For many of us of the generation of the late 1960 and early 1970s, Sartre was a hero. Reading this book inevitably led me back to my own engagement with Sartre’s ideas as a student in those years. I had a brushing acquaintance with Sartre and de Beauvoir during my undergraduate years in the early 1960s, having read on my own pieces of Being and Nothingness and some of their popular essays on existentialism. Later in 1969, while studying literature at the University of California at San Diego, in my first graduate seminar, a course taught by Fred Jameson on The Critique of Dialectical Reason, I was suddenly plunged into Sartre’s thought. That massive 750-page book in tiny print and difficult French, written in the 1950s and published in 1960, attempted to reconcile Marxism with its emphasis on the determining role in history of economic and social structures with Sartre’s own existentialism and its stress on individual human freedom in the face of death. The encounter would leave me an existentialist Marxist, convinced by Sartre that Marxism and existentialism—together with the Freudian psychoanalysis—provide a more complete understanding of the dynamics of human life than any one of them alone. (Herbert Marcuse, author of Eros and Civilization, was also at UCSD when I was there, and all of us were reading Wilhelm Reich’s books and his Sex-Pol Essays.)
ESSAYS ON EXISTENTIALISM by Tanweer Akram
Existentialism Stance that choices and commitments must ultimately be made by each individual alone, and that the individual must thereafter accept responsibility for the choice, abandoning any hope for some higher level of justification (such as God). Most famously presented in the work of Jean-Paul Sartre: "Man makes himself. He isnt ready-made from the start. In choosing his ethics, he makes himself, and the force of circumstances is such that he cannot abstain from choosing" (from Essays on Existentialism).
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