Philosophy in Turbulent Times: Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida

Elif Batuman writes:

‘We are certainly living in strange times’ is how Elisabeth Roudinesco’s Philosophy in Turbulent Times begins. Roudinesco’s reader, too, is in for a turbulent and strange time, starting with the introduction, a five-page polemic against the spirit of our age:

Jean-Paul Sartre – for or against? Raymond Aron – for or against? … Should we take a blowtorch to May 1968 and its ideas … seen now as incomprehensible, elitist, dangerous and anti-democratic? Have the protagonists of that revolution … all become little bourgeois capitalist pleasure seekers without faith or principles, or haven’t they? …

The father has vanished, but why not the mother? Isn’t the mother really just a father, in the end, and the father a mother? Why do young people not think anything? Why are children so unbearable? Is it because of television, or pornography, or comic books? …

And women: are they capable of supervising male workers on the same basis as men are? Of thinking like men, of being philosophers? Do they have the same brain, the same neurons, the same emotions, the same criminal instincts? Was Christ the lover of Mary Magdalene, and if so, does that mean that the Christian religion is sexually split between a hidden feminine pole and a dominant masculine one?

   Has France become decadent? Are you for Spinoza, Darwin, Galileo, or against? Are you partial to the United States? Wasn’t Heidegger a Nazi? Was Michel Foucault the precursor of Bin Laden, [and] Gilles Deleuze a drug addict … ? Was Napoleon really so different from Hitler?

(LRB 20 November 2008)