Lukacs presaging the end of history

excerpt from a screen snap of a tweet:

Mathias @bucephalus424 Lukacs presaging and critiquing the End of History argument in 1920

pages 48-49:
At this point bourgeois thought must come up against an insuperable obstacle, for its starting-point and its goal are always, if not always consciously, an apologia for the existing order of things or at least the proof of their immutability.(3) "Thus there has been history, but there is no longer any," (4) Marx observes with reference to bourgeois economics, a dictum which applies with equal force to all attempts by bourgeois thinkers to understand the process of history. (It has often been pointed out that this is also one of the defects of Hegel's philosophy of history.) As a result, while bourgeois thought is indeed able to conceive of history as a problem, it remains an intractable problem. Either it is forced to abolish the process of history and regard the institutions of the present as eternal laws of nature which for 'mysterious' reasons and in a manner wholly at odds with the principles of a rational science were held to have failed to establish themselves firmly, or indeed at all, in the past. (This is characteristic of bourgeois sociology.) Or else, everything meaningful or purposive is banished from history. It then becomes impossible to advance beyond the mere 'individuality' of the various epochs and their social and human representatives. History must then insist with Ranke that every age is "equally close to God", i.e., has attained an equal degree of perfection and that -- for quite different reasons -- there is no such thing as historical development. In the first case it ceases to be possible to understand the origin of social institutions. The objects of history appear as the objects of immutable, eternal laws of nature. History becomes fossilised in a formalism incapable of comprehending that the real nature of socio-historical institutions is that they consist of relations between men. On the contrary, men become estranged from this, the true source of historical understanding and cut off from it by an unbridgeable gulf. As Marx points out, people fail to realise "that these definite social relations are just as much the products of men as linen, flax, etc."

In the second case, history is transformed into the irrational rule of blind forces which is embodied at best in the 'spirit of the people' or in 'great men'. It can therefore only be described pragmatically but it cannot be rationally understood. Its only possible organisation would be aesthetic, as if it were a work of art. Or else, as in the philosophy of history of the Kantians, it must be seen as the instrument, senseless in itself, by means of which timeless, suprahistorical, ethical principles are realised.

3 And also of the 'pessimism' which perpetuates the present state of affairs and represents it as the uttermost limit of human development just as much as does 'optimism'. In this respect (and in this respect alone) Hegel and Schopenhauer are on a par with each other.
4 Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, p. 135.


Author: Luk√°cs, Georg

Mathias link: https://letterboxd.com/Bucephalus424/


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