The Work of Sartre: Search for Freedom and the Challenge of History

The Work of Sartre: Search for Freedom and the Challenge of History

The Work of Sartre: Search for Freedom and the Challenge of History

The Work of Sartre: Search for Freedom and the Challenge of History

Synopsis

This landmark book, first published in 1979, met acclaim as a doubly important work of radical philosophy. Its subject, Jean-Paul Sartre, was among the twentieth century's most controversial and influential philosophers; its author, István Mészáros, was himself establishing a reputation for profound contributions to the Marxian tradition, which would continue into the next century. The Work of Sartre was thus considered essential for its insights on Sartre and as a piece of Mészáros 's developing politico-philosophical project. In this completely updated and expanded volume, Mészáros examines the manifold aspects of Sartre's legacy- as novelist, playwright, philosopher, and political actor- and in so doing casts light upon the enture oeuvre, situating it within the historical and social context of Sartre's time. Although critical of aspects of Sartre's philosophy, Mészáros celebrates his unyielding commitment to the struggle against the power of capital, and elucidates what this means for the individual in their search for freedom.

Excerpt

In April 1992 the quarterly journal Radical Philosphy—in an interview published in its Number 62—asked me the question: “You met Sartre in 1957. Why did you decide to write a book about him?” This was my answer:

I always felt that Marxists owed a great deal to Sartre because we live in an
age in which the power of capital is overbearing, where, significantly, the
resounding platitude of politicians is that “there is no alternative,” whether
you think of Mrs Thatcher, or also of Gorbachev, who endlessly repeated
the same until he had to find out, like Mrs Thatcher, that after all there had
to be an alternative to both of them. But it goes on and on, and if you look
around and think of how both Conservative and Labour politicians talk,
they always talk about “there is no alternative,” and the underlying pressures
are felt everywhere.

Sartre was a man who always preached the diametrical opposite: there
is an alternative, there must be an alternative; you as an individual have to
rebel against this power, this monstrous power of capital. Marxists on the
whole failed to voice that side. I don’t say that you have to become therefore
an existentialist in order to face it, but there is no one in the last fifty years
of philosophy and literature who tried to hammer it home with such single
mindedness and determination as Sartre did: the necessity that there has to
be a rebellion against the wisdom of “there is no alternative” and there must

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