Sartre, Group Formations, and Practical Freedom: The Other in the Critique of Dialectical Reason

In this essay, I attempt to remedy the relative neglect that has befallen Sartre’s analysis of social relations in the Critique of Dialectical Reason. I show that, contrary to the interpretation of certain commentators, Sartre’s analysis of social relations in this text does not contradict his earlier works. While his early work focuses on individual-to-individual social relations, the Critique of Dialectical Reason complements this by focusing on the way various group formations constrain or enhance the individual’s practical freedom. To outline my argument, I first discuss the relationship between Being and Nothingness and the Critique of Dialectical Reason before going on to identify the four group formations Sartre discusses in the Critique of Dialectical Reason and the implications each has for the individual’s practical freedom. I argue that while the group formations called the series and the institution constrain the individual’s practical freedom, the open, democratic group formations called the group-in-fusion and, in particular, the organized group, enhance the individual’s practical freedom. Because it is membership of an organized group that best enhances the individual’s practical freedom, I conclude by arguing that Sartre implicitly holds that the individual’s practical and political activity should be directed towards the establishment of a group formation that has the characteristics of an organized group
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