Georg Lukács’s essay collection History and Class Consciousness (1923) remains a foundational text of Western Marxism and a vital influence on contemporary German studies, not least by way of the Frankfurt School. Yet Lukács’s positing of the proletariat as the historical agent of revolutionary change raises difficult questions for radical Left theory and praxis in our rapidly deindustrializing world. Who or what is that working class that would redeem Lukács’s vision today? This article argues that the main concept for actualizing History and Class Consciousness is totality rather than class or reification. However, we should understand totality in a strictly negative sense, as a feature of capitalist coercion to be overcome in a free society.

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