors did not just mask economic interest but were the components of real [!] struggles. Only when 'sociological meaning of these struggles 'is pursued via historical materialism do we see the decisive factor of economic interest.

In capitalism economic factors are present in consciousness itself even if unconscious or repressed. They can become conscious. There is an ideological struggle to make them conscious or to veil them. This already shows the possibilities of the 'internal dissolution of pure class society' [Hegel's owl of Minerva specifically cited].

The only pure classes are bourgeois and proletariat. They're the only ones produced by the modern evolution of production. They are the only ones capable of a plan for the total organisation of society. Other fractions, petty bourgeois, or peasants, will always be 'ambiguous or sterile', linked not to capitalist systems but to the vestiges of feudal society. They can only aim to reverse capitalism or moderate it. They focus on symptoms of development and particular elements of society.

The petty bourgeois for example mostly live in cities and are influenced by capitalism and are affected by class conflict. But they are a transitional class [thus?] imagining that they are above class antagonism. Their interest is in weakening this antagonism and promoting harmony, which makes their actions irrelevant and without proper consciousness. The fraction has  objectives 'exclusively in its own consciousness ', but these must be increasingly weakened and divorced from social action. They will become 'purely "ideological" forms '. They might coincide now and then with the real economic interests of capital, as happened during the French Revolution, but afterwards, they turn into caricatures.

The peasantry engage in the mode of production that isolates them from each other and from general social relations. The common conditions make them a class but they have no other political or social unity. They can coalesce in a unified movement as a result of external upheavals. This can be progressive or reactionary. The ideological form it takes changes its content frequently because it is borrowed. Any party basing itself wholly on this class will never gain adequate support since it will find rivals doing so as well. There is no proper class consciousness, 'for a full consciousness of their situation would reveal to them the hopelessness of their particularised strivings in the face of the inevitable course of events '.

The bourgeoisie have a dialectical opposition between their consciousness and their interest rather than a contradictory one. For other classes, class consciousness cannot emerge from their position in the process of production. For the bourgeoisie their consciousness develops 'an insoluble contradiction at the very zenith of its powers '. In defeating feudalism, it also liberated the proletariat. In developing bourgeois freedom it had to develop a new repressiveness. The liberated individual had to be annihilated at the same time by the economic conditions of commodity production. There were many other contradictions.

There is not just an inability to grasp these contradictions. The saturation of capitalism should have helped the bourgeoisie gain a consciousness of the whole system, but even if they did they would not be able to control it 'even in theory '.[again --why not?]

Ricardo had thought that the centre of capitalism was production, but Marx emphasised that distribution is crucial in the realisation of capital and the interests of capitalists. That is because they produce not goods but commodities. [This is the bit I have  read somewhere else --
Poverty...? -- about the price system as the necesary intermediary of use value. Capitaists just produce stuff never knowing of its use value and rely on prices to feed back to them. But this is not a reliable feedback mechanism and is affected by all sorts of factors. The mechanism of price movements is NOT the centre of economics though]. Capitalists find it impossible to grasp the problem involved which become invisible. This is also produced by a split between private property and the objective economic function of capital, between the social and the individual principles, social consequences and individual interests. Even developments that move on from pure individual capitalism do not lead to more insight — the bourgeoisie 'understands the process (which it is itself instigating) as something external which is subject to objective laws which it can only experience passively ', and still thinks of economic life only from the standpoint of the individual capitalist. This can produce confrontation between individuals and apparently non-individual laws of nature, and between individual and class interests in the event of conflict. It also produces a 'logical impossibility of discovering theoretical and practical solutions to the problems created by the capitalist system of production '.

The example is crises in the system of credit, which lead to a reversion to hard cash, and ensuing '"theoretical fright on top of practical panic… Impenetrable mystery"'. This is something which can either be denied or fully understood because '"the real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself"' [that is is dynamic restless and competitive tendencies]. And to recognise this 'would entail the self negation of the capitalist class '. 'In this way the objective limits of capitalist production become the limits of the class consciousness of the bourgeoisie'. The older forms of domination could persist, but capitalism is a revolutionary form. However 'it must necessarily remain in ignorance of the objective economic limitations of its own system 'and this produces 'an internal dialectical contradiction in its class consciousness '.

