The Genesis of Georges Sorel: An Account of His Formative Period followed by a Study of His Influence

The Genesis of Georges Sorel: An Account of His Formative Period followed by a Study of His Influence

The Genesis of Georges Sorel: An Account of His Formative Period followed by a Study of His Influence

The Genesis of Georges Sorel: An Account of His Formative Period followed by a Study of His Influence

Excerpt

Dis manibus Europae?

To treat of the complete but -- alas! -- uncollected works of Georges Sorel is in itself an act of gross temerity; the fact that this is the first full-length study of Sorel to appear in this country is only one more cause for trepidation. For the subject is as immense as it is disquieting. As there was, for Sorel, no end of the quest ever, likewise there can be no end of him, unless it be the end of Europe and her great traditions, all of which were very much Sorel's concern. The fragmentary character of the Sorelian work may not explain, but possibly excuse its fragmentary treatment here. The accent will be placed on Sorel's politics; his physics, metaphysics, ethics and aesthetics could, of course, not be eliminated from the survey, but they could be treated only incidentally. The philosopher Sorel still remains to be discovered by this country.

But even the political writer Sorel is far less known than fame (or ill fame) would have it. His prestige is still based on a single book, the only one so far translated out of the multitude of his French and Italian publications. If this essay has any raison d'être, it may be found in the attempt to put the Reflections on Violence back into the context of Sorel's vast oeuvre, by indicating his slow evolution toward that climactic product of his versatile and yet persistent mind. Beyond that point, this study tries to let Sorel speak for himself, rather than to speak for or against Sorel (who seems to have a fatal attraction for writers eager to interpret and to paraphrase his thought -- not always with fidelity).

To be sure, the impact of Sorel on his contemporaries is a subject not less worthy of attention than the exegesis of his writings. Accordingly, his influence has been made the subject of the second part, treating the dubious affiliations of our author with such movements as French Royalism, Italian Fascism and Russian Communism.

Both studies were made possible by the encouragement I received from my colleagues, Professors A. W. Bromage, E. S. Brown, H. W. Nordmeyer, J. K. Pollock and L. Preuss, as well as from the Horace Rackham School of Graduate Studies, University of Michigan, which, by two generous grants, enabled this writer, first, to unearth precious source materials in Sorel's Paris, and, later, to complete the manuscript unencumbered by teaching obligations.

For valuable information I am grateful to Professor Benedetto Croce (Naples); to Doctors Daniel Halévy, Pierre Andreu and Maximilien Rubel, to Mlle. Gaston-Chérau of the Bibliotheque Nationale, M. Robert Abranson, Director of Marcel Rivière, Publishers, and Mr. Ian Forbes Fraser, Director of the American Library (all in Paris) . . .

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