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Sartre and Foucault: A Cross-Generational Exchange

Thomas R. Flynn

Abstract

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.

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