[Again a limit then -- bourgeois thought cannot grasp the implicit revolutionary tendencies -- is this still so with an understanding of the machinic phylum? Eg AI?}

The response was to convert false consciousness 'into a mendacious consciousness… The theoretical problem turned into a moral posture which decisively influenced every practical class attitude '. There is now a hegemonic struggle to embrace the whole of society to organise the whole of society in the interests of the bourgeoisie, to develop a whole world view, a coherent theory of 'economics, politics and society 'and to develop a mission to control and organise society. Class interests have to be clarified on every issue. However, the question of the totality remains as a problem — the bourgeoisie remains as a minority with minority interests, and they must deceive [they think they must persuade] the other classes.

However this proceeds with an indispensable veil over bourgeois society, with the risk that the internal contradictions will become revealed with increasing starkness. This will produce the need for a choice — to ignore insights or suppress their own moral instincts. Good conscience is important to the strength of support for the mission, 'unbroken confidence '. The bourgeoisie has always displayed by contrast 'desperate resistance to every insight into the true nature of the society it had created and thus to a real understanding of its class situation '— falsifications of fact, theories about the essence of history and the state. These were in vain.

Compromises clearly had to be adapted. Combinations for example rather than individualism. Stock companies cartels and trusts showed the social character of capital, but still in an 'illusory' way. The War brought about the idea of a planned economy as a practical way at least in the short term, abandoning the initial idea that property freedom and lack of restrictions were sacred ideas. These compromises for Lukacs showed a deep ideological crisis that meant that for the bourgeoisie 'its power to dominate has vanished beyond recall '

Historical materialism still has a crucial role. Recurrent crises appear to the proletariat as a gathering of strength, an increase in truth. Attempts to attack it with bourgeois science are evermore desperate, but are doomed: it is obvious that the proletariat will see this as a power struggle over the correct understanding of the nature of society. This has been totally ignored by vulgar Marxists and their demands for 'petty realpolitik' instead of arguments of principle. The proletariat is unique in going beyond contingencies, wanting more than the bourgeoisie, not fighting on the ground of the bourgeoisie, especially since, on the grounds of empirical science 'the bourgeoisie has the intellectual, organisational and every other advantage'. The proletariat must take another view, holism and political action. Vulgar Marxists have fallen for this reduction of theory to scientific treatment of social change and pragmatic practice.

It is not easy because the proletariat also has to confront contradictory consequences thrown up by capitalism. These will not produce ideological crises, but contradictions between theory and practice. At least there is some correspondence between the false consciousness of the bourgeoisie and its class situation, enough to energise its continued struggle, but contradictions appear to offer a block to the correct proletarian action, especially if supplemented by vulgar Marxist theory. This leads to an internal class struggle, which the proletariat must win and go on to understand its own historical mission. It will take the 'conscious will of the proletariat 'to prevent the final crisis of capitalism produced by the blind forces unleashed destroying everybody, but this will depend on the 'ideological maturity of the proletariat, i.e. on its own class consciousness '.

It follows that the proletariat 'cannot liberate itself as a class without simultaneously abolishing class society as such '. This mature consciousness must expose the nature of society and fuse theory and practice. Ideology for the proletariat is not just a banner nor a justification for objectives. 'Every non-principled or unprincipled use of tactics on the part of the proletariat [reduces?] the basis [of] historical materialism to the level of mere ideology ', bourgeois tactics which therefore permits a role for bourgeois consciousness.

The obstacles preventing the realisation of proletarian conscious are still great. There seems to be a great diversity of independent objects and forces, a separation of economic and political struggles, for example, and this heresy has remained within proletarian politics. For earlier classes it was easier, since pursuing immediate interests led to objective developments via the ruse of reason. The proletariat must transform society consciously, which means 'a dialectical contradiction between its immediate interests and its long-term objectives, and between the discrete factors and the whole '. The immediate interests are still within capitalism and it is difficult to reinterpret them from a total point of view, one which will point beyond capitalism.

