György Lukács, literary critic and Marxist social theorist, was born in 1885 of wealthy Jewish parents in Budapest, then the second capital of the Austro–Hungarian monarchy. His father was a director of the Budapest Kreditanstalt, the leading bank in Hungary. A member of a remarkable generation of Hungarian Jewish intellectuals, many of whom later emigrated to Western countries and made their mark in the sciences and the humanities, Lukács received a cosmopolitan education. From adolescence he displayed a lively interest in European literature and a talent for literary criticism. His earliest critical writings date back to 1903 (when he was 18), and a two-volume study of the modern drama, written in Hungarian in 1908–1909, was published in 1911. In the same year Lukács issued the first German-language edition of any of his works, Die Seele und die Formen, which had been published in Hungarian in 1910, and from this time onward he partly abandoned his native Hungarian in favor of German as a medium of public and private discourse. (He came to be known widely by the German form of his name, Georg Lukacs.)
Early intellectual experience A complex intellectual development carried Lukacs from early involvement with the aestheticism fashionable before 1914 to a prominent role in the German and east European communist movements after 1918. Prior to the outbreak of World War I, he shared with other central European intellectuals of his generation a pronounced distaste for politics and a commitment to the autonomy of art, not merely as an aesthetic principle but as a way of life. This attitude implied a criticism of bourgeois society, albeit its criteria were derived from Nietzsche and the aestheticism of the 1890s rather than from Marx. Like Thomas Mann, for whom, even in later years, he retained an admiration which Mann to some degree reciprocated, the youthful Lukács considered bourgeois society inherently hostile to the arts and specifically to the aesthetic claim to possession of certain intuitively apprehended truths about the nature of reality.
After early studies in Budapest, Lukács moved to Berlin and later to Heidelberg, where he stayed until 1916. During these prerevolutionary years he studied social science and philosophy, and in particular came under the influence of Max Weber and Georg Simmel, who introduced him to sociology. He was likewise influenced by the philosopher Emil Lask, who had constructed a logical bridge leading from the then dominant Neo-Kantianism to the phenomenological school founded by Edmund Husserl. At the same time, Lukács became acquainted with the literary critic Friedrich Gundolf, a member of the esoteric circle around the poet Stefan George, in which both the Nietzschean contempt for democracy and the aestheticist cult of the individual sensibility had been pushed to their farthest limits. The residual influences of this period were to plague Lukacs in later years, when (after first going through a Hegelian phase) he had become a more or less orthodox Marxist.
Lukács’s own account of this transformation, while not wholly trustworthy, lends due emphasis to the impact of the 1914–1918 war upon the generation of central European intellectuals to which he belonged and whose concerns he shared. In the preface (dated July 1962) to the new edition of his Theorie des Romans (an essay on the novel, drafted in 1914–1915, first published in a literary journal in 1916 and, expanded, in book form in 1920), he describes his wartime mood as one of despair, from which he was eventually rescued by the events of 1917—that is, by the Russian Revolution. Prior to this he had been tormented by the—as it seemed to him—depressing choice between the prospect of a German victory and the triumph of “Western civilization,” which as a youthful Nietzschean he had learned to identify with soulless commercialism and materialism. This was also how the issue presented itself to conservative German intellectuals like Thomas Mann (see the latter’s Unpolitical Reflections), but Mann gradually and hesitantly accepted Western democracy as the lesser evil, if not as a positive good, while Lukács opted for Lenin.
