This landmark book, first published in 1979, met acclaim as a doubly important work of radical philosophy. Its subject, Jean-Paul Sartre, was among the twentieth century’s most controversial and influential philosophers; its author, István Mészáros, was himself establishing a reputation for profound contributions to the Marxian tradition, which would continue into the next century. The Work of Sartre was thus considered essential for its insights on Sartre and as a piece of Mészáros’s developing politico-philosophical project.
In this completely updated and expanded volume, Mészáros examines the manifold aspects of Sartre’s legacy—as novelist, playwright, philosopher, and political actor—and in so doing casts light upon the entire oeuvre, situating it within the historical and social context of Sartre’s time. Although critical of aspects of Sartre’s philosophy, Mészáros celebrates his unyielding commitment to the struggle against the power of capital, and elucidates what this means for the individual in their search for freedom.
István Mészáros’s expanded critical study of Jean-Paul Sartre not only makes a powerful case for him as one of the great philosophers of the twentieth century, but also underlines how the problems and commitments that animated Sartre make him a vital figure of continuing importance. In demonstrating Sartre’s strengths and integrity as an activist thinker, Mészáros also reveals how his very failures are the source of illumination. Many of Sartre’s most ambitious works remained unfinished, and the reasons lie in the contradictions at the heart of the philosopher’s thinking, and also, as Mészáros argues, at the heart of late capitalist society.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of Sartre’s philosophy and political activities. Well-researched and well-written, it provides a balanced and comprehensive analysis of Sartre’s life and work.
Praise for the first edition:
One of the most important studies on Sartre yet to appear … Mészáros encounters Sartre: he describes some of the deepest tensions driving Sartre’s entire career and shows them both as established in his early works and from the point of view of his later development. … dazzling insights.
In the future no one will be able to write on Sartre without first studying Mészáros.