This must occur within the consciousness of the proletariat and cannot be a purely objective process. It is not a matter of the realisation of the interests of the class,, or its coming into being, but rather its self abolition. Proletarian politics must go beyond opposition to the bourgeoisie in the normal empiricist kind of way, advancing beyond what was given immediately, and embracing contradiction directly. This will mean that false consciousness is different for the proletariat — the bourgeoisie can develop correct statements about particular situations which are still false when related to the whole of society, but 'the proletariat always aspires towards the truth even in its false consciousness and in its substantive errors '. This led Engels, for example, to comment that utopian or revolutionary versions of existing economic theories could be '"true in the perspective of world history… [Concealing]… A very true economic content" 'even though they were '"formally incorrect economically" '[a very interesting comment, quite unlike the usual dismissals of utopian thinking. The reference is the Preface to the Poverty of Philosophy!].

This still implies that active intervention by the proletariat is required, via the development of 'historically significant and socially revolutionary knowledge… Conscious action and conscious self-criticism ', the realisation that there are now tasks which humans can accomplish. With other classes there is an antagonism between self interest and these possibilities which 'set an external limit to consciousness ', but for the proletariat, this antagonism can be overcome, if the class becomes conscious of its historical role. It might require it first to 'slip back into the most primitive utopianism '[!], Which is a danger, if it is not a step towards the ultimate goal, and Marx particularly warned about economic trade unions. The proletariat needs to remind itself that they are 'applying palliatives 'in these 'unavoidable guerilla fights '. We must not give way to opportunism, but see 'particular struggles as a means of education for the final battle'which closes 'the gap between the psychological consciousness and the imputed one '. Opportunism can only see present consciousness and this can produce even more disunity and division. There is a psychological reality to this limited consciousness. We can see this from the 'infinitely painful path of the proletarian revolution 'and it's 'incessant self-criticism' [apparently described in the 18th Brumnaire]

The major divisions of capitalism are not always visible. The economic basis of a crisis conceals underlying unity by appearing as disparate events in different countries or in different branches of industry. Bourgeois thought helps by dividing different parts of society into different specialisms, but this will limit it ultimately because it will only tackle symptoms. In the short term, however it helps to impose its mode of life.

As crises develop,  unity in the economic process become more comprehensible. Capitalist theory itself is affected. An objectively possible step now appears to develop consciousness beyond the immediate. Lukacs thought that this would be 'instinctively felt to be a necessity by larger and larger sections of the proletariat '[if only!]. Opportunists will still try to reduce class consciousness to what is immediately given, moving beyond simple error to 'conscious deception (regardless of whether its advocates are psychologically conscious of this or not)', becoming an ally of capitalist theory. Only if proletarian consciousness develops will the crises and impasses of capitalism be ended. This is the historical role of the proletariat — to be both against capital and for itself. There might be even more suffering before sufficient ideological maturity is obtained

The current uncertainty and immaturity, 'inhumanity and reification 'arises because the proletariat has been created by capitalism. Its very existence implies only criticism and negation. Until crisis and subsequent maturity develops, with true class consciousness, the proletariat can never go beyond criticism [including criticism of reification] and can only ever be 'negatively superior to its antagonist'. It can only negate some aspects of capitalism. We see this in the 'petty bourgeois attitudes of most trade unionists ', or the greater interest in the economic rather than the political among the proletariat.

Reified consciousness will be trapped in 'the two extremes of crude empiricism and abstract utopianism '. Consciousness becomes a passive observer responding to laws beyond its control, or a power which masters subjectively the motion of objects. Opportunists are usually crude empiricists. Utopianism can also be seen as the result of divisions of class consciousness. Utopianism can occur together with empiricism.

The young Marx tried to refute theories of consciousness like the idealism of Hegel and the materialism of Feuerbach. Early on he sees consciousness as immaent in history 'it does not have to be introduced into the world by philosophers '. The critique of Hegel is about the otherworldliness of consciousness, a reactionary confrontation of spirit to mass. For Feuerbach, his critique was limited to bourgeois society instead of a continuous process of changing the world.

Utopians contain a duality of social process and consciousness. Consciousness belongs to another world and intends to lead the real world back from falsity. They cannot see the proletarian movement as the true bearer of history even though that truth '"is happening before their very eyes"'. Utopianism may remain as a factor in proletarian struggle, but reification should be understood first. There are gradations within class consciousness as we saw, and it is a remaining error to separate economics and politics — some sections of the proletariat already can develop high levels of class consciousness and economics, but remain with utopian thought with politics. This is a dialectical link affecting their notion of the totality as a whole [and the example is Syndicalism — capitalism is a corruption of some natural community?]. This will not lead to a war against the whole economic system. The guild system also shows that utopian thought is prevalent even where the crisis shows a more correct course of action is possible.

