Georg Lukács the father of leftist eclecticism drew upon an ad hoc mix of Simmel and Weber, Luxemburg and Sorel, Kant and Hegel, in addition to Marx and Engels. His free interpretive thinking was embraced by western academia and led to the formation of western Marxism and the rhyzomic growth of post-structuralism and critical theory.
Lukács’s openness to an eclectic mix of ‘scholarly’ sources was accepted as erudite scholarship and a model for academic practice by the New Left. This openness was also an expression of Lukács's wayward philosophical voluntarism, which has tempted followers into the marshlands of depoliticised academic squabbling and tenured livelihoods. He opened the floodgates to endless material from which ‘stars’ of the speaking circuit and publishing houses have benefitted.
Regarding voluntarism as rigorous theory was the great misunderstanding to which the ‘68 generation was especially prone. The New Left sought to escape the bureaucratic diktat and stale inertia of the 'official communist' movement, without succumbing to official social democracy. In this it echoed Lukác’s own postion vis-à-vis the official doctrine of the newly founded USSR in the early 1920s.
The ’68 generation and its heirs are hegemonic in the bourgeois institutions. The academic superstructure of capitalism echoes to the theories which sustain the base rather than undermine it. The instinctive appeal of a free market in spontaneist theories reflects a financialised globalising capitalism rather than any alternatives to it.
The theme common to all the politically voluntarist activist projects and academic theoreticist pessimisms is the rejection of dialectical materialism’s historical narrative. What began as a nominally Marxist philosophical discourse, turned into a revival of the very same semi-anarchist, mass-action leftism that informed History and Class consciousness.
The bid to escape the directional telos of Marxism has led to a non-directional fragmented theoretical stasis reflective of the crisis-precipitating, self-preserving mores of global financial oligarchy. New Left ideology underpins oligarchical rule every bit as much as anarchism, fascism and neo-liberalism.
© John Dunn.