Georges Sorel

  • Isaiah Berlin


Sorel remains an anomalous figure. The other ideologists and prophets of the nineteenth century have been safely docketed and classified. The doctrines, influence, personalities of Mill, Carlyle, Comte, Darwin, Dostoevsky, Wagner, Nietzsche, even Marx, have been safely placed on their respective shelves in the museum of the history of ideas. Sorel remains, as he was in his lifetime, unclassified; claimed and repudiated both by the Right and by the Left. Was he a bold and brilliant innovator of devastating genius as his handful of disciples declare? Or a mere romantic journalist, as Mr Lichtheim calls him? A ‘pessimist moaning for blood’, in G. D. H. Cole’s contemptuous phrase? Or, with Marx, the only original thinker (according to Croce) socialism has ever had? Or a notorious muddle-head, as Lenin unkindly described him? I do not volunteer an answer: I only wish to say something about his principal ideas, and also — to employ that much-abused word — the relevance of these ideas to our time.


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© Isaiah Berlin 1974

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  • Isaiah Berlin

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