PDF The Work of Sartre: Search for Freedom and the Challenge of History

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But you do not get rid of the bureaucracy unless you attack the economic and social foundations and devise another way to regulate the metabolic process of society so that the power of capital is first reduced and, at the end, it ends up disappearing completely. Capital is the controlling force, you cannot control capital, you can suppress it only through the transformation of the whole complex of metabolic relations of society, you cannot just touch it at the margin. Either it controls you or you get rid of it, there is no middle road, and this idea of market socialism could not work from the beginning.

The real need is not the restoration of the capitalist market, under the name of a fictitious "social market", but the adoption of an appropriate system of incentives. John Bellamy Foster, who wrote the introduction to his book The Structural Crisis of Capital , regarded him as a "scout of socialism".

He presented his analysis thus:. Opposing those who claim that the working class has been integrated into the system, he makes it clear that this is a systemic impossibility even in the wealthiest capitalist states, and at most extends to the trade union leadership The working class remains everywhere an alienated power, the indispensable agent of potential revolutionary change. In his book The Necessity of Social Control , he reflects on the state, this "mountain that we must conquer". Interviewed on this subject, he explains:.

The great challenge for our historical time is the necessary eradication of capital from our social metabolic order. And this is inconceivable without eradicating at one and the same time the state formations of capital historically constituted in conjunction with the material reproductive dimension of the system and inseparable from it.

But it does not claim that the stated requirement will inevitably be achieved.

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History is open, for better or for worse. The private capitalist property relations of a given state can be overthrown, but that is not a solution in itself. Capital, labour and the state as such are deeply related to the organic ensemble of the historically constituted social metabolism. And this can only be done successfully in accordance with changed historical circumstances, within the limited framework of our global home.

This is the meaning of the socialist alternative to the social metabolic order of capital, now dangerously overwhelmed and dangerously wasteful.

Inevitability must be left to the law of gravity by which the stones thrown by Galileo from the top of the leaning tower of Pisa were to reach the ground with certainty. And this is also offered as a criterion and measure of its possible success. Especially when the magnitude of the task presents itself as the need to radically change the social reproductive metabolism as a whole, from an order of substantial inequality to a substantial state of equality.

And the historic challenge of achieving a substantial order of equality is not a question of the last few decades. Their demand was totally incompatible with the order of consolidation of capital, and they were executed for it. But the historical challenge did not die with them, since it involves the whole of humanity. And no partial solution or its failure can eliminate this condition.


Marx never did it. And he continued: "Babeuf and his comrades appeared tragically at the beginning of the historical scene with their radical demand. At that time, capital still had the potential for a conquering global expansion, even if its mode of functioning could never overcome the problematic characteristics of what even its best advocates in the field of political economy described as creative or productive destruction. Because destruction was always an integral part of it, in view of the growing waste that is inseparable from the inexorable impetus of self-expansionism, even in the ascending phase of the historical development of capital.

This is why the socialist alternative is not only possible - in the sense of its historical sustainability mentioned above - but also necessary, in the interest of the survival of humanity. This ecological dimension is central in his most recent works. But his work will long remain a source of inspiration for critical thought, for the elaboration of the socialist alternative and for the critique of capital.

One can only hope that his writings will finally be translated into French. Ibid, p. Macrobid uses. Contact us. We need your help to get our message across! Printable version. In a letter of July he said: "My criticism does not relate to politics in general or to "democratic politics", but to the degradation of politics, going as far as a nightmarish accommodation to capital, in the name of "democracy", promulgating the most authoritarian measures through submission to the domination of capital.

Lessons from the Soviet system He was not a Trotskyist, but he was neither a sectarian nor a Stalinist. In the interview already quoted, he said: "The Soviet Union was not capitalist, not even state capitalist. Interviewed on this subject, he explains: "The state as such cannot reshape the social reproductive order of capital because it is an integral part of it.

Marxism Decolonial Communism reviewed Petty bourgeois deviations?

The "look" reveals to me the givenness of another consciousness within the world. Yet Sartre's dialectic of the self and other cannot rest with this givenness. Just as the other's freedom constitutes not only a threat but a successful elimination of my own, so, in turn, I must be able to imprison the other in my "look. Modifications of the being of two consciousnesses emerge that echoes the life and death struggle in Hegel's Phenomenology.

However, more significantly, they dramatically exceed the relationship of self and other outlined in Sartre's initial delineation of Husserl's idea of intentionality. If, originally, my intentional being consisted solely in my negative relation to the object of my awareness, now this relationship is itself understood as being within the power of the object of which I am aware because it is subject to an essential modification by the other.

A reasonable inference from this experience of the other's look is that the ontology of intentionality conceals aspects beyond my intentional relationship to some transcendent object. Despite the language of the ontological phenomenology of Being and Nothingness , the nothingness that is the for-itself has "being" just in the sense that it is subject to essential modifications. The "purity" of the for-itself the purity of its not-being what it is is a misleading abstraction. Sartre's own language betrays this dilemma.


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In the experience of the look of the other "I am suddenly affected in my being which means that essential modifications appear in my structure - reflections which I can apprehend and fix conceptually by means of the reflective cogito. There is something of the in-itself in my very being "Behold, now I am somebody.

The centrality of a "reflective cogito" in my experience of the Other's look also signals an important departure from Sartre's earliest work. What I "am" in the face of another for-itself involves at least two important dimensions. First, since what I "am" is my being-seen by the other, I can only be "seen" because I am an embodied consciousness just as the other is only able to look at me by virtue of the other's embodiment.

Hence, part of what I am in the look of the other is "my body. In my freedom, my situation is a gestalt within which I freely project myself toward my possibilities.

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Under the other's look, however, this gestalt of freedom becomes the alienation of my possibilities. As we shall see, Sartre's Critique of Dialectical Reason witnesses to Sartre's effort to remove the abstractness of this account of the self and Other. Something will have to be added to the pre-reflective spontaneity of being-for-itself in order to make it possible for the for-itself to become mutually engaged by and with the other rather than simply oppositionally juxtaposed.

Finally, an additional comparison with Husserl sheds useful light on this portion of Being and Nothingness. In addition to the thoughts of Hegel and Heidegger on the nature of the Other, Sartre criticizes Husserl's account of the other as presented in Husserl's Cartesian Meditations. Husserl's adoption of a form of transcendental subjectivity commits him, in Sartre's view, to a "transcendental solipsism" that precludes relationships such as the Other-as-a-look between different transcendental egos. For Sartre, the Husserl of the Fifth Cartesian Meditations and its "deduction" of the existence of the Other, based as it is upon Husserl's reliance upon the infamous phenomenological reduction, relates only to the subject's "knowledge" of the Other.

Merleau-Ponty, acquainted, as Sartre was not, with Husserl's extended reflections on the phenomenological account of the other such as Ideas II , will later elaborate in detail a more positive account of intersubjectivity and the alien nature of the Other in the spirit of Husserl. Other and his primordial being As we shall see, Sartre's later works abandon the earlier abstract ontology of Being and Nothingness for the sake of just such an enriched understanding of intersubjectivity.

While Sartre has little to say about the historicity of being-for-itself in Being and Nothingness , a theme that will become central for the later Critique of Dialectical Reason , he does have a great deal to say about time. Following Heidegger, Sartre defines time "ecstatically" as the for-itself's relationship to the past, present and future. The past is the mode of being-for-itself as a "no longer having to be the past that I was.

As instances of the in-itself they are subject to the negative relation that defines the for-itself in relation to the in-itself. What, then, is the present? The present is the presence of the for-itself to something in the mode of being its own "witness" to the coexistence of itself and being-in-itself. But even if I am now not my past, it is still my past that has been transformed in this way, just as it was revealed to have been my situation that is transcended and negated by the other.

Time allows me to become the other to myself. Given the essential modifications of my being brought about by temporality, I appear to be involved with a substantive modification my self that represents something no less substantive than the modification of my being brought about by the other.

Jean-Paul Sartre - Wikiquote

Similar considerations apply to my dialectical relationship to my future. As in the case of Sartre's analysis of intersubjectivity, we must ask whether temporality also points to a dimension of human experience that reveals something essential about the very nature of being-for-itself beyond "pure nothingness.

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It might be the case that, in declining to follow Heidegger in privileging the future over the past and the present, Sartre's privileging of the present suggests something like a leveling down of the temporal flow of our experience of the world. That consciousness is essentially temporal, as both Husserl and Heidegger claim, points toward a dynamic structure that a pure nothingness as the negation of being-in-itself is unable to fully grasp. Early interpretations of Heidegger's Being and Time closely associated the work with the "existentialist" writings of Sartre.

Heidegger's formula, the "essence" of Dasein is its "existence," made it indeed appear as if Sartre and Heidegger were pursuing a shared program, an impression strengthened by Sartre's own. Sartre's later turn to Marx constitutes a repudiation of this earlier existentialist affiliation with Heidegger's work. In this concluding section, I will suggest that the Sartre of The Critique of Dialectical Reason is much closer to the Heidegger of Being and Time than one might first imagine.

The Critique of Dialectical Reason involves themes that occupy an increasingly central position in today's philosophical discussions. It is less the existentialist Heidegger that preoccupies our attention today. Rather it is the Heidegger whose analyses of social, institutional and pragmatic structures now makes it possible for us to begin to grapple with the important implications of Sartre's later thought.

In Search for a Method , Sartre identifies a new reading of the relationship between being-in-itself and being-for-itself. The project, as the subjective surpassing of objectivity toward objectivity, and stretched between the objective conditions of the environment and the objective structure of the field of possibles, represents in itself the moving unity of subjectivity and objectivity, those cardinal components of activity The view of human agency as the externalization of an "objectified subject" is clearly adopted from the Marx of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts.

It is also a dramatically different formula from that expressing the human subject as a nihilating transcendence of being-in-itself. We must now grasp the human subject in its historically determined situation as a radically embedded spontaneity that is interfused with its world in its self-projection, an embedded spontaneity whose objectification understood as " It is clearly beyond the scope of this paper to treat the various nuances in Sartre's writings on the "objectified subjective," spanning, as they do, recently published materials as well as major late works such as Search for a Method , The Critique of Dialectical Reason and the multi-volume work on Flaubert, The Family Idiot.

However, an insightful and compelling path into Sartre's later thought is provided by an example that Sartre himself offered in , 25 an example that supplements our age's almost obsessive preoccupation with language.