Heterodox Marxism Lukács’s return to Buda-pest and his subsequent involvement in the Hungarian revolution of 1918–1919 coincided with a major change in his philosophical and political orientation: his acceptance first of Hegelianism and later of Marxism. Philosophically, the way for this conversion had been paved by his earlier rejection of Neo-Kantian epistemology insofar as it applied to the aesthetic realm, where, it appeared to him, intuitive apprehension of absolute truth is possible. Even as a youthful Neo-Kantian around 1910, he had not quite accepted the doctrine that knowledge of the empirical world does not extend to the nature of ultimate reality but is confined to phenomenal appearances, which in the last resort are the product of human understanding. He was not satisfied with this positivist interpretation of Kant, which Weber accepted, and for a while found solace in the belief that—in the arts at least—ultimate reality is cognizable through intuition of “pure essences.” From about 1916 onward he came to believe that Hegel offered a way out of the impasse created by positivist science. The solution seemed to lie in treating the moral and aesthetic values (deemed by Weber and others to be wholly subjective) as entities located in the structure of reality and as such cognizable by philosophy, although not by empirical science. To this fundamental belief Lukács has adhered, with the necessary consequence that his Hegelianized Marxism has always appeared heretical to the adherents of Soviet orthodoxy, although not to Marxists faithful to the tradition of German idealism.
After brief involvement, as commissar for education, in the short-lived Hungarian communist regime of 1919, Lukács moved to Vienna, where as editor of the official party journal, Kommunismus, he came into conflict with the dominant faction. A dispute within the Hungarian Communist party over political tactics culminated in 1923 in the publication by Lukacs of a collection of essays best known under the original, German title, Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein. The appearance of this work initiated his new career as a semiheretical exponent of Marxism-Leninism, while at the same time it effectively ended his position as an official party spokesman. In later years he was to be an influential figure in the intellectual life of the Hungarian Communist party, but he never again held an official party position, and his utterances on literary and philosophical topics were henceforth regarded with suspicion by those Hungarian communist theoreticians (some of them his former pupils) who in 1923–1924 had committed themselves to the official Soviet interpretation of Marxism-Leninism.
Without going into the details of this controversy (a succinct account of which may be found in Watnick 1962) it can be said that Lukács’s general orientation clashed with Lenin’s pre-Hegelian (indeed, pre-Kantian) understanding of philosophy, while at the same time he pushed Lenin’s implicitly elitist view of the Communist party’s role to the point of paradox. In recovering the Hegelian dimension of Marx’s own thought, Lukács had unwittingly transgressed upon Lenin’s version of Engels’ “dialectical materialism,” with its naively pictorial interpretation of the role of consciousness. Philosophically speaking, he appeared to his Leninist critics as a left-wing Hegelian rather than a materialist. At the same time he allotted to the role of revolutionary “consciousness” an importance quite consonant with Lenin’s own conception of the “vanguard.” The consequences of this contradictory commitment were to pursue Lukács for years, down to the abortive Hungarian rebellion of 1956, which resulted in his temporary banishment and forced withdrawal from public life.
Acceptance of orthodoxy From 1933 to 1945 Lukacs, like most other leading Hungarian communists, lived in Moscow, where he somehow escaped the great purge of 1936–1938. Those Hungarian communists who had sided against him in 1923–1924 (principally József Révai and László Rudas) had meanwhile become orthodox Stalinists, while Lukács himself—although from about 1932 the most doctrinaire of Leninists—paid only lip service to Stalin’s “theoretical” contributions. He did, however, purge himself of his idealist errors by solemnly denouncing (in an address to the philosophical section of the Communist Academy in 1934) his 1923 work Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein as an unwitting departure from Marxist–Leninist orthodoxy. After recalling the early influence upon him of Simmel and Max Weber, he named Georges Sorel as one of the pre-1914 writers who had reinforced his leanings toward what in 1934 he termed “romantic anticapitalism.” Having stigmatized his earlier views as “objectively” counterrevolutionary, he paid a special tribute to the significance of Lenin’s philosophical work, Materialism and Empiriocriticism.
This self-abasement set the tone for the literary productions of the following two decades, culminating in Die Zerstorung der Vernunft (1953a), a bulky 700-page diatribe against modern philosophy, couched in propagandist, indeed abusive, language. Its central thesis—the ideological decay of “bourgeois irrationalism,” from Schelling via Nietzsche to the philosophers of the Third Reich—was worked out at such a primitive level that even some of his sympathizers in the West began to despair of Lukács.
