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Sartre's Eighteenth Century: A Model for Engagement?

Wesley Gunter

Keywords: ATOMISTIC MATERIALISM; BOURGEOIS; CENTURY; COMMUNISM; EIGHTEENTH; IDEALISM; JEAN-PAUL SARTRE; MATERIALISM AND REVOLUTION

Sartre's thoughts on the eighteenth century are ambiguous and schematic at best but they do contain an interesting analysis of materialism that continues from this period through to the early 1940s. Even though Sartre refers to the eighteenth-century as a paradise soon-to-be lost, it is argued here that his condemnation of atomistic materialism as it was conceived during this period is directly linked to his rejection of the dialectical materialism of the Communist Party and bourgeois ideology. This article examines the relationship between these different modes of thought and seeks to demonstrate how Sartre's take on the eighteenth century provided a stern warning to the communists about the pitfalls associated with basing a revolution on materialist doctrine.

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