New Philosophers

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Jean-François Lyotard (1924—1998) French philosopher and literary critic


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A group of young French philosophers who, despite their previous attachments to Maoism, publicly broke with Marxism in the early 1970s, following the publication of Russian dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn's account of the gulags in the Soviet Union. The very loosely knit group included André Glucksmann, Alain Finkielkraut, Bernard-Henri Lévy, and Guy Lardreau, argued that western philosophy, but especially the Marxist-Hegelian tradition, had led to and legitimated the gulags and was therefore to be rejected in favour of a new philosophy not devoted to the totalizing goals of the older styles of philosophical system. The highpoint of this line of thought, however, came from outside the group in the form of Jean-François Lyotard's proclamation (in his book on the differend) that our ethical duty is to wage war on totality. Michel Foucault was claimed by the New Philosophers as one of their own and though he gave several sympathetic interviews to its members, it is clear that he was not comfortable with their wholesale rejection of the Left. Foucault's friend, Gilles Deleuze, had no such sympathy and was utterly scathing in his rejection of the New Philosophers as being neither new nor philosophers, but just a bunch of grandstanding hacks playing to an anti-intellectual media.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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