Reflections on Violence first appeared as a series of articles in Le Mouvement Socialiste in 1906; it appeared in book form two years later, and translations extended its influence around the world. Sorel addresses the factors underlying revolutionary movements and examines the roles of violence (the revolutionary denial of the existing social order) and force (the state's power of coercion). He further explores sources of political power, the weapons of revolutions — the insurrection and the general strike — and the significant role of "myths" in recruiting and motivating potential revolutionaries.
Sorel is throughout concerned with the moral development of human beings. In this sense, his writings on politics are of a piece with his writings on religion, "facticity" of human history and society. Sorel's earliest writings were on religion, and key portions of that period are reflected in selections here. And he went on from there to study the sociology of science, the ways in which science fits into the cultural history of civilization and present day social relationships of industrial society.
Stanley provides a profound framework based on two decades of close study and translation of Sorel's texts. He helps to explain how the partial theories of Sorel lead to holistic intellectual consequences, how the psychological method does not foreclose political activism, and how historical limits can be transformed against a background of aesthetics or considerations of taste. He shows that Sorel comes as a close as Manheim and Simmel and Durkheim to the creation of a modern social science--albeit he lacks the overall philosophical theorems of people like Marx and Weber.
In Sorel we have a first-class mind at work. And in Stanley, we have a first-class analyst at work. Together, the volume adds up to something special for the political scientist, sociologist, art historian, theologian--in short for those to whom the ideal of a human science endures.
John L. Stanley is professor of political science at the University of California at Riverside. He is the author of The Sociology of Virtue: The Political and Social Theories of Georges Sorel. He has written many articles and reviews on the history of European political theory. With his wife, Charlotte Stanley, he has been long engaged in the translation of the works of Georges Sorel.
From Georges Sorel, the first of two volumes of Sorel's work, presents his major contributions to social thoughtarticles on Marxism, religion, syndicalism, social myths, the philosophy of history and science, as well as a large and newly translated segment of "Reflections on Violence." In his introduction, John Stanley disputes the frequently encountered view of Sorel as a reactionary or extreme rightist, and emphasizes Sorel's attempt to provide Western society with a morality based on labor, struggle, and family life.
Sorel notes a striking parallel in the historical evolution of both bodies of thought: productivity was the foremost ideal when both movements were at their most dynamic and socially effective stage. On the other hand, they were at their most decadent state when they no longer separated themselves from politics and embraced the ideals of social unity. This work is an attack on the time-honored notion of community solidarity whose Platonic and Aristotelian versions find their contemporary counterparts in notions of natural sociability and political obligation. This work anticipates much of the thinking that lies behind Sorel's famous "Reflections on Violence "and clearly expresses the moral basis of that work, as well as present tendencies in normative and empirical political thought.