When published, Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason appeared to be a major intellectual and political event, no less than a Kantian effort to found Marxism, with far-reaching theoretical and political consequences. Claude Levi-Strauss devoted a course to studying it, and debated Sartre's main points in The Savage Mind; Andre Gorz devoted a major article to explaining its importance and key concepts in New Left Review. Many analysts of the May, 1968 events in Paris claimed that they were anticipated by the Critique. But the book has had a very quiet 50th anniversary: it is now clear that the project has had little lasting effect beyond a narrow band of specialists. It has not entered the wider culture, has not been picked up beyond Sartre scholars except by one or two philosophically interested social scientists and feminist thinkers; and after the energy of 1968 wore off the Critique faded as well from the radar of political activists. This article asks and attempts to answer the perplexing question: Why? What became of the great promise of Sartre's project?
There is little doubt that Sartre would have a strong claim to the title of greatest French intellectual of the twentieth century, but what exactly does “intellectual” mean in relation to Sartre? It is beyond both the compass and purpose of this paper to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the debate around the definition and role of “the intellectual.” I will simply dip a toe into these troubled waters by focusing on two dimensions of the term intellectual, namely what I call a socio-professional definition and a political definition.
Margaret A. Majumdar
Writing in 1966, Roger Garaudy saw Althusser and Sartre occupying the two poles of contemporary French Marxist thought.1 While no-one would deny their fundamental difference in approach, the fact remains that both were participants in the same project – the modernisation of Marxism in the light of theoretical and political problems which had affected its development, with the aim of achieving an autonomous space for the intellectual to engage with Marxist theory and the practice of the working-class struggle. Both were primarily intellectuals; both were capable of intransigence
Thomas R. Flynn
After an early dalliance with existentialism, Foucault is assumed to have moved away from the thought of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. As he explained in an interview with Madeline Chapsal: “We had experienced Sartre’s generation as certainly courageous and generous with a passion for life, politics, existence.... But we had discovered some- thing else, another passion: passion for the concept and for what I shall call ‘system.’”1 Of course, the career of that passion for system as well as the structuralist and poststructuralist phases through which it passed is a matter of record. But it is commonly believed that Foucault left Sartrean existentialism far behind during most of his subsequent career.
Ian Birchall, Steven Hendley, and Phyllis Morris
Noureddine Lamouchi, Jean-Paul Sartre et le tiers monde, Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996, 346 pp. ISBN 2-7384-4179-3, Ffrs.180.50 Review by Ian Birchall
Thomas R. Flynn, Sartre, Foucault, and Reason in History, Volume 1: Toward an Existentialist Theory. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997, 340 pp., ISBN 0-226-25468-2, $18.95 (paper). Review by Steven Hendley
William L. McBride, ed., Sartre and Existentialism: Philosophy, Politics, Ethics, The Psyche, Literature, and Aesthetics, Garland Publishing. 8-volume set $583/or by volume. Toll-free (U.S.) 800-627-6273 Review by Phyllis Morris
Tim Huntley, Ian Birchall, Manuel Braganca, Nik Farrell-Fox, and Willie Thompson
Michael Lewis and Tanja Staehler, Phenomenology: An Introduction Review by Tim Huntley
Gérard Wormser (ed.), Jean-Paul Sartre, violence et éthique Review by Ian Birchall
Sam Coombes, The Early Sartre and Marxism Review by Manuel Braganca
Joseph S. Catalano, Reading Sartre Review by Nik Farrell-Fox
Jean-Pierre Boulé and Benedict O’Donohoe, Jean-Paul Sartre: Mind and Body, Word and Deed
Tony Judt, Marxism and the French Left: Studies on Labour and Politics in France, 1830–1981 and Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals 1944–1956 Reviews by Willie Thompson
Adrian van den Hoven
Neither the apparently cold-blooded murder of a complete stranger, the central event in The Stranger, nor Hugo's murder of Hoederer in Dirty Hands—a political assassination or crime of passion, depending on how one views it—can be considered unusual acts, in literature or in life. The topic of murder has itself created an extremely popular genre: the detective novel or "whodunit," which has become a huge industry and has aficionados everywhere, Sartre being one. In French theater, the topic of political assassination has resulted in such famous plays as de Musset's Lorenzaccio (1834), which ostensibly deals with Florence in the sixteenth century and the tyrannical Alexandre de Médicis, who is assassinated by his young cousin, but is in fact "a limpid transposition of the failed revolution of July 1830." It is well known that Sartre was an admirer of Musset and Romantic theater. In 1946, Jean Cocteau, who helped with the staging of Les Mains sales (Dirty Hands), wrote L'Aigle ` deux têtes (The Two-Headed Eagle), which was inspired "by the sad life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and her tragic death by the hand of the Franco-Italian assassin, Luigi Lucheni." Sartre himself, in Nausea, has Anny use the engraving in Michelet's Histoire de France depicting the assassination of the Duke de Guise as a perfect illustration of "privileged situations."
As a psychologist working with individuals, couples, and groups over the past 25 years, I have become convinced that group therapy holds effective possibilities for treatment that neither individual nor couples therapy can match. In theorizing about why group work holds such potency for changing lives, I have come to place it in a Sartrean context. I believe that group therapy offers a greater possibility for revolutionary praxis than individual or couples therapy. In saying this, I am not talking about political or social revolution, but rather the possibility for radical change in a person's orientation toward the world, which groups tend to provoke and reinforce in a way that is more difficult in other forms of therapy. Sartre's concept of groups in his later philosophy, especially in Search for a Method and the Critique of Dialectical Reason, can help us to understand better this transformative power of groups. Such power is not always positive, of course, as Sartre himself recognizes—and as social and political history so amply demonstrates. But the nature of therapy groups is such that they at least have the potential for positive results.
William L. McBride
From the very beginning of his explicitly political thinking until the end of his life, Jean-Paul Sartre was always cognizant of the fact that the typical electoral system, whether dominated by two or by several "parties," that is to be found in Western countries and that is vaunted as the pinnacle of real democracy amounted to a profound mystification. That is why, at the time of the centenary of his birth, he is owed a renewed respect for his ideas in this area. I do not intend to examine here the evolution of Sartre?s political thought, or even his views with respect to the Eastern European countries, the "socialism" of which, as he eventually discovered, was scarcely more real than their "democracy." Rather, I shall confine myself to recalling certain elements, especially certain iconoclastic elements, of that thought. I shall do so with a view to taking a clear-headed look at a possible future in which those icons will have disappeared.
Taking as its starting point recent claims that Jean-Paul Sartre's Critique de la Raison Dialectique was written as an attempt to overcome the historical relativism of Raymond Aron's Introduction à la philosophie de l'histoire, the present article traces this covert dialogue back to a fundamental disagreement between the two men over the interpretation of Wilhelm Dilthey's anti-positivist theory of Verstehen or 'understanding'. In so doing it counters a longstanding tendency to emphasise the convergence of Aron and Sartre's philosophical interests prior to the break in their friendship occasioned by the onset of the Cold War, suggesting that the causes of their later, radical political divergence were pregnant within this earlier philosophical divergence.