The Communitarian Third Way: Alexandre Marc's Ordre Nouveau, 1930-2000

By Murphy, Francis J. | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2004 | Go to article overview

The Communitarian Third Way: Alexandre Marc's Ordre Nouveau, 1930-2000


Murphy, Francis J., The Catholic Historical Review


The Communitarian Third Way.Alexandre Marc's Ordre Nouveau, 1930-2000. By John Hellman. (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press. 2002. Pp. xxiv, 296. Cdn $55.00, US $39.95.)

The decade of the 1930's produced massive turbulence in almost every aspect of French life. Economic crisis, social unrest, and political paralysis battered the Third Republic in advance of its collapse in 1940. It was in this context that a new group of young intellectuals, the non-conformists, emerged.

John Hellman, who has previously published critically acclaimed works relating to this period, notably his biography of Emmanuel Mounier and his monograph on the Knight-Monks of Vichy, has now produced a highly original study of the non-conformists in general and Alexandre Marc in particular. His central thesis in this work is that "Marc was the pioneer, the exemplar, the generational spokesman for the non-conformists of 1930" (p. 28).

Hellman does not aim to present a detailed biographical portrait of Marc, who was born into a prosperous Russian Jewish family in 1905 and emigrated with his parents to Paris in 1919. His intellectual inspiration derived principally from Berdyaev, Heidegger, and Scheler. From these seminal thinkers and from his experience of the German youth revolution of the period, Marc formulated his own non-conformist world view, which animated the Ordre Nouveau movement,founded in 1931, and the journal of the same name, launched in 1933.The movement's distinguishing motto was "the spiritual first, then economics, politics at their service" (p. 31).

The author diligently reconstructs the shared sense of spiritual yearning that characterized many of Marc's idealistic contemporaries not only in France, but also in Germany and Belgium. …

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