Tragedy and History

The German Influence on Raymond Aron’s Political Thought

by Scott B. Nelson (Author)
©2019 Thesis 308 Pages


This work examines the cohesion of Raymond Aron’s political thought and argues that its unifying principles are to be found in certain intellectual problems he came upon early in life through his study of German thought. These problems consist of the relation between man and history, knowledge and action, and philosophy and politics. They are explored in three intertwined facets of Aron’s thought – History, Sociology, and Praxeology – which are elaborated by setting Aron in dialogue with three key German thinkers: Dilthey, Marx, and Weber respectively. This work argues that the roots of Aron’s political thought reach back to the 1930s and that his ongoing meditation on the philosophical problems raised at that time endure and provide the framework for his thought for the rest of his life.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1 An Introduction to Raymond Aron
  • 2 Problems to be Addressed and State of the Art
  • 3 Methodology
  • Part 1 History – Influence of German Historicism
  • 1a Pilgrimage to Germany
  • Aron’s Intellectual Upbringing in France
  • The Tradition of French Scholars in Germany
  • Political Developments in Germany
  • 1b Influence of Historicism: Dilthey
  • The Diltheyan Revolution
  • Introduction to the Geisteswissenschaften
  • The Problem of Grasping Truth in History
  • 1c German Phenomenology
  • Knowledge of the Self
  • Knowledge of the Other
  • Individuals Embedded in Collectives in History
  • 1d The Pathos of the Introduction à la philosophie de l’histoire
  • Political Choices Embedded in History
  • Two Ideal Types of Political Action
  • The Ambiguities of Choice in History
  • 1e Dilthey Revisited: The Incomplete Trilogy
  • Aron’s Interpretation of Sartre’s Critique de la raison dialectique
  • The Development of Aron’s Epistemological Reflections (Micro vs Macro Level Analysis)
  • Freedom Between Historical Relativity and Universal Truth
  • Part 2 Sociology – Industrial Society
  • 2a The Sorbonne, Modern Society, and Sociology
  • Sociology in France after the Second World War
  • The Study of Modern and Industrial Society in Postwar Europe
  • Two Ideal Types for Studying Industrial Society: Marx and Tocqueville
  • Aron’s Montesquieuan Approach to Sociology
  • The Primacy of the Political
  • 2b Aron’s Marx392
  • Marx in the Context of Aron’s Introduction à la philosophie de l’histoire
  • Causal Systematization: Aron’s Critique of Marx’s Sociology and View of History
  • Marxism as Existential Choice
  • 2c Industrial Society
  • Theories of Capitalism’s Demise
  • The Economic Nature of Industrial Society
  • The Principle of Industrial Society
  • Growth in Europe and Sociology
  • 2d Class Struggle
  • Class Struggle: Marx and the Notion of Class
  • The Social Nature of Industrial Society
  • Class Struggle: Pareto and the Ruling Elites and Masses
  • 2e The Constitutional-Pluralist Regime
  • The Nature, Principle, and Ideals of the Constitutional-Pluralist Regime
  • The Constitutional-Pluralist Regime in Motion: Its Weaknesses and Corruption
  • Industrial Society in its Economic, Social, and Political Dimensions
  • Part 3 Praxeology – Principles of Political Action
  • 3a Drama in History – Thinking like a Statesman
  • Beginning to Think like a Statesman
  • The Postwar Order
  • Decolonization and Nationalism
  • May 1968
  • 3b Max Weber and the Problem of the Conflict of Values645
  • Aron’s Discovery of Weber
  • Weber’s Two Ethics
  • Weber’s Vision of Politics and Germany’s Role
  • Aron Revisits Weber’s Two Ethics in the 1970s
  • Politics and the Conflict of Values
  • 3c Aron’s Machiavellianism
  • Approaching Aron’s Machiavelli
  • Aron’s Conflictual View of Politics and the Role Played by Virtù
  • Machiavellianism and Totalitarianism
  • 3d Totalitarianism
  • Machiavellian Techniques for Acquiring Power
  • The Nature of Totalitarianism
  • 3e Praxeology in Peace and War
  • The Means: Force, Realism, and the Morality of Prudence
  • The End: The Possibility of Peace
  • Part 4 Conclusion
  • 4a Summary Conclusion
  • 4b An Introduction to Action in History
  • Bibliography – Works Cited
  • 1 Books and Collected Works by Raymond Aron
  • 2 Unpublished Lectures, Letters, and Works by Raymond Aron
  • 3 Videos and Interviews
  • 4 Articles by Raymond Aron
  • 5 Other Works Cited


