De Beauvoir, Existentialism and Marx

A Dialectic on Freedom

in Sartre Studies International
Angela Shepherd University of Hull

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In this article, I focus on de Beauvoir’s view and argue that, alongside an original account of existential freedom, she utilises a Marxist-inspired historical materialism as a methodological tool with which to analyse the social position of women. First, I discuss existential freedom and highlight de Beauvoir’s introduction of gender, whereby the concepts of material, social and situational conditions cohere to restrict the possibility of freedom and agency for women. Next, I explore Marx’s view on freedom and de Beauvoir’s endorsement that in order to promote human flourishing, structural and material change is required. Although some tensions prevail, I conclude that by weaving together existentialism, phenomenology and Marxism in her unique way, Simone de Beauvoir offers a complex and nuanced approach to human freedom.

Contributor Notes

Angela Shepherd is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Hull. Her specialities include feminism, continental philosophy and philosophy of science. She studied for her undergraduate philosophy degree, moved on to an MA in philosophy of mind and body before proceeding more recently to her PhD, all at Hull. Her PhD dissertation focused on Simone de Beauvoir and Karl Marx and offered a reading of The Second Sex utilising a Marxist historical materialist interpretation. Email:

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Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture