Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre attended the ceremony of 6th Anniversary of Founding of Communist China in Beijing on 1 October 1955 in Tiananmen square. Photo: Xinhua News Agency

Two striking characteristics distinguished modern France in the years 1944-1975: the power of an intellectual elite that was pro-Communist and anti-democratic even as it preached a philosophy of individual freedom; and the simultaneous progress, under a series of increasingly technocratic governments, of economic prosperity and of a modern welfare state. The undisputed leader of the intellectual elite was the writer and existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre...


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