Freedom and domination through time: Jean-Paul Sartre’s theory of the plurality of temporalities

Philosophy and Social Criticism 48 (7):1014-1034 (2022)
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The plural, impure or discordant nature of time has become an important theme in recent critical social and political theory. Against Althusser’s dismissal of Sartre’s presumedly Hegelian understanding of time and history, this article establishes Jean-Paul Sartre as a key figure in this debate on the plurality of temporalities. Especially in the Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre understands history and the social in terms of a multiplicity of uneven and non-synchronous temporalisations, rejecting an notion of time as a universal container within which events take place. The originality of Sartre’s approach is that it establishes a link between the notion of the plurality of temporalities and the problem of freedom and domination. His mature social and political theory allows us to understand temporalisation as a strategy for domination, and objective social temporality as key to a form of anonymous or structural domination. A reconstruction of this highly complex and sophisticated approach to thinking domination through time can also shed an original light on the temporal dimension of democracy and totalitarianism.



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