Georges Sorel


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French engineer, philosopher, and social theorist. Sorel is principally remembered for Réflexions sur la violence (1908, trs. as Reflections on Violence, 1914). Sorel argues that one cannot deplore violence in the hands of opponents of the state (itself no stranger to the violence of war and legal coercion) without understanding the situation and the aims of those who use it. Perhaps the most scandalous part of the doctrine was Sorel's recognition that violence might equally be used against those who, appearing to sympathize with a movement, in fact lure it into collaboration with the system that it aims to overthrow. Sorel also perceived the central role of myth and image in creating a dramatic focus for political emotions: myths are the product of vigorous and living social forces, which may transform societies in ways that are necessary to create their own truth. Although Sorel was a theorist of the left, his contempt for democratic liberalism was most closely echoed by the violent and myth-governed fascist regimes of the 20th century.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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