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SOREL REVISITED jAMES H. MEtS£L THE name of Georges Sorel, whom Benedetto Croce called the only original thinker socialism has had besides Marx,1 is fairly well established by now. The author of the Reflections on Violence bas achieved text-book stature; even the most casual survey of representative digests in the field of political theory will bear out that assertion. But whether the understanding of Sorci's work is on a par with his still growing reputation is one question; another is whether Sorel's teaching is still alive, or merely a paragraph in a closed chapter of recent intellectual history. It must be said at once that Sorel's influence on his contemporaries was never very great in terms of numbers. True, his followers made up for it by their devotion and intensity: Edouard Berth alone was well worth a battalion of interpreters and propagand:ists.2 Yet, even granted that Sorel had a way of casting his spell over all kinds of people who never read ·him, and on some who, unfortunately, like the late B. Mussolini, did read and misuse him, the attempt to gauge the survival power of Sore]'s ideas becomes a melancholy quest. The old guard of Sorelians has passed away; his two closest friends and collaborators, Berth and Paul Delesalle3 died recently. Daniel Halevy, Sorel's companion in arms in the Dreyfus days and editor of his Re- . flections is one of the few main witnesses alive who remember the old sage of Boulogne-sur-Seine with tender respect. But his tenderness and his respect have the wistfulness ·of nostalgia for something that is irrevocably gone. Also, the venerable M. Halevy is too much a writer in his own right to be called a Sorelian. His love goes out, as did Sorel's, to .their common sp1ritual ancestor, Proudhon, and to that remarkable neo-Catholic, Charles Peguy, but for the rest, if his kindness would permit it, he would probably range himself on the 1 Micha.el Freund starts the preface of his important work on Georges Sorel (:Frankfurt--am-Main, 1932) with this statement, made by Croce in his Pagine Sparse (Naples, 1919), II, 227. Freund also cites Wyndham Lewis's saying that "Sorel is the key to all contemporary 1houghe' (The Art of being Ruled (London , 1926), 128). 2£ven where he does not mention or quote him, Berth always has Sorel in mind. He published Sorel's early essay, V A..ncienne et la Nouvelle Metaphysique under the title D'Aristote a Marx, with a long and enthusiastic introduction (Paris, 1935). Of his own books we mention: Les Mefaits des lntellutuels (Paris, 1914), with an introduction by .Sorel; Guerre des etats ou ~uerre de classe (Paris, 1924); La Fin d'u.ne culture (Paris, 1927); Du ucapital" aux "Reflexions sur la violence, (Paris, li933). 3Syndicalist organizer and bookdealer. .Sorel's correspondence with him Wa3 published recently «.s Lettres a Paul Delesalle (Paris, 1947). 50 SOREL REVISITED 51 side of the critics rather than the worshippers of Sorel. There are a few younger Frenchmen who are writing books about the man they never knew personally, since he died almost thirty yean ago, in 1922. Some of these people recently contributed a symposium on the occasion of Sorel1 s hundredth birthday.4 How do they feel about him; how does his work appear to them? It is no accident that the hosts of the centenary celebration, the editors of a review which "belongs neither to the left nor to the right,'' found it necessary to ex·plain, if not apologize for, Georges Sorel's appearance in their columns. They did not wish it -to be said that they were trying to "annex" a revolutionary writer; they refused t-o be accused of a camouflaged attempt at making up to Marxism. Sorel, they continued, was not a Marxist, but essentially an independent thinker: "No doubt, the author of the Reflections died saluting the nascent Russian revolution. What would he say about the Stalinist tyranny? No doubt, fascism for a time made claims on him. 'The dead do not protest,' as the poet said. No, Sorel cannot be labelled.... He was a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 50-63
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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