Lucien Goldmann, a renowned humanist, sociologist and an eminent figure of the movement of Marxist Humanism, was born in Romania, on July 20, 1913. Lucien grew up mostly in Botosani, and was of Jewish heritage. He attended the University of Bucharest to pursue a legal education. At the age of 20, Lucien travelled to Vienna, where he began an extremely vigorous regime of learning. In Vienna, he studied philosophy under the tutelage of esteemed Marxist Max Adler and began devouring the writings of György Lukács, which greatly influenced him and convinced him that Marxism can provide the solution to all cultural, social and economic problems. He formed his philosophical ideologies on the principles laid down by Lukács, particularly Lukács’ “History and Class Consciousness”.
Lucien left Germany with the advent of WWII, and settled in Switzerland as a political refugee. During this time, he was presented with the opportunity to work with notable psychologist, Jean Piaget. When the war ended, Lucien travelled to France and recommenced his education. Upon the completion of his education, he took up teaching as a profession and taught various courses at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris. Eventually, he was made the director of studies at the Ecole, and later, he also held the position of director of the Centre for the Sociology of Literature at the Free University of Brussels.
Goldmann is celebrated for his immensely innovative and ground-breaking literary contributions. In his writings, Lucien attempted to apply his theories on Marxism and synthesize them with genetic epistemology of Piaget. Goldman’s first and widely renowned work, “Le Dieu Cache” (The Hidden God), deals with one of his most important ideologies: “vision du monde” or world view, which is basically Goldamnn’s analysis of the world’s perception as defined by any particular social group. Goldmann, through this book, portrays that God is indeed present, and operates as a “hidden” and silent observer of events. The book was very well received, and garnered him immense fame and esteem.
Goldmann followed up this success with another remarkable composition, titled “Pour une sociologie du roman” (Towards a sociology of the Novel). It is based on a study of the novel from Andre Malraux to Alain Robbe-Grillet. Through this book, he introduced the method of “genetic structuralism” and demonstrated it by associating literary works as a product of the author’s social structures. Goldmann’s sociology of literature is a prominent critic of structuralism.
Goldmann’s final composition, “Lukács and Heidegger: Towards a New Philosophy”, has enjoyed immense acclaim as well as severe criticism. During the 1950s and 60s, when Parisian leftists stubbornly held on to Marxism, Lucien Goldmann emerged as a prominent critic who insisted that Marxism, by that time, was beginning to get out dated, and had to undergo a radical reinvention if it was to survive. Furthermore, he was critical of several aspects of the Marxist view, particularly the role and identity of the Proletariat.
Renowned philosophers such as Jean Piaget and Alasdair Macintyre have described Goldmann as “the finest and most intelligent Marxist of the age.”