At the height of the Algerian war, Jean-Paul Sartre embarked on a fundamental reappraisal of his philosophical and political thought. The result was the Critique of Dialectical Reason, an intellectual masterpiece of the twentieth century, now republished with a major original introduction by Fredric Jameson. In it, Sartre set out the basic categories for the renovated theory of history that he believed was necessary for post-war Marxism.
Sartre’s formal aim was to establish the dialectical intelligibility of history itself, as what he called ‘a totalisation without a totaliser’. But, at the same time, his substantive concern was the structure of class struggle and the fate of mass movements of popular revolt, from the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century to the Russian and Chinese revolutions in the twentieth: their ascent, stabilisation, petrification and decline, in a world still overwhelmingly dominated by scarcity.