Sociology of knowledge An assessment of Lukács’s significance as a forerunner of what is currently known as the sociology of knowledge must proceed from the recognition that as a theorist he has been primarily concerned with other than sociological topics. The “class consciousness” which appears in the title of his 1923 collection of essays (his only sustained excursion into sociopolitical theory) is not the empirical consciousness of the actual working class, but a political consciousness “imputed” to it (zugerechnet, to use his term) on extraempirical grounds. Lukács thus is not a sociologist, not even a Marxist sociologist. He took over from Marx the notion of social development through class conflict, culminating in a new type of society without classes, but did not attempt to apply it to the new postbourgeois reality around him. In particular he remained indifferent to the problem of social stratification in industrial society, as distinct from the issue of class relations in bourgeois society. As a critic of bourgeois culture he was content to rely on the Marxist analysis of capitalism. This furnished him with the assurance that industrialism could provide the economic basis for an organization of social life in which human labor would recover the dignity it had lost, and that human “alienation” (a term not explicitly employed by him in 1923, but inherent in his critique of “objectification”) would be overcome.
Culture. The area where Lukacs nonetheless has come to grips with genuinely sociological issues is that of culture. According to the Marxist hypothesis, a class with a genuine historical role is, among other things, the bearer of a new world view and ultimately of a new civilization. Lukacs has tried to employ this concept in his voluminous writings on aesthetics. Basing his work on the principle that a particular outlook (variously described as “materialist” or “realist”) has been shared by the bourgeoisie in its early revolutionary phase and the working class in its subsequent effort to build a higher culture, he has tried to safeguard the heritage of classical bourgeois realism. The antithesis of this classical realism is manifest, according to Lukács, in the various forms of modernism, which (in common with Soviet orthodoxy, although in more sophisticated terms) he has denounced as “decadent.”
Ideology. The ascription to the labor movement (and in particular to the Communist party as the supposed “vanguard” of this movement) of a viewpoint radically different from that of the collapsing bourgeois society furnished Lukács with a criterion for his definition of ideology. He attributed “false consciousness” (ideology) uniquely to the self-definition of the ruling class, while crediting the submerged revolutionary class with the pos-session of a “true consciousness,” albeit imperfectly articulated and thus necessitating the separate existence of a “vanguard” of theorists in the shape of the Communist party. In principle the working class is held by Lukács to possess a theoretical insight into the historical situation superior to that of the bourgeoisie, although in the actual waging of political conflict this insight needs to be supplemented by the intellectual efforts of the Marxist party.
Objective knowledge. Dissatisfaction with this approach subsequently led Karl Mannheim (who in 1918–1919 had been acquainted with Lukács in Budapest but had not joined the communists) to develop the notion of the intelligentsia as a privileged floating stratum. Mannheim, like Lukács, had originally been induced by his reading of Weber and Simmel to question the possibility of objective truth in historical and social matters. As he saw it, all sociological statements were hopelessly compromised by sectional and party standpoints. Unlike Lukács, he did not seek a solution by identifying a particular standpoint (that of the rising proletarian class) with the attainment of absolute or objective insight. Rather, he contented himself with allotting to the intellectuals as a group the task of criticizing the sectional viewpoints of the major social classes. Lukács’s work provided the chief stimulus for Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia, and in this sense he may be said to have been an important link between the sociology of Weber and Simmel and what later became known as Wissenssoziologie. But whereas Mannheim’s “relational” doctrine seemed to issue in a species of relativism, Lukács retained the notion of a privileged intellectual standpoint, historically conditioned indeed (as all forms of thought must be), yet certifying its superiority over rival standpoints by virtue of its unique possession of insights enabling it to comprehend both its epoch and itself. Here we see the Hegelian heritage which had originally attracted the youthful Lukács to Marxism and subsequently to Leninism as the contemporary form of Marxism.
