Georg Lukács

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Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Georg Lukács 1885–1971

(Also transliterated as György) Hungarian critic and philosopher.

Lukács is now recognized by many critics as the leading Marxist thinker of the twentieth century. However, he was engaged in a lifelong struggle; despite his antagonism toward capitalism, the nature of his approach and his subject matter were often in opposition to socialist thought. As Susan Sontag has written: "By concentrating on 19th century literature and stubbornly retaining German as the language in which he writes, Lukács has continued to propose, as a Communist, European and humanist—as opposed to nationalist and doctrinaire—values; living as he does in a Communist and provincial country, he has remained a genuinely European intellectual figure."

As an undergraduate student in Germany, Lukács was inspired by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose philosophy informs Lukács's earliest works, especially Die Theorie des Romans (The Theory of the Novel). In this book Lukács described the novel as a "bourgeois epic" in which the writer attempts to depict the alienation and homelessness of the individual in modern society. These theories were much less metaphysical than those of his earlier work, Die Seele und die Formen (Soul and Form). In Soul and Form Lukács concentrated on what Lucien Goldmann called "the relation between the human soul and the absolute" and "the tragic significance of Kantianism."

In 1918, two years after the publication of The Theory of the Novel, Lukács joined the Hungarian Communist Party. Within five years he was to publish Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein (History and Class Consciousness), which Ferenc Fehér would later call "the single major event in the history of Marxism as philosophy since the death of Karl Marx." According to George Lichtheim,

(The entire section is 430 words.)