78 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2005
I first became interested in Albert Camus after reading a quote from The Rebel online. "I rebel, therefore we exist" was the quote, and I must admit that, after reading the book, there has never been anything truer written. When I was in a bookstore a few months ago I found a copy of The Rebel, which is apparently a rare sight these days, since The Rebel is often ignored. Camus is one of the most famous writers of the 20th century, so why would one of his masterpieces be ignored?
It has been ignored, from what I can gather, because it is a philosophical work in which Camus pulls no punches and examines thoroughly why the excessive crime and violence of our era exist. Camus explains how, in both philosophy and politics, the reigning attitude has been one of nihilism for the past two centuries. This nihilism, being necessarily without an aim, leads to dictatorship and gross amounts of suffering for humans, no matter what principles it claims on the surface. Camus systematically destroys those who have used the philosophies of Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, surrealism, u.s.w., to justify their murderous plots.
Camus proposes that instead of nihilism and murder, we take to heart the ancient concepts of moderation and responsibility. Camus' destruction of modern governents and his proposals of these ancient ideas seem to have made this book unpopular. In this era of oppression, it is easy to ignore what offends us or makes us think. Camus gives the reader no choice. He must either raise a defiant fist to the giants of power, or he must give way to these minds that are utterly without scruples. I admire Camus deeply because of this--he has summed up the ideas I have been carrying around for years--but some will be deeply hurt by his comments. I leave you with a final thought: everyone is partly to blame for the state of the present and the future. You have the choice to make it either good or bad.
97 of 103 people found the following review helpful
I wrote my college entrance essay on this book (Let's not say how long ago, but I was accepted.) and just recently went back to reread it and compare my impressions now to my impressions then, when it was one of my favorite books. I found it still holds up as a fine piece of literature as well as an inspiring example of personal courage. As another reader has pointed out, Camus was ostracized, more or less, by the French literary establishment after the book's publication. I still find the chapter on metaphysical rebellion the best. Camus has a fine understanding of the English Romantic poets and what, for many, their rebellion consisted of: "The Byronic hero, incapable of love, or capable only of an impossible love, suffers endlessly. He is solitary, languid, his condition exhausts him. If he wants to feel alive, it must be in the terrible exaltation of a brief and destructive action. To love someone whom one will never see again is to give a cry of exultation as one perishes in the flames of passion. One lives only in and for the moment, in order to achieve 'the brief and vivid union of a tempestuous heart united to the tempest'(Lermentov)" This is as an acute a dissection of the raison d'etre of the "Byronic hero" as I've read in any English criticism (and believe me, I've read a lot!). The passages on Nietzsche are also exquisite. He gets to the root of many of the great thinker's ideas by quoting the lines that come from the heart: "the most painful, the most heartbreaking question, that of the heart that asks itself: where can I feel at home?"-The passages on Milton are exquisite as well.-The whole book is a well-rounded philosophical enterprise that touches both the heart and the mind. This is not sentimentality, as one reviewer contends (such criticisms usually come from those jaded souls who have had their hearts burnt out in grad school). It is decency...unshakable decency, according to the review by the Atlantic on the back cover of my edition. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the wherefores behind man's many different states of rebellion. It is the best and most readable I know of.
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 1997
In his novels -- short and to the point -- Camus strove to embody a philosophy. THE REBEL, probably his best, most sustained work, talks about that philosophy at length. He takes something of the same viewpoint as Robert Lindner -- who insisted that the rebellious and protestant in man is what is best in him, not the docile and quiescent -- and explores that viewpoint exhilaratingly and totally. He also does something no modern philosopher or critic has done well, to my mind, which is give de Sade a proper shakedown. (Most intellectuals who have a flirtation with de Sade's writings and pseudo-philosophy -- not all that far removed from Ayn Rand's, come to think of it -- wind up contriving some kind of argument for the man as a martyr of intellectual freedom. Nothing could be further than the truth, and Camus makes a good case for that.) The best thing about the book is its tone -- lofty without being snooty, intellectual without being distant, and passionate without being sentimental. It's not a hard read, and it has the flavor of a conversation with a man who makes you stop and say to yourself, "Yes -- why didn't I think that before, in so many words...?"
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2000
Critics of Albert Camus consider L'Homme Révolté, or The Rebel to one of Camus' most important non-fiction works. While Le Mythe de Sisyphe is far more polished, The Rebel is the most comprehensive exploration of Camus' beliefs. There are weaknesses in The Rebel, as in most rhetorical works, but the public found the work accessible and, as a result, made it a bestseller.
The book begins as an essay "Remarque sur la révolté," written in 1945. This "Commentary on Revolt" attempted to explain Camus' definition of the word, "revolt." In the essay, Camus' explains that a revolt is not the same as a "revolution." Camus' lexicon define "revolt" as a peaceful, evolutionary process. He had hoped that mankind would evolve toward improved societies. In his ideal, socialism is the result of a natural historical process that does require effort and leadership, but not violence.
