Philosophy as Political Engagement: Revisiting Merleau-Ponty and Reopening the Communist Question

Contemporary Political Theory 2 (3):327-350 (2003)
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In this article, I revisit the work of the French political philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. A colleague of Sartre's until their quarrel, he sought to combine existentialism, Marxism and phenomenology. I begin by considering why Merleau-Ponty thought it was important, in confronting the problems of the present, to reconsider past ideas as well as political regimes. I also develop his distinctive methodology of dialectical engagement, his view of politics as a strategic field of forces, and his insistence that philosophy and political action are severed at our peril. In order to illustrate and flesh out all these claims, I return to Merleau-Ponty's treatment of the communist question, placing it within a broader context of his antipathy towards modern rationalism: something he found exemplified by liberal as well as communist regimes. In the course of the discussion, I consider Merleau-Ponty's critiques of Kant, Hegel and Marx as well as his ideas about political agency. However, I also allude at key points in my argument to the relevance of his thinking for our contemporary international situation



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Phenomenology of Perception.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1962 - Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: The Humanities Press.
Signs.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 2018 - Chiasmi International 20:231-231.
Signs.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1964 - Evanston, USA: Northwestern University Press.

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