This is part of a large scale Critique of Dialectical Reason in which Sartre, French eminence grise, formally acknowledges Marxism as the 20th century's only philosophy and existentialism as a subordinate ideology working within it. The bases are suspect, the arguments shopworn. For Sartre, existentialism is a parasitical system living on the margin of Marxism; in the past it opposed it, now it seeks membership. And what is that but a parallel to Christian assimilation of pagan symbology? Truth is a becoming; totalization is what it becomes, and Marxism is "history itself becoming conscious of itself"- which is Hegelian double-talk all over again. Man is not unknowable: we must develop a "philosophical anthropology". The 18th century Idea of Reason and/or Pavlovian mechanics. Of course Sartre is against both; more perplexity. The scarcity problem is both in economics and emotions and shall be eliminated through collective means; the new fundamental of freedom is Marxist need, not bourgeois desire. Thus, the further juggling of terms and terms. Contradiction is the dialectic and class structure is the contradiction; the capitalist crises produce proletarian class consciousness and rebellion. But except in pre-industrial situations such as Czarist Russia, where has that ever happened? In short, knowledge is Marxism and all of us are Marxists whether we like it or not. And what deep that resemble except Christ as the Indivisible Historical Truth? He died for you, boys; like it or not His death (the Incarnation/Resurrection) is your Meaning. All men are brothers, said Christ. There will be no classes, said Marx. And Sartre, self-hating petit-bourgeois, attempts to escape his class via the Marxist Good News. Unfortunately only the most rigorous, rapier-sharp scrutiny justifies such propositions being elucidated, elongated. And that's not here. Sartre's Method seems continually in double focus: polemical bursts of sunlight along with endless skywriting on a cloudy day. A cognoscenti conversation piece.

Pub Date: June 17, 1963

ISBN: 0394704649

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1963

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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