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Leaving the sphere of knowledge for that of life and action, we find modern man coming to grips with ambiguities which are perhaps more striking still. There is no longer a single word in our political vocabulary that has not been used to refer to the most different, even opposed, real situations: consider freedom, socialism, democracy, reconstruction, renaissance, union rights. The most widely divergent of today's largest political parties have all at some time claimed each of these for their own. And this is not a ruse on the part of their leaders: the ruse lies in the things themselves. In one sense it is true that there is no sympathy for socialism in America and that, if socialism involves or implies radical reform of relations of property ownership, then there is no chance whatsoever of its being able to settle under the aegis of that country; rather, subject to certain conditions, it can draw support from the Soviet side. Yet it is also true that the socioeconomic system which operates in the USSR - with its extreme social differences and its use of forced labor - neither conforms to our understanding of what a socialist regime is nor could develop, of its own accord, in order to so conform. Lastly, it is true that a form of socialism which did not seek support from beyond French national borders would be impossible and, therefore, would lack human meaning. We truly are in what Hegel called a diplomatic situation, or in other words a situation in which words have (at least) two different meanings and things do not allow themselves to be named by a single word.  (80)


Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The World of Perception.  Trans. Oliver Davis.  Routledge 2008. 

See Also

Lexicon Entries

The Red Ink; A Limited But Infinite Path; The Most Basic Sphere of Concern is Schooling; Standing Toe to Toe 

Works and Days

Monday May 11 2009






Tags: Maurice Merleau-Ponty

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