This essay revisits the question of Sartre's method with particular emphasis on the posthumously published Notebooks for an Ethics, Critique of Dialectical Reason (Volume II), and “Morale et histoire.” I argue that Sartre's method—an ever-evolving though never seamless blend of phenomenological description, dialectical analysis, and logical inference—is at once the seed and fruit of his mature ontology of praxis. Free organic praxis, what Sartre more than once calls “the human act,” is neither closed nor integral, but is rather intrinsically open-ended and integrative. Thus a philosophical method that seeks at once to illuminate human experience and human history must itself be both a reflection and inflection of the essential openness and integrativity of praxis itself. In the conclusion, I argue that the openness and integrativity of Sartre's method are its core strengths and the sources of its continued philosophical worth.
Matthew C. Ally
Peacemaking, Cunning Recognition, and the Constitution of Enmity
This article argues that scholars and activists concerned with peace and social justice in Israel/Palestine may unintentionally undermine their own goals when they abandon theory for praxis through recognition of parties to conflict. Recognition of ethno-national identity in peacemaking efforts helps reproduce the hegemonic order. Recognizing the subaltern here is a form of Elizabeth Povinelli's 'cunning recognition', which may do little more than produce a moral community of the recognizers. This case illustrates a broader pattern in which controversial ideas only succeed in arriving at the center of politics when they can no longer be implemented. It raises concerns about abandoning theory for praxis more generally, suggesting that theory not be abandoned because it is inconvenient for political purposes.
What is counter-finality? Who, or what, is the agent of counter-finality? In the Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre employs a complicated and multivalent notion of counter-finality, the reversal of the finality intended by an agent in different contexts and at different levels of complexity. Sartre's concept of counter-finality is read here as an attempt to rethink and broaden the traditional Marxist notion of commodity fetishism as a tragic dialectic of human history whose final act has yet to play out. The article analyses and explicates Sartre's complex concept of counter-finality, focusing on material antipraxis.
Joanna L. Mosser
Scholars identify the classical and neoliberal commitment to consumption, production, and self-directing individualism as a cultural barrier to ecological thinking and action. The state's complicity in the production of market-based norms and practices hostile to ecological thinking is widely acknowledged. Some solutions, in turn, advocate the liberating force of critical pedagogies that cultivate alternative conceptions of the individual, place, production, consumption, and environment. Missing in this literature is a consideration of the implications of state-based instructional methods for the pursuit of such critical, liberating pedagogies. This article revisits the sovereign territorial state as a modern form of political authority and explores the implications of the state's project of self-authoring standardization and consolidation for the development of ecological thinking and action. The epistemology and ontology of the modern state is rooted in a praxis of subject-hood that dismisses, and constructs as dangerous, the anarchic, self-authoring tendencies of the everyday. Recovering the everyday as a site of authorship, agency, and choice is a first step to creating individuals who take seriously the demands of ecological thinking and action.
Sketch of a Materialist Ethics
Through an analysis of the category of alienation in the Critique of Dialectical Reason, this article aims to shed light on the way in which Sartre attempts to think through alienation both with Marx and going beyond Marx. Sartre does not reduce alienation either to an ontological dimension of praxis or to the exclusively socio-economic determination of the capitalist mode of production. In order to grasp better the theoretical stakes of Sartre’s position, André Gorz’s analyses of the link between labour and alienation is discussed. The path via Gorz (who always insisted on his philosophical indebtedness to Sartre) is useful in order to ascertain whether it is justified to adopt the Sartrean dialectic of praxis and alienation as the basis of a critique of labour in the present configuration of the capitalist system. These questions will be taken as a starting point for an ethical and political examination of the category of need, as it is problematized by Sartre in the Critique and above all in the manuscript of “Les Racines de l’éthique” (1964).
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.
Kevin A. Yelvington
Academic social and cultural anthropology concerned with tourism has provided thick descriptions of the tourist exchange in a number of contexts, with exegeses devoted to illustrate the sexualized Other, the appropriation of landscape, the uses of the past in the present, and the detrimental effects of tourism structures on the ‘host’ communities. It has shown us how pilgrimages, beaches and museums become iconic and fetishized in the tourist’s gaze, how the landscape is appropriated and a geographical space is turned into a cultural place. Yet, for applied anthropologists concerned with the impacts of the world’s largest industry on local ‘toured’ populations and how the (unequal) tourism exchange is (unequally) constituted through material and symbolic historical processes, do the theories generated in the academic tradition provide a use-value? Do those anthropologists engaged in community-centred methods such as participatory action research, and working in theoretical traditions through praxis, approach their subject in the same ways as their nonapplied anthropological counterparts? Indeed, what can applied anthropologists, as such, and the consideration of applied projects, contribute to theory in anthropological research on tourism more generally?
In my book, Sartre’s Anthropology as a Hermeneutics of Praxis (1998), I characterise the standpoint of the later Sartre – initially developed in Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960, hereafter CDR) – as a ‘hermeneutics of praxis’. The primary aim is reconstructive: by means of generalising Sartre’s conception in a certain direction I hope to be able, so to speak, ‘to go beyond Sartre by means of Sartre’. This implies both emphasising the strengths and distinguishing the shortcomings of Sartre’s standpoint, but also a serious attempt to develop it. One of my aims here is to work out the options that are opened up by such a generalisation.
This article explores Sartre's approach to the phenomenon and praxis of boxing in the Critique of Dialectical Reason. It examines two aspects of Sartre's approach to the 'sweet science': first, it analyses the claim that a single boxing match (and each punch thrown within it) 'incarnates' all the violence of boxing itself, which in turn 'incarnates' all socio-economic violence, so that, by extension, all such violence is concretely particularized in the boxing match; and second, it attempts to link the phenomenology of transcending/transcended subjectivities degraded by the fight-relation to the praxiology of alienation and the deterioration of praxis.
Participating in and Witnessing Fair Trade and Women’s Empowerment in Transnational Communities of Practice
The popularity of fair trade products has engendered new possibilities for consumer citizens in the global North to demonstrate solidarity with producers in the global South. Fair trade enthusiasts not only buy labelled products as an act of solidarity with producers in Darjeeling’s tea plantations; but also extend their affective solidarity by voluntarily visiting certified production sites to witness how fair trade affects workers’ livelihoods. Fair trade as transnational praxis has inadvertently pushed justice seeking and delivery to a non-state sphere that is not accountable to the workers in terms of citizenship rights; however, it must address the bargaining power of producers since wages and benefits are baseline determinants of quality of life. Fair trade-engendered solidarity practices erase the complex history of workers’ struggle with the state and established systems of power through collective bargaining. These acts in turn produce new kinds of transnational praxis affecting the plantation public sphere.