1 An Introduction to Raymond Aron

Raymond Aron was a French intellectual of the 20th century who lived from 1905 to 1983. No one doubts his role as a chapter in the history of ideas and intellectuals in France.1 Although there have been more studies about his counterparts, Aron remains more influential today in many fields of study in France and the Anglo-Saxon world.2 Exceptionally intelligent from an early age,3 Aron was a contemporary of other leading French intellectuals at the time such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and Emmanuel Mounier. Unlike these other intellectuals, however, Aron was both a French liberal and often characterized as an anti-Communist thinker.4 While he was most certainly anti-Communist, it would be foolish and hasty to lump him in with the right-wing French Gaullists; for while he sympathized occasionally with de Gaulle – and was at the General’s side in London during the Second World War – he was never a Gaullist partisan in the strictest sense of the word, save for a brief period after the war when he worked in Malraux’s Ministry of Information.5 In many ways Aron’s political thought hovered in the middle at a time, and in a country, where politics was heavily polarized. For this refusal to align himself with the intellectual establishment, and his steadfastness in remaining a spectateur engagé, Aron was rebuked by many and would not come to enjoy the praise that his schoolmate Sartre had enjoyed until late in his life, around the time when Sartre’s renown was beginning to dwindle.6 Reprobation ←11 | 12→and accusations of cold-heartedness7 were the price that Aron paid for lucidity and intellectual honesty during the age of extremes – as Eric Hobsbawm termed it8 – and intellectual disingenuousness.9 Nevertheless, he did have far-flung admirers, some of whom were in high places.10

Anyone who has taken the time to study and write on Raymond Aron can surely appreciate the numerous difficulties, not to mention rewards, to be had in analyzing his thought. He wrote on everything from philosophy to sociology, history to international relations. He was more politically active than fellow international relations theorists, more theoretically gifted than other journalists, and managed to combine these various levels of analysis with an acute sense of philosophy.11 His doctoral dissertation, Introduction à la philosophie de l’histoire,12 was directed against the positivism prevalent at the time in French academia, whereby he illustrated, as noted in the subtitle, the “limits of historical objectivity”. This concern with history, uncertainty, the subjectivity involved in writing about history, and the unknowable future put Aron in an interesting position to critique Marxism and its totalizing history.13 L’opium des intellectuels contains Aron’s damning criticism of Marxism and especially of those, such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Sartre, who continued to defend the crimes of the Soviet Union.14 That this book was published prior to the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 is a testament to how clear the problems of Communism were to those who were prepared to recognize them. Aron’s polemic would only become stronger over time in works such as D’une sainte famille à l’autre (containing, amongst other things, his criticism of Althusser’s structural Marxism) and History and the Dialectic of Violence (a critical analysis of Sartre’s attempt to marry Marxism and existentialism in Critique de la raison dialectique).15

←12 | 13→

Many of Aron’s works also addressed sociological issues such as his Dix-huit leçons sur la société industrielle, La lutte de classes, Démocratie et totalitarisme, and his two-volume work, Les étapes de la pensée sociologique.16 In this field he can be considered “one of the last great sociologists of the classical era who thought both sociologically and politically by encompassing the reality of the modern world in all its dimensions.”17 In the area of international relations he contributed his lengthy work Peace and War18 – “perhaps Aron’s most ambitious book”19 – and later, in a similar vein, he published a work on Clausewitz20 that remained dear to him for the rest of his life.21 Aron was an incredibly lucid, eloquent, and down-to-earth professor22 who taught sociology at the Sorbonne from 1955 until 1968 after which he would teach at the Collège de France and found a trimestral political journal in 1978 called Commentaire which continues to be published today. In addition to his academic interests, of which the few books we have just mentioned constitute but a morsel, he also wrote articles during the war, compiled in Chroniques de guerre, in addition to working for Le Figaro (for which he was also criticized23) for thirty years before leaving it for L’Express, where he would continue his journalistic work until his death.24 Although he did not live long enough to see the end of the Cold War, his work can still be read with great profit today. In the words of an American scholar: “He is an intellectual antidote to any recurrence of the totalitarian temptation, and he teaches the democracies how they can be worthy of their unexpected and somewhat unearned victory.”25

