Georges Sorel

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Sorel, Georges


Born Nov. 2, 1847, in Cherbourg; died Aug. 30,1922, in Boulogne-sur-Seine. French social philosopher; theoretician of anarchosyndicalism.

Sorel graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique and worked as an engineer in Perpignan. He became active in literary and sociopolitical work beginning in 1892. In 1895, with P. Lafargue and others, he founded the journal Le Devenir social, and in 1899 he became a contributor to the international socialist journal Le Mouvement socialiste.

Sorel’s eclectic philosophical views were influenced by A. Labriola, E. Renan, F. Nietzsche, and H. Bergson. V. I. Lenin criticized Sorel’s world view, calling Sorel a “notorious muddler” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 18, p. 310). Sorel at first considered himself a representative of “the new school” of Marxism. However, he later attacked all forms of rational knowledge and the foundations of all sociopolitical programs, including Marxism, counterposing to these systems his anarchosyndicalist theory of the social myth (Reflections on Violence, 1906; Russian translation, 1907). Myth, according to Sorel, is an intuitive whole and an indivisible system of symbolic imagery; it is an essential element in any social group’s perception of the world. Myth is the expression of the will to power of the group or class that leads a social movement.

Sorel rejected such bourgeois institutions as democracy, ethics, and the educational system; he believed that a socialist revolution would save European civilization, which was undergoing a severe crisis. However, revolution, in Sorel’s view, was a spontaneous, irrational impulse of a people motivated by social myths. For Sorel, the myth of revolution is based on the idea of the ethical value of violence, which is the motive force of history. The bearers of socialist ideas are not political parties but trade unions (syndicates).

Sorel’s political views are inconsistent and contradictory. He criticized the parliamentary reformist socialism of J. Jaurès, but he was also close to various left-wing and right-wing radical groups, in particular, the nationalist Action Française.

Sorel welcomed the October Revolution of 1917, calling it the dawn of a new era. However, some of his reactionary ideas had a great influence on the rise of Italian Fascism and German National Socialism. Modern ideologists of left-wing and right-wing extremist groups in France, Italy, and Latin America have shown a renewed interest in Sorel’s theories.


Le Procès de Socrate. Paris, 1889.
La Décomposition du Marxisme. Paris, 1908.
Matériaux d’une théorie du prolétariat. Paris, 1919.
De l’Utilité du pragmatisme. Paris, 1921.
D’Aristote à Marx (L’Ancienne et la nouvelle métaphysique). Paris, 1935.
Lettres à Paul Delesalle, 1914–1921. Paris, 1947.
In Russian translation:
Sotsial’nye ocherki sovremennoi ekonomii. Moscow, 1908.
“Evoliutsiia sotsializma.” In Sotsial’noe dvizhenie v sovremennoi Frantsii. Moscow, 1908.


Maletskii, L. “Zhorzh Sorel’.” Kommunisticheskii Internatsional, 1923, nos. 24, 25.
Labriola, A. Istoricheskii materializm i filosofiia (Pis’ma k Soreliu). Paris, 1922.
Rossignol, F. La Pensée de G. Sorel. Paris, 1948.
Berding, H. Rationalismus und Mythos: Geschichtsauffassung und politische Theorie bei G. Sorel. Munich-Vienna, 1969.


References in periodicals archive ?
Georges Sorel, en Reflexiones sobre la violencia, ha pretendido que la reaccion contra el opresor debe estar inspirada por un mito social capaz de inyectar animo epico en la poblacion y darle cohesion.
Lovejoy, Charles Peguy, William James o Georges Sorel.
Llorente's chapter on Georges Sorel gets to the heart of the matter by discussing the overlap between the two theories.
Part II on politics opens with Soulez's masterful analysis of Bergson's meditations on war, followed by Hitsashi Fujita's comparative study of the capitalist and anti-capitalist import of language and violence in the thought of Georges Sorel and Bergson; Leonard Lawlor's study of Bergson's interrelation of a "war instinct" with sexuality and our redemptive capacity to "cheat nature"; and three essays on political theory, focusing on democracy (Paulina Ochoa Espejo), Bergson's critique of "practical reason" as related to the thought of Kant and Alain Badiou (Carl Power), and human rights (Alexandre Lefebvre's superb contribution).
Mas bien, sostiene Sazbon, lo que los textos dicen es que Georges Sorel cumple, para Mariategui, una doble funcion: por una parte, es el aglutinador de las corrientes filosoficas contemporaneas--casi integramente idealistas--que el, desde su particular ubicacion cultural e historica, considera "modernas" y, por tanto, interpeladoras de la "nueva generacion"; por otra, Sorel es, al interior de la tradicion marxista en la que se inscribe el Amauta, el necesario mediador entre Marx, primer formulador de teoria de la revolucion, y Lenin, su efectivo realizador.
Instead Hulme found a more interesting and agreeable propaganda theory in Georges Sorel, who, as well as devising a method for uncovering 'illusions', also approached the question of ideological conversion from Bergson's 'anti-intellectualist' perspective, which Hulme had been so busy defending since 1909 (pp.
Another thinker to whom Muller returns repeatedly in his book is the arch-anti-liberal Georges Sorel (1847-1922), who wrote of the crucial place occupied by myth in political life, and who found admirers on both left and right: the syndicalists, for example, with their myth of the general strike, or the fascists, with their myth of the nation.
Geoghegan then moves forward again to Georges Sorel, with his interest in the "non-rational" of myth, yet noting the danger in such a focus for the Left.
The work of Georges Sorel (1847-1922), a French theorist of anarcho-syndicalism, is important for the proper understanding of our second paradox.
The democracy in question I suppose, paraphrasing Georges Sorel, is the paradise of which unscrupulous effendiya dream.
Chapter 3 discusses the work of Georges Sorel and Karl Mannheim.
The writers are Charles Maurras, "the counter-revolutionary, Nationalist, and monarchist;" Maruice Barres, "the conservative, Nationalist, and traditionalist;" and Georges Sorel, "the dedicated moralist who denounced decadence and stressed the importance of individual action.