Reification and Racism

Monday, July 14, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: Booth 63
Oral Presentation
Gregory ZUCKER , The Graduate Center, CUNY
Both historians of social theory and practicing social theorists have drawn attention to the prevalence of racialist thinking in nineteenth and early twentieth century social theory. They have been increasingly aware of the ways such thought remains embedded in social theory’s early historical development and questioned the extent to which the vestiges of such thought still informs contemporary social theory. This paper examines an overlooked chapter in the critique of racialist social theory. In particular, it focuses on the seldom-studied work of Georg Lukacs, The Destruction of Reason. In that work, Lukacs develops a critique of racialist thought in social Darwinian social theory. This paper argues that the critique Lukacs develops can contribute to the examination of racialism in social theory. Further, it argues that Lukacs’ critique should be reconnected to the concept of reification, which Lukacs developed earlier in his career. This allows intellectuals to interpret the experience of racial prejudice under capitalism as a form of reification. In this respect, this paper attempts to move toward developing a social theory that can employ the concept of reification in the understanding of racism.