Ever since Marx, philosophy must lead to action. Otherwise it is irrelevant …. Philosophers must be angry, and, in this world, stay angry. Jean-Paul Sartre (1972) 1 I. The Quarrel On June 30, 1952 Albert Camus sent a seventeen-page letter to the
In/Justice and Freedom in the Algerian Context
Ouarda Larbi Youcef
On July 5, 2021, Algeria celebrated the fifty-ninth anniversary of her independence. The eight-year war, which broke out on November 1, 1954, cost the country much blood and resulted in 1.5 million deaths. This article looks at this page of history. My objective is to show why the Algerians took up arms, and to reexamine the conflict between the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and the Algeria-born philosopher Albert Camus in light of the War of Independence. I argue that the friendship between the two philosophers can be seen as one casualty of this war, a friendship that had no chance of surviving given their different approaches to justice. Whereas for Sartre, justice was in no manner exclusive of freedom; for Camus, it was all that the Arabs needed, any demand for freedom being solely the work of a few militants “without any political culture.”
Une notion stratégique dans l’espace littéraire francophone
En 2010, à l’occasion du cinquantenaire de la mort d’Albert Camus, le projet d’une « Caravane Camus » sillonant l’Algérie, d’abord soutenue par l’État algérien, avait finalement été annulé : « c’est cette “algérianité” de Camus, revendiquée par ses
A Democratic Theory Inspired by Albert Camus
Democracy has come under pressure in many countries in recent years. Authoritarian tendencies, populism and the cult of leadership threaten pluralistic societies in Europe and other parts of the world. But democracy is more than just a method of finding a majority; it is inextricably linked to the fight against oppression and injustice in all contexts of life. Especially in times of democratic crisis, it is necessary to focus on its core aspects. The political thinking of French philosopher and writer Albert Camus, who died in 1960, offers the basis for a redefinition of democracy that is linked to and dependent on rebellion. From his reflections, a radical theory of democracy can be derived that is based on the absurdity of the world, its incompleteness, revolt and resistance to authoritarianism, on doubt, dialogue and foreignness.
Algeria is never far from the center of Albert Camus's life and work—no further, in effect, than Ithaka is from the center of Odysseus's thoughts. In fact, Camus tended to see his native country through his readings of ancient Greek myth and tragedy. This article traces the ways in which Camus, with materials provided by ancient Greece, not only represented his native land, but also elaborated a “Mediterranean” school of thought—la pensée du Midi—that emphasizes the role of moderation or “measure.” There is an undeniable aspect of nostalgia to Camus's rendering of his country and its past, but this does not undermine its validity. By making use of Svetlana Boym's fruitful distinction between reflective and restorative forms of nostalgia, I suggest that the combination of the two categories lies at the heart of Camus's “philosophy of limits.”
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.
By what incredible foresight did the most significant intellectual quarrel of the twentieth century anticipate the major issue of the twenty-first? When Camus and Sartre parted ways in 1952, the main question dividing them was political violence—specifically, that of communism. And as they continued to jibe at each other during the next decade, especially during the war in Algeria, one of the major issues between them became terrorism. The 1957 and 1964 Nobel Laureates were divided sharply over which violence most urgently demanded to be addressed and attacked—the humiliations and oppressions, often masked, that Sartre described as systematically built into daily life under capitalism and colonialism, or the brutal and abstract calculus of murder seen by Camus as built into some of the movements that claimed to liberate people from capitalist and colonial oppression.
The Sartre-Camus conflict remains, fifty years later, philosophically unresolved. And I would argue—against today's conventional wisdom so persistently asserted by Tony Judt—it is also historically unresolved, despite today.
For over fifty years Francis Jeanson has been one of the world’s exemplary radical thinkers and actors. We Sartreans know him as the author of one of the earliest, and still most insightful, books on Sartre’s philosophy, Le Problème moral et la philosophie de Jean-Paul Sartre [Available in translation. See Sartre and the Problem of Morality, Bloomington, 1980], Sartre par lui-même, and Sartre dans sa vie, as well as of the review of Camus’ L’Homme révolté [The Rebel, New York, 1954] which instigated the Sartre/Camus break. Then came Algeria. As his biographer writes, “His intervention against the Algerian War shapes our collective destiny. Without Francis Jeanson, the resistance of French intellectuals to this colonial war would have been different” (Marie-Pierre Ulluoa, Francis Jeanson: un intellectuel en dissidence [Paris: Berg International, 2001], 244). At the beginning of the insurrection he and his first wife wrote a book about French colonialism and its effects on Algeria. He then organized the Jeanson network, the “porteurs des valises” who hid Algerian activists and deserters from the French army, and raised money for the FLN. In this role he lived underground for several years and was tried and sentenced in absentia to 10 years prison, a sentence which was only commuted at the end of the war. Jeanson was invited to Chalon-sur-Saône to direct its House of Culture and then worked as a philosopher participating in a continuing education program for psychiatrists in a mental hospital. He then returned to a small family house in Claouey, on the Bassin d’Arcachon, where he has continued to write and involve himself in such activities as the France-Sarajevo Association, which has encouraged a multi-ethnic Bosnia.
Adrian van den Hoven
In this hilarious satire Sartre takes aim at the French bourgeois press, pokes fun at Beckett, Camus and especially his own philosophy. He creates a fictitious swindler Georges de Valera who assumes the identity of a so-called defector Nekrassov. Together with Sibilot, who is in charge of the anticommunist page at Soir à Paris, they bamboozle the editor Palotin (based on Pierre Lazareff) and the entire board into beleiving that Nekrassov is the Soviet Minister of the Interior who has just defected. The bourgeois are portrayed as gullible mediocrities who in the name of anticommunism are willing to believe “anything” Nekrassov tells them. In the end the “genius” Nekrassov absconds with Sibilot's daughter and the paper is forced to print yet more lies to explain his disappearance. The play is composed of eight tableaux that illustrate Sartre's talents as a comic writer. The play was not a commercial success. The critics panned it and the public was unwilling to believe that all defectors from the U.S.S.R. were fakes. Also, soon after the play was produced the anticommunist hysteria began to diminish and the Hungarian uprising put paid to any notion of a benign Soviet union.