In 1952 Albert Camus wrote a caustic letter to Les Temps Modernes in response to the journal’s negative review of The Rebel, addressed, not to the author of the review, but to “M. Le Directeur,” i.e. to Sartre. Sartre’s response published in the journal ended their friendship. This article examines the deep cause of this rupture, Camus’s political views moving rightward, Sartre’s moving left. I examine Camus’s critique of Marx and Marxism, then ask the question, “What is Marxism, Anyway?” I defend a version of Sartrean “existential Marxism” as appropriate for our time.
Dependencies and Differences in Alasdair MacIntyre's Critical Social Thought
Alasdair MacIntyre, a leading moral philosopher in the English speaking world, was from his earliest intellectual formation influenced profoundly both by Christianity and Marxism. MacIntyre argues that Marxism has religious roots, in that it gains its vision of the good life of peace and reconciliation from Christianity, mediated by Hegel, but makes this life historically concrete. The article views MacIntyre's early intellectual career as a case study in the productive tension generated by an analysis of the connections between Christianity and Marxism. It is suggested that by examining the similarities and differences of these two traditions, MacIntyre points to the sources of radicalism that lie at the apparently conservative heart of western culture and reveals aspects of the continuing significance of this culture's religious background. He also points to the difficulties both traditions have in engaging with modern liberal culture.
The Marxism of Raymond Aron
One of the most influential thinkers in twentieth-century French intellectual debates, Raymond Aron (1905-1983) spent a lifetime studying Karl Marx. Aron's adaptable interpretations of the German thinker began on the eve of the Second World War, continued in his Sorbonne lectures, and ended in his celebrated Memoirs. Far from being a mere object of derision linked to totalitarian regimes, the "semi-god" provided Aron with an unrivaled stage to promote his own evolving views on an array of critical epistemological and political issues linked to heterogeneous values, historical determinism, class warfare, and the role of Communist parties. Aron cleverly segmented his views on Marx so as to address different audiences and seduce the largest possible number of young people on the side of liberal democracy.
Materialism with and without Marxism
Penny McCall Howard
What are Marxists to make of the new wave of materialism that has become influential in anthropology and across the social sciences and humanities? An ethnography of fishing in coastal Scotland and an analysis of Tim Ingold’s ecological anthropology demonstrates both the usefulness and gaps in contemporary ecological and materialist anthropology. It finds that the reduced role for political economy, human intentionality, and material results in this literature significantly reduces their explanatory power. Efforts to unite analysis of humans and nonhumans have led to a lack of attention to the divisions within human societies, particularly the alienation of labor and therefore of ecological relations in capitalism. Understanding these dynamics is essential to contending with the current planetary ecological crisis.
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?
Jonathan Judaken, Rebecca Pitt and Ronald Aronson
These articles deal with the theme of revolutionary hope in Ron Aronson’s work. Jonathan Judaken looks at Aronson’s conception of the politics of everyday life, or existentialist politics, inspired by Herbert Marcuse’s Marxism, which offered an explanation for inequality, privilege, and other social evils, as well as pointing the way to a solution to those problems. Rebecca Pitt deals with Aronson’s activism and commitment to changing the world, contextualizing this in Aronson’s work: his book on Sartre’s Second Critique, as well as his most recent work on social progress and hope.
The Analytical Contribution of Marxist-feminism
Matthew J. Smetona
Contemporary social and political theorists generally recognise that Marx and Engels’ critical analysis of capitalist society centres on the production of value through the production of things. However, what is often unrecognised in considerations of Marx and Engels is how their analysis is based on the interrelation of production and reproduction. Nevertheless, the implications of this interrelation for feminist critique are explored in the writings of Marx and Engels only tangentially. These implications are developed from Marx’s analysis by Leopoldina Fortunati and Silvia Federici into a singular synthesis of the Marxist and feminist modes of critique. This development deserves greater recognition, and this essay will seek to articulate how the social implications of this interrelation (1) are expressed to a limited extent in the classical texts of Marxism and (2) are developed by Fortunati and Federici into the analytic framework of social reproduction as the core of Marxist-feminist revolutionary struggle.
The Consolation of History in a Paris Exile
Patrick H. Hutton
Walter Benjamin, a Jewish German literary critic of modest reputation during the interwar years, has become an intellectual celebrity in our times. In flight from Nazi Germany, he took refuge in Paris during the 1930s before dying in 1940 in a vain effort to escape to America. In this essay, I analyze his ideas as conceived in his Paris exile, with particular attention to his turn to the topics of memory and of history and of the relationship between them. I close with some thoughts on how his ideas about memory's redeeming power played into the humanist Marxism of the intellectuals of the 1960s and subsequently the preoccupation with memory in late twentieth-century scholarship.
In his book The Structure of World History (2014) Kojin Karatani has argued that too little attention has been paid in Marxist historiography to the issue of ‘exchange’. In a number of Shakespearean texts ‘exchange’ and ‘reciprocity’ are of vital importance in sustaining social cohesion; in Romeo and Juliet, for example, radical disruptions of patterns of reciprocity and exchange expose an ambivalence that, in certain critical circumstances, inheres in language itself. The disruption that results from the perversion of these values is felt at every level of the social order, but particularly in the sphere of the ‘economic’, where money and trade become metaphors for the disturbance of the relation between language and action, word and object. This disruption is represented as a product of ‘nature’ but it also becomes a feature of a historically over-determined human psychology, and leads to a critical examination of different forms of government and social organization.
The last four years have seen the rise of a movement on the French radical left positing a fundamental conflict between economic growth and ecological sustainability and calling for a reversal of growth (décroissance) against the current consensus around the concept of sustainable development. This challenge to the growth imperative and, more widely, of the ideology of progress, represents a return to the explicitly antiproductivist approaches that emerged in the early 1970s with the rise of radical political ecology. This article charts the birth of the décroissance movement, which is comprised of two components: anticonsumerist and antidevelopment. It also contrasts the movement with other closely-related ideological elements of the French antiglobalization and anticapitalist movements, elements that belong to the dominant, mainly Marxist tradition, whose anticapitalist struggle builds on the legacy of the Enlightenment period. The article concludes that, by placing antieconomicist and antiutilitarian thought drawn from social sciences on the agenda of the French radical Left, the décroissance movement could potentially generate a major paradigm shift founded on a critical evaluation of the heritage of modernity.