Abstract: This paper examines and compares two early essays by Georg Lukacs on political morality: “Bolshevism as a Moral Problem” (1918) and “Tactics and Ethics” (1919). Rather than regarding these essays as moments in a famously precipitous conversion “from Romanticism to Bolshevism” (in Michael Lowy’s terms), it considers them as an attempt to develop a concept of “Realpolitik” within a Kantian ethical framework. In these essays, confronting “real politics” did not mean moving “outside ethics” (in Raymond Geuss’s terms) but rather recasting political judgment as an ethical problem. Despite Lukacs’s own self-understanding of his philosophical development as paralleling the historical development of classical German idealism from Kant and Fichte to Hegel, in fact the role of ethics in his embrace of Bolshevism requires us to rethink the relationship between post-Kantian political thought and Realpolitik.
Isaac Nakhimovsky is Assistant Professor of History and Humanities at Yale University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University in 2008 and was formerly a research fellow in the University of Cambridge. He is author of The Closed Commercial State: Perpetual Peace and Commercial Society from Rousseau to Fichte (Princeton, 2011), and co-editor of Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation (Hackett, 2013). His current projects include a monograph about the political theory of the post-Napoleonic Holy Alliance and its legacy for twentieth century debates about supranational alternatives to the nation-state.