For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Political Writings

by de Beauvoir, Simone (2012)


Political Writings offers an abundance of newly translated essays by Simone de Beauvoir that demonstrate a heretofore unknown side of her political philosophy. The writings in this volume range from Beauvoir's surprising 1952 defense of the misogynistic eighteenth-century pornographer, the Marquis de Sade, to a co-written 1974 documentary film, transcribed here for the first time, which draws on Beauvoir's analysis of how socioeconomic privilege shapes the biological reality of aging. The volume traces nearly three decades of Beauvoir's leftist political engagement, from exposés of conditions in fascist Spain and Portugal in 1945 and hard-hitting attacks on right-wing French intellectuals in the 1950s, to the 1962 defense of an Algerian freedom fighter, Djamila Boupacha, and a 1975 article arguing for what is now called the "two-state solution" in Israel. Together these texts prefigure Beauvoir's later feminist activism and provide a new interpretive context for reading her multi-volume autobiography, while also shedding new light on French intellectual history during the turbulent era of decolonization.

Key Passage

[Extract from Merleau-Ponty and Pseudo-Sartreanism, first published as: “Merleau-Ponty et le pseudo-sartrisme,” Les temps modernes, 114–15 (June-July 1955): 2072–22; in Privilèges (Paris: Gallimard, 1955): 201–72,]-We  have  already  stated  it,  and  it  will  be  necessary  to  repeat  it  as  often  as Merleau-Ponty  repeats  the  contrary:  everything  comes  not  from freedom but from the situation. The living conditions of the unskilled worker, his exhaustion, the debasement of knowledge correlative to the mechanization of the work, prevent him from being able to be at once a worker and a militant; coming  from  the  masses,  the  militant—as  Lenin  himself  said—must leave it: “The duo of technician and unskilled worker must be balanced by that of the unskilled worker and professional militant.” (p.231)


De Beauvoir, Marx, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Communism, Political Theory


On Merleau-Ponty

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