Absurdity and the political system : The political thought of Albert Camus



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Albert Camus, the French writer and philosopher, devoted much of his attention to political problems. However, his political thought is scattered throughout his works and is rigorous only where he treats of such limited subjects as revolutionary ideology or capital punishment. To provide a systematic exposition of his political thought, then, is the primary purpose of this thesis. As Camus sees it, the primary political problem is the contrariety in principles that exists between freedom and justice. The reconciliation of these values is even more difficult for Camus because of his belief that man's condition is fundamentally absurd. The absurd, in its basic manifestation, is the confrontation between an irrational world and man's desire for rational explanation. In a world where absurdity is king Camus can find no absolute criteria for the selection of values. Camus is presented as a representative of existentialist philosophy because of his basic assumption of absurdity and his use of a great number of the more or less accepted tenets of that school of thought. His relationship to the existentialists in general, and to Jean-Paul Sartre in particular, is examined to determine the representativeness of his political views for existentialism. The broad outlines of his political philosophy are found to be in accord with existentialist philosophy. Camus' political thought is presented by developing his ideas on the maximization of freedom and justice in a dynamic tension. He sees these values in their tension as the very fabric of political society, and the degree of that tension affects every element of the political system and its processes. From his writings a relatively "ideal" political system is gleaned, and his recommendations are presented within the conceptual framework developed by David Easton in The Political System where he defines the political system as that system which authoritatively allocates social values for a society. Broadly, Camus describes the good political system as that international society which guarantees the democratic allocation of freedom and justice so as to provide an equality of opportunity for all men in their individual pursuits of authentic happiness. An assessment of Camus' value as a political thinker is presented in the final chapter. With all his limitations he is found to offer a positive contribution to political philosophy in his illumination of and suggestions for such current political problems as political nihilism, total war, and most especially, totalitarianism.



Camus, Albert