• Arpad Kadarkay, Georg Lukács: Life, Thought and Politics (Cambridge, Mass., and Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991), xv +538 pp., £25.00 (hardback)
Once upon a time, when preconceived and unreflected politico-ideological schemes enabled a facile recuperation of Lukács for a leftist discourse on culture or politics, or an equally facile dismissal of his thought on the basis of a diametrically opposed set of axiological axioms, and when a reading of Lukács could without qualms focus exclusively on his aesthetic and literary studies, or, on the contrary, single out only the political texts, it was after all not so difficult a task to read Lukács. In a certain sense, it was even exceptionally easy since, strictly speaking, very few people actually did read Lukács. What was produced instead largely amounts to a proliferation of crypto-hagiographical defences and correlative antithetical (d) evaluations of Lukács’s work, in which his various texts suffered the fate typical of all classics: they were reduced to a set of endlessly repeated sacred quotations, totally torn out of their complex textual, intertextual and historical context. It would appear that today things have become a bit more difficult. The debate inaugurated at the end of the sixties by various poststructuralist theoreticians has had the positive effect of finally putting into question the way in which critics usually have dealt and, in some academic quarters, still deal with texts: the erstwhile categories of ‘left’ and ‘right’ ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’, ‘literary’ and ‘non-literary’, ‘textual’ and ‘extratextual’ as well as most other normative binarisms seem to have definitively lost their enchanting but fallacious self-evidence. This evolution, which demands that readers become more sensitive not only to the textuality of the discourses they are dealing with, but also, and perhaps most importantly, to their own way of reading, offers new possibilities for the Lukácsforschung, which has been seriously debilitated by the complete absence of reflexivity on the side of many commentators. This implies, among other things, that we can really start reading Lukács but also that we can no longer take as read the claims and interpretations made by a large number of metatexts on Lukács. To put it differently, the effort to produce another and more subtle reading of Lukács requires a permanent interrogation of the existing literature on the ‘topic’, not in order to supplement it with this or that factual or interpretive detail, but to scrutinize the very strategies which have presented us with a far too unproblematic picture of Lukács. Although a lot has been done and said in the dozens and dozens of articles and monographs on Lukács1, one cannot help feeling that, on various levels and from various perspectives, even more still remains to be done, if not done over. This process of reading and re-reading previous readings has most certainly nothing to do whatsoever with some kind of mysteriously inexhaustible depth of the Lukácsian texture. What is at stake
here is the more fundamental issue of the destabilization of the categories that once structured, in various fields of inquiry, the act of reading to the very point of vainly effacing its performative character.