The development of the political philosophy of Merleau-ponty

Continental Philosophy Review 40 (2):125-138 (2007)
This article follows the development of Merleau-Ponty’s political philosophy from his 1947 text, Humanism and Terror, through a number of essays in the Adventures of the Dialectic, to the Preface to Signs published in 1959. It shows the process by which Merleau-Ponty escaped the “grip of marxism” as a philosophy of history. It notes the link between his philosophy of history and the concrete historical events of his times, particularly the Russian Revolution and its degeneration into Stalinism. It suggests a certain analogy between Merleau-Ponty’s reflection on the October Revolution and Kant’s reflection on the French Revolution. The notion of the universal class of the proletariat is the guiding thread in the analyses of both Merleau-Ponty’s proximity to marxism and the process by which he frees himself from its grip. We observe the role that this concept plays in Humanism and Terror and in the essays on Weber and Lukacs in the Adventure of the Dialectic where we eventually see its dissolution. It is argued that Merleau-Ponty arrives at a new conception of historical meaning which is neither totalizing or empiricist. The paper concludes by presenting an outline of the direction that his philosophy of history took after he extricated himself from marxism. This new philosophy took the form of a critical reflection on the role of the “notion of the hero” in 20th century political philosophy in general, particularly in Heidegger and Sartre.
Keywords Marxism  Universal class  Proletariat  Historical meaning  Russian Revolution  Lukacs  Weber  Elective affinity  Dialectic  Democracy  Phenomenology  Arendt  Reification  Hero   Virtu  Machiavelli
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DOI 10.1007/s11007-007-9053-6
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