Interpretations of Georg Lukács’s theory of reification and consciousness have typically assumed that Lukács relies on an essentialized notion of subjectivity that can be restored by dereification. This article argues instead that he treats subjectivity as a formally defined position within the totality of consciousness, an account of consciousness that closely parallels Alois Riegl’s theory of the spectator as a formally defined component of works of art. Both Lukács and Riegl incorporate notions of agency and active involvement in the forms of representation into these accounts of subjectivity: what Riegl finds in the Kunstwollen of different works of art, Lukács finds in the formal structures of social reality. The article thus reinterprets reification as the formal definition of the subject as an isolated individual playing no active part in the structure of social forms. Finally, the article draws on Riegl’s idea that Dutch group portraits incorporate spectators as active constitutors of artistic form to offer some suggestions about Lukács’s theory of the revolutionary party.

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