The Apocalypse of Hope: Political Violence in the Writings of Sartre and Fanon

Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 27 (1):25-59 (2006)
  Copy   BIBTEX


“The apocalypse of hope” and other comparable flourishes in the writings of Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre on political violence strike an alarming tone. In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon advocates the way of revolutionary violence as the inevitable consequence of colonialism and its systematic exploitation of colonized natives. In his role of agent provocateur, Sartre’s preface to Fanon’s influential and controversial work characteristically dramatizes this redemptive promise of violence: “to gun down a European is to kill two birds with one stone…there remains a dead man and a free man.” This notorious pronouncement constitutes itself as an act of violence—we must feel threatened—meant to incite the latent counter-violence behind, in Sartre’s diagnosis, the false consciousness of bourgeois toleration and understanding. Could Sartre’s bold statement be spoken today without violent condemnation? This statement claims that, against the dehumanization of colonial oppression, only revolutionary violence allows for the colonized natives to constitute a “people” and recreate themselves in the image of a new humanity forged from the experience of liberation. For Fanon in particular, the recreation of humanity is impossible without the birth of a national consciousness and a revolutionary culture. As Fanon writes, “[w]e believe that the conscious, organized struggle undertaken by a colonized people in order to restore national sovereignty constitutes the greatest cultural manifestation that exists.” This reach toward a new humanism through the praxis of revolutionary violence points directly to the problem of beginnings. As Arendt observes in On Revolution, “[r]evolutions are the only political events which confront us directly and inevitably with the problem of beginning.” Anti-colonial violence, for Fanon, inaugurates the beginning of political life; the colonized native reconstitutes himself as a βίοσ πολιτικόσ capable of both speech and praxis. For Sartre, anti-colonial violence reveals the dialectical necessity of world history in its struggle towards genuine universality and the utopia of a “classless” society.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 74,480

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

23 (#495,968)

6 months
1 (#417,474)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?