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New Left Review 70, July-August 2011

Alexander Zevin


There is no shortage of either scholarly or popular works on Jean-Paul Sartre, or on the intellectuals with whom he sparred in post-war France. [1] Paige Arthur, Unfinished Projects: Decolonization and the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, Verso: London and New York 2010, £14.99, paperback 233 pp, 978 1 84467 9 Yet if the number of studies continues to expand, the themes they treat tend, at the same time, to narrow: friendships, paramours and quarrels are laced into larger, moralizing narratives of alleged Sartrean backsliding on camps in the Soviet Union and show trials under its client regimes in Eastern Europe. This tradition found its own shrill champion in Tony Judt, whose Past Imperfect (1992) dwelt on the silence or complicity of intellectuals in and outside the pcf who, ‘in the name of the proletarian and the class struggle made a daily contribution to the legitimation of the enslavement of the satellite states.’ A methodological consensus has meanwhile congealed around the work of Anna Boschetti, itself heavily indebted to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, which interprets Sartre’s long career through the lens of self-promotion and the accumulation of—and competition for—intellectual capital.

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Alexander Zevin, ‘Critique of Neo-Colonial Reason’, NLR 70: £3

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