The same goes if we consider are purely ideological questions, 'questions of culture '[racism especially, seen as operating somewhere separately from critiques of capitalism, now that it focuses only on equality and social mobility, or status mobility?]. These occupy an isolated position and is almost entirely utopian among the proletariat [same with Marxist analysis? Not for him though with this stuff on the novel?] There are some self-criticisms of capitalism [moral or religious ones?]. This is another separation, like that between economics and politics.

Lukacs says that these gradations based on divisions 'can no longer be referred back to socio-economic causes '. The stratification and distribution of these problems is 'almost wholly unexplored' and needs more research to develop 'a typology of the various strata 'guided by whether we could make the objective possibility of class consciousness into a reality. Extraordinary individuals can, like Marx, but how to transform the whole class? We must have no illusions.

Yet there are signs of progress like the development of 'revolutionary workers councils' [we are told not to confuse these with 'opportunist caricatures ']. These have taken a step towards eliminating separations of 'legislature, administration and judiciary', and strives to bring economics and politics together as true proletarian praxis. Only class struggle will close the distance between the most advanced revolutionary workers and revolutionary consciousness, and this will involve 'the struggle of the proletariat against itself', against the effects of capitalism on its class consciousness. For this reason 'the proletariat must not shy away from self-criticism, for victory can only be gained by the truth '

Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat

Everything leads back to the nature of commodities in the commodity structure, as the central problem of economics but also as the 'central, structural problem of capitalist society in all its aspects '. If we grasp its structure we can get a 'model of all the objective forms of bourgeois society together with all the subjective forms corresponding to them '.

In the commodity structure, a relation between people becomes a character of a thing a '"phantom objectivity"', with a complete autonomy that conceals its very nature — 'the relation between people '. This fetish character of commodities is both an objective form and subjective stats and we need to grasp it in order to understand the ideological problems of capitalism.

Commodity fetishism is specific to capitalism. There was commodity exchange with various relations before, but now commodity exchange influences 'the total outer and inner life of society '. It is not just a quantitative change — 'all the subjective phenomena in the societies concerned are objectified in qualitatively different ways '. Before capitalism, the commodity form appeared in an episodic way, initially tied to use value and its production. Commodity production begins only with barter, and the effect this has on '"decomposing"' communities.. The commodity form still remains one among many rather than the 'universal structuring principle' [note the emphasis on universal]. Where it is universal it has completely different consequences [it emerges as a kind of organising category or form?].

The exchange of goods precedes this form. They are exchanged in a '"quite arbitrary"' [all quotes refer to Marx] at first, but with continued exchange and proper production for exchange, the arbitrariness is reduced, especially for the go-between, the merchant who is able to compare money prices. Merchant capital is thus an important original intervening moment.

Economic relations were still understood in personal terms at first, but this becomes harder and harder to sustain with the development of 'the Vale of reification ', 'economic mystification 'for Marx, which began with money and capital and the generation of interest. The precapitalist societies, the 'relations of domination and servitude' which govern production, in slavery or serfdom, appeared as '" the direct motive power of the process of production "'. [Maybe this is why slavery and production of commodities involving it remained outside Enlightenment thought, for Kant and others, a mere irrational residue?]. Once the commodity becomes the 'universal category of society as a whole' does reification assume decisive importance in 'the subjugation of men's consciousness', their attempts to understand the process and liberate themselves.

Marx actually defines reification himself in connection with the mysteries of the commodity. An object appears representing the sum total of labour derived from social relations, and these objects have tangible qualities. Thus it is the social relation that '"assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things"' [ref is to Capital I, of course, but it is extended apparently in Capital III]. A person's own labour becomes objective and independent, able to control the producer, possessing 'an autonomy alien to man'. The processes can be understood objectively as responding to laws of the market, for example, but these still seem to be invisible forces. Subjectively, the endpoint is estrangement from self, '"labour power assumes the form of a commodity belonging to him"' [a more mature account than the Young Marx]. As the process of abstraction develops, more universality becomes possible. Formal equality has to be recognised if commodities are to be exchanged, including the 'formal equality of human labour in the abstract '[for political economists]. This in turn leads to the 'isolated "free" labourer 'and the division of labour and its organisation.

