New Left Marxism
SOME TIME AGO a speaker on the BBC expressed the hope that Jean-Paul Sartre would in future devote more of his time to drama and less to philosophy. Similar observations are made occasionally in France by people whose political commitments do not differ much from those of Sartre, but who are skeptical of his claim to have effected a synthesis of Marxism and Existentialism. Sartre is, of course, a public figure as well as a philosopher, and his utterances commonly receive the kind of attention reserved in Britain for the pronouncements of Lord Russell. When he declares that Marxism is the last of the great philosophies and the central intellectual concern of our age, the statement is not shrugged off as an eccentricity, as it would be were it made by a prominent American or British writer, supposing such an unlikely thing to occur. These background differences cannot be gone into here. One simply registers the fact that a work such as Sartre’s Critique de la Raison Dialectique-seven hundred fifty closely printed pages of Marxist, or pseudo-Marxist, dialectics published in 1961-could not have been produced anywhere but in France. Not because the subject is of purely local concern, but because Sartre’s way of dealing with it presupposes a certain intellectual tradition. In a way this is an old story-as old perhaps as the difference between Descartes and Hobbes-but the point is that the cleavage persists even in the case of writers concerned with a contemporary phenomenon such as Marxism.
About the Author