Mikhail Aleksandrovich Lifshitz (Russian: Михаи́л Алекса́ндрович Ли́фшиц; July 23, 1905, Melitopol, Tavria (Crimea) – September 28, 1983, Moscow) was a Soviet Marxian literary critic and philosopher of art. As an academic philosopher, Lifshitz served as an executive member of Soviet Academy of Sciences from 1975. In the early 1930s he was a close associate of György Lukács.
Born on July 23, 1905 in Melitopol, a Crimean city then part of Imperial Russia, Lifshitz began higher education as an art student at the Vkhutemas state studios of higher art and technology in Moscow in the early 1920s. By the close of the decade, he had already developed strong disagreements with his classically oriented instructors. Electing to pursue an analysis of aesthetics from a fundamentally Marxist perspective instead, Lifshitz enrolled in Moscow's Marx-Engels Institute, where he first developed a working relationship with the great Marxist philosopher György Lukács in 1930.
By 1937, his productivity had decreased significantly; Lifshitz produced almost no published work in the repressive climate of the most intense years of Stalinism. Following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union Lifshitz entered the Second World War as a Red Army volunteer.
His post-war career as a critic was marked by considerable controversy. Lifshitz's mid- to late-1950s writings about socialism and the course of Soviet society in particular provoked the ire of the established figures of Soviet intellectual life: although Soviet publishers would continue to produce his work, Lifshitz's independence from the party's norms led to his expulsion as a member. The same time-frame was also a period of Lifshitz's collaboration with the Soviet philosopher Evald Ilyenkov.
Lifshitz's main object of criticism in the 1960s was the modernist movement in the arts. From a political vantage point, Lifshitz, despite his criticism of the Soviet system, remained a strong proponent of Marxist-Leninist socialism.
Lifshitz died in Moscow on September 28, 1983, eight years after his election to the Soviet Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious academic organization within the Soviet Union.
The vast majority of his work remains untranslated. One book on aesthetics, The Philosophy of Art of Karl Marx, was published in the West in 1980.
In English translation:
- The Philosophy of Art of Karl Marx. Longwood Publishing Group, 1980.
- Gutov, Dmitriy. "Михаил Александрович Лифшиц" ("Mikhail Aleksandrovich Lifshitz"). 2003. Biographies. Sovietika.ru. Retrieved 25 Apr. 2009. http://www.sovetika.ru/bio/lifsh.htm (Russian)