Fifty Major Political Thinkers

By Ian Adams; R. W. Dyson | Go to book overview

GEORGES SOREL (1847–1922)

Georges Sorel was born in Cherbourg in 1847 and trained as an engineer. His contributions to theory began relatively late in life, publishing his first article at the age of thirty-nine. Six years later a small inheritance enabled him to retire from his profession as a road engineer to devote himself to study and writing. He wrote on philosophy, politics, economics and social theory, all areas in which he was largely self-taught. Sorel’s best-known works, Reflections on Violence and The Illusions of Progress, were both published in 1908. Although possessed of insight and considerable originality, Sorel was both intellectually and politically restless. He detested bourgeois politics and culture, and mostly saw himself on the political left. Around the time of his retirement in 1892 he became a somewhat unorthodox Marxist, but then shifted his allegiance to anarchism at the beginning of the new century. In the years before World War I, Sorel associated with figures on the anti-parliamentary far right, before switching again when the Russian Revolution seemed to offer (falsely as it turned out) the prospect of power for genuine worker councils of which he approved. He never joined any political party, believing them all dominated by middle-class intellectuals, a group he particularly loathed. He is impossible to classify in conventional terms, and probably his most important influence was on the development of fascism. He died in 1922.

Sorel was one of a number of noted thinkers around the turn of the century – including Nietzsche, Max Weber and Oswald Spengler – who saw contemporary Western civilisation in terms of decadence and decline. Contemptuous of bourgeois culture and convinced that the state was irredeemably corrupt, he put his faith in the skilled working class. Sceptical, iconoclastic and pessimistic, he poured scorn on facile notions

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Fifty Major Political Thinkers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Alphabetical List of Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Plato (427–347 Bce) 3
  • Aristotle (384–322 Bce) 11
  • Cicero (106–43 Bce) 19
  • St Augustine of Hippo (354–430) 23
  • St Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) 29
  • NicolÒ Machiavelli (1469–1527) 35
  • Sir Thomas More (1478–1535) 43
  • Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) 47
  • James Harrington (1611–77) 54
  • John Locke (1632–1704) 58
  • Montesquieu (1689–1755) 65
  • David Hume (1711–76) 69
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78) 73
  • Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) 80
  • Edmund Burke (1729–97) 84
  • Tom Paine (1737–1809) 87
  • Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) 90
  • Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97) 94
  • William Godwin (1756–1836) 96
  • G.W.F. Hegel (1770–1831) 99
  • Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) 106
  • ‘Publius’ and the Federalist Papers 111
  • Charles Fourier (1772–1837) and Utopian Socialism 118
  • Karl Marx (1818–83) 122
  • Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) 132
  • John Stuart Mill (1806–73) 135
  • Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) 140
  • T.H. Green (1836–82) 143
  • Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) 146
  • Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921) and Anarchism 151
  • Georges Sorel (1847–1922) 155
  • Eduard Bernstein (1850–1932) 159
  • Max Weber (1864–1920) 164
  • Vladimir Ilich Lenin (1870–1924) 170
  • Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) and Fascism 175
  • Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) 180
  • Hannah Arendt (1906–75) 185
  • Sir Isaiah Berlin (1909–97) 187
  • Friedrich Von Hayek (1899–1992) 190
  • Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948) 193
  • Sir Karl Popper (1902–94) 196
  • Michael Oakeshott (1901–90) 199
  • Simone de Beauvoir (1908–86) and Second Wave Feminism 202
  • Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979) and the Frankfurt School 207
  • Frantz Fanon (1925–61) 212
  • Michel Foucault (1926–84) 217
  • John Rawls (1921–2002) 222
  • Robert Nozick (1938–2002) 225
  • JÜrgen Habermas (1929–) 228
  • Jean-FranÇois Lyotard (1924–98) 234
  • Glossary 239
  • Index 250
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