Damn it.

My apartment is something of a shambles. More than usual I mean. Largely because I had mostly not fully gotten organized when this bat problem came up (which is not resolved, by the by). So some of my books are hard to find.

I wanted to read some of Lukacs’ History and Class Consciousness, the essay “What Is Orthodox Marxism” but when I went and looked I couldn’t find my copy. Where did I put it? Did I accidentally sell it? Did I lose it? And hey I forgot I had that Bensaid book, I’ve been meaning to read that…

By the time I gave up and looked online for the text I no longer remembered why I wanted the damn thing in the first place. (I’ve got this cold, see, and a lot on my plate, and I’m a bit scatterbrained often even under good conditions.)

So, if anyone wants it, Lukacs’ essay What Is Orthodox Marxism is online here.

I know one of the things that made me want to find it was something about the straw man caricatures I run into sometimes in stuff I read, about this or that being The Marxist Position when there are in fact multiple and often contradictory positions within the tent called marxism. That’s the basic point I tried to make in the thing I posted in the comments here. Lukacs’ is useful on this because he’s like “hey, we could all change our minds and still be Marxists.” I had more to say on that but I lost it. Curses.

Anyhow, I thought I’d post about how I forgot what I was going to post (done! I’ll take that one off my to do list), then comment on this bit from the opening. Lukacs writes that

Orthodox Marxism (…) does not imply the uncritical acceptance of the results of Marx’s investigations. It is not the ‘belief’ in this or that thesis, nor the exegesis of a ‘sacred’ book.

Bit of a counter-intuitive meaning of Orthodox [note to self: check the OED], but I like the spirit here very much. He continues:

On the contrary, orthodoxy refers exclusively to method. It is the scientific conviction that dialectical materialism is the road to truth and that its methods can be developed, expanded and deepened only along the lines laid down by its founders. It is the conviction, moreover, that all attempts to surpass or ‘improve’ it have led and must lead to over-simplification, triviality and eclecticism.

Here’s the problem. Lukacs says he’s not talking about “the ‘belief’ in this or that thesis” – note the scare quotes on belief – but then goes on precisely to define his view as a belief in a thesis or theses. That the thesis is a matter of method (whatever that’s supposed to mean) doesn’t change it one bit. The conviction Lukacs expresses, despite the funny use of the adjective “scientific”, is still a matter of belief. As is the trust in the founders, and the assertion that abandoning this conviction would a priori be mistaken (“have led” is pretty reasonable I think, but “must lead” is definitely out on a limb).

Now, I agree with Lukacs, but he’s cheating when he says this isn’t a matter of belief. It is. Beliefs which can be justified with argument and so on, but belief none the less. (I don’t see belief as something which is a problem, though, nor as something which needs scare quotes. Colin and I got into a bit of an argument related to this a while back. I’ve also talked about or alluded to a bit before – here, and here and I thought elsewhere – about how I think Marxism can should be as philosophically minimalist and indifferent as possible.)