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The Process of Democratization.

This text was Lukacs' response to the Soviets' crushing of the Dubeck reform movement in August 1968. As Norman Lavine notes, it was written in great haste between September and December 1968, and Lukacs was not satisfied with the result. It seemed "too much of a summary to be a true scientific work and too scientific for a good summary" (p. 4). Lukacs intended to revise the text as part of a projected work on ethics. I would suggest that The Process of Democratization's literary form is "manifesto." Like its famous predecessor, the book brings a lifetime devoted to a dialectical reading of social experience to bear on a specific revolutionary situation. Unlike the text of Marx and Engels, however, the task of this dialectical inquiry is to explain the emergence of alienating repression within a praxis supposedly guided by Marxist-Leninist principles, and to point toward an overcoming of the alienation that remains within Marxism.

Given the developments from 1989 to 1991 in the former Soviet empire, it may seem that Lukacs' attempt to revitalize Marxism has been superseded by the flow of events. A reading of this book, on the contrary, shows is ongoing relevance to an understanding of socio-political life in societies that have for decades interpreted their experience in the categories of the dialectic. Part 1, "Bourgeois Democracy as a False Alternative for the Reform of Socialism," provides an interesting reflection on the attempt to establish market economies in the former Soviet block. Part 2, "The Pure Alternative: Stalinism or Socialist Democracy," provides an insightful critique of the Stalinist development of Marxism-Leninism as a prelude to the creation of a form of democratic politics congruent with socialism.

Lukacs' central argument is that the repression and alienation that has arisen within the Soviet bloc has its roots in the failure of Marxism to develop a conception of political democracy that could complement its critique of the economic foundations of capitalist society. In Norman Lavine's formulation, Lukacs argues that the repressive and totalitarian tendencies that have marred the history of Marxism--which can be traced back to the formulations of socialism in the Second International--are rooted in a failure to distinguish between the categories of the "state" and the "political." In classical Marxist doctrine, the bourgeois state, as an instrument of repression and control, was to "wither away" after the proletarian revolution. Such a demise of the state, however, was incorrectly equated with the absence of ongoing political life--with anarchism. Believing that Marx's understanding of the supersession of the bourgeois state form implied anarchism, the Second International failed to provide a conception of political participation that was congruent with the post-revolutionary world. The absence of a positive, enabling concept of political participation that was congrent with a socialist economic order left a theoretical vacuum which facilitated the rise of the repressive tendencies of the Stalinist bureaucracy.

Lukacs argues that neither of the two great Western models of political democracy--the Greek city-state and French republicanism--offer a conception that is plausible in the contemporary world. He attempts to demonstrate, moreover, that the liberal parliamentarianism characteristic of Western "democracies" is quite compatible with social inequality and repression, while the Stalinist bureaucratization of Marxism has emptied the soviets of any effective role in "Marxist" states.
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Author:Donovan, John
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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