We can describe the trend as one towards 'greater rationalisation, the progressive elimination of the qualitative, human and individual attributes of the worker '. The process of labour becomes increasingly rational and specialised, eventually mechanical repetition. The period of time necessary to accomplish work becomes calculable as a 'work stint' that again appears as a fixed reality, and with modern psychological analysis [Taylorism is specifically mentioned] there is an extension into psychological attributes separated out from total personalities and integrated into the production system.

Rationalisation is the chief principal, with definite effects: (1) the mathematical analysis of work, breaking with the organic and qualitatively determined unity of the product. Predictability with great precision, and inevitable specialisation. The finished article becomes an 'objective synthesis of rationalised special systems whose unity is determined by pure calculation and which must therefore seem to be arbitrarily connected with each other '. There is no organic necessity, no necessary link with use value, certainly not as a unifier — and use value can become separated [and devoted to different specialisms?]. (2) the fragmentation of objects 'necessarily entails the fragmentation of its subject'. Human qualities are seen only as sources of error, and humans have only mechanical parts in the system which is pre-existing with laws of its own. There is an increasing need for contemplation. Overall, the system 'reduces space and time to a common denominator and degrades time to the dimensional space '. [Early pomo!]. In Marx's phrases '"the pendulum of the clock has become an accurate measure of the relative activity of two workers as it is of the speed of two locomotives [reducing specialism to abstract labour]. Quality no longer matters. Quantity alone decides everything: hour for hour, day for day"'. Time itself becomes quantifiable filled with quantifiable things, something abstract and measurable, just like physical space. Labour is similarly rationalised and fragmented, reduced to a component of a system. This clearly destroys any bonds that might have bound individuals to communities and results in 'isolated abstract atoms whose work no longer brings them together directly and organically', which makes them even more vulnerable to 'the abstract laws of the mechanism'. This process also produces the '"free" 'worker who can offer abstract labour power as a commodity which he possesses.

We are describing factories, but factories contain 'in concentrated form the whole structure of capitalist society '. Of course there was oppression and exploitation before capitalism, even mass production with standardised labour, for example with canal construction in Egypt, although these were isolated phenomena [Lucaks does say that these projects were so isolated that slaves 'therefore stood outside of what was thought as "human" society and even the greatest and noblest thinkers of the time were unable to consider their fate as that the human beings'.

Early on, surplus labour was extracted in pretty brutal ways, but reification replaces these '"natural" relations ', with social relations that seemed to be objective. This happens especially if mechanisation and calculability extends everywhere, for example into consumer articles which appear now as isolated objects '"the possession or non-possession of which depends on rational calculations"'. This completes the notion of the free worker [who becomes a sovereign individual and consumer?].

All this 'isolation and fragmentation is only apparent', with atomisation of individuals 'only the reflex in consciousness of the fact that the "natural laws" of capitalist production have been extended to cover every manifestation of life in society '. This is a necessary illusion with immediate practical consequences, not least of which include the obedience to natural laws and processes. These are 'found to exist already in the finished form, as something... typically given… Rational and isolated acts of exchange between isolated commodity owners '.  Rationally objectified things no longer have any qualitative or material character, including use values who lose their 'original and authentic substantiality '[there's a bit of eco-stuff from Marx about how the land and the earth now means nothing except a source of ground rent].

These reified objects get increasingly integrated into social activity. So do other forms of 'primitive capitalism 'that were once separate from production [examples are merchant capital, or the hoarding of money, which is linked to finance capital]. Everything is subordinated to the extraction of surplus value, but these forms can still remain 'in the minds of people in bourgeois society 'as the 'pure, authentic, unadulterated forms of capital' [hence the mysterious quality of interest as revenue arising from pure, and guilt-free investment]. All this helps conceal the relations between men that lay in these relations in the past and do so in the future, especially 'the relations between men and the objects that should really gratify their needs' [notion of false needs here then?].

