Photo by Internationale Georg-Lukács-Gesellschaft e.V. Paderborn
Lukacs, G (1885.4.13-1971.6.4)
Hungarian Marxist philosopher, writer, and literary critic who influenced the mainstream of European Communist thought during the first half of the 20th century. His major contributions include the formulation of a Marxist system of aesthetics that opposed political control of artists and defended humanism and an elaboration of Marx's theory of alienation within industrial society.
Born into a wealthy Jewish family, Lukács had read Marx while at school, but was more influenced by Kierkegaard and Weber. He was unimpressed with the theoretical leaders of the Second International such as Karl Kautsky, but had been impressed by Béla Kun's short-lived Hungarian Communist regime in 1919, in which Lukács served as Commissar for Culture and Education. His What is Orthodox Marxism ? and The Changing Function of Historical Materialism, demonstrated his creative and independent approach to Marxist theory.
Fleeing the White Terror, he moved to Vienna, where he remained for 10 years. He edited the review Kommunismus, which for a time became a focal point for the ultra-left currents in the Third International and and was a member of the Hungarian underground movement. In his book History and Class Consciousness (1923), he developed these ideas and laid the basis for his critical literary tenets by linking the development of form in art with the history of the class struggle. He came under sharp criticism from the Comintern, and facing expulsion from the Party and consequent exclusion from the struggle against fascism, he recanted.
In his later critiques of literature, Lukács showed himself partial to the great bourgeois realist novelists of the 19th century, a preference that was denounced by proponents of the official Soviet doctrine of Socialist Realism.
Lukács was in Berlin from 1929 to 1933, save for a short period in 1930-31, at which time he attended the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow. In 1933 he left Berlin and returned to Moscow to attend the Institute of Philosophy. He moved back to Hungary in 1945 and became a member of parliament and a professor of aesthetics and the philosophy of culture at the University of Budapest. In 1956 he was a major figure in the Hungarian uprising, serving as minister of culture during the revolt. He was arrested and deported to Romania but was allowed to return to Budapest in 1957, where, stripped of his former power and status, he devoted himself to a steady output of critical and philosophical works.
In later years, Lukács repudiated many of the positions put in his early works which had formed the starting point for such writers as Adorno and Fromm, and other tendencies which not only rejected the Stalinised version of Marxism, but departed from Marx's central principles, and he frequently clashed with Jean-Paul Sartre and others who combined Marxism with psychoanalysis, structuralism and other philosophical currents inherently incompatible with Marxism.
Lukács wrote more than 30 books and hundreds of essays and lectures. Among his other works are Soul and Form (1911), a collection of essays that established his reputation as a critic; The Historical Novel (1955); and books on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hegel, Lenin, Marxism, and aesthetics. In his Destruction of Reason, he launched a furious attack on Heidegger's accommodation with Nazism and the whole current of irrationalism which was dominant in the pre-war years.
(from Philosophical Biographies)