The Ethics of Ambiguity

by

Simone De Beauvoir

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Ethics of Ambiguity can help.
A school of thought and politics based on the insights of Karl Marx. Marxism focuses primarily on the material economic relations between different social classes and political Marxists attempt to spur (and have often succeeded in creating) socialist revolutions against property-owning classes that exploit the labor of the working classes. Like existentialism, Marxism thinks morality is about how people should act within concrete circumstances, rather than abstract principles. However, de Beauvoir criticizes Marxism’s dogmatic faith in revolution, which often leads its leaders to become tyrants: willing to do anything in order to create a free society, they end up trampling on freedom so much that they undermine their own initial goal.

Marxism Quotes in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The The Ethics of Ambiguity quotes below are all either spoken by Marxism or refer to Marxism. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Citadel edition of The Ethics of Ambiguity published in 1948.
Part 1 Quotes

We think that the meaning of the situation does not impose itself on the consciousness of a passive subject, that it surges up only by the disclosure which a free subject effects in his project.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker), Marx
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Ethics of Ambiguity LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Ethics of Ambiguity PDF

Marxism Term Timeline in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The timeline below shows where the term Marxism appears in The Ethics of Ambiguity. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Ambiguity and Freedom
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
De Beauvoir notes that Marxism shares existentialism’s “notion of situation” and the “recognition of separation which it implies.” Marxism is... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
So Marxism ends up with contradictory beliefs in both determination and freedom. And yet Marxists, like many... (full context)
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 3: The Antinomies of Action
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...give their followers (whom they also consider as instrumental objects) an opposite message, emphasizing—much like Marxists—“that the value of the individual is asserted only in his surpassing,” or that their only... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...their violence as necessary or, better yet, historically inevitable (which is why certain varieties of Marxist historical materialism are so persuasive). (full context)
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 4: The Present and the Future
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
Even Marxists accept that “it is subjectively possible for them to be mistaken.” Yet, because they believe... (full context)
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 5: Ambiguity
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...precisely in a vision of history as necessary, superseding any individual determining factor. A good Marxist sees that no individual action can entirely create a revolution; rather, “it is merely a... (full context)