The 'reified mind'sees commodities as true representatives of existence, 'the form in which its own authentic immediacy becomes manifest '. There is no attempt to transcend it, but rather to extend it, maybe by scientific development.

Again Lukacs cites a chunk from Marx [Capital III — but I like the shorter pieces in Theories of Surplus Value]: '" in interest-bearing capital [we see an] automatic fetish, self expanding value, money generating money [which] no longer bears the birthmarks of its origin… Form without content… A property of money… A fetish form of capital… The meaningless form of capital, the perversion and objectification of production relations in their highest degree… The capacity of money, or a commodity, to expand its own value independently a reproduction [is] a mystification of capital in its most flagrant form. For vulgar political economy… This form is naturally a veritable find, a form in which the source of profit is no longer discernible and in which the result of the capitalist process of production… Acquires an independent existence"'.

Bourgeois attempts to grasp ideology are as stuck in 'self-created immediacy' as the economics. Some thinkers are well aware of the existence of reification and its effects and destructive consequences, but failed to penetrate to the basic phenomenon, and links with 'the real capitalist foundation '. Instead reification is seen as 'the timeless model of human relations in general', seen best in Simmel [and Sartre?]. They need a deeper analysis, one that does not just focus on the eternal manifestations. Both failed to grasp that capitalist transformation must penetrate to every aspect of the life of society if it is to be self-realised completely. This produces a distinctive form for the state and the system of law 'corresponding to its needs and harmonising with its own structure 'even Max Weber noticed this similarity between a business concern and the modern state, and identifies the basis in calculation, which is applied to the proper performance of machines and the administration of the law. The breach with empirical and irrational methods of administration is crucial and there is rational systematisation, the development of 'universally applicable', 'purely systematic categories'. [So it is only irrational residues while this process is taking place that we find in Kant or Hagel?].

One implication is that the events of social existence remain 'permanently established and exactly defined', but the revolutionary forces of capitalist economy create constant contradictions with a rigid legal system, requiring new codifications. Even so, modern law still seems fixed compared to the laws of primitive societies [which are not properly codified, I think the point is,open to bricolage]. This is the same antagonism that we find between traditional craftsmanship and the rationalised factory. The 'ceaselessly revolutionary techniques of modern production' confront the individual producer as something 'rigid and immobile'.

There is an effect on human contemplation. Rational calculation is limited to finding laws to predict sequences and probabilities, quite unlike the legends of creative bourgeois entrepreneurs. This is a 'structural analogue to the behaviour of the worker vis-à-vis the machine he serves '. Creativity is reduced to the way in which the laws are applied. Even technologists have an only quantitative difference from factory workers. Eventually 'all issues are subjected to an increasingly formal and standardised treatment and in which there is an ever-increasing remoteness from the qualitative and material essence of the "things" '. There is an 'even more monstrous intensification of… one-sided specialisation 'at the expense of 'man's humanity'. We see these effects especially clearly with advanced intellectual labour.

However, 'not every mental faculty is suppressed by mechanisation'. However again there is an increasing subjection of notions like honour and responsibility, even ethics to this division of labour in consciousness. Before capitalism the fate of the worker appeared to be an individual matter and the ruling class members 'could be free to assume quite different forms'. However, capitalism produces a more unified structure of consciousness. At first problems arising from wage labour. In the ruling class 'in a refined and spiritualised, but, for that very reason, more intensified form ', producing specialist contemplaters [I think the argument is that they can comment and contemplate their own 'objectified and reified activities']. The most 'grotesque 'example is journalism where subjectivity, knowledge and powers of expression are reduced to a functional mechanism [a formula], with the lack of personal convictions — 'comprehensible only as that of capitalist reification'. [Academics would be a better example these days] In this way the whole consciousness of human beings become reduced to commodities, things to own or be bought and sold. There is no natural form left. Marriage is another example, and  Kant 'described the situation with the naïvely cynical frankness peculiar to great thinkers' [he saw sexual community as '"the reciprocal use made of one person of the sexual organs and faculties of another"'].

