In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews181 The IntellectualEnterprise: Sartre andLes Temps Modernes, by Anna Boschetti; translated by Richard C. McLeary; 279 pp. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988, $42.95 cloth, $14.95 paper. Anna Boschetti's book was originally published in Italian in 1985 but it is the French edition dating from the same year which constitutes the basis of Richard McLeary's translation. Using Pierre Bourdieu's work on cultural fields, Boschetti examines the factors that led to Sartre's utter domination ofinteUectual life in France from 1945 to 1960. For Boschetti, as for Bourdieu, a cultural field is relatively autonomous with regard to existing economic or political powers and has a logic of its own. The practices within it are determined by social imperatives but they are also—and sometimes even more so—determined by its structure and functioning. Specifically, they are shaped by the relations between the resources and dispositions of individual actors in the field and the possibüities offered these actors through the field's hierarchies, the disciplines it defines, the legitimating bodies it respects, the conflicts or aUiances it fosters, and so on. To account for Sartre's preeminence, Boschetti therefore attempts to show, in the first partofthe book, how and why his background, achievements, and world view represented an ideal set ofweapons for the conquest and control of the French intellectual field in the fifteen years following the Liberation. The second part of the book is devoted to an exploration of the cultural role played by Les TempsModernes in establishing and maintaining Sartre's hegemony. According to Boschetti, in the late 1940s and in the 1950s, Sartre was a "person in the right place with the right competencies" (p. 136). His literary apprenticeship, his philosophical tides, his version of the inteUectual, his nonconformist life style were in perfect harmony with the needs and configuration of the intellectual field. As a "professor" and "creator," a novelist, phUosopher, playwright, essayist, critic, and journalist, he could unify a polycentric system and become its most important reference point. Moreover, mandarin ideology, the problems of reconstructing a traumatized country, the Cold War, and decolonization aU created a demand for the committed prophetism Sartre was so wüling to dispense. By 1960, things were changing. Thus, Les Temps Modernes had lost some ofits power as Sartre's epigones (Gorz, Cau, or Peju) had replaced his competitors or peers (Raymond Aron, Merleau-Ponty) and the review had gone over to the side ofjournalism. Besides, the economic revival of France, GauUism and the liquidation of colonialism, Budapest and the collapse of Stalinism made the times ripe for a new, "scientific," "modern" intellectual vision. Structuralism began to replace existentialism. . . . Boschetti not only offers a socio-cultural explanation ofSartre's extraordinary success; she also makes weU-informed comments on his works and on the itinerary that led him from "absurdity" to commitment; she writes interesting 182Philosophy and Literature pages on prominent friends, famüiars, and rivals ofher protagonist (e.g. Nizan, Aron, Merleau-Ponty, Bataüle); and she provides a fascinating assessment of such majorjournals as Esprit, Critique, and La Nouvelle Critique. More generaUy, Boschetti's work constitutes a suggestive reflection on the reasons texts are written and read in certain ways at certain times. Boschetti's work, however, is not entirely persuasive. She often relies on conventional psychology to account for certain attitudes: for instance, Zola's depiction of professors as faüed writers is explained by his flunking his exams and his being rejected as a candidate for the Académiefrançaise (p. 16). She also frequendy takes "sociological" shortcuts: the dispositions characterizing the personalists of Esprit—they are first-generation Catholic inteUectuals who come from the upwardly mobüe and salaried provincial (lower) middle class—account for their group ethos: "an ascetic and meritocratic, spiritualist, and elitist moral rectitude" (p. 156). Above all, in her attempt to prove that cultural production and cultural success are governed by the configuration of the cultural field, she leaves litde room for individual choice and action or, if one prefers, for disorder and chance. In spite of these reservations, I believe that Boschetti succeeds in showing how much a Bourdieu-inspired sociology of culture can contribute to literary and...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 181-182
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.