SARTRE’S CRITIQUE OF DIALECTICAL REASON AND NEW MATERIALISM

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Abstract

Sartre’s late work–the Critique of Dialectical Reason–attempted to develop a new theory of praxis emphasizing themes that anticipate new materialist and biopolitical turns in the humanities. Specifically, Sartre stressed: (1) the “agentic” qualities of matter, insofar as matter reacts to human activity and alters its course; (2) the unintended and accruing consequences of human activity in the material world; (3) the fact that capitalism involves human subjects in relations of passive exigency that make them machines; and (4) the ways in which the biological matter constituting a human subject is systematically altered through practical activities performed in a particular milieu. The present article overviews new materialism and discusses affinities and divergences with Sartre’s Critique. It then presents Sartre’s social theory of ensembles, or assemblages, of human actors. This exposition demonstrates the potential of his theory to contribute to contemporary biopolitical and post-structuralist ideas about revolutionary collective action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-48
Number of pages18
JournalAngelaki - Journal of the Theoretical Humanities
Volume26
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Keywords

  • assemblage theory
  • collective action
  • Critique of Dialectical Reason
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • new materialism
  • social theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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