"Remarque sur la révolt" begins with a civil servant refusing an order. For Camus, revolt begins with a single person refusing an immoral choice. Laws and rule are not defensible for Camus unless they are meant to help society at all levels. The civil servant in the opening parable is an existential hero, though Camus would have rejected such a label. The bureaucrat makes a decision based not upon what is easiest for him but what is best for him and society as a whole. This man's revolt is resistance, not violence.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's works are the primary target of The Rebel. While not a perfect treatment of Hegel, Camus argues that Hegel's works glorified the state and power over personal morality and social ethics. Worse, according to Camus, Marxism co-opts Hegel and extends his theories to allow any means to an end. In Marxism, as embodied by the Soviet Union and its Communist Party, the state is always "right." Humanism and equality were important to Camus, not an artificial organization.
Camus further offended some leftists by opposing what he considered a trend toward nihilism in European thought. Life was "meaningless" for Camus, but each person did have the opportunity to define a role for himself or herself in life. Nihilism rendered living pointless, which Camus could not accept. Mankind, by its very existence, was in the unique position of defining itself through choice.
Attacking Hegel, Marxism and nihilism resulted in a resounding rejection by the left. Leftist critics hated The Rebel and described it as an act of intellectual treason. The May 1952 issue of Les Temps Modernes featured a review of The Rebel by Francis Jeanson. The review affected Camus deeply. Camus found himself described as a traitor to the left and Jeanson suggested no one should be critical of progressive ideas, even when the actions of the left might be "wrong."
The review in Les Temps Modernes marked the end of Camus' relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre. As editor, or director, of the magazine, Sartre exercised a great deal of control. Camus knew that Sartre must have agreed with the review at some level. Camus was compelled to write a response to Jeanson. In his response, Camus tried to explain his belief that the ends, or at least the goals, do not justify the means in many cases. Sartre then published an open letter to Camus. Sartre, himself, wrote nineteen pages, including some very personal attacks. As a result, the friendship was over forever.
While not the primary work cited, the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Camus in part due to The Rebel.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2001
Camus' The Rebel is the first book of his that I had the great pleasure of reading. Eloquent and enlightening, The Rebel speaks to me in a way that no other 20th century philosophical work has, at least in its entirety.
The Rebel is both an introduction of new ideas and a history of previous ideas and events: Camus' scholarship is unbelievable in the area of revolt. It spans from early greek history and earlier all the way through to the French Revolution and beyond.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone concerned with spiritual, historical, or any kind of rebellion - and really to anyone who concerns themself over the human condition.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2000
Of course, this book has not been totally forgotten, but for what a good piece of work this is, it is largely negelected. Flat out, I find this book Camus' masterpiece and if all his other books were destroyed, this one alone would make him seem genius....
Why is this book so good? First, it provided a reading list for me, an American, to learn the basics and the names of some of the most important French and European thinkers in the past five hundred years and an impetus to read them (such that I could agree or disagree with what Camus said about them). Second, the book made me think, and made me question, in the logical, precise, but human way that Camus did (which is an invaluable tool for anyone just starting out in the world). Third, in this book you get to see a great swath of history unfold through one of the greatest writers/minds of the twentieth century. How cool is that?
I highly reccomend this book to anyone to read. Especially, though, I recommend this book to anyone just starting out on a path in the social sciences or law (who thinks about 'things that matter....') or to anyone going through post-adolecent pangs of conscience....
This is the first book that I'd read of Camus if I were new to him too....
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2011
Building on his former essay `The Myth of Sisiphus', where the view of an absurd world culminated in suicide, Albert Camus analyzes here rebellion against the absurd, the affirmation of life: `I rebel, therefore we exist'.
He examines critically metaphysical and historical rebellion for freedom and man's dignity. Moreover, he asks the all important question: why are rebellions mostly ending in (and justifying) murder, under the flag of freedom or reason (logical crimes) with philosophy as an alibi? For A. Camus, the will to power takes the place of the will to justice.
The metaphysical rebel protests against his condition in the world, against the whole of the creation, its injustice and its evil, and also against death.
The father of all rebels is Prometheus (`see the injustice I have to endure').
The Marquis de Sade proclaims unbridled personal freedom, absolute negation and universal destruction. Stirner proclaims universal affirmation of the self, while Nietzsche proclaims active nihilism: every man has to make his own laws.
The surrealists also proclaim absolute personal freedom with `gratuitous acts' as satisfactions of one's instincts and one's unconscious.
All those metaphysical rebels want to control totally their own world and construct for them a pure terrestrial kingdom.
The history of man is the sum of his successive rebellions. Freedom and man's dignity are the motivating principles of all revolutions. But, when justice demands the suppression of freedom, terror consummates the revolution. Justice adopts violence and murder and the revolutionaries assume the responsibility of total guilt.
J.J. Rousseau formulated the concepts of the Republican State with law and order based on the general consent.
Saint-Just wanted the Republic to be totally cleansed of all alien elements.
Hegel's dialectic of master and slave (the conqueror is always right) culminates into the absolute State, `the reflection of the Spirit of the world in the mutual recognition of each by all.'
But, in the absolute State, the will to power replaced the will to justice.
Fascism dreamed of liberating a minority by subjugating the rest.
Building on Marx' prophesy of the abolition of the State, Lenin's professional revolutionaries organized Russian Communism aiming at liberating all men, but, by provisionally enslaving them all.
