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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of Jean Paul Sartre's Mind
Always lucid, profound and ever irreverent, this is a delicious collections of reprints and interviews on the "whys" and "why nots" of Sartre's century of intellectual and political ideas. Here is a once in a life time "head session" that covers the waterfront - from Existentialism to Marxism, from Genet and Tintoretto to Flaubert, from politics to the Arts, to Sartre's...
Published on September 27, 2008 by Herbert L Calhoun

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buy "Search for a Method" first.
In reading this volume for the marriage of of existentialism and marxism, I discovered a lot of this was done more clearly in the smaller volume, "Search for a Method."
Published 13 months ago by bultmanniac


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of Jean Paul Sartre's Mind, September 27, 2008
This review is from: Between Existentialism and Marxism (Radical Thinkers) (Paperback)
Always lucid, profound and ever irreverent, this is a delicious collections of reprints and interviews on the "whys" and "why nots" of Sartre's century of intellectual and political ideas. Here is a once in a life time "head session" that covers the waterfront - from Existentialism to Marxism, from Genet and Tintoretto to Flaubert, from politics to the Arts, to Sartre's attitude towards his own writings, and on to Freud and back -- giving those who do not yet know him well an unobstructed window into some of his most valuable intellectual insights. And for those who do know him well, this book becomes a summary of many of Sartre's core ideas and further confirmation of why he will remain one of the towering intellects of our times.

In this short collection, Jean Paul Sartre covers so much intellectual ground with so much ease and clarity, and with so much intellectual depth and facility that it literally takes the breath away. As a result, these pages must be read slowly and savored, for there are only a handful of intellectuals in history who can match Sartre's rich and deep insights, or who can shock our minds into complete attention for such a long span of time: For our troubled times, his prodigious intellect, his wit, his literary skills, his clarity and his iconoclastic irreverence, are an iron tonic that is as much an existential and literary, as a political, necessity.

Most refreshingly here is the fact that Sartre and the first interviewer, Madam Madeleine Chapsal, engage in a compellingly "scrappy" intellectual repartee designed to draw Sartre into revealing the "motive forces" behind his intellectual insights. Madeleine Chapsal's "in your face" discussion of why some of Sartre's most fundamental views have changed over time makes for interesting repartee. Un-awed by Sartre, and like a hunter who has cornered her prey, Madam Chapsal is relentless in pushing Sartre over the horizon pass "the expected and ordinary" to "the-meat-and bones" of his ideas, all done in a freewheeling, almost didactic dialogue between intellectual equals. Intellectual repartee does not get much better than this.

We discover here that there are two formative experiences that drive most European intellectuals: First and foremost, is the trauma of two world wars fought back-to-back on European soil -- the greater being WW-II where Hitler embarrassed and humiliated Europe, and most especially the "uber-proud" French: Hitler's occupation was an abyss from which it seems the French have yet to completely recover, and from which they had nowhere to hide between their choice of the "false experience" of imagined French heroism, and the brutal reality of Nazi power. It is no longer a secret that much too often, this choice was resolved in the cruelest of ways: to die, be imprisoned and tortured, or become a ignominious traitor to France.

For Sartre -- captured, imprisoned and tortured by the Nazis, Hitler's occupation ceased to be a theoretical abstraction, but became the "lived archetype" of absolute power corrupted absolutely. Nazi reality was a powerful existential crucible into which the French were quickly sucked into and crushed. It became the defining "lived experience" for European philosophy: Perhaps for the first time, the German occupation was where the typical European was trapped by "lived circumstances" beyond his control and against his will. Hitler's occupation thus became the archetype of lost control dictated completely by circumstances and conditioning. And yet, it is here, from the very bottom of the abyss that, Sartre, and the French, were forced to "stay in the game" and be totally responsible "for what society had made of them." From there, they had to refashion themselves into a quiet, solitary, self-respecting, and self-defined, hero.

