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.
This article considers Sartre's relations with the French Communist Party (PCF) in the years immediately following the Liberation when the PCF considered that, of all the prominent French intellectuals, it was Sartre who posed the greatest threat. This article opens by situating the PCF within the French political landscape immediately after the Liberation and addressing its attitudes towards intellectuals. It then examines the main themes of the attacks launched by the PCF, between 1944 and the staging of Les Mains sales (Dirty Hands) in 1948, on both Sartre and existentialism and the reasons for these attacks. It concludes by noting the differences between the PCF and Sartre on three specific political issues during this period.
Conventional wisdom holds that the political evolution of an individual passes from youthful radicalism to the conservatism of later years. In this respect, as in many others, Sartre declined to follow the norm. As a young man, despite his detestation of the bourgeoisie, his anti-militaristic sentiments, his anti-authoritarianism and unconventional lifestyle, Sartre remained aloof from politics, while it was towards the end of his life that his most radical commitment occurred, triggered in large part by the events of May-June 1968. This paper will establish that although Sartre supported the 1968 student movement, he remained essentially outside it and it made little immediate impact on his thinking or practice; it was only several months later that the ‘events’ made themselves felt to Sartre, leading him to question the definition of himself as intellectual which he had defended hitherto.
When considering Sartre’s and Camus’ positions on the Algerian War of Independence, it is useful to begin by briefly locating both men in relation to colonialism in general and Algeria in particular. The first point, an obvious one, but one which needs to be made, is that while Camus, the child of Belcourt, had first-hand knowledge of life in working-class Algiers, and as a journalist of the misery of Kabylia in the late 1930s, Sartre, the Parisian intellectual par excellence, had almost no direct knowledge of the country. I say almost no direct knowledge because he and de Beauvoir did pass through southern Algeria en route to French West Africa in 1950 but apparently paid scant attention to the political situation in that country.
David Drake and Annette Lavers
Michael Scriven, Jean-Paul Sartre: Politics and Culture in Postwar France, Basingstoke and London, The Macmillan Press, 1999, 193 pp., ISBN 0–333–63321–0. Review by David Drake
Sartre: Trois lectures – Philosophie, linguistique, littérature, Paris: Université Paris X, 1998, 203 pp., ISSN 1166–2212, 100FF. Review by Annette Lavers
David Drake, John Ireland and Stuart Z. Charme
Jean-Francois Sirinelli, Deux intellectuels dans le siècle, Sartre et Aron, Fayard, 1995, 395 pp. ISBN 2-213-59200-4. 140 FF. Review by David Drake
Jean-Paul Sartre and Benny Levy, Hope Now. The 1980 Interviews, translated by Adrian van den Hoven with an Introduction by Ronald Aronson, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1996, 135 pp. ISBN 0-226-47630-8 $19.95 Review by John Ireland
Lewis R. Gordon, Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, Humanities Press, 1995, 240 pp. ISBN 0-391- 03872-9 $17.50 Review by Stuart Z. Charme
Tim Huntley, Alistair Rolls and David Drake
Helen Tattam, Time in the Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel Review by Tim Huntley
Rosemary Lloyd and Jean Fornasiero (eds.), Magnificent Obsessions: Honouring the Lives of Hazel Rowley Review by Alistair Rolls
Emmanuel Barot (dir.), Sartre et le Marxisme Richard Wolin, The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution and the Legacy of the 1960s Léo Lévy, A la vie Review by David Drake