Existentialism and Poststructuralism: Some Unfashionable Observations

In Felicity Joseph, Jack Reynolds & Ashley Woodward (eds.), Continuum Companion to Existentialism. Continuum 260 (2011)
This chapter challenges the received doxa that the generation of ‘poststructuralist’ philosophers broke decisively with existentialism and rendered it out of date, a mere historical curiosity. Drawing on recent research in the area, it draws some lines of influence, and even argues for some surprising points of commonality, between existentialism and poststructuralism. At least some of the core philosophical ideas of poststructuralists such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze bear more in common with existentialism than is often supposed. Furthermore, it addresses a common resistance to poststructuralism by committed existentialists by showing that poststructuralism does not abandon concern with responsibility and decision, but in fact develops these themes in ways that are proximate to existentialist concerns. Finally, it argues that some of the needs that some prominent contemporary philosophers find lacking in poststructuralism – in particular, the need for subjective agency – are already met in significant ways in existentialism. These three points serve to throw new light on the contemporary relevance of existentialism, and to open up new directions for research.
Keywords existentialism  poststructuralism  phenomenology  Sartre
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