The existentialist problem for "European Man" was also true for man more generally: to be able to "take responsibility for making something out of what society has already fashioned us to be." The highest level of existential honor is to be found in how we "act" as we reject the conditioning that has been imposed on our freedoms from above, and in how we "go about" refashioning what society has tried to make of us. Existential heroism thus by definition is to "continue along the road to freedom" while fashioning a new self from the very ashes of slavery - whether self-imposed or otherwise. The ultimate nobility of "existential man" is to be found in this solitary project, within whose goal, lay the very definition of freedom.

In addition to two world wars, what was also formative for the European intellectual experience was the tense and troubled relationship between the individual's private struggles for independence from the worldview of his bourgeois (and usually) Catholic parents: a worldview that Sartre claims was inherited through social osmosis, but then, was just as quickly and resoundingly rejected and abandoned. In Sartre's case, Christianity was not a total lost. For he successfully "transposed [it] into literary terms" and it became the unconscious driving force of his writings.

On Marx and Freud

One of the things that comes through more clearly here than elsewhere among Sartre's many writings, takes place as Sartre attempts to answer the question posed to him by Madeleine Chapsal as to: Why he became such a late, if not an entirely reluctant, convert to Freud? His answer was surprisingly terse but killed two birds with one stone: "The thought of both Marx and Freud is a theory of conditioning in exteriority. When Marx says `It matters little what the bourgeoisie thinks it does, the important thing is what it [actually] does,' one could replace bourgeoisie by `a hysteric,' and the formula would be Freud."

Thus Marxism for him was always a two-pronged tool: First it was a whetstone for honing ones ability to reason about the meaning of the social forces that have shaped history, and then only secondarily it was a tool of methodology, of praxis: for engaging in the necessary committed social and political actions "called up" by the times. Freud's preoccupation, on the other hand, was somewhat less noble: He was preoccupied with the machinations of the unconscious, the mechanics of which turned out to be a mere artifact of his own theoretical imaginings; imaginings that proved to be true and powerful only when they were correct: But, according to Sartre, they were correct only at the intersection, or confluent, of their many intuited forces. Yet, these "intuited mechanisms," appearing at the intersection, were at no point "primary" or even necessarily centered in "lived experience" as Freud's theories erroneously assumed and claimed. Freud's mechanisms were in fact not the "real" independent variables" that he thought them to be. It is Sartre's belief that Freud himself failed to recognize the fact that it was the "confluence itself," rather than the "intuited mechanisms" that was the irreducible unit of consciousness, and of psychoanalysis. Thus, through an obsession to make psychoanalysis into a reductive science, Freud may have missed his own deepest insight: that only the confluence of his mechanisms were real. This single oversight ensured that Freudian psychoanalysis would forever remain suspended in what Sartre describes as a "mechanistic cramp," and indeed in the backwaters of intellectual solipsism, devoid of its most important irreducible content: independently "lived experience."

On Vietnam

In this essay, entitled Imperialism and Genocide, Sartre explains the imperatives of Colonialism about as well as they can be explained, and then demonstrates that in general it is a form of slow-motion, cautionary, conditional, cultural genocide: implemented by blackmailing, terrorizing and intimidating colonial subjects into giving up their aspirations for freedom and independence. The U.S. version, occurring in Vietnam, broke the old post-war mold in that it was no longer driven by economic imperatives (i.e. by greed) but by racism and a pure pursuit of cultural hegemony.

On Czechoslovakia

He summaries the experience of the thirteen Czech interviewees living under Soviet style socialism as "that long night of the [modern] Middle Ages."

100 Stars
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5.0 out of 5 stars A SELECTION OF SARTRE’S WRITINGS FROM THE ‘60s AND ‘70s, February 21, 2015
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Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, and political activist, who wrote many other books such as Being and Nothingness, Existentialism....& Human Emotions, The Transcendence of the Ego, Search for a Method, Critique of Dialectical Reason, The Emotions: Outline Of A Theory, etc.

