Posts Tagged 'dialectics'

Sartre on the “Fused Group”

In his massive existential Marxian work, Critique of Dialectical Reason,  author Jean-Paul Sartre explains how a seriality of seemingly unrelated people (except through markers of class, ethnicity, or gender, etc.) can come together to form a social force: a group:

[I]n the movement of History, an exploiting class, by tightening its bonds against an enemy and by becoming aware of itself as a unity of individuals in solidarity, shows the exploited classes their material being as a collective and as a point of departure for a constant effort to establish lived bonds of solidarity between its members.  There is nothing surprising about this: in this inert quasi-totality, constantly swept by great movements of counter-finality, the historical collectivity, the dialectical law, is at work: the constitution of group (on the basis, of course, of real, material conditions) as an ensemble of solidarities has the dialectical consequence of making it the negation of the rest of the social field, and, as a result, of occasioning, in this field in so far as it is defined as non-grouped, the conditions for an antagonistic grouping (on the basis of scarcity and in divided social systems) (346).

Thus the common praxis, as the totalisation and struggle against a common praxis of the enemy, realises itself in everyone as the new, free efficacity of [their] praxis, as the free intensification of [their] efort; every freedom creates itself laterally as the totalisation of all freedoms, and totalisation comes to it through the others as a lateral dimension of its individuality, in so far as it is freely individual for them.  This has nothing to do with the radical transformation of freedom as individual praxis, since the statute of this freedom is to live the very totality of the group as a practical dimension to be realised in and by its individuality.  But it is true that there is a new relation between freedoms here, since in every totalisation of the group, the freedom acknowledge themselves to be the same…And the unity of this freedom beneath the shifting multiplicity of the syntheses is itself, and fundamentally, the relation between a negative unity of all (totalisation through annihilation by the enemy) and the negation of this negation to the extent that it is occasioned as totalising and that it produces itself freely on this basis (402-3).


Satre, Jean-Paul.  2004.  Edited by Jonathan Ree and translated by Alan Sheridan-Smith.  Critique of Dialectical Reason: Volume 1.  New York: Verso.


Overcoming a Series Through a Group


In Jean-Paul Sartre‘s (1905-1980 CE) book Critique of Dialectical Reason Sartre merged Marxism with Existentialism.  Sartre stated that Marxism was the philosophy of its time and Existentialism just a small, less important, mode of thought under the umbrella of Marxism and Communism.

Sartre stated a Series was a group of people in relation to each other but with no common goal while a Group was a group of people in relation to each other, who know they are in relation to each other, and have a common unified goal and that Parti communiste français (PCF) erred in seeing the working class as a Group instead of seeing it as a Series.

It is seriality which must be overcome in order to achieve even the smallest common result (such as averting too rapid a fall of purchasing power).  But it is serialisty too which sustains the group making demands, in its very passivity, as a source of possible energy – the group, in fact, from the practical point of view of its action, can no longer conceive it except in the synthetic form of potentiality…

This means that class-being, as past, present, and future seriality, is always the ontological statute of the worker and that group praxis, as a surface dissolution of the relation of alterity [my note: “the state of being other or different] inside the class (and therefore on the surface in the worker) and as a conservative transcendence of serial being, is either the present practical reality of the common individual or his future possibility as an induced signification and as an abstract unification applying to the series from the depths of the future. (Sartre, 687-8)


Sartre, Jean-Paul.  Critique of Dialectical Reason I: Theory of Practical Ensembles.  Edited by Jonathan Ree and translated by Alan Sheridan-Smith.  London: New Left Books, 1978.

Hegel’s Master & Slave

G.W.F. HegelGeorge Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831 CE) wrote about a history of self-realization.  Of history progressing closer and closer to a freedom and a self-realization of a better humanity.  In his dialectical way of thinking Hegel tried to show how freedom could unite and divide and lead to a greater synthesis of freedom:

To explain this process, Hegel outlines a mythical encounter between two primeval self-consciousnesses.  This is the famous example of ‘the master and the slave‘.

Each self, deeply absorbed in the business of living, at first confronts the other as an obstruction to its own possession of the world and demands recognition of the other.

The result is a life-and-death struggle for the recognition by the other.  The self who submits, rather than face death, becomes the slave. (Spencer and Krauze, 60)

But because the identity of the master is an identity based on that of a slave and not being a slave:

There is no way for the master, no his own, to escape from his own form of dependency and alienation. (ibid.)

Yet, soon, the slave recognizes this and also recognizes that the entire world she or he is surrounded by is a world created by his or her own hands: the houses they built, the crops they picked, etc.  The slave realizes that the master actually had no part in the actual creation of this world: such as the creation of value from the picking of the crops, etc.

It is no wonder that Hegel’s myth continues to have such resonance to the present.  Marxists, Existentialists, the intellectual architects of Negritude and the Black Consciousness movement, have all been drawn to the sombre richness of Hegel’s tale.  And although Hegel speaks throughout of ‘he’, feminists, too have found inspiration here. (61)


Spencer, Lloyd and Andrzej Krauze.  Introducing Hegel.  Lanham, Maryland: Totem Books, 2006.


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