Is philosophy France’s greatest export?

Jonathan Ree’s review of Alain Badiou’s survey of French philosophy since Sartre.  “French industry as a whole was in poor shape at the end of the second world war, but one sector was soon reporting an export-led recovery: philosophy. … After the liberation French philosophy went global. Jean-Paul Sartre had been part of the system, working as a provincial prof de philo before reinventing himself as a novelist and playwright. In January 1945, after a dull but productive war, he was flown to New York as a guest of the US State Department, which was keen to show the wonders of America to the top brains of the new France. Sartre annoyed his hosts by comparing American imperialism to Nazi terror, but as far as intellectual trade was concerned, he hit on a winning formula. He was louche, exotic, and relatively young; and even if he hated the word ‘existentialism,’ it provided him with a memorable brand.”

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