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Living Distinctions over Atrophied Oppositions: Hegel as Critic of Reification

Eric-John Russell (Kingston University London)

Contradictions: A Journal for Critical Thought I, no. 2 (2017): 93–115

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Keywords: Marxism, Hegel, Lukács

Georg Lukács, writing in History and Class Consciousness, describes modern philosophy, culminating in the work of Hegel, as providing “a complete intellectual copy and the a priori deduction of bourgeois society.” By closely considering this remark, the following essay will explore the manner in which Hegel’s philosophy stands as a register for the reification constitutive of the capitalist mode of production. After first outlining the fundamental characteristics of Lukács’s theory of reified consciousness, an investigation into culled sections of the Phenomenology of Spirit will demonstrate the conceptual affinity between reified consciousness and the consciousness of Hegel’s own protagonist. The Phenomenology follows the path of a consciousness successively failing to give an adequate account of both itself and the world. Here, the immediate and sequestered otherness of its object obscures the truth that consciousness is the substance of its own process. By analyzing the sections “Sense-Certainty” and “The Spiritual Realm of Animals and Deception,” I aim to demonstrate the extent to which Hegel’s Phenomenology can be grasped as a critique of reified consciousness grounded in both an immediacy prohibited from comprehending its own mediated composition of itself and its object, and in the reduction of social activity to an aggregate of competitive self-interests. As a result, Hegelian philosophy stands as a prescient and indispensable critical resource for grasping the requisite intellectual dispositions of the capitalist mode of production.

doi: 10.46957/con.2017.2.6

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