- Series: Critique of Dialectical Reason (Book 2)
- Paperback: 498 pages
- Publisher: Verso (July 17, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1844670775
- ISBN-13: 978-1844670772
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,679,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Critique of Dialectical Reason, Vol. 2 (Volume 2)
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“This work is a landmark in modern social thought ... a turning point in the thinking of our time.”—Raymond Williams
“The Critique is essential to any serious understanding of Sartre.”—George Steiner
“Of all the published posthumous works, Volume Two of the Critique of Dialectical Reason most strongly shows why Sartre is alive to us today ... Unique among this century’s great writers, Sartre—especially in his Critique II—points towards understandings and actions which may possibly return the world to its creators and so let there be a future.”—Ronald Aronson
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
CDR was a massive attempt to describe the dynamic of various levels of human interaction & what characterizes these levels, from a mere chance collection of people to the social entity we call an institution. The ultimate objective was to show why Marx's categorization of "class" as some kind of hyperorganism was wrong. Its thesis statement can be drawn from its thematic antecedent, Search for a Method: cultural order is irreducible to natural order.
In CDR, life was endless occasions of totalizations, detotalizations, & retotalizatons on a field of scarcity. These various totalizations were instances of human groupness, whether people waiting @the bus stop, a soccer team, or the "mob" storming the Bastille. We called the temporalization of events "history."
First half of the volume, or Book I, is devoted mainly to ennui-provoking explanation of the dialectical investigation: hidden there in a footnote was Sartre's curt dismissal of Darwinism. However, he got wound up in Book II & showed how task assignments, division of labor, & the institution came about.
I know of no other original study, treatise, or even novel that uses the themes & concepts of CDR. A CDR-oriented examination of, say, American domestic relations court proceedings (with its forced as opposed to mediated reciprocity) might be a worthy endeavor.
Sartre the philosopher is great because he wrote BEING AND NOTHINGNESS. Two decades later he published the volume under review, ostensibly his second major work of philosophy.
Both these books require the reader--especially the reader who isn't a specialist in philosophy--to, in Sartre's apt phrase, "break the bones in his head". For BEING AND NOTHINGNESS this is an effort well worth making. For the CRITIQUE ...
Sartre's attempt to transmogrify phenomonological ontology into Communistic socialism comes a cropper. This makes it sound as if I've read the book with adequate understanding, which would be overstating the case considerably. I'll only say that BEING AND NOTHINGNESS was about individual consciousness, a subject amenable to convincing rational discourse, whereas THE CRITIQUE attempts to discuss collective consciousness in the same terms, and this, I'd argue, is an impossibility.
I know I'll be told that Marx was first a philosopher, then a dialectical thinker, and ended as a theorist of economic reality and its ostensible consequences. But Marx was writing in the 19th century, Sartre was writing in the late 20th century, and not only was Marx wrong about the form the putatively inevitable revolution would take, social reality is now qualitatively different.
To understand social reality now you have to know a great deal more about economics, sociology, and, most important of all, depth psychology than was known in Marx's or Sartre's time. I'll leave out neurology and brain science, a huge omission, but both Marx and Sartre ignore it.
Hegel lurks behind both Marx and Sartre and, though perversely resurrected and revered by Kojeve and his ilk, Hegel was the most ludicrous thinker of his century, rightly reviled by Kierkegaaard, another misguided, if subtle, apologist for the Divine. He can't be ignored as part of the history of philosophy, but as a source of wisdom he's better left to oblivion.
Sartre lost his sense of balance as he aged. His approval of "revolution" reached the barbaric stage of defending the killers of the Olympic athletes in Munich because, as he put it, the Palestinians had no other weapon against Israel except "terrorism". His argument that the horrors of Communism were insignificant because the underlying philosophy was ameliorative and Capitalism was exploitative makes me wonder if he ever heard the saw about "the road to Hell being paved with good intentions". Stalin, whom he defended, murdered millions: there's no way to read this without thinking that Sartre's mania not only ruined his life but that it contaminated his late philosophy.
Arguably, he was better off as an anarchist, the apolitical genius who wrote NAUSEA and BEING AND NOTHINGNESS. If he'd written the "ethics" promised in the latter volume and ignored the nonsense of dialectical materialism, he would almost certainly have been a greater man and a greater thinker.
[NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 1976 one-volume hardcover edition.]
He said in the Introduction to this 1960 book, "we must... explore the limits, the validity and the extent of dialectical Reason. We cannot deny that a Critique (in the Kantian sense of the term) of dialectical Reason can be made only by dialectical Reason itself; and indeed it must be allowed to ground itself and to develop itself as a free critique of itself, at the same time as being the movement of history and of knowledge. This is precisely what has not been done until now; dialectical Reason has been walled up in dogmatism." (Introduction, Sec. 2, pg. 21)
He adds, "I have said---and I repeat---that the only valid interpretation of human history is historical materialism... in the field of dialectical rationality historical materialism is its own proof, but that it does not provide a foundation for this rationality even, and above all, if it provides the History of its development as constituted Reason. Marxism is History itself becoming conscious of itself, and if it is valid it is by its material content... Thus our task cannot in any way be to reconstruct real History in its development... Our problem is critical." (Intro. Sec. 9, pg. 39-40)
He outlines, "Volume I of the Critique of Dialectical Reason stops as soon as we reach the `locus of history'; it is solely concerned with finding the intelligible foundations for a structural anthropology... Volume II, which will follow shortly [actually, it was never written] will retrace the stages of the critical progression: it will attempt to establish that there is ONE human history, with ONE truth and ONE intelligibility---not by considering the material content of this history, but by demonstrating that a practical multiplicity... must unceasingly totalize itself through interiorizing its multiplicity at all levels." (Intro, Sec. 10, pg. 69) Later, he adds, "our original problem: what is Truth as the praxis of synthetic unification, and what is History?... And what is the practical meaning of historical totalisation in so far as it can reveal itself today to a (totalizing and totalized) agent situated within History in development?" (Sec. 11, pg. 75)
He wrote, "From my window, I can see a road-mender on the road and a gardener working in a garden... They have no knowledge at all of each other's presence... Meanwhile, I can see them without being seen, and my position and this passive view of them at work situates me in my relation to them: ... in my inertia as witness I realize myself as a petty-bourgeois intellectual... Hence my initial relation to the two workers is negative: I do not belong to their class, I do now know their trades, I would not know how to do what they are doing, and I do not share their worries. But these negations ... can be perceived only against an undifferentiated background consisting of the synthetic relations which support me together with then in an ACTUAL immanence. I could not contrast their ends with mine without recognizing them as ends." (Bk I, Sec. 2, pg. 100-101)
He observes, "This is the contradiction of racism, colonialism and all forms of tyranny: in order to treat a man like a dog, one must first recognize him as a man. The concealed discomfort of the master is that he always has to consider the human reality of his slaves ... while at the same time refusing them the economic and political status which, in this period, defines human beings." (Bk I, Sec. 3, pg. 110-111)
He summarizes, "the first relation between men is the indefinite adherence of each to each; and these formal conditions for all History are immediately seen to be conditioned by inorganic materiality... if totalisation is a historical process, it comes to men through MATTER. In other words, praxis as the free development of the organism has now totalised the material environment in the form of a practical field; and in a moment we shall see the material milieu as the first totalisation of human relations." (Bk 1, Sec, 3, pg. 120-121)
He argues, "The truth is that when the woman worker thinks she is ESCAPING from herself, she is really finding an indirect way of making herself what she is... no doubt she tries to people the desert of boredom produced by the specialized machine. But at the same time, she tries to fix her mind within the limits allowed by the operation, by the objective task: she is the unwilling accomplice of employers who have determined norms and minimum output in advance. Thus the deepest interiority becomes a means of realising oneself as total exteriority." (Bk. I, Sec. 4, pg. 234)
He observes, "Thus the specific scarcity---the number of people in relation to the number of places---in the absence of any particular practice, would designate every individual as dispensable.... But, except in cases of panic... the relation of reciprocity ...establishes interchangability as the impossibility of deciding ...which individuals are dispensable...The travelers waiting for the bus take tickets indicating the order of their arrival. This means that they accept the impossibility of deciding which individuals are dispensable in terms of the intrinsic qualities of the individual." (Bk. I, Ch. 4, Sec. 1, pg. 260-261)
Not even remotely as "pathbreaking" as Sartre's Being and Nothingness, this book is still one of his major "late" works, and will interest anyone studying Sartre's philosophical development.