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Lucien Goldmann
Born (1913-07-20)20 July 1913
Died 8 October 1970(1970-10-08) (aged 57)
Paris, France
Education University of Bucharest
University of Vienna
University of Paris
University of Zurich
(PhD, 1945)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Continental philosophy
Western Marxism
Genetic epistemology
Institutions EHESS
Main interests
Epistemology, sociology
Notable ideas
Genetic structuralism

Lucien Goldmann ( 20 July 1913 – 8 October 1970) was a French philosopher and sociologist of Jewish-Romanian origin. A professor at the EHESS in Paris, he was a Marxist theorist. His wife was sociologist Annie Goldmann.


Goldmann was born in Bucharest, Romania, but grew up in Botoşani. He studied law at the University of Bucharest and the University of Vienna under the Austromarxist jurist Max Adler. In 1934, he went to the University of Paris to study political economy, literature, and philosophy. He moved to Switzerland in November 1942, where he was placed in a refugee camp until 1943.

Through Jean Piaget's intervention, he was subsequently given a scholarship to the University of Zurich, where he completed his PhD in philosophy in 1945 with a thesis entitled Mensch, Gemeinschaft und Welt in der Philosophie Immanuel Kants (Man, Community and world in the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant).


While many Parisian leftists staunchly upheld Marxism's "scientificity" in the 1950s and 1960s, Lucien Goldmann insisted that Marxism was by then in severe crisis and had to reinvent itself radically if it were to survive. He rejected the traditional Marxist view of the proletariat and contested the structural Marxist movement. In fact, the popularity of such trends on the Left Bank was one reason why Goldmann's own name and work were eclipsed — this despite the acclaim of thinkers as diverse as Jean Piaget and Alasdair MacIntyre, who called him "the finest and most intelligent Marxist of the age."

He refused to portray his aspirations for humanity's future as an inexorable unfolding of history's laws, but saw them rather as a wager akin to Blaise Pascal's in the existence of God. "Risk", Goldmann wrote in his classic study of Pascal's Pensées and Jean Racine's Phèdre, "is possibility of failure, hope of success, and the synthesis of the three in a faith which is a wager are the essential constituent elements of the human condition". He called his work "dialectical" and "humanist". He sought to synthesize the genetic epistemology of Piaget with the Marxism of György Lukács.

Goldmann founded the theory of genetic structuralism in the 1960s. He was a humanist socialist, a disciple of György Lukács, and was best known for his sociology of literature. In later life he became an important critic of structuralism.

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