Monday, June 27, 2011

De Beauvoir: Participating in Political Life

Last summer, I spent some time reading through Capital, volume 1. This summer, my reading list is in large part organized around preparing for the Rancière book, which includes a cover-to-cover read of the Borde/Malovany-Chevallier translation of The Second Sex (I've already linked to some criticisms of this text, raised by Toril Moi, here).

I've only read through Parts One and Two thus far. But it's a relief to read and not have to worry about omissions à la Parshely. I've also had some fun rediscovering passages such as these (see 146): in the final chapter in the "History" section, de Beauvoir notes that after Germany's defeat in World War I, that women "obtained the right to vote and participated in political life." As for the former, she notes that the "majority of women chose the party of order." But regarding participation in political life, she gives Rosa Luxemburg as an example: "Luxemburg fought next to Liebknecht in the Spartacus group and was assassinated in 1919."

De Beauvoir is often treated as a liberal, politically speaking-- and perhaps sometimes for good reason: I am thinking here of her discomfort with the essay by Sartre, "Élections, piège à cons" (1973; translated as "Elections, A Trap for Fools," which doesn't quite capture the French). Nevertheless, passages such as the one above, wherein the participation in political life is revolutionary struggle, should remind us that she can still be read outside of--or at least not be reduced to--these liberal confines.

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