Thursday, October 09, 2008

BHL: philosopher?

Can anyone explain to me what Bernard-Henri Lévy has done to be called "a ... leftwing philosopher"? Everytime the British literary pages mention him - and they mention him a lot - he's always a "leftwing philosopher". Yet, from an online bibliography, I see no titles to compare with publications by the foremost names in recent French philosophy: Lacoue-Labarthe, Nancy, Deleuze, Badiou, and certainly not giants like Derrida, Blanchot and Levinas, even though all of these have written about literature and politics. (Try searching The Guardian's pages for coverage of these illustrious writers!). The nearest is a book on Sartre, though the subtitle indicates its real focus. BHL seems to be no more a philosopher than Christopher Hitchens, and about as "leftwing".


  1. I'm afraid Bernard-Henri Lévy exists within the framework of my consciousness in the form, till now, merely of a gulf of absence, which is to say I'd not heard of him. My guess is he qualifies as left-wing as he presumably hasn't been recorded as saying, "Hitler was the right man at the right time," and "philosopher" on the basis of his exotic name. Alternatively he's left-wing as he's said, "It's time we all grew up and got behind the Americans. They're not dropping bombs on my village."

  2. Is he not a 'philosopher' because 'intellectual' is considered to be about as attractive a term in Britain as 'paedophile' and 'holocaust denier'?

    He's not an academic, he's not a novelist and he has written a bok about Sartre and been photographed with philosophers so, from the point of view of the anglo-saxon media, he is a philosopher.

  3. Bourdieu described BHL and his "nouvelle philosophie" cohorts as “les fast-thinkers”.

    I suspect BHL fulfils a media-centric desire for 'thinkers' to have an air of 'rock and roll' about them, hence why Zizek is better known for his accent and beard in the mainstream press than his analyses.

    If you require any more convincing then examine this 'review':

  4. Oh God, Carlin Romano - the critic who makes Bill O'Reilly look like Michael Ignatieff.

  5. Quite. From what I understand, his latest book is this:

    i) the Socialist Party is too socialist for me and I'd prefer it adopted Blairism, so I can identify with it
    ii) I want to be friends with Sarkozy and enjoy my status/lifestyle but I still want to be called a socialist
    iii) if these two don't happen then I'll just allege that the left is doomed and responsible for every inhumane action in the 20th century

    Basically personal agony masquerading as polemic, for which people are expected to pay money. Usually the troubled pays the therapist, not the other way round.

  6. I think it would be fair to say that he was a left-wing philosopher, but is now more of a centre-right commentator. He studied under Althusser and Derrida, taught philosophy for a decade or so, and found the "nouveaux philosophes" movement - essentially an attack from the liberal-left on the lazy marxism of the soixante-huitards - but all that was a long time ago, now.



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