Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lukacs: Reactionary, Conservative, Romantic?

I think that I appreciate most those thinkers that one cannot easily classify. Words like “conservative” or “liberal” have really lost their currency, and subtlety tends to go out the window. Many want to pigeon hole, but what good are pigeon holes to any but pigeons?
Lukacs serves an example of my concern. I noted yesterday in linking in Historical Consciousness that a recent edition was published by a “conservative” book club (The Library of Conservative Thought) with a forward by Russell Kirk added in for good measure. Now I ask you, what does Lukacs have in common with say, George W. Bush or Newt Gingerich? (Russell Kirk, perhaps, yes; but then what contemporary “conservative”—at least politician—knows or cares what Kirk wrote and thought? Although I’ve only a passing acquaintance with Kirk, I get the impression that he is, what I would call, a real “conservative”; you know, thinks highly of Edmund Burke, and all of that.) In any event, I find Lukac’s thinking difficult to pin down, to pigeon hole. He bobs and weaves, and for the most part, addresses concerns and issues that popular conservatives don’t even begin to address. Thus, after completing his short chapter on his thoughts about history in general, and a short chapter by way of an apologia of sorts for this autobiography (of sorts), he begins talking about this adopted country, the United States. (He’s a native of Hungry.) One has not doubt of his love and appreciation for his adopted land, but this does not allow him to gloss over its contradictions and absurdities.
Having discussed this aspect of Lukacs, let me now note that the next to last chapter is about his three wives. The first two lost to death, and the third one with him currently. One comes away from this chapter with an appreciation of the art of recollection, and the sense that Lukacs must be not only charming (although in writing he may come off to some as a curmudgeon), but perhaps a bit of a romantic. The chapter stands out as an interesting reflection on marriage and the relationships we have, something not done much outside perhaps novels or tabloid sensationalism. In any event, this glimpse into his domestic life, his reflection about it, adds something to this intellectual autobiography that helps round out the man and this thought.

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