Cleanth Brooks's Essay Irony as a Principle of Structure

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Home » texts » History & Class Consciousness: Preface by Georg Lukács (1923) Thursday, February 3, 2011
History & Class Consciousness: Preface by Georg Lukács (1923) Share 

History and Class Consciousness
Preface
THE collection and publication of these essays in book form is not intended to give them a greater importance as a whole than would be due to each individually. For the most part they are attempts, arising out of actual work for the party, to clarify the theoretical problems of the revolutionary movement in the mind ,of the author and his readers. The exceptions to this are the two essays Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat and Towards a Methodology of the Problem of Organisation which were both written specially for this collection during a period of enforced leisure. They, too, are based on already existing occasional pieces.

Although they have now been partly revised, no systematic attempt has been made. to remove the traces of the particular circumstances in which they were written. In some cases a radical recasting of an essay would have meant destroying what I regard as its inner core of truth. Thus in the essay on The Changing Function of Historical Materialism we can still hear the echoes of those exaggeratedly sanguine hopes that many of us cherished concerning the duration and tempo of the revolution. The reader should not, therefore, look to these essays for a complete scientific system. Despite this the book does have a definite unity. This will be found in the sequence of the essays, which for this reason are best read in the order proposed. However, it would perhaps be advisable for readers unversed in philosophy to put off the chapter on reification to the very end.

A few words of explanation — superfluous for many readers perhaps — are due for the prominence given in these pages to the presentation, interpretation and, discussion of the theories of Rosa Luxemburg. On this point I would say, firstly, that Rosa Luxemburg, alone among Marx’s disciples, has made a real advance on his life’s work in both the content and method of his economic doctrines. She alone has found a way to apply them concretely to the present state of social development. Of course, in these pages, in pursuance of the task we have set ourselves, it is the methodological aspect of these questions that will be most heavily stressed. There will be no assessment of the economic content of the theory of accumulation, nor of Marx’s economic theories as such: we shall confine our discussion to their methodological premises and implications. It will in any case be obvious to the reader that the present writer upholds the validity of their content. Secondly, a detailed analysis of Rosa Luxemburg’s thought is necessary because its seminal discoveries no less than its errors have had a decisive influence on the theories of Marxists outside Russia, above all in Germany. To some extent this influence persists to this day. For anyone whose interest was first aroused by these problems a truly revolutionary, Communist and Marxist position can be acquired only through a critical confrontation with the theoretical life’s, work of Rosa Luxemburg.

Once we take this path we discover that the writings and speeches of Lenin become crucial, methodologically speaking. It is not our intention to concern ourselves here with Lenin’s political achievements. But just because our task is consciously one-sided and limited it is essential that we remind ourselves constantly of Lenin’s importance as a theoretician for the...
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