Jean Paul Sartre's Theory of Collective Action: Reconsidering Hegel and Marx Open Access

Moeller, Adam Blake (2015)

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This study attempts a dialectical theory of collective action responsive to the philosophies of Georg Hegel and Karl Marx by leveraging the work of Jean-Paul Sartre toward an investigation of collective belief and agency, alienation and community. My primary concerns are (1) characterizing dialectical social theories, (2) tracing the historical development of dialectical social theory as the aforementioned topics of investigation manifest in the work of Hegel, Marx and Sartre and (3) describing the conditions under which interpersonal identification arises and dissipates for individual members of collectives. To these ends I examine dialectics as a method of doing social theory, articulate the unique structures of agency appropriate to various collective entities like families, economies and political states, and defend a theory of joint authorship to account for the solidarity of group beliefs. With this support I present a project-based understanding of collective action that demonstrates the transformation of projects from serial collectives to fused groups to institutions. I situate this Sartrean theory within Hegel's and Marx's independent philosophies on collective action, Sartre's early attempts at addressing the topic, and Margaret Gilbert's contemporary theory of joint commitment and joint action.

Table of Contents

Introduction: 1

Questions of Dialectic and Method: The Organon Theory of Knowledge in Hegel's Science of Logic 9

Chapter 1: Collective Action in Hegel's Philosophy of Right 21

I. The Dialectic of Freedom and Alienation 24

II. Modernity's Central Social Forms 36

III. The Family, Civil Society and the State as Collective Agents 41

Chapter 2: Marx on Class Action as Reconciliation 63

I. Social Cohesion and the State 70

II. Class Action as Reconciliation 76

Chapter 3: The Us and the We in Sartre's Early Writings 82

I. Collective Action for-Others in Being and Nothingness 86

II. The Alienating Looking of No Exit 94

III. The Heteronomous and Authoritarian Collectives of Dirty Hands 99

Chapter 4: Sartre's Awakening to "Synthetic Reason" and the Self-Conscious Turn 105

I. Self-Consciousness 110

II. Synthetic Collectives and Synthetic Action 116

III. Dangers of Analytic Rationality and A New Answer to the Jewish Question 122

IV. The Existential-Marxist Thesis on Collective Action 130

Chapter 5: The Collective Action Orbit in the Critique of Dialectical Reason: A Project-Centric Approach 142

I. Seriality in Practico-Inert Relations: Sartre's Criticism of State and Class Action 151

II. Joint Authorship and Solidarity in the Group-In-Fusion 164

III. The Project as Institution 173

Conclusion: Collective Action and Responsibility 182


A. SPDR S&P 500 ETF Chart 2005-2014 66

B. Debt-to-GDP Ratios Across Country Groups 1880-2009 67

C. Real Household Incomes at Selected Percentiles: 1967-2010 68

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