The Violence of the Political and the Politics of Violence: Dirty Hands Reconsidered

in Sartre Studies International
Restricted access

This article considers Sartre's perspective on political violence with reference to his 1948 play Dirty Hands. Focusing on the concrete political questions that confronted Sartre in his context, it traces the development and result of conversations with Merleau-Ponty, Camus and the Marxist tradition that shaped his thinking on this subject. At the end of this dialectical process, Sartre arrived at a position that refused both bourgeois humanism, with its disavowal of political violence, and what is here termed Official Communism – the prevailing Manichean politics of his day and the institutionalized repression that went along with it. In other words, he affirmed the violence of the political without by that token affirming the politics of violence. It is argued here that these conversations and this conclusion are dramatically illustrated in Dirty Hands.

Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture