For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Lost Paradigm: the Fate of Work in post-war French Philosophy"

by Deranty, Jean-Philippe (2016)


For a brief period, between the years immediately preceding the Second World War and for about a decade thereafter, the most important authors in French philosophy (Weil, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre) conducted their reflections within a “work paradigm”, that is, within theoretical frameworks in which the concept of work played the central, organising role. The first three sections of the paper identify the different meanings of work, which, brought together under the umbrella concept of “praxis”, underpinned this paradigm. The central claim advanced by the paper in section 4 is that the rise of a new paradigm in the following generation of French philosophy (Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze), around the concepts of structure, text and discourse, was explicitly directed against work. In the final section I identify a “return to work” in French philosophy (notably via Rancière), brought about, I argue, by the problematic severing of theory and practice that is inherent in structuralist methods.


Weil, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Work Paradigm, Praxis, French Philosophy, Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Structuralism


On Sartre, Sartre, On Merleau-Ponty, Merleau-Ponty

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