However the very formalism of rational law produces an incoherence because they cannot grasp concrete details. We see this with recurrent crises. As a result, Engels is right to describe 'the "natural laws" of capitalist society as the laws of chance' [casino capitalism]. It is the bonds that hold the system together that seem to be a chance affair, and this exposes the pretence that there are eternal laws. There are only formal links between what are in effect 'independent rationalised and formal partial laws', connected to concrete realities only fortuitously.

Marx found this even with economics. There might be the divergences between the conditions of exploitation of the labourer and those of realising surplus value, for example, or an accidental connection only between the amount of total social labour applied to an article and the volume which society seeks to gratify its wants for the article. [The references are to Capital III]. The problem is that although there might be a rational form of authority inside the production process, outside, commodity producers are related to each other only by competition, '"of the coercion exerted [by?] pressure of their mutual interests"'.

Capitalist rationalisation requires this interaction between strict laws and 'a totality ruled by chance '. we see this already in the very nature of 'speculative calculation '. Competition would not be possible if everything was exactly regulated according to a systematic mode of functioning. The commodity owner is not in possession of laws regulating every detail of production. The laws of the market are rational in the sense that they are calculable, but according to probability rather than strict law. For a law to emerge, we would have to suggest that it was the unconscious product of different commodity owners acting independently of one another [a hidden hand surely?], and even then it could never be known fully, certainly not by one operator alone because that would end competition. The [hidden hand] is only  a postulate or presupposition.

The division of labour produces [functional autonomy — nearly explicitly: 'making these partial functions autonomous and so they tend to develop through their own momentum']. This develops with the division of labour and specialism, as a 'centrifugal movement '. We see this with the development of professional lawyers, initially linked to production and trade but then, driven by the need to be internally coherent, developing more and more specialisms. [Engels's examples turned on the gradual functional autonomy of the civil service and the military apparatus 'or of the academic faculties']

Specialisation itself means the destruction of images of the whole. Science has itself been criticised for clearing the real world into shreds, but again Marx insists that the criticism is round the wrong way: it is '"as though it were the textbooks that impress this separation upon life and not life upon the textbooks"' [the reference is to A Contribution to the Critique…]. As science develops toward understanding itself methodologically, it 'resolutely' ignores ontological problems and tends more and more to become 'a formally closed system of partial laws', with the result that the world beyond its confines, especially 'the material base which it is its task to understand, its own concrete underlying reality lies, methodologically and in principle, beyond its grasp.'

Again we see this best with economics which abandoned the attempt to understand use value altogether [and eventually value]. The theory of marginal utility tried to sidestep the issue, as an attempt to 'start from "subjective" behaviour on the market', because it still retained the notion of formal exchange regardless of use value, preserving concrete equality between obviously unequal and incomparable objects. That is what 'creates impasse'. [I am vaguely capable of remembering some of this stuff, and as I recall marginal utility was mostly used in my day to explain why a firm expands production until the revenue it gets from the last product equals its costs. Maybe marginal utility has a similar idea that people go on buying things until the utility of the last item they buy equals the opportunity cost of the item?]. Marginal utility is just as abstract as before, and the search is for abstract laws again that can only take utility and its pursuit is something immutable and eternal. The 'social character' of the material base and the 'range of possible attitudes towards it 'cannot be comprehended.

This is another example of interaction between class and the method it uses to try and understand the social character of itself. It's already been argued that the 'ultimate barrier to the economic thought of the bourgeoisie is the crisis '. Here is another limit: the very success of rationalisation and abstraction, the development of mathematical formal laws creates a methodological barrier, to understanding crisis and to the qualitative existence of things more generally, things in themselves, use values, where the laws do not function, and patterns give way to '"chaos" '.

Crises are regarded as accidental, of course, although some have seen it as a foundational problem for modern economics [somebody called Tugan-Baranovsky] because consumption has been excluded together. The focus on production and the quantitative relations between matters such as capital and profit and accumulation just assumes use values of a definite kind. The same goes with abstractions such as seeing everything as a variant of capital — money capital, fixed or circulating capital. It matters at times that these elements are actually 'machines, raw materials, labour power other quite definite (technically defined) sort'. For Marx, the failure to comprehend 'use value and real consumption'leads to 'the methodologically inevitable failure' of bourgeois economics.

[I've suggested a similar materialist blindness in CRT, working with its abstract categories in specialist theoretical questions in discourses, and not actual practices as in ordinary racism].

