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France’s greatest export?

Alain Badiou’s survey of French philosophy since Sartre is characteristically fierce

By Jonathan Rée   July 2012

Jean Paul Sartre meeting with Che Guevara in Cuba, 1960 © Museo Che Guevara

French industry as a whole was in poor shape at the end of the second world war, but one sector was soon reporting an export-led recovery: philosophy. Ever since the Revolution, the French state in various incarnations had promoted philosophy as the crowning glory of secular secondary education. Under the command of the minister of education in Paris, an army of well-trained philosophy professors was deployed throughout the hexagon, and in the colonies too, to propagate a certain idea of France, based on humanistic morality, civic…

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