The New Philosophers (French nouveaux philosophes) is a term referring to French philosophers who broke with Marxism in the early 1970s. They include André Glucksmann, Alain Finkielkraut, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Jean-Marie Benoist, Christian Jambet, Guy Lardreau and Jean-Paul Dollé.[1] They criticized post-structuralists, and Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger.


The term was forged by Bernard-Henri Lévy in 1976, who titled an issue of the weekly review Les Nouvelles Littéraires the "Nouveaux philosophes."[1] The issue included a number of articles and essays meant to introduce and create excitement about young intellectuals including Lévy, Benoist, Michel Guérin, Jambet, and Lardreau.[2]

Basic characteristicsEdit

Most of the New Philosophers had a previous history of Maoism or other leftist activity, but had come into fierce opposition to Marxism.[2] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's writings on The Gulag Archipelago and other crimes of the Soviet Union had a profound effect of disenchantment on these former leftists.[3] The mark of the New Philosophers was to cast a general doubt on the tendency to argue from 'the left', by attributing too much inherent power-worship in the whole tradition, or at least what it borrowed from Hegel and Marx. One of their most important concepts was that "Master Thinkers" like Marx and Rabelais had created the foundations for systems of oppression.[3] Glucksmann's book by the same name, Les Maîtres Penseurs, argued that knowledge, expertise, and philosophy form the core of domination. Their radical social critique extended so far as to implicate Reason itself as the origin of authoritarianism.[2]

Major influencesEdit

The writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn were an inspiration for the New Philosophers. Other important influences include Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan.


The New Philosophers had extensive media coverage in France, Italy, and other countries. They appeared on television and in nonacademic magazines including Lui, Paris-Match, and Playboy, giving them popular recognition in France and abroad. [2]


The New Philosophers as a group were hard to characterize, as one might expect from their indeterminate name. The fact that their identity was based on a negative quality (i.e., rejecting Marxism and other systems of authoritarian power) meant that they were very disparate. In 1978, Michael Ryan wrote that "The 'new philosophers' could be said to exist in name only. The homogeneity of the movement rests on a mutual espousal of heterogeneity."[4] Another similar criticism levels the charge that the New Philosophers are "a brand name... an extremely heterogeneous group of about ten intellectuals who are held together more from without than from within... they do not serve as representatives of any clearly defined political movement or force."[3]

They were criticized as superficial and ideological by intellectuals such as Gilles Deleuze (who called them "TV buffoons"[2]), Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Alain Badiou, Jean-François Lyotard and Cornelius Castoriadis.[1]


Recently their criticism has found a new target in multiculturalism. Fiery polemic on the subject by proponents like Pascal Bruckner and Paul Cliteur has kindled international debate[citation needed]

Their sobriquet is possibly a reference to the philosophers of the future that Nietzsche anticipated in his work Beyond Good and Evil.[5][citation needed]

Notes Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Nicolas Weill, Rétrocontroverse: 1977, les "nouveaux philosophes", Le Monde, 23 July 2007Template:Fr icon
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Tarifa, Fatos (2008) "The Poverty of the 'New Philosophy'".Modern Age 50, 228-234.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Oskar Negt and Jamie O. Daniel (1983) "Reflections on France's 'Nouveaux Philosophes' and the Crisis of Marxism". SubStance 11(4), 56-67
  4. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Michael Ryan (June 1978) "Anarchism Revisited: A New Philosophy". Diacritics, 67-68
  5. Jenseits von Gut und Böse - Friedrich Nietzsche: Erstes Hauptstück: Von den Vorurtheilen der Philosophen, 2nd paragraph [1]