The Politics of Realism

Lukács and Reflection Theory


  • Taek-Gwang Lee Kyung Hee University



This essay claims that the rejection of Lukács's realism is quite problematic, in the sense that his opponents such as Adorno and Althusser symbolically used the name of Lukács and perpetuated the suspicion of Lukács's compromise with Stalinism. The essay argues that Lukács's model of reflection is not couched in Stalin's socialist realism, a theory that assumes the transparency between aesthetic forms and reality, but rather raises the essential problems of the condition of writers in capitalist society. Lukács's realism aims at providing a practical strategy to overcome cultural reification, focusing on the mediation between an author and his material condition. An investigation of Lukács's realism reveals that Lukács's way of understanding realism arises from his emphasis on objectivity rather than subjective reflection such as Kantian philosophy. The essay claims that this is the kernel of Lukácsean reflection theory signified by an aesthetic of realism definitively opposed to Stalin's socialist realism. From this perspective, the essay takes Althusserian Marxism as the occasion to stage a wide consideration of anti-realism. I propose to elucidate the implicit assumptions behind the decline of Lukács's realism, and the reification of cultural fields that gradually came to dominate Western literary apparatuses.