Daniel Andrés López, "Lukács: Praxis and the Absolute" (Haymarket Books, 2020)

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The Hungarian Marxist philosopher George Lukács has long occupied a complicated place in the Marxist canon of thinkers, both his lived and theoretical practice subject to much critical commentary and debate. While History and Class Consciousness is considered to be a classic of critical sociology, it has also often been held at arms length by Marxists, many of whom find it’s use of Hegelian speculative philosophy unhelpful, while others find the overemphasis on praxis at the expense of other forms of life and inquiry reductive. In spite of these hesitations, the text has maintained a canonical status for a century now, leaving philosophers on the left with a difficult set of questions about how to read it and what to do with it.

Stepping into this difficult terrain is Daniel Andres Lopez with his massive book Lukács: Praxis and the Absolute (Haymarket Books, 2020). Lopez’s work reconstructs Lukács’ thought of the 1920’s by putting it back into it’s tumultuous context, allowing us not only to get a close look at the theory, but it’s purpose in maintaining political, historical and philosophical clarity in a world filled with war, revolution and upheaval. Much like our current moment, Lukács occupied a time where everything seemed possible, but translating the infinite possibilities into concrete realities was a formidable challenge, and would require not only the courage to step into physical danger, but also political confusion. Nothing in this moment was guaranteed, so rigorous philosophical speculation was required, and Lukács stepped in to provide communists with a rigorous theoretical framework.

However, this book goes well beyond simply reconstructing Lukács theoretical output. Rather than be satisfied with writing a straightforward commentary, this book is interested in wrestling with Lukács’ successes as well as his limitations. To that effect, Lopez works through a number of critiques of Lukács, both of others as well as his own. This allows him to explore various other questions on the margins of Lukács’ work about the relation between philosophical theory and political practice, and the role of critical thinking in emancipatory movements. The scope and rigor of the text, as well as the various questions and themes it addresses, will make this an incredible resource not just for newcomers to Lukács, or those seasoned in his thought, but for all those interested in learning how to think, and how to translate that thinking into action.

Published as part of the Historical Materialism book series.

Daniel Andres Lopez is an honorary research associate with the Thesis Eleven Forum for Social and Political Theory. His work has appeared in a number of places, including the journal Historical Materialism. He is an editor at Jacobin.

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