Aron’s thought is an interesting chapter in the history of ideas in that he arrives at his moderate political conclusions by avenues of German thought, some of which can – when taken to an extreme – end up alternatively in dogmatism or ←13 | 14→in some form of nihilism, where “the true value system does not exist; there is a variety of values which are of the same rank, whose demands conflict with one another, and whose conflict cannot be solved by human reason.”26 Therefore, this dissertation will follow Aron’s intriguing intellectual path and explore the ongoing exchange of ideas between him and some of these German thinkers. We should also like to mention that “German thought” does not constitute a monolithic unity; indeed, there are many trends. The interest in studying some of these trends in Aron’s own thinking is that it proffers us the opportunity to study the processes underlying intellectual influence. By focusing the spotlight on Aron’s lifelong interaction with the themes suggested to him by certain German thinkers, we will also achieve a second objective of imparting to his overall philosophy a coherence that was always latent but not necessarily explicitly expressed.

2 Problems to be Addressed and State of the Art

This dissertation will be a work of intellectual biography, offering a new take on Aron’s political thought. The problem driving this research project is rooted in the distinctive characteristics of Aron’s multifaceted thought. Some of the works on Aron have managed to synthesize much of Aron’s prodigious output and focus it on a single theme, whether by finding the unifying principle in his opposition to totalitarianism based on his experience of Germany,27 his commitment to Europe as a European citizen,28 his liberal and probabilistic approach to politics as interpreted especially in an exegesis of one of his essays,29 his “recovery of the political”,30 his political engagement as a public intellectual,31 or simply his biography (academic or otherwise).32

Our project too offers an interpretation of the underlying coherence to Aron’s political thought by taking him at his word and availing ourselves of the several times that he mentions the influence that various German thinkers had on ←14 | 15→him.33 This engagement, and the themes that preoccupied those thinkers, will endure over the course of Aron’s entire life, as this work will demonstrate. The philosophical issues at stake are “the specific features of consciousness of man by man or of human history by an historically situated subject, the relation between knowledge and action and, in the end, between philosophy and politics.”34 We will explore Aron’s overarching concern with these topics by showing the interlinkages between three crucial dimensions of his political thought: the importance of his roots in prewar German thought (History – Dilthey), his unconventional sociological approach to modern regimes (Sociology – Marx), and his view of statesmanship as a mean between vulgar Machiavellianism and naïve idealism that allows for the possibility of philosophy and political life (Praxeology – Weber).

2.1 History – Influence of German Historicism

Aron was a politically moderate and liberal French thinker who, despite his interest in the German intellectual world that had a nihilistic tendency in the interwar years,35 managed to avoid their pitfalls, retained a lifelong interest in the problems posed by the relation between man and history, and was a defender of liberal democracy. He embodies the three defining qualities of French liberalism outlined by a recent scholar,36 but he arrives at these conclusions by way of German historicism. This is the same category that includes thinkers such as Nietzsche, who emphasizes the will to power over truth; Weber, who recognizes a world eternally beset by warring values; and Heidegger, who sees man’s existence as a choice in the face of death. We will demonstrate that Aron, unlike his colleague Sartre, continues to believe that the search for truth is a worthwhile endeavour, all the while acknowledging that values can conflict and violence and revolution can break out. Aron was heavily influenced by German historicism, particularly that of Dilthey, both early on and later in life, and he maintained the limits of knowing the total movement of history; but this does not lead him to ←15 | 16→demote reason. Our problem, then, will be to demonstrate the pervasive influence of historicism on Aron’s thought and understand how he nevertheless continues to defend reason.

