George Lukacs, the famous Marxist critic discusses modernism in his essay, The Ideology of Modernism. The motivating force of the essay is Lukacs’ belief that modernism is another name for anti-realism and that it is only an ideology. This ideology is mainly influenced by Heidegger’s thought that human existence is a thrown into being.
In the essay the author concentrates on the underlying ideological basis of modernism. Lukacs calls the modernist realism as bourgeois realism i.e. middle class realism; and no doubt the term is derogatory as we know that Marxist are not happy with the middle class, the so called society.
Lukacs is critical of modernist critics because of their exaggerated concern with formal criteria, with question of style and literary technique. He discusses two examples of interior monologue. One is from James Joyce’s Ulysses and the other is from Thomas Mann’s Lotte in Weimar. He arises the question- What determines the style of a given work of art? Then he explains that it is the view of the world, the ideology underlying a writer’s work, which counts.
Lukacs emphasizes that we are not naturalists, so we are likely to change. Modernism believes that things do not change. Content is the same so main concentration is on form. Modernist writers say that naturalism is realism. But there is difference. Realism is dynamic and naturalism is static. Another difference is the difference of a hierarchy of significance. Human nature is not naturalistic, it is rather realistic, so no literature should be rejected because there is always a potential to change. There is a primitive awe in the presence of an utterly strange and hostile reality. Kafka’s angst is the experience of the whole modernism.