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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 311

The Rebel is a book by French writer and philosopher Albert Camus. The book is composed of a singular essay about the history and philosophical foundations of rebellions in Europe. In particular, The Rebel analyzes the act of rebellion as an individual and as a collective. Camus references many philosophers and historical figures to compose a multi-perspective view of man's desire to rebel, which, in essence, is the human desire to reach spiritual, social, and political liberation from the systems that oppress us.

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These oppressive systems could be something as fundamental as the human condition (i.e. pain and tragedy), or something on the macro level, such as dictatorships and the political suppression of ideas. Camus also references art and literary movements that contributed to the development of rebellion.

Rebellion also stems from our desire to create a perfect society. When people see flaws in the justice or political system, they are measuring reality with what they believe is ideal. When reality does not match a person's idea of a harmonious, fair society, then rebellion inevitably becomes a reaction to that. Camus uses well-known revolutions in history, most prominently the French Revolution, as an example for his theories. He believed that revolutionary action stems from our mortal desire to kill God or the idea of a cosmic king that controls our lives.

This is why, Camus posited, that the French revolutionaries overthrew and guillotined Louis XVI, who was the last king of France before monarchy was abolished as a result of the revolution. The kings and queens of the past represented god-like figures on earth. When the people realized that the noblemen were made of flesh and blood just like them, the illusion of the hierarchy—king and subject, or god and believer—was shattered. In this sense, rebellion is not just a political act, but a spiritual one as well.

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 963

The Rebel, first published on October 18, 1951, represented the culmination of the intellectual and spiritual development of Albert Camus, the great Algerian-born French novelist, essayist, dramatist, journalist, existentialist philosopher, and Nobel Prize winner. This massive philosophical essay on the meaning and development of Western rebellion and revolution was the product of at least nine years of intense work. His motives for writing this study were both intellectual and personal. Camus struggled to understand the origins and the character of the age of confusion and upheaval into which he had been born. He concluded that the first half of the twentieth century had been an age of fear, servitude, and mass murder perpetrated by states in the name of abstract ideologies. He sought to understand how noble Western aspirations and traditions of rebellion and freedom had come to be betrayed by two hundred years of revolutionary fanaticism, bloodshed, and dictatorship. Yet Camus also strove to find a means to improve the lot of humanity without adding to the violence of the past.

Camus’ starting point is the absurd. While humans desire meaning, he says, the world is fundamentally irrational. For Camus, the true rebel is in revolt against the absurdity of oppression, cruelty, and suffering. The rebel says no to slavery and tyranny for the sake of others, and affirms his solidarity with other human beings. For the true rebel, oppression and injustice represent the violation of limits; the rebel seeks to create a freedom that respects the rights of all, rather than approving the mindless destruction of societies and individuals.

Camus then sets out to compare revolt to its sequel and its extreme form, revolution. He surveys the entire tradition of Western revolt and revolution from the Greeks to...

(The entire section contains 4593 words.)

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