Existential Marxism in Postwar France: From Sartre to Althusser

Existential Marxism in Postwar France: From Sartre to Althusser

Existential Marxism in Postwar France: From Sartre to Althusser

Existential Marxism in Postwar France: From Sartre to Althusser

Excerpt

My purpose in this study has been to trace the relationship of Marxism and existentialism as the dominant theme in recent French social thought. My thesis is that the two doctrines converged in Sartre and in the Arguments group, establishing the beginnings of a social theory of the New Left. Starting from the period right after World War II, when Marxism and existentialism were competing doctrines, I have described the movement of Sartre and his circle toward Marxism and the movement of Marxists away from Stalinism. By the mid-1960s there had been various attempts at a synthetic existential Marxism, all of which should be seen as tentative beginnings that might result in a major new social theory. In the final chapter, I test the new theory by using it to help us comprehend the events of May-June, 1968. Existential Marxism emerges as a social theory suited to comprehend the conditions and the contradictions of advanced industrial society, to articulate the situation of various groups in this society, and to provide a new kind of theory for the human sciences that sees the scientist not as value-free or objective but as implicated in the object of his knowledge. Existential Marxism might thus be considered both as the "ideology" of an emerging radical coalition and as a theoretical advance in its own right.

My disciplinary orientation is that of the history of ideas which describes changing intellectual patterns with more concern for the relation of ideas to society than for the . . .

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