THE MASTER THINKERS by Andre Glucksmann
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Usually lumped with Bernard-Henri Levy and others as one of the ""New Philosophers"" of Paris, Glucksmann has a few advantages over the rest; he is older (around 40), for one thing, and has had authentic experience as a political radical; and unlike Levy, he seems not only to have read the large mass of literature to which he promiscuously refers, but to have understood it. For Glucksmann, the barbarity of Soviet rule, brought home by Solzhenitsyn, is a manifestation of a larger phenomenon common to east and west; and he traces it to the French Revolution and its intellectual articulation in 19th-century Germany. There, where a ""state"" did not yet exist, the state became the ultimate repository of moral value for the ""master thinkers"" of Glucksmann's title: Fichte, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. Running through their thought is a belief in absolute knowledge--itself a residue of science and its claim to truth--as a prerequisite for absolute freedom. From this perspective, everything can be justified on the basis of a higher or more complete knowledge, be it the ""science"" of revolution developed by Lenin or the forced modernization of the Third World carried out by the west. What is important about the ""master thinkers"" is that they synthesized the two elements of the French Revolution--the Enlightenment and the Terror--into a code which has become the organizing principle of modernity, and for this reason they are archetypes rather than the sources of the problem themselves. Glucksmann's analysis thus comes closer to Michel Foucault's emphasis on the imposition of order through concepts than to the simple moral outrage of the New Philosophers. And in addressing the ambiguity of those who are neither wholly oppressors nor wholly oppressed, he harkens back to Mearleau-Ponty and Sartre's post-war writings. A serious and troubling archaeology of the sources of totalitarianism, and an original, potentially momentous work.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1980
Publisher: Harper & Row