Georg Lukacs

Biografie şi Bibliografie

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György Lukács (Hungarian pronunciation: [ɟørɟ lukɑːtʃ]; 13 April 1885 – 4 June 1971) was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and literary critic. He is a founder of the tradition of Western Marxism. He contributed the ideas of reification and class consciousness to Marxist philosophy and theory, and his literary criticism was influential in thinking about realism and about the novel as a literary genre. He served briefly as Hungary's Minister of Culture as part of the government of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic.

Life and politics

Lukács's full name, in German, was Georg Bernhard Lukács von Szegedin, and in Hungarian was Szegedi Lukács György Bernát; he published under the names Georg or György Lukács. (Lukács is pronounced /ˈluːkɑːtʃ/ by most English speakers, the Hungarian pronunciation being Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈlukaːtʃ].)

He was born Löwinger György Bernát to a wealthy Jewish family in Budapest. His father was József Löwinger (later Szegedi Lukács József; 1855, Szeged – 1928), an investment banker, his mother was Adele Wertheimer (Wertheimer Adél; 1860, Budapest – 1917). Lukács studied at the universities of Budapest and Berlin, receiving his Ph.D. in 1906.

Pre-Marxist period

While attending grammar school and university in Budapest, Lukács's membership of various socialist circles brought him into contact with the anarcho-syndicalist Ervin Szabó, who in turn introduced him to the works of Georges Sorel. Lukács's outlook during this period was modernist and anti-positivist. From 1904 to 1908, he was involved in a theatrical group that produced plays by dramatists such as Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg and Gerhart Hauptmann.

Lukács spent much time in Germany: he studied in Berlin in 1906 and again in 1909–10, where he made the acquaintance of Georg Simmel, and in Heidelberg in 1913, where he became friends with Max Weber, Ernst Bloch and Stefan George. The idealist system Lukács subscribed to at the time was indebted to the Kantianism that dominated in German universities, but also to Plato, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Dilthey and Dostoyevsky. His works Soul and Form and The Theory of the Novel were published in 1910 and 1916 respectively.

Lukács returned to Budapest in 1915 and led an intellectual circle, the Sunday Circle, or the Lukács Circle, as it was called, which was preoccupied above all with cultural themes arising out of a shared interest in the writings of Dostoyevsky, along the lines of Lukács's interests in his last Heidelberg years, and which sponsored events that gained the participation of such eventually famous figures as Karl Mannheim, Béla Bartók, Béla Balázs and Karl Polanyi amongst others, some of whom also took part in its weekly meetings. In the last year of the war, the participants divided in their political loyalties, although several of the leaders joined Lukács in his abrupt shift to the Communist Party.

Communist leader

In light of the First World War and the Russian Revolution of 1917, Lukács rethought his ideas. He became a committed Marxist in this period and joined the fledgling Communist Party of Hungary in 1918. As part of the government of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, Lukács was made People's Commissar for Education and Culture (he was deputy to the Commissar for Education Zsigmond Kunfi).
History and Class Consciousness (German original)

During the period of the Hungarian Soviet Republic Lukács was a major party worker and a political commissar of the Fifth Division of the Hungarian Red Army. In this capacity he ordered the execution of eight persons in Poroszlo in May 1919, after his division was worsted.

After the Soviet Republic was defeated, Lukács fled from Hungary to Vienna. He was arrested but was saved from extradition thanks to the efforts of a group of writers which included Thomas and Heinrich Mann, the former of whom would later base the character Naphta on Lukács in his novel The Magic Mountain. During his time in Vienna in the 1920s, Lukács befriended other Left Communists who were working or in exile there, including Victor Serge, Adolf Joffe and Antonio Gramsci.

Lukács turned his attentions to developing Leninist ideas in the field of philosophy. His major works in this period were the essays collected in his magnum opus "History and Class Consciousness", first published in 1923. Although these essays display signs of what Lenin referred to as "ultra-leftism", they arguably carry through his effort of providing Leninism with a better philosophical basis than did Lenin himself. Along with the work of Karl Korsch, the book was attacked at the Fifth Comintern Congress in July 1924 by Grigory Zinoviev. In 1924, shortly after Lenin's death, Lukács also published the short study Lenin: A Study in the Unity of His Thought. In 1925, he published a critical review of Nikolai Bukharin's manual of historical materialism.

As a Hungarian exile, he remained active on the left wing of Hungarian Communist Party, and was opposed to the Moscow-backed programme of Béla Kun. His 'Blum theses' of 1928 called for the overthrow of the counterrevolutionary regime of Admiral Horthy by means of a strategy similar to the Popular Fronts of the 1930s. He advocated a 'democratic dictatorship' of the proletariat and peasantry as a transitional stage leading to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lukács's strategy was condemned by the Comintern and thereafter he retreated from active politics into theoretical work.

Questions of moral culpability under Rákosism / Stalinism

Lukács lived in Berlin from 1931–1933, but moved to Moscow following the rise of Nazism, remaining there until the end of the Second World War. Though many pro-Stalin foreign communists including his Hungarian colleague Kun were killed during the Great Purges of the late 1930s, Lukács survived.