All of this was too Hegelian for Soviet Marxists and their east European followers, yet it was also incompatible with what Lukács termed “bourgeois empiricism.” Mannheim and others, although personally and doctrinally sympathetic to socialism, rejected the Hegelian–Marxist notion of a truth about history independent of, and superior to, the insights available to empirical sociology. The Marxian rejoinder (anticipated by Lukács in 1923) was to assert that, in thus rejecting philosophy, the sociology of knowledge had also relinquished the notion of an objective truth about history and society, leaving only partial truths relative to the standpoint of the observer and therewith seemingly opening the road toward a skepticism as boundless as it was hopeless. This theme was revived in the West after 1945, when impatience with the prospect of endless and pointless data accumulation carried a number of writers at least halfway toward the Hegelianized Marxism of the early Lukács—a tendency particularly marked among the Neo-Hegelian and Neo-Marxist schools in France and Italy.
In the central European context, the passions stirred by the 1923 controversy continued to be felt in the writings of Lukács’s fellow heretic, Karl Korsch. They have likewise echoed in the historical and sociological studies published before and after the Hitler era by the scholars associated with the Frankfurt Institut für Sozialforschung—notably notably Max Horkheimer, T. W. Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse. The influence of the early Lukács is also discernible in the writings of such a noted literary critic of the Weimar period as Walter Benjamin, while a more distant echo may be discerned in the work of émigré scholars as Leo Lowenthal of the University of California at Berkeley. From central Europe, the message of Lukács’s Hegelianized Marxism was carried to France by the Rumanian-born scholar and literary critic Lucien Goldmann, whose studies of Pascal and Racine acquainted the French academic world with a new manner of treating literary subjects. Some of Goldmann’s conclusions had been anticipated in 1934 by the Vienna-born scholar Franz Borkenau in an important, although neglected, work, Der Übergang vom feudalen zum burgerlichen Weltbild. In contrast, Lukács paradoxically has not exercised any profound influence upon the younger generation of Marxist writers in central and eastern Europe since 1956. In general they have found him too orthodox for their taste and in particular too deeply wedded to the Leninist notions current in Soviet literature. These “revisionist” writers (e.g., the Austrian Ernst Fischer) tended to go beyond Lukács in trying to construct a specifically Marxist doctrine of the social relevance of art. In philosophy, too, it was the existentialism of Sartre rather than the work of Lukács which, after the post-Stalin “thaw” of 1956, enabled the younger east European Marxists (e.g., the Polish writer Leszek Kolakowski) to free themselves from the ideological trammels of Leninism.
1903 Az új Hauptmann (The New Hauptmann). Jüvendü , August 23:29-32.
1906 A dráma formája (The Form of the Drama).Szerda : 340-343.
1907 Gaugin. Huszadik század : 559-562.
1908 Stefan George. Nyugat 2:202–211.
(1910) 1911 Die Seele und die Formen. Berlin: Fleischel. → First published as A lélek és a formák (kisérletek).
1911 A modern dráma fejlüdésének türtenete (The History of the Development of the Modern Drama). 2 vols. Budapest: Kisfaludy Társaság.
1914 Soziologie des modernen Drama. Archiv fur Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 38:303–345, 662-706.
(1920) 1963 Die Theorie des Romans. New ed., enl. Neuwied am Rhein (Germany): Luchterhand.
1923 Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein. Berlin: Malik. → Contains essays first published between 1919 and 1922.
(1933) 1955 Mein Weg zu Marx. Pages 225–231 in Georg Lukács zum siebzigsten Geburtstag. Berlin: Aufbau.
1934 Znachenie Materializma i empiriokrititsizma dlia bol’shevizatsii kommunisticheskikh partii (The Significance of Materialism and Empiriocriticism for the Bolshevization of Communist Parties). Pod znamenem marksizma 4:143–148.
