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Georg Lukács

Georg Lukács (known in Hungarian as Gyorgy Lukács; pronounced roughly like "lou-kotch") (1885 - 1971) was a Hegelian and Marxist philosopher and literary critic.

Table of contents
1 Life and politics
2 Literary and aesthetic work
3 References
4 External links

Life and politics

While he was not politically active prior to the first World War, Lukács rethought his ideas in the light of the war and the Russian revolutions of 1917. He became a communist in this period and joined the fledgling Communist Party of Hungary and served the short lived Soviet Republic.

After the Soviet Republic was defeated, he remained active in the Communist Party but also turned his atentions to developing Leninist ideas in the field of philosophy, which task he commenced with his short study Lenin: A Study in the Unity of His Thought. His major works in this period, however, were the essays collected in History and Class Consciousness. Although these essays display signs of what Lenin refered to as "ultra-leftism," they arguably carry through his effort of providing Leninism with a philosophical basis.

History and Class Consciousness was a major contribution to the Marxist theory of ideology and false consciousness. This book develops the concept of class consciousness and insists that "ideology" is really a projection of the class consciousness of the bourgeoisie, which functions to prevent the proletariat from attaining a real consciousness of its revolutionary position.

In his later career, Lukács repudiated the ideas of History and Class Consciousness, but he wrote a defence of them as late as 1925 or 1926. This book he called A Defense of History and Class Consciousness and was only published in Magyar in 1996 and English in 2000. It is perhaps the most important "unknown" Marxist text of the twentieth century.

Having abandoned his earlier positions, Lukács was to remain loyal to the Communist Party until his death in 1971, although he became more critical in his last years.

Literary and aesthetic work

In addition to his standing as a Marxist political thinker, Lukács was among the most influential literary critics of the twentieth century. His important work in literary criticism began early in his career, with The Theory of the Novel, a seminal work in literary theory and the theory of genre. The book is a history of the novel as a form, and an investigation into its distinct characteristics.

Lukács later repudiated The Theory of the Novel, writing a lengthy introduction that described it as erroneous, but nonetheless containing a "romantic anti-capitalism" which would later develop into Marxism. (This introduction also contains his famous dismissal of Theodor Adorno and others in Western Marxism as having taken up residence in the "Grand Hotel Abyss.")

Lukács's later literary criticism includes the well-known essay "Kafka or Thomas Mann?", in which Lukács argues for the work of Thomas Mann as a superior attempt to deal with the condition of modernity, while he criticizes Franz Kafka's brand of modernism. Lukács was steadfastly opposed to the formal innovations of modernist writers like Kafka, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett, preferring the traditional aesthetic of realism. He famously argued for the revolutionary character of the novels of Sir Walter Scott and Honoré de Balzac. Lukács felt that both authors' nostalgic, pro-aristocratic politics allowed them accurate and critical stances because of their opposition to the rising bourgeoisie (albeit reactionary opposition). This view was expressed in his later book The Historical Novel.


External links