After the war Lukács was involved in the establishment of the new Hungarian government as a member of the Hungarian Communist Party. From 1945 Lukács was a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Between 1945 and 1946 he explosively criticised non-communist philosophers and writers. Lukács has been accused of playing an "administrative" (legal-bureaucratic) role in the removal of independent and non-communist intellectuals like Béla Hamvas, István Bibó, Lajos Prohászka, and Károly Kerényi from Hungarian academic life. Non-communist intellectuals like Bibó were often imprisoned, forced into menial and low waged mental labour (like translation work) or forced into manual labour during the 1946–1953 period.

Lukács's personal aesthetic and political position on culture was always that Socialist culture would eventually triumph in terms of quality, but that this conflict would be fought as one of competing cultures, not by "administrative" measures. In 1948–49 Lukács's position for cultural tolerance within the party and intellectual life was smashed in a "Lukács purge" when Mátyás Rákosi turned his famous salami tactics on the Hungarian Communist Party itself. Lukács was reintegrated into party life in the mid 1950s, and was used by the party during the purges of the writers association in 1955–56 (See Aczel, Meray Revolt of the Mind). However, Aczel and Meray both believe that Lukács was only present at the purge begrudgingly, and cite Lukács leaving the presidium and the meeting at the first break as evidence of this reluctance.

De-Stalinisation

In 1956 Lukács became a minister of the brief communist revolutionary government led by Imre Nagy which opposed the Soviet Union. At this time Lukács's daughter led a short-lived party of communist revolutionary youth. Lukács's position on the 1956 revolution was that the Hungarian Communist Party would need to retreat into a coalition government of socialists, and slowly rebuild its credibility with the Hungarian people. As such, while a minister in Imre Nagy's revolutionary government, Lukács also participated in the refoundation of the Hungarian Communist Party on a new basis. This party was rapidly coopted by János Kádár after 4 November 1956.(Woroszylski, 1957).

During the 1956 Hungarian Revolution Lukács was present at debates of the anti-party and revolutionary communist Petőfi society, while remaining part of the party apparatus. During the revolution itself, as mentioned in "Budapest Diary," Lukács argued for a new Soviet aligned communist party. In Lukács's view the new party could only win social leadership by persuasion instead of force. Lukács envisioned an alliance between the dissident communist Party of Youth, the revolutionary Hungarian Social Democratic Party and Lukács's own Soviet aligned party as a very junior partner. After 1956 Lukács narrowly avoided execution, and was not trusted by the party apparatus due to his role in the revolutionary Nagy government. Lukács's followers were indicted for political crimes throughout the 1960s and 70s, and a number fled to the West. Lukács's books The Young Hegel and The Destruction of Reason have been used to argue that Lukács was covertly critical of Stalinism as an irrational distortion of Hegelian-Marxism Lukacs/Hungary.

Following the defeat of the Revolution, Lukács was deported to Romania with the rest of Nagy's government but unlike Nagy, he survived the purges of 1956. He returned to Budapest in 1957. Lukács publicly abandoned his positions of 1956 and engaged in self-criticism. Having abandoned his earlier positions, Lukács was to remain loyal to the Communist Party until his death in 1971. Lukács became more publicly critical of the Soviet Union and Hungarian Communist Party in his last years following the uprisings in France and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

In an interview undertaken just before his death Lukács remarked: "Without a genuine general theory of society and its movement, one does not get away from Stalinism. Stalin was a great tactician...But Stalin, unfortunately, was not a Marxist...The essence of Stalinism lies in placing tactics before strategy, practice above theory...The bureaucracy generated by Stalinism is a tremendous evil. Society is suffocated by it. Everything becomes unreal, nominalistic. People see no design, no strategic aim, and do not move...". Thus Lukács concludes "[w]e must learn to connect the great decisions of popular political power with personal needs, those of individuals." (Marcus & Zoltan 1989: 215–16)

Ontology of Social Being

Later in life Lukács undertook a major exposition on the ontology of social being, which has been partly published in English in three volumes. The work is a systematic treatment of dialectical philosophy in its materialist form.

Bibliography

    * Soul and Form, 1910
    * Theory of the Novel, 1920
    * History and Class Consciousness, 1923
    * Lenin: A Study on the Unity of His Thought, 1924
    * The Historical Novel, 1937
    * The Young Hegel, 1938
    * Realism in the Balance, 1938
    * Goethe and His Age, 1946
    * Studies in European Realism, 1948
    * German Realists in the Nineteenth Century, 1951
    * The Destruction of Reason, 1954
    * Essays on Thomas Mann, 1955
    * The Meaning of Contemporary Realism, 1957
    * Solzhenitsyn, 1970
    * “The Old Culture and the New Culture”. Telos 5 (Spring 1970). New York: Telos Press.
    * Writer and Critic, 1971
    * Conversations with Lukács, 1974
    * The Ontology of Social Being, 1978
    * A Defence of History and Class Consciousness: Tailism and the Dialectic, 2000

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