Sartre and Foucault on ideal "constraint"

Sartre Studies International 10 (2):56-76 (2004)

Abstract

Although most of the contemporary debates around subjectivity are framed by a rejection of the metaphysical subject, more time needs to be spent developing the implications of abandoning the meta-physics of constraint. Doing so provides the key to approaching our pressing problem that concerns freedom, and only once invisible, ideal "constraints" have been adequately understood will all of the contemporary puzzlement that concerns intentional resistance to power be assuaged. While Sartre does not solve the problem of freedom bequeathed to us by Foucault, it is clear that he struggled with similar issues, and that his work sheds important light on the issue of ideal constraint. Once more, on Sartre's second view, power and freedom are not mutually exclusive, and in this he advances over much contemporary liberal thought. Thus, on the approach of what would be Sartre's hundredth birthday, I invite others to take this opportune moment to reevaluate the early work of this once shining philosophical star, only recently and perhaps prematurely eclipsed by anti-humanism, and recognize that now, more than ever, Sartre's thought is relevant to our very pressing concerns.

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Matthew Eshleman
University of North Carolina at Wilmington

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