TRAMES 2, 2, 1998

Marek Kwiek. Between the community and the text (French philosophy, politics, and the figure of the intellectual - from Sartre to Focault)

A. Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland


What I am trying to do in the present text is to draw a sketch of postwar French philosophy from the perspective of the question of relations between philosophy and politics. I am showing a distinction between the community and the text that is present in this philosophy from Sartre to Barthes to Foucault and beyond. The general passage from the community-oriented philosophy (which I call "Hegelian") to the text-oriented philosophy (which I call "Nietzschean") took place in the sixties, following the books by Georges Bataille, Gilles Deleuze, and Pierre Klossowski on Nietzsche. I am discussing the formulation of this opposition by Jean-Paul Sartre ("the aesthete"/"the engaged writer"), its reversal suggested by Roland Barthes ("authors"/"writers") and, finally, an attempt made by Michel Foucault to go beyond the very oppositions pertaining to "writing" as such in his dichotomy of "universal intellectuals"/"specific intellectuals". The passage from the French Hegel to the French Nietzsche as a "master thinker" in French philosphy was also a manifest passage from the community to the text as a main focus of philosophical interest, and the discussion of relations between philosophy and politics is at the same time that of the role, place, tasks and obligations of the philosopher in culture. The detour to these discussions is made in order to stress the continuity of the text/community (or Hegelian/Nietzschean) opposition in current debates on postmodernity and to ask about relations between philosophy and politics today.

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