Overall, man's dignity and living standard (freedom) have only been served, not by doctrine, dogmas or abstract concepts, but by concrete revolutionary trade-unionism. Only by organizing the labor force and by strikes have the working conditions been mightily improved from a 16 hour work day to a forty hour work week.
Albert Camus expressed impressively his personal views on the history and the deadly dangerous human rebellious condition, which are still highly relevant today.
Not to be missed.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2003
Without straying into the dogamtism or the sentinmental romantic mindset that Camus warns of, this book had a profound affect on me as it helped me reconcile my 'reasoned' agnosticism and irreligion with my 'intuitive' socialism. I have since come to the conclusion (with the help of Camus) that both the above aspects of my world-view are logical, and perhaps most importantly,that it is necessary to temper whatever ideolgies you happen to find yourself agreeing with, your own intuitive morality.
This is in my opinion the crux of The Rebel as Camus examines the history of religous (metaphysical) and social rebellion. From the Marquis De Sade and Neitzche in the former to the French Revolution and USSR in the later.
Camus seems to have started from a point of being at a loss to explain the seeming contradictions in apparently well meaning revolution's that dole out (or promise freedom over here) and practice tyranny over there. Camus shows the depth and originality of his thinking by showing that these contradictions can be seen as the logical conclusions to total obediance to the doctrines of Marx, Hegel and Rosseau amoungst others ( these contradictions are found in the works themselves of Marx et al as these thinkers have been 'slaves' to their own logic which can be seen as analagous to Weber's notion of 'over-rationalism' and the 'iron cage' ). The result is a wise and profound analysys of social rebellion and a proscription for future reform as well as presenting a kind of 'eudaimon' for the contemporary existentialist.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2014
The Rebel is Albert Camus's response to the idea that European leftists are obligated to follow the lead of the Soviet Union under Stalin. In this essay he discusses the various themes of revolutionary thought in a post-religious world, going back to Jacobins and the French Revolution. He also develops the idea of rebellion as distinct from revolution, and concludes with an argument that in a highly polarized era of extreme ideologies, to be a moderate is to be a rebel.
"Is it possible to find a rule of conduct outside the realm of religion and its absolute values? That is the question raised by rebellion." In the first section of the book, Camus looks at those who have proposed an answer to this question, starting with the negation of all values as proposed by the Marquis de Sade. He looks in more detail, though, at the ideas of Nietzsche, followed by those of the Romantics and other literary movements.
The longest section of the book is an examination of historical rebellion, starting with the Jacobins and continuing through the 20th century. The sharpest focus is on Marxism and, in particular, the idea embodied in the "dictatorship of the proletariat" that Marxism "aims at liberating all men by provisionally enslaving them all." This leads to the mandate that we murder men for the sake of mankind, and the grotesque idea that the victims must exalt their executioner. Camus counters this with the argument that "instead of killing and dying in order to produce the being that we are not, we have to live and let live in order to create what we are."
The problem with much of Camus's writing, as stated by another reviewer, is that "he loved a well turned sentence more than the thought within it and he cannot resist an aphorism especially where it includes a play on words. His penchant for short punchy sentences is also not conducive when explaining complicated ideas." Instead of the methodical arguments used by most philosophers, Camus leaps from one bold assertion and generalization to the next. It's possible, however, that someone with more background than I have in the ideas of philosophers such as Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche may find some of Camus's comments more digestible.
It's also unfortunate that when Camus finally comes to his concluding remarks on moderation, he resorts more to poetic metaphors than concrete ideas and recommendations. France at that time in history seemed poised between the influence of Soviet communism and American corporate capitalism. Camus rejected both, but in The Rebel he barely mentions the latter, saying only that, like Marxism, it is a society based on industrial production and that any society based on production is "only productive, not creative."
The Rebel is obviously an important work, and there are many ideas within it which any reader can appreciate. But to understand and judge the book as a whole it is probably best to approach it with a strong background in the writers and ideas on which Camus built his thesis.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2003
"The Rebel" is a meaty and insightful "essay" with Camus telling his account of rebellion beginning in the mid-1750s and alluding to Greek mythology to answer the question stated below for 20th (now 21st) century living. Camus examines the writings of Sade, Nietzsche (and others) and Marxism to answer whether the conquest of revolutionary movements can change the "totality of the world" and claim to the "unity of life" through rebellion (97, 108), that is, living in order to create what we are, not what we are not by the force of terror!
It is not by dieing through revolutions we find a place in history, nor by being a god ourselves, nor indulging in our "adolescent furies" but rather servicing history by throwing ourselves into our own lives and to help others. "Rebellion in itself is moderation, and it demands, defends, and re-creates it through history and its eternal disturbances... It (rebellion) is a perpetual conflict, continually created and mastered by the intelligence" (301). Camus also gives his account and original interpretation on the `death of God' through his examination of "historical rebellion."
"The Rebel" is written with admirable writing talent and skilled exposé by an extraordinary individual on the heart-wrenching depths on man in revolt. This exposition deserves 10 stars plus and is worth three times more than what I paid for it...!