So Marx, for example argued that capitalism can reproduce itself even if commodities have not actually been fully inserted into systems of consumption. Indeed, consumption is not part of the cycle of capital, which ends when the product has been sold [to wholesalers or merchants?]. The producers see only that part of the cycle of capital and value. [There may be 'productive consumption', which might be demand on the part of labourers in order to reproduce their own labour value?]. Yet a whole part of the cycle remains invisible, since commodities can still be unsold, still in the hands of dealers.

This sort of partial visibility 'is not the fault of individuals', but the result of the advance of science and the 'more consistently of functions from the point of view of its own premises' [it ignores problems that are beyond its purview]. [If I've understood this property, early economics struggle more with the total economic process, but this was 'solved' by people like Ricardo who specialised in production and ignored the total reproduction of capital as a central issue].

[I think of the more recent stuff on the contradictions of Fordism and the difficulties produced by having to deal with large stocks of both raw materials and finished products. These are consumer goods, with use values, outside the control of production,in these terms. The prices paid for these can change dramatically during the production process meaning calculations go badly wrong. Failures to regulate prices and inflation mean trouble. Fluctuating exchange rates also screw things up. For a while, reformists,including New Times socialists thought the answer was 'post-fordism' Try my rather naff student exercise here]

There is a similar problem in jurisprudence, where there is more 'conscious reification '. Here are the qualitative content is not provided by some rival principle as it was with use value in economics. It is rather an issue of form versus content, the initial belief that the formal equality and universality of the law could and should determine its content, in replacing the 'varied and picturesque medley of privileges dating back to the Middle Ages ', for example. The revolutionary bourgeoisie demanded that these laws be replaced by ones founded in reason.

During the French Revolution, a rival view of natural law came to oppose this demand for reason. Here the belief was that 'the content of law is something purely factual and hence  cannot be comprehended by the formal categories of jurisprudence', that there was an unbroken continuity of law that should be retained. Critics argued that these natural laws were actually '"always political and economic" 'in effect, and this actually 'acquired "scientific" status '[in a functionalist sense, I think not a critical one]. Thus a Kantian philosopher, a certain Hugo, was able to establish that slavery had a juridical basis because it '" had been the law of the land for thousands of years and was acknowledged by millions of cultivated people"'. This led to more modern attempts to abandon the project to ground law in reason, and instead, more narrowly, to pursue rational implications, to consider legal consequences of particular actions.

This is also prone to contradiction and crisis. It makes the law have mysterious origins, which may themselves be quite iniquitous, even though the law turns out to be legitimate. To properly resolve this would require penetrating critical analysis and inevitably uncover class relations [I think is the argument here — 'the real, material substratum of the law would at one stroke become visible and comprehensible']. However the law must insist that it is based on eternal values. It can only operate with a version of natural law, while generating [tame, academic, ideological] disciplines like jurisprudence, 'sciences which — in conformity with the modes of thought current in bourgeois society — generate the same problems of transcending their material substratum '.

Philosophy has this absurd quest for overall knowledge, even though the material sciences have abandoned that goal. However, philosophy needs to change its approach quite radically and focus on 'the concrete material totality of what can and should be known' in order to break through formalism. That formalism has ended in fragmentation. Formalism itself needs to be explained, it's 'causes… genesis and… necessity '. People have looked for synthesis, but inward synthesis is needed and bourgeois philosophy cannot do this. All it can do is 'assemble the whole of knowledge encyclopedically ', or turn to 'living life '[irrationalist philosophy which includes Bergson for Lukacs]. Mostly though, philosophy confines itself to explaining the achievements of the special sciences and clarifying the grounds for their validity, as a form of 'formalist conceptualisation 'of some 'immutability given substratum '. [Qualitative sociology and its politics!]

Reification is complete, and criticism of this kind will not penetrate it. It is still the only possible world, the only one that is conceptually accessible and comprehensible. We might reject it and seek irrationality and mysticism instead, but we cannot modify the situation. Bourgeois thought has barred its own way to understanding the problems because it confines itself only to the '"possible conditions" validity of the forms in which its underlying existence is manifested'. It is in a kind of infinite regress, never asking what science itself stands on, limiting its critical enquiry.