This is a wide-ranging collection of Sartre’s writings and interviews, including essays such as “The Purposes of Writing,” and “A Plea for Intellectuals”; essays on Vietnam and Czechoslovakia; essays on Kierkegaard and Mallarmé, etc.

He says, “the idea which I have never ceased to develop is that in the end one if always responsible for what is made of one. Even if one can do nothing else besides assume this responsibility. For I believe that a man can always make something out of what is made of him. This is the limit I would today accord to freedom: the small movement which makes of a totally conditioned social being someone who does not render back completely what his conditioning has given him. Which makes of [Jean] Genet a poet when he had been rigorously conditioned to be a thief.” (Pg. 34-35)

In his essay on Kierkegaard, he observes, “The singular universal is this meaning through his Self---the practical assumption and supersession of being as it is---man restores to the universe its enveloping unity, by engraving it as a finite determination and a mortgage on future History in the being which envelops him. Adam temporalizes himself by sin, by necessary free choice and radical transformation of what he is---he brings human temporality into the universe. This clearly means that the foundation of History is freedom in EACH MAN. For we are all Adam in so far as each of us commits on his own behalf and on behalf of all a singular sin: in other words finitude, for each person, is necessary and incomparable. By his finite action, the agent alters the course of things---but in conformity with which this course itself ought to be. Man, in fact, is a mediation between a transcendence behind and a transcendence in front, and this twofold transcendence is but one. Thus we can say that through man, the course of things is deviated in the direction of its own deviation.” (Pg. 160-161)

In “A Plea for Intellectuals,” he argues, “if petty-bourgeois intellectuals are led by their own contradictions to align themselves with the working class, they will serve it at their risk and peril; they may act as theorists but never as organic intellectuals of the proletariat, and this contradiction, no matter how well it may be understood, will never be resolved. Thus our axiom is confirmed that intellectuals cannot receive a mandate from ANYONE.” (Pg. 259)

Later in this same essay, he adds, “Thus an intellectual cannot join workers by saying: ‘I am no longer a petty-bourgeois; I move freely in the universal.’ Quite the contrary; he can only do so by thinking ‘I am a petty-bourgeois; if, in order to resolve MY OWN contradiction, I have placed myself alongside the proletariat and peasantry, I have not thereby ceased to BE a petty-bourgeois; all I can do, by constantly criticizing and radicalizing myself, is step by step to refuse---though this interests no one but myself---my petty-bourgeois conditioning.’” (Pg. 261)

In the “A Friend of the People” interview, he says, “I do not think intellectuals can be defined exclusively in terms of their profession… I should say they can be found in the occupations which I would call the techniques of practical knowledge… the technicians of practical knowledge develop or utilize by means of exact disciplines a body of knowledge whose end is, in principle, the good of all. This knowledge aims, of course, at universality… But the technician of practical knowledge can just as well be a engineer, a scientist, a writer or a teacher. In each case, the same contradiction is so be found; the totality of their knowledge is conceptual, that is to say universal, but it is never used by ALL men; it is used… above all by a certain category of persons belonging to the ruling classes and their allies. Thus the application of the universal is never universal, it is particular, it concerns particular people… [the technician] finds that in fact he typically works for the privileged classes and is therefore objectively aligned with them… But when one of them becomes aware of the fact that despite the universality of his work is serves only PARTICULAR INTERESTS, then his awareness of this contradiction… is precisely what characterizes him as an intellectual.” (Pg. 286-287)

This collection will be of keen interest to those interested in Sartre’s later thought---particularly its political ramifications.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Buy "Search for a Method" first., January 21, 2014
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This review is from: Between Existentialism and Marxism (Radical Thinkers) (Paperback)
In reading this volume for the marriage of of existentialism and marxism, I discovered a lot of this was done more clearly in the smaller volume, "Search for a Method."
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Between Existentialism and Marxism (Radical Thinkers)
Between Existentialism and Marxism (Radical Thinkers) by Jean-Paul Sartre (Paperback - January 17, 2008)
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