(1935–1939) 1964 Studies in European Realism. New York: Grosset & Dunlap. → Contains essays first published in Hungarian and German.
(1946 a) 1955 Goethe und seine Zeit. Berlin: Aufbau. & First published in Hungarian.
1946 b Nietzsche és a fasizmus (Nietzsche and Fascism). Budapest: Hungaria.
(1947) 1965 The Historical Novel New York: Humanities. → First published in book form as A történelmi regény. Parts 1 and 2 first appeared in Russian in 1937 in Volumes 7, 9, and 12 of Literaturnyi kritik. A paperback edition was published in 1963 by Beacon.
1948 Der junge Hegel: Über die Beziehungen von Dialektik und ökonomie. Zurich and Vienna: Europa.
(1953 a) 1954 Die Zerstörung der Vernunft. Berlin: Aufbau. → First published as Az ész trónfosztása. A third Hungarian edition was published in 1965.
(1953 b) 1954 Beiträge zur Geschichte der Ästhetik. Berlin: Aufbau. → First published as Adalékok az esztetika történetéhez.
(1958) 1963 The Meaning of Contemporary Realism. London: Merlin. → First published as Zur Gegenwartsbedeutung des kritischen Realismus.
1961 Schriften zur Literatur’soziologie. Edited by Peter Ludz. Berlin: Luchterhand.
Werke. Vol.1—. Neuwied am Rhein (Germany): Luchter-hand, 1963—. → A projected 12-volume work. Volumes 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, and 12 had appeared by 1966.
ADORNO, T. W. (1961) 1963 Erpresste Versohnung: Zu Georg Lukacs “Wider den missverstandenen Realismus.” Volume 2, pages 152–187 in T. W. Adorno, Noten zur Literatur. Frankfurt am Main (Germany): Suhrkamp. → First published in Volume 11 of Der Monat.
Georg Lukacs und der Revisionismus: Eine Sammlung von Aufsätzen. 1960 Berlin: Aufbau.
Georg Lukacs zum siebzigsten Geburtstag. 1955 Berlin: Aufbau.
Goldmann, Lucien (1958) 1963 Recherches dialectiques. 3d ed. Paris: Gallimard. → See especially the essay “Georg Lukacs: L’essayiste.”
Oltvanyi, Ambrus (compiler) 1955 Lukács György irói munkássága (The Literary Works of György Lukács).Irodalomtortenet (Budapest) 43:402–420. → A comprehensive bibliography of Lukács’s writings from 1903 to 1955.
RÉvai, JÓzsef (1950) 1956 Literarische Studien. Berlin: Dietz. → First published as Irodalmi tanulményok.
RÉvai, JÓzsef 1951 La littérature et la démocratic populaire: À propos de Georg Lukacs. Paris: Les Éditions de la Nouvelle Critique.
Watnick, Morris 1962 Relativism and Class Consciousness: Georg Lukacs. Pages 142–165 in Leopold Labedz (editor), Revisionism: Essays on the History of Marxist Ideas. New York: Praeger.
Lukacs, Georg 1885-1971
Georg Lukacs was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher who was profoundly influential on leftist social thought and whose reputation has fluctuated in light of a long life of controversy and productivity. Like his early friend and contemporary, Karl Mannheim, Lukacs was originally trained in Neo-Kantian philosophy, especially Georg Simmel’s formalist aesthetics. The theme of form overcoming matter through collective action, prominent in this period as an account of artistic schools, became a hallmark of Lukacs’s generally realist aesthetic sensibility as well as his approach to revolutionary politics.