2.2 Sociology – Industrial Society

The foregoing will lead us to the study of our present social order. Aron’s sociological study (trilogy) of industrial society, as he himself states,37 takes place on three levels – economic, social, political – in an effort to discern the similarities and differences between the Western and Soviet worlds. Because it is sociological, his classification of regimes is specific to the modern industrial civilization that is the subject of his entire trilogy. His sociological approach and choice of subject are strongly influenced by his study of Marx and his desire to provide a more nuanced and accurate account of modern society. The roots for this study were planted already in the 1930s when Aron was contemplating the issue of class struggle. Our problem will be to examine the economic, social, and political dimensions of industrial society as well as their interconnections. This will allow us to set Aron’s sociological method against that of his interlocutor, Karl Marx. It will also allow us to set Aron’s study of industrial society in the broader context of the aforementioned overarching philosophical concerns.

2.3 Praxeology – Principles of Political Action

The earlier discussions of regimes, the limits of knowledge and reason, and history, all point to one of the central focuses of Aron’s thought: political action. To elaborate a theory of political action, especially action in history, was a project that had long fascinated Aron and which he never managed to bring to fruition. To be considered here is Aron’s treatment of the means-ends problem and Weber’s two ethics. Weber sets up the framework for Aron’s praxeological thought in the 1930s, and Aron continues to grapple with it for the rest of his life. The problem of political action was made even more critical for Aron given his experience of the descent of Western regimes into various forms of tyranny. He continues his meditation on political action at the international level as well. At stake in each of these instances is a choice between the politically expedient on the one hand, and satisfying one’s ideals on the other. To go too far in the direction of idealism is politically irresponsible, but to go too far in the direction of pragmatism is to sail along avoiding the rocks without aiming for the shore. Our ←16 | 17→problem will be to consider Aron’s prudential treatment of political action as the outgrowth of his debate with Weber. It is in Aron’s solution to this problem that we will see how he makes room for philosophy and a reasonable politics in history – a preliminary result to his overriding philosophical concern throughout his life.

Some of the components covered in this work have been discussed in other contexts before. These discussions will appear in the footnotes. A worthy introduction to some of the most current trends in Aron research can be summed up by briefly examining the recently published Companion to Raymond Aron.38 The editors of this volume divided up Aron’s thought into three categories: international relations, the analysis of political regimes, and his contribution to the history of ideas. To date Nicolas Baverez has written the only full scale biography of Raymond Aron, in which he tries to take a closer look at the man and his life.39 José Colen’s work has been key in reminding us of the importance of the study of history in Aron’s thought, although he has cast his net far wider than we are able to by examining other thinkers in dialogue with Aron, such as Leo Strauss and Isaiah Berlin.40

Of those who contributed to the international relations section we have drawn mostly on Matthias Oppermann’s dissertation, Raymond Aron und Deutschland: Die Verteidigung der Freiheit und das Problem des Totalitarismus.41 Oppermann also argues for the critical role that Germany plays in Aron’s thought. The two questions governing the direction of his research are: “How did Aron’s dual experience of Germany – his scientific experience with German philosophy and his political experience with National Socialism – affect the development of his liberal political thought? On the basis of his political liberalism how did he evaluate Germany’s role in the history of Europe in the 20th century?”42 The second question does not concern us. As to the first, Oppermann is engaged with the importance of Aron’s political and intellectual experiences regarding Germany and how they formed his liberalism and resistance to totalitarianism. We, on the other hand, have drawn on Oppermann mainly for historical context and to engage his insights with respect to thinkers such as Marx and Weber.

←17 | 18→

One of the additional benefits of our project is that we shall be presenting some of these insights to an English-reading audience. Our research draws on similar content as some of the other existing German literature;43 however, one of the currents in the English and French language literature that we should like to address is the common reference made to Aron’s Aristotelianism, be it in terms of his sociology of regimes or his prudence, and the relativism that seems inevitable once one has drunk from the rivers of German philosophy.44 We will bring out the importance of Aron’s German intellectual heritage throughout his life’s work, addressing along the way the matter of how he managed to avoid the extremism, or nihilism or relativism to which other thinkers such as Weber, Marx, and Sartre fell prey. Lastly, we will add to the literature in this respect by emphasizing the role played by German phenomenology and especially Dilthey in Aron’s thought.

