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The Right to DifferenceFrench Universalism and the Jews$
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Maurice Samuels

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226397054

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226399324.001.0001

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Sartre’s “Jewish Question”

Sartre’s “Jewish Question”

(p.139) 6 Sartre’s “Jewish Question”
The Right to Difference

Maurice Samuels

University of Chicago Press

Chapter Six considers to what extent Jean-Paul Sartre’s Réflexions sur la question juive [Anti-Semite and Jew], written at the end of WWII, represents a turning point in the history of French thinking about the Jews and the universal. Sartre offers a blistering critique of republican universalism both for its tepid defense of the Jews and for demanding that Jews assimilate. Sartre’s famous call for Jews to become “authentic" and for French people to accept their difference, represents an explicit rejection of the republican universalist paradigm and a major pendulum swing toward pluralism. And yet, Sartre has difficulty leaving universalism behind: at the end of the text, he winds up replacing the republican universal with a Marxist one that is no less opposed to Jewish difference. This chapter explores these paradoxes within Sartre's text but ultimately suggests that the text's real significance lies in the way that it inspired French Jews to affirm their difference in later years.

Keywords:   Jean-Paul Sartre, Réflexions sur la question juive, WWII, republicanism, Marxism, world war two

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