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Editors’ Introduction

Constance L. Mui and T Storm Heter

Readers will recall that we devoted a special issue to anti-Black racism in 2021, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement which gained momentum following the 2020 murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd by police officers in Louisville and Minneapolis. The present issue continues to address the problem of racism from a Sartrean perspective, with an interview of the pioneering Black Existentialist thinker Lewis R. Gordon, followed by articles that take up related themes in freedom and oppression.

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The Look as a Call to Freedom

On the Possibility of Sartrean Grace

Sarah Horton

Abstract

While the traditional understanding of the look views it in terms of shame and oppression, I read Sartre's Notebooks for an Ethics with Beauvoir's Ethics of Ambiguity to argue that the look always gives me the world and inaugurates my freedom. Even the oppressor's look reveals that I am free and that my existence is conditioned by the existence of other free beings. Because the look gives me the world as the arena within which I act freely, it is a means of grace, and receiving it only in shame is bad faith. Although my existence remains unjustifiable and this grace cannot promise salvation, the look calls me out of shame to the pursuit of my and others’ freedom, and this call is a gift.

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Editorial

John Gillespie and Katherine Morris

Imagination and the imaginary, both in life and in Sartre's treatment of these phenomena, seem so wide-ranging that it is hard to find your feet—what is in common between imagining the absent Pierre's face and imagining something never before seen? What role does imagination play in seeing someone in a portrait of them? What about in seeing Chevalier in Franconnay's imitation (or ‘performative simulation’) of him? Elad Magomedov's question is even trickier: how do we navigate the similarities and differences between Franconnay's Chevalier, Sartre's waiter's ‘playing at being a waiter’, and Jean-Claude Romand, ‘the “real” impostor who for fifteen years pretended to be a medical professional and ended up killing his entire family’?

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Decolonising Durkheimian Conceptions of the International

Colonialism and Internationalism in the Durkheimian School during and after the Colonial Era

Grégoire Mallard and Jean Terrier

Abstract

Over the past 20 years, numerous scholars have called upon social scientists to consider the colonial contexts within which sociology, anthropology and ethnology were institutionalised in Europe and beyond. We explain how historical sociologists and historians of international law, sociology and anthropology can develop a global intellectual history of what we call the ‘sciences of the international’ by paying attention to the political ideas of the Durkheimian school of sociology. We situate the political ideas of the central figures explored in this special issue—Émile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss, Bronisław Malinowski and Alfred Métraux—in their broader context, analysing their convergence and differences. We also reinterpret the calls made by historians of ideas to ‘provincialise Europe’ or move to a ‘global history’, by studying how epistemologies and political imaginaries continued by sociologists and ethnologists after the colonial era related to imperialist ways of thinking.

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Existentialism is an Antiracism

T Storm Heter

This special issue explores how existential thinking can be a living, global force that opposes racist praxis and thought. We are used to hearing that the “heyday” of existentialism was the middle of the twentieth century. In truth, because existential thought is future-oriented, the heyday of existentialism may be yet to come.

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Editorial

John Gillespie and Katherine Morris

If Descartes’ soul was always thinking, Sartre's soul (if we may put it this way) was always not just thinking but putting those thoughts on paper. It is an indication of the enormous fertility of his thinking and writing across many decades that we continue to find food for our own thinking and writing in the whole span of his philosophical works, from his books on the imagination to his reflections on Marxism, as this issue of Sartre Studies International exemplifies. And in a year in which we seem to have rediscovered the value of dialogue with others, many of the contributions to this issue exemplify that value as well: we see here Sartre in dialogue with Husserl, with Beauvoir, with Badiou, and with Lacan.

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Sartre and Beauvoir on Women's Psychological Oppression

Mary Edwards

Abstract

This paper aims to show that Sartre's later work represents a valuable resource for feminist scholarship that remains relatively untapped. It analyses Sartre's discussions of women's attitude towards their situation from the 1940s, 1960s, and 1970s, alongside Beauvoir's account of women's situation in The Second Sex, to trace the development of Sartre's thought on the structure of gendered experience. It argues that Sartre transitions from reducing psychological oppression to self-deception in Being and Nothingness to construing women as ‘survivors’ of it in The Family Idiot. Then, it underlines the potential for Sartre's mature existentialism to contribute to current debates in feminist philosophy by illuminating the role of the imagination in women's psychological oppression.

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Concluding Remarks

A “Social Quality Observatory” for Central and Eastern European Countries?

Laurent J. G. van der Maesen

The Amsterdam Declaration on Social Quality, 1997

More than twenty years ago many European scholars started with the development of a new theory and its application with a declaration, the first paragraph of which follows here:

Respect for the fundamental human dignity of all citizens requires us to declare that we do not want to see growing numbers of beggars, tramps and homeless in the cities of Europe. Nor can we countenance a Europe with large numbers of unemployed, growing numbers of poor people and those who have only limited access to health care and social services. These and many other negative indicators demonstrate the current inadequacy of Europe to provide social quality for all its citizens.

At that time, it was signed by one thousand scholars from Western, Central, and Eastern European countries (). Since then societal relationships have changed, also due the radical new techniques for communication and also miscommunication. This thematic issue of the International Journal of Social Quality tries to explain the new challenges for, among other things, the contemporary state of affairs of the theory and application of social quality. In this case, we are talking about the SQT and the SQA as they apply to Central and Eastern European countries. With this in mind, how can we interpret this declaration of more than twenty years ago?

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The Curious Case of Slovakia

Regime Preferences Thirty Years after the Velvet Revolution

Zuzana Reptova Novakova

Abstract

A singular focus on the formal institutional reforms and economic variables misses the mark when it comes to explaining the decreasing support for liberal democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. This article suggests that over thirty years after the beginning of the “transition to democracy,” a closer look at the conditional factors of social quality can shed a different light on the transformation of societal realities. In particular, it pays attention to the extent to which people are able to participate in social and societal relationships under conditions that enhance their well-being, capacity, and individual potential. Slovakia is chosen as a case study, as it is both representative of some of the wider malaises characteristic of the younger European democracies and as it is a rather interesting example of liberal democracy within the region.

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Editorial

John Ireland and Constance Mui

The fortieth anniversary of Sartre's death, on April 15 of this year, found much of the world in lockdown in response to a new virus, Covid-19, which has changed humanity's situation on this planet in ways we will be struggling to elucidate for years to come. In these unprecedented circumstances, Sartre's thought has been an obvious resource to help us understand the impact and ramifications of this pandemic. The virus has been an unsparing indicator in itself of social injustice, unmasking the pious platitudes of our advanced, modern democracies. In the United States in particular, the reality is truly ugly. Covid-19 has shed pitiless light on the disparity between affluent white communities, able to “shelter in place” and avoid putting their members at risk of infection, and less affluent black and brown districts, where workers on subsistence salaries, often without health-care benefits, have been forced to work in unsafe conditions, with terrible consequences for them and their families. Living in the “richest” country on earth, we can imagine only too easily Sartre's vitriolic assessment of America in its present crisis. And it is just as easy to imagine the fervor with which he would have embraced the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted all over the world, provoked by the 8 minute 46 second video clip that showed the matter-of-fact murder by asphyxiation of George Floyd by white police officers in Minneapolis.