The second section of The Companion to Raymond Aron deals mainly with the question of regimes. Aron’s trilogy on industrial society has received scant treatment in accordance with Aron’s intentions, that is to say, as a cohesive whole studying industrial society on the economic, social, and political levels.45 The essays included in The Companion have individually gone some way to rectifying this problem by treating of some of the courses that make up the trilogy or by addressing some of the fundamental questions the trilogy was concerned with.46 One of the additional themes for which there is precedent in the literature is the idea of democracy as essentially conflictual, which derives ultimately from Aron’s reading of the neo-Machiavellians.47 Our Sociology section will draw on this literature but it will also move in a different direction by situating Aron’s trilogy on industrial society and his sociological method in the broader framework of his lifelong philosophical project of studying man and action in history.

The third section of The Companion does Aron justice by approaching the great debates Aron had with thinkers of the past. He was one of the most generous and prodigious readers of others, and treating of this exchange of ideas has ←18 | 19→the benefit of presenting both the ideas of Aron’s interlocutors as well as the intellectual backdrop for some of Aron’s own commentary on politics and society. Our article co-authored with José Colen is an abridged version of the chapter on Max Weber included in this work.48 Of greatest interest for us is the recent work on Aron’s “Machiavellianism” and the relation between Aron and Montesquieu.49 By contrast, it has been common to situate Aron in the tradition of French liberalism (owing in no small part to the fact that he was willing to consider himself a French liberal) and emphasize Aron’s connection to Tocqueville.50 We find the connections to Machiavelli and Montesquieu more rewarding for the elective affinity that Aron enjoys with the latter in his sociological approach, and for the varied uses to which he employs the former in his praxeology.

3 Methodology

Dietz Bering observes that the term “intellectual” has assumed a wide array of different connotations over the years and also within different countries.51 We do not mean to use the term in a pejorative sense as does Paul Johnson in his Intellectuals.52 Nor, when speaking of Aron, do we wish to employ the term as referring to a universalist who speaks outside of his profession and beyond his capabilities, commenting on technical fields of which he is ignorant.53 While such a definition could have been applied to Sartre, it would have inaccurately described Aron. Aron was interested in how to improve the human condition and he was, as Nicolas Baverez calls him, un moraliste au temps des idéologies.54 He could be considered an intellectual in the same group as Sartre, in that both were public commentators, but by going against the grain of mainstream thought (i.e. Marxism), as well as informing himself on a variety of issues before commenting on them, Aron was his own breed of intellectual. We have chosen the word intellectual to describe Aron, as opposed to other common terms such ←19 | 20→as sociologist,55 political philosopher,56 or even simply professor or journalist, because we believe that “intellectual” better describes what he was and what it is that we wish to say about him, namely, that he was a man concerned with the problems of his time (philosophical, sociological, political, etc.), who not only analyzed and commented on them as objectively as possible, but did so also with a view to how the human condition could realistically be improved. In this sense, he was an intellectual who felt the “burden of responsibility”.57

The scholarship on the methodological approaches to biographical writing is extensive,58 but there is a brief remark worth bringing up in this connection: Schleiermacher long ago introduced the notion of “understanding an author better than he understood himself”.59 One can achieve a more holistic and meaningful understanding of the author than he had of himself, but first one ought to begin with the author’s own understanding of himself. It is in this spirit that we begin our work on Aron. In his study of Marx in Les étapes de la pensée sociologique, Aron states that if one is uncertain of one’s own genius, then in studying a great mind of the past it is often better to begin by understanding him as he understood himself.60 Aron’s method with Marx was to proceed in “good faith” and take him at his word.61 He devised a plan for reading an author and so it is wise not to ignore his own idiosyncratic thought or advice on how to approach the study of past thinkers.62 We are not the first to call attention to the fact that Aron seems to follow Schleiermacher in his study of other authors.63

As early as Aron’s Introduction à la philosophie de l’histoire he observed that there is a separation between the reconstruction of the past and an actor’s lived experience.64 Aron was also aware of the fact that an author is not the supreme judge of his own work.65 Therefore we need not halt our analysis at what Aron said about himself, since his work assumes new life in the hands of his interpreters. In a sense, it no longer belongs to him.66 We cannot pretend to have understood ←20 | 21→him better than he understood himself; although, by starting with his self-understanding and his own aspirations for his philosophical work, we will have discovered a greater coherence and significance in the answers Aron furnished to the questions he put to himself his entire life.

