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New Philosophers

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The New Philosophers (French: nouveaux philosophes) is the generation of French philosophers who are united by their respective breaks from Marxism in the early 1970s. They also criticized the highly influential thinker Jean-Paul Sartre and the concept of post-structuralism, as well as the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger.

They include Alain Finkielkraut,[1] André Glucksmann, Pascal Bruckner, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Jean-Marie Benoist, Christian Jambet, Guy Lardreau, Claude Gandelman, Jean-Paul Dollé and Gilles Susong.


The term was created by Bernard-Henri Lévy in 1976. Most of the philosophers he included in that description had a previous history of Marxism with which they had recently broken. Several had been members of the Maoist party Gauche prolétarienne. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's writings on The Gulag Archipelago had a profound effect upon many of these former Marxists. Besides the content of the book, French Communist Party’s attack on the book further incited discontent with Marxism. International events, such as massacre in Cambodia and Vietnamese refugee crisis, also inspired criticism and reflections regarding communism.[2]

Basic characteristics[edit]

The New Philosophers rejected what they saw as the power-worship of the Left, a tradition which they traced back to at least Hegel and Karl Marx in the 1700s and 1800s. They argued that these and other various "master thinkers" who sought to create comprehensive systems of thought had actually created the foundations for systems of oppression. More recently Pascal Bruckner has targeted multiculturalism.


Because they are defined by a negative quality (i.e., the rejection of systems of authoritarian power) the New Philosophers are very disparate. In 1978, Michael Ryan argued that they exist in name only; their "homogeneity derives from their espousal of heterogeneity."[3] They have been described as "a brand name" for an "extremely heterogeneous group of about ten intellectuals who are held together more from without than from within... they do not serve as representatives of any clearly defined political movement or force."[4]


They were attacked as superficial and ideological by critics such as Gilles Deleuze,[5] Pierre Vidal-Naquet,[6] Pierre Bourdieu,[7] Alain Badiou,[8] Jean-François Lyotard,[9] and Cornelius Castoriadis.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bernard-Henri Lévy, Left in Dark Times, Random House Publishing Group, 2008, p. 43.
  2. ^ Lacroix, Justine (2018). Human Rights on Trial: A Genealogy of the Critique of Human Rights. Cambridge University Press. pp. 27–28. ISBN 9781108334884.
  3. ^ Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Michael Ryan (June 1978). "Anarchism Revisited: A New Philosophy". Diacritics, 67-68
  4. ^ Oskar Negt and Jamie O. Daniel (1983) "Reflections on France's 'Nouveaux Philosophes' and the Crisis of Marxism". SubStance 11(4), 56-67
  5. ^ Gilles Deleuze, « Les nouveaux philosophes », supplément au n° 24 de la revue Minuit, repris dans Deux régimes de fous, Minuit, p. 132.
  6. ^ "La critique du Testament de Dieu de Bernard-Henry Lévy (1979) - Pierre Vidal-Naquet". www.pierre-vidal-naquet.net.
  7. ^ Pierre Bourdieu, « Le hit-parade des intellectuels français, ou Qui sera juge de la légitimité des juges ? », Homo academicus, Minuit, 1984, annexe 3.
  8. ^ Éric Aeschimann, « Mao en chaire », Libération, 10 January 2007.
  9. ^ Jean-François Lyotard, Instructions païennes, Éditions Galilée, 1977. Le groupe des nouveaux philosophes, dont Lyotard analyse les pratiques discursives, est ici appelé la Cie Clavel. Cf. aussi du même, La condition postmoderne, Minuit, 1979, et Le postmoderne expliqué aux enfants (1982–1985), Galilée, 1988.
  10. ^ Christos Memos. "Castoriadis and Social Theory: From Marginalization to Canonization to Re-radicalization". In: Alex Law and Eric Royal Lybeck (eds.). Sociological Amnesia: Cross-currents in Disciplinary History. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. p. 190.