Critique of Dialectical Reason, Vols. 1 and 2

At the height of the Algerian war, Jean-Paul Sartre embarked on a fundamental reappraisal of his philosophical and political thought. The result was the Critique of Dialectical Reason, an intellectual masterpiece of the twentieth century, now published as a two-volume set with a major new introduction by Fredric Jameson. In it, Sartre set out the basic categories for the renovated theory of history that he believed was necessary for post-war Marxism.

Sartre’s formal aim was to establish the dialectical intelligibility of history itself, as what he called ‘a totalisation without a totaliser’. But, at the same time, his substantive concern was the structure of class struggle and the fate of mass movements of popular revolt, from the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century to the Russian and Chinese revolutions in the twentieth: their ascent, stabilisation, petrification and decline, in a world still overwhelmingly dominated by scarcity.

The second volume of Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason was drafted in 1958 and published in France in 1985, first appearing in English in 1991. As in Volume One, Sartre proceeds by moving from the simple to the complex: from individual combat (through a perceptive study of boxing) to the struggle of subgroups within an organized group form and, finally, to social struggle, with an extended analysis of the Bolshevik Revolution. The book concludes with a forceful reaffirmation of dialectical reason: of the dialectic as ‘that which is truly irreducible in action’.

Reviews from

Write a review (you'll need to sign in to your Goodreads account or sign up) (showing 1-7 of 9)
By Erik (Canada) · ★★★★★ · April 16, 2012
This is an advanced work on Dialectical Theory, Existentialism, Epistemology and Ontology. Anyone unfamiliar with these concepts, or traditions should seek more introductory works first and then move on to this fascinating but difficult study.

The Critique of Dialectical Reason grew out of Sartre'... ...more
By Lo (Toulouse, France) · February 28, 2013
So, i have finished this, what do you know!!!!
I DID IT. MY SPIRIT HAS NOT BEEN BROKEN, though Sartre has repeatedly tried.

THAT BEING SAID i don't think i can rate this !!!!!
I would give it one star tbh given on the many many times i have been SO ANGRY AT THIS BOOK AND EVEN MORE AT HIS AUTHOR JEAN... ...more
By Michael (Sonoma, CA) · ★★★★☆ · April 27, 2008
Along with Search for a Method, this book was a fascinating examination of dialectical reason as applied to groups-in-fusion and the then reigning Marxist paradigm of the French left. Sartre critiques the claim that such reason provides the truth of history and adds his existentialist ideas of in... ...more
By James (Geneseo, NY) · February 26, 2014
I've had this in my bathroom and I read it while I'm pooping. Which is appropriate because, Fartre. Also the picture on the cover is hilarious. So far his prose has been less lucid than Frederick Jameson's introduction, which is an achievement in itself. Anyway, I'm glad my friend Jeremie gave me... ...more
By John (Bangkok, Thailand) · ★★★★★ · January 29, 2014
Not really a book about Marxism but more generally a theory of human association. Read and re-read and re-reading. You have to go back to this book several times before it makes sense. Go to the parts on the bus queue first (seriality) then try 'the indirect gathering'. Sartre makes more sense in... ...more
By Dan (Cambridge, C3, The United Kingdom) · ★★★★★ · November 18, 2013
read just the problem of method within it. complex. too complex for a review here. I found Sartre's attempt at reconciling individual autonomy with broader social pressures very plausible and intellectually stimulating, it represents a depart from his early undilluted existentialism to a more con... ...more
By eesenor (Northampton, MA) · ★★★★★ · December 08, 2008
Sartre demonstrates that the economic system that best accommodates individual freedom is Socialism. ...more