A work that is as concerned as this one is with the life of the mind may also be considered a work in the history of ideas, or intellectual history. The history of ideas, however, is something of a hybrid child, unsatisfying both for philosophers and purely theoretical-minded researchers, but also for historians of a more conventional character. In fact, today historians of ideas prefer to study the expression of culture as understood in its anthropological or sociological aspect. Besides, it is sometimes deemed impossible to recover an author’s intention, thus leaving us with nothing other than postmodern readings.

We shall avoid the controversies between those who uphold that the thought of a thinker should be understood only in the context of his contemporaries and those who would rather place it in a traditional canon of thought.67 As mentioned, we intend to take Aron at his word. Part of this involves taking seriously his critique of historical knowledge as laid out in his Introduction à la philosophie de l’histoire. Where he was able to experience his thoughts developing first hand, we have the advantage of being able to look back on his life and his works in retrospect and construct a meaning and unity that we will illustrate was implicit in his texts, though never systematically expressed. Furthermore, we do not believe that ideas are unconnected to one another, as if they were billiard balls colliding on a pool table. We refuse to acknowledge the “myth of the context” or the Annales school’s idea that great minds are bound by the mentalité of their time.68

As we will prove, Aron would have been the first to acknowledge that historical actors are informed by their time periods, but he would also have murmured in the same breath that there is a plurality of interpretations and causes, and that we are never entirely trapped in our thinking and acting by impersonal forces. Therefore, heading each part of this book there will be a contextual section that will serve to orient the more “philosophical”, successive sections. The contextual sections are the most straightforwardly biographical sections and will amplify different dimensions of Aron’s public engagement and thought: as a doe-eyed ←21 | 22→pacifist turned disillusioned realist in Germany; as a sociologist in the postwar rebuilding of the French sociological tradition at the Sorbonne; and, finally, as the spectateur engagé, commenting on 20th century history in the making.

The majority of our energy, however, will be spent on engaging with Aron’s mind and his ideas; for, to suggest – as some of the Annales school do by means of mentalités, the Marxists by means of socio-economic forces, the Paretians by means of residues, the Freudians by means of drives, the Foucauldians by means of power relationships – that a thinker’s ideas are irrelevant in light of some underlying force beyond which their content has no purchase is patently absurd. “Somewhere at some time someone must have decided to do something. ‘Vast impersonal forces’ are simply abstractions – the sum of an infinite number of small but strictly personal decisions.”69 Although informed by the ideas of his time, Aron manages to go far beyond his contemporaries and the fashion of his time. This is because Aron takes seriously the ideas of his interlocutors, and a history of ideas cannot be properly so called if it refuses at every juncture to take seriously the content of the ideas it is exploring.

To aid us further in our endeavour of achieving the twin goals of tracing the intellectual influence of German thought on Aron and using it as a benchmark for establishing the unity of his political thought, we have assigned three key German thinkers with whom, we argue, Aron was in dialogue in each one of the aforementioned three dimensions: Wilhelm Dilthey for History, Karl Marx for Sociology, and Max Weber for Praxeology. This dialogical method is once again consonant with Aron’s own preferred methods.70 We make no claim to have exhausted any one of these three thinkers’ ideas in this work. Nor, for that matter, do we mean to argue that Aron was engaged in debate with one thinker and one thinker alone in the context of each dimension. Arranging these three figures as we have – an arrangement that is suggested by the sources themselves – will allow us to distill the essential features of Aron’s thinking as they pertain to his lifelong philosophical concerns.

←22 | 23→

1 See, among others, Judt, Burden of Responsibility; Hughes, The Obstructed Path; Sirinelli, Sartre et Aron; Pierce, Contemporary French Political Thought; Huguenin, Histoire intellectuelle des droites; Chebel d’Appollonia, Histoire politique des intellectuels en France.

2 The various dimensions of his thought have recently been studied in collections such as Colen and Dutartre-Michaut, eds., The Companion to Raymond Aron; Bevc and Oppermann, eds., Der souveräne Nationalstaat; De Ligio, ed., Raymond Aron, penseur de l’Europe et de la nation; Baehr, ed., “Special Issue: Raymond Aron”; Frost and Mahoney, Political Reason in the Age of Ideology.

3 Hepp, “Souvenirs des années 20,” 10.

4 Laloy, “Un libéral passionné,” 36–38; Lazitch, “Aron et le communