French Connections

French Connections

From Sartre to Althusser, Existential Marxism in Postwar France, by Mark Poster. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 415 pp.

Before World War II, no indigenous Marxian tradition existed in France. Stalinist hacks dominated the scene, and the socialist movement largely subsisted on a thin gruel of traditional Marxist ideas mixed with generous infusions of Jacobin ideology and native “utopian socialist” ingredients. All this changed abruptly after the liberation. We were now witness to various characteristically French attempts to revitalize Marxist philosophical reflections, partly through a return to Hegel, and to reinterpret Marxism in tune with other philosophical traditions such as phenomenology, existentialism, and, somewhat later, structuralism. It is this development that Poster has attempted to depict. His book is a lucidly written and conscientiously documented guide for those who have been perplexed by the somewhat bewildering profusion of French Marxist and proto-Marxist philosophical currents in the postwar period.

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