In this paper, I will attempt to read Camus’ later political texts as presenting art, and especially the novel, as a means of political rebellion which is nevertheless able to avoid any eschatological doctrines, which were seen by Camus as the main source of corruption for political movements in modern Western history. Camus’s arguments in The Rebel, both a continuation and a correction of his earlier “philosophy of the absurd,” is that any philosophical or political doctrine which works towards an eschaton, be it Hegel’s “end of history” or Marx’s “utopia,” inevitably becomes a source of justification for corrupt and violent regimes and thereby undermines its own emancipatory and rebellious spirit.
The “proper” novel, for Camus the most concrete artform, contains within it an essential tension – between the unity and justice desired by the rebellious subject and the strife and violence found in the actual world – which, if the tension is maintained, serves to emancipate both reader and author without replacing an old ideology for a new one. Rather than offering the peaceful, united world of the novel as an ideal state to be reached, the novel’s true nature is instead to create an occasion to engender the rebellious spirit in the reader. In the second part of my paper, I will explore the relationship between Camus’ political philosophy and postmodern critiques of modern political philosophies that emerged largely in Europe and Latin America in the second half of the twentieth century. Here, I will introduce Santiago Castro-Gomez’ insightful definition of postmodernity as being, rather than a total rejection of modernity or an entirely new movement following from it, a set of discourses which allow us to criticize, to redefine, and, if judged useful, to adopt the constitutive elements of modernity. Using this definition, I argue that Camus provides us with an insightful and useful political philosophy for an increasingly globalized society, one which engenders the rebellious and emancipatory spirit of the reader while safeguarding it from the corruptive tendencies which threaten it from within.