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practico-inert


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Jean-Paul Sartre's term in Critique de la Raison Dialectique (1960), translated as Critique of Dialectical Reason (1976), for the embedded or sunk (to use the economics term) results of praxis, by which he meant deliberate, goal-oriented human action. As such, the practico-inert is the matter with which praxis must work. For example, climate change is the product of hundreds of years of human endeavour, which until very recently was (and perhaps even still is) seen as activity contributing to the welfare of humanity. Industrialization brought real rewards to at least some sections of society, not only improving the standard of living in monetary terms, but also improving the quality of life by providing labour-saving, indeed life-saving new technology. But now it is clear that very same process has created the potential for a catastrophe on a global scale. As Sartre puts it with regard to his own highly localized example of deforestation in China, humans have done what humanity's worst enemy would have done if it had wanted to destroy humankind. The very thing that calls most urgently for praxis now is in fact the result of past praxis.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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