Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) was the author of many works of literary and cultural analysis.
Ernst Bloch ranks as a major German Marxist philosopher. Beginning his career as author and teacher during World War I, he moved in the orbit of Marxist thought during the 1920s. In 1933 he left Germany and eventually found his way to the United States, where he created his major work The Principle of Hope. After World War II, he settled in East Germany, where from 1948 to 1957 he was professor at the University of Leipzig. His work eventually aroused the hostility of the authorities, and in 1961 he was granted political asylum in West Germany. Bloch departed from orthodox Marxism by attending to the problem of intellectual culture and refraining from treating it merely as superstructure determined by the materialist elements of political economy. Emphasizing the role of hope-as an inner drive, or hunger, in human beings-for a possible ideal future order, Bloch's thought may be described as utopian, involving the realization of a religious community akin to the kingdom of God, where people are no longer exploited but are free. Bloch's style echoes recent expressionism and is also rich in mystical overtones of biblical origin. Bloch died in 1977.
Bertolt Brecht was born on February 10, 1898 in Augsburg, Bavaria, and died on August 14, 1956. He was a German playwright, theatre director and Marxist. The modest house where he was born is today preserved as a Brecht Museum. Brecht formed a writing collective which became prolific and very influential. He wrote many lyrics for musicals and collaborated with Kurt Weill to create Die Dregroschenoper -- the biggest hit in 1920s Berlin. Brecht experimented with his own theater and company -- the Berliner Ensemble -- which put on his plays under his direction and which continued after his death with the assistance of his wife. Brecht aspired to create political theater, and it is difficult to evaluate his work in purely aesthetic terms. Brecht died in 1956.
George Steiner calls Lukacs "the one major critical talent to have emerged from the gray servitude of the Marxist world." This well-known writer on European literature combines a Marxist-Hegelian concern for the historical process with great artistic sensitivity. Lukacs joined the Hungarian Communist party in 1918, serving in its first government until the defeat of Bela Kun. He spent many years in exile, first in Berlin and then, from 1933 to 1945, in Moscow, writing and studying. He later became a professor of aesthetics in Budapest, but after the 1956 revolution he was stripped of influence because of his too-friendly attitude to non-Marxist literatures. Steiner has written: "A Communist by conviction, a dialectical materialist by virtue of his critical method, he has nevertheless kept his eyes resolutely on the past. Despite pressure from his Russian hosts, Lukacs gave only perfunctory notice to the much-heralded achievements of Soviet Realism. Instead, he dwelt on the great lineage of eighteenth and nineteenth century European poetry and fiction. The critical perspective is rigorously Marxist, but the choice of themes is central European and conservative." Lukacs has concentrated mainly on criticism of Russian, French, and German authors and often writes in German. Robert J. Clements has reported that Hungarian young people regard him as somewhat passe.
Theodor W. Adorno is the progenitor of critical theory, a central figure in aesthetics, and the century's foremost philosopher of music. He was born and educated in Frankfurt, Germany. After completing his Ph.D. in philosophy, he went to Vienna, where he studied composition with Alban Berg. He soon was bitterly disappointed with his own lack of talent and turned to musicology. In 1928 Adorno returned to Frankfurt to join the Institute for Social Research, commonly known as The Frankfurt School. At first a privately endowed center for Marxist studies, the school was merged with Frankfort's university under Adorno's directorship in the 1950s. As a refugee from Nazi Germany during World War II, Adorno lived for several years in Los Angeles before returning to Frankfurt. Much of his most significant work was produced at that time. Critics find Adorno's aesthetics to be rich in insight, even when they disagree with its broad conclusions. Although Adorno was hostile to jazz and popular music, he advanced the cause of contemporary music by writing seminal studies of many key composers. To the distress of some of his admirers, he remained pessimistic about the prospects for art in mass society. Adorno was a neo-Marxist who believed that the only hope for democracy was to be found in an interpretation of Marxism opposed to both positivism and dogmatic materialism. His opposition to positivisim and advocacy of a method of dialectics grounded in critical rationalism propelled him into intellectual conflict with Georg Hegel, Martin Heidegger, and Heideggerian hermeneutics.