The turning point in Lukacs’s life came in 1917 with the onset of the Bolshevik Revolution. As Lukacs himself put it, he became eager to play St. Augustine to Lenin’s Jesus. He thus spent the rest of his life systematizing and justifying Communist ideology, including service as a high-ranking party official in both Moscow and Budapest. While often the dutiful apparatchik, Lukacs sometimes dissented and distanced himself from Leninist and Stalinist policies, more so after Stalin’s death, albeit through the communist practice of “self-criticism.” Here Lukacs may be compared with Martin Heidegger, who originally saw Hitler as his standard-bearer but then withdrew from Nazi politics once his own ambitions were thwarted—though never with a formal renunciation.
To his defenders, Lukacs’s most enduring legacy is a scholarly recovery of the Hegelian roots of Marxism, otherwise known as “Marxist humanism.” Instead of reading Marx as a strict economic determinist or scientific materialist, as a focus on Capital might suggest, Lukacs stressed Marx’s original training in dialectics as applied to the law. On this basis, Lukacs popularized the term “alienation” to express what he called the “reification” of social relations, whereby people come to be defined in terms of properties that are subject to exchange relations. Following Marx, the key human property for Lukacs is labor, which he understood more as an open-ended and dynamic “praxis” than a mathematical constant in a production function.
This rather existentialist conception of the Marxist project influenced the Frankfurt School’s emphasis on culture in the 1920s and was revived as a distinctly postStalinist “Western Marxism” in the 1960s, which continues to underwrite most academic Marxist theory, especially in the humanities. However, Lukacs used his revisionist reading of Marx to idealize Lenin’s practice of organizing a vanguard of intellectuals to consolidate class consciousness in the workers, rendering them a “proletariat” possessed of what Lukacs called the “objective possibility” of revolutionizing society.
The continuing allure of Lukacs’s version of Marxism lies in its thoroughly formal characterization of the conditions for revolutionary politics, one that does not presuppose the success of any historic revolutions. That the first Marxist revolution occurred in Russia, not Germany as Marx had predicted, and that it lost many of its admirers after Lenin’s death, did not deter Lukacs from developing the basis for what feminists nowadays call a “standpoint” theory oriented toward groups that combine centrality to and alienation from the means of production of society. Whichever group occupies such a position is potentially the party of revolution.
SEE ALSO Alienation; Collective Action; Communism; Existentialism; Frankfurt School; Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Kant, Immanuel; Lenin, Vladimir Ilitch; Mannheim, Karl; Marx, Karl; Revolution; Russian Revolution; Stalin, Joseph; Stalinism
Lichtheim, George. Georg Lukacs. 1970. New York: Viking Press.
Lukacs, Georg.  1967. History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics. Trans. Rodney Livingstone. London: Merlin Press.
The Hungarian literary critic and philosopher Gyorgy Lukács (1885-1971) was one of the foremost Marxist literary critics and theorists. His influence on criticism has been considerable in both Western and Eastern Europe.
Gyorgy Lukács was born April 13, 1885, in Budapest, into a wealthy, intellectual, Jewish banking family. He was a brilliant student and was given a cosmopolitan education in Hungary and Germany. Until 1917 he devoted himself to art and esthetics and was not interested in politics. Writing primarily in German, he achieved his first fame as a literary critic with The Soul and the Forms (Hungarian, 1910; German, 1911) and The Theory of the Novel (1916 as an article; 1920 as a book), a study of the spiritual aspects of the novel. During World War I he taught in a German university.
Because of the shock of the war and the impressions made on him by the Russian Revolution, Lukács completed a move from Neo-Kantianism through Hegelianism to Marxism and joined the Hungarian Communist party. Despite the party's often official displeasure with his intellectual work, he remained faithful to it. In 1919 he served as deputy commissar of culture in the revolutionary Béla Kun Communist government in Hungary. After the government was overthrown, he had to emigrate to Vienna and for about a decade participated actively in party affairs and disputes.
