This thesis is a study of the development of Sartre’s political thought from the late 1920s to the liberation of France in 1944, concentrating particularly upon his concept of freedom. It is argued that the evolution of Sartre’s thinking can be regarded as constituting a series of problematics each of which has a corresponding notion of freedom, and these problematics are elucidated in turn.

First Sartre’s early anarchic position is analysed, and the ahistorical, asocial and apolitical character of his thinking is emphasised. Freedom, as yet not a fully-developed concept, is shown to be related to the arbitrariness and contingency of existence, to the individual’s attempt to overcome contingency and to his irresponsibility and purposelessness.

The thesis then discusses Sartre’s magical problematic which he developed under the influence of phenomenology. It is argued that his thought became focused on the individual consciousness and that freedom became identified with the ability of the individual consciousness to make choices. Sartre’s concept of freedom to choose is examined, its implications for his political and social thought are discussed and its limitations are pointed out.

The politicization that Sartre’s thought underwent is then considered, and the concept of committed freedom that he developed is examined. It is argued that this concept had three key components: action, the Other and responsibility, and these are scrutinised. Finally, the thesis discusses the new ideas that Sartre introduced towards the end of the war which were to lead to a complete change in his concept of freedom.