Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cowen's (and Friends') Hungarians

Tyler Cowen posts his favorite things Hungarian and attracts 40-plus comments in the first eight hours, many of them in the dark of night.  Apparently there is no shortage of Hungarian candidates for greatness.

One name I didn't notice: György Lukács, possibly the greatest literary critic of the 20th Century (surely the shrewdest Marxist literary critic), who saved his neck by transforming himself into Stalinist toady. There's a theme here, I think: forty years ago, you could have named half a dozen bigfoot Marxist intellectuals who still cut a swath across the night sky. Aside from Lukács, think Louis Althusser, Lucien Goldmann, Antonio Gramsci. Outside of a fairly small (and I bet not-young) circle, I suspect you'd have tough time getting much name recognition for any of these people today. For my money, there is a lot in Lukács that is worth saving. Perhaps Gramsci too but I suspect he wins points for having the most sympathetic human story of the four. The other two can probably best be left on the battlefield for the crows to pick at.  In general, though, the phrase "influential Marxist theorist" is getting down way close to "worthwhile Canadian initiative." 


dilbert dogbert said...

Hungarians = Martians
Finns = Martians

Ken Houghton said...

The line from Lukacs to Terry Eagleton goes through Walter Benjamin, which often transforms Marxists into technocrats.

Buce said...

I forgot Benjamin, and I tend to forget that he was, or saw himself, a Marxist (at the end of his life). He's sufficiently fertile I think we can almost excuse him that folly.