In 1923 he wrote History and Class Consciousness. This complex, theoretical, sociological work explored important but, until then, little-emphasized aspects of Marx's work: the strong connection with Hegel, the importance of the dialectic, and the concept of alienation. He also examined the nature of the working class's own self-consciousness. Lukács argued that genuine Marxism was not a body of rigid economic truths but a method of analysis which could enable the revolution to be created. His interpretation of Marxism influenced many European intellectuals but was attacked as dangerously revisionist by Soviet dogmatists, and his career in party politics was over by the late 1920s.
With the danger of fascism growing in Europe, Lukács emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1933. He worked as a literary editor and critic, emphasizing the relationship between a work of art and its sociohistorical period. Several times he publicly repudiated all his previous work and occasionally shifted his views to conform to the official party line and paid lip service to official Soviet socialist realism, but he later regarded this as a tactical necessity to survive physically in Stalin's Russia and still get his ideas heard. Despite occasional Marxist-Leninist dogmatisms, he wrote perceptive criticism and concentrated on realistic 19th-century literature. Whether through personal predilection or the exigencies of the Communist party line, he became cold to almost the entire modernist movement in literature.
Returning to Hungary in 1945, Lukács was active in cultural affairs and as a professor of esthetics and cultural philosophy, but he was again stigmatized for his heterodox views. Deeply affected by Nikita Khrushchev's revelations of Stalin's crimes, he spoke out publicly against Stalinist dogmatism in Hungary, and in 1956, joined the short-lived Imré Nagy government. After the Soviet invasion of Hungary, he was exiled to Romania, allowed to return in 1957, and forced to retire and go into seclusion. However, after 1965 he was again publicly honored in Hungary. Lukács died on June 4, 1971, in Budapest.
For a fairly complete bibliography of Lukács's work in Western European languages see G. H. R. Parkinson, ed., Georg Lukács: The Man, His Work and His Ideas (1970), which also has extensive biographical material. George Lichtheim, George Lukács (1970), is a study of Lukács's ideas; Lichtheim's The Concept of Ideology and Other Essays (1967) contains a generally favorable discussion of Lukács's early career and considers that his later career was an intellectual disaster. Victor Zitta, Georg Lukács's Marxism: Alienation,Dialectics, Revolution; A Study in Utopia and Ideology (1964), is a detailed study of Lukács and his thought up to the 1920s. An interesting critique of Lukács is in Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation, and Other Essays (1966).
Lukács, Gyorgy, Record of a life: an autobiographical sketch, London: Verso, 1983.
Kadarkay, Arpad, Gyorgy Lukács: life, thought, and politics, Cambridge, Mass., USA: B. Blackwell, 1991.
Congdon, Lee, The young Lukács, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983. □
Lukács came to Marxism via both Kant and Hegel. His early critical position is sometimes regarded as existentialist: this is particularly true of The Soul and its Forms (1911) and to a lesser extent of The Theory of the Novel (1920). He argued that Marxism offers a solution to the dualisms of classical European philosophy, in particular the reconciliation of subject and object. In History and Class Consciousness (1923), he maintains that the experience of the working class itself is that of the subject and the object of history, and that Marxism is able to construct this experience into a theory of the social totality. The notion of totality is, for Lukács, the most important concept in Marxism, because it enables one to penetrate the appearances of social reality (dominated by commodity fetishism and reification), to understand the real human relationships that underlie these surface manifestations. He developed a theory of political organization which reconciles the importance that Lenin gives to the party with Rosa Luxemburg's emphasis on spontaneity.
His political writings tend to be prominent during periods of left-inspired social upheaval and often forgotten in between. In the 1920s his political position came under attack in the Comintern and he concentrated instead on literary theory, developing a notion of socialist realism that goes beyond the crass simplicity of Stalinist orthodoxy, but which never succeeded in coming to terms with literary modernism. The good realist novel is seen as one which portrays underlying social relations rather than surface appearances. See in particular The Historical Novel (1947) and Studies in European Realism (1935–9). See also CRITICAL THEORY; IDEOLOGY.