The Rebel is Camus' answer to the 20th century's political nihilism, an attempt to retain some positive ethics in light of the absurd.
Camus' painful realization is that absurdity is not to be assuaged anymore - neither by progress in history nor by religious providence. Recognizing the absurd as part of the human condition means rejecting any "solution" as an illusion. There's no consolation for man.
Nevertheless, the lack of hope does not amount to nihilism: the rebel faces absurdity with open eyes and resists it fiercely, metaphysically - against God, against Nature, against the human condition itself.
From postwar Europe's pillars of smoke, Camus sees the problem of the time in the rationalization of crime through doctrines: philosophy, science, religion:
"There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The boundary between them is not clearly defined. But the Penal Code makes the convenient distinction of premeditation. We are living in the age of premeditation and the perfect crime. Our criminals are no longer helpless children who could plead love as their excuse. On the contrary, they are adults and they have a perfect alibi: philosophy, which can be used for any purpose, - even for transforming murderers into judges.
...as soon as a man, through lack of character, takes refuge in doctrine, as soon as crime reasons about itself, it multiplies like reason itself and assumes all the aspects of the syllogism. Once crime was as solitary as a cry of protest; now it is as universal as science. Yesterday it was put on trial; today it determines the law." (The Rebel, p. 3)
Some of the questions we're going to be asking are:
Who is the rebel? What does she want and do?
What is the meaning of rejecting doctrines and constantly living the tension freedom and mortality?
How can we lead our lives with no a-prior values or expectations from history?
Following Nietzsche's ideas - at what point does Camus depart and why?
A PDF version of the book is available to download from the Files section.
Suggested reading: Rebellion and Revolution: pp. 122-125 in the PDF version (or pp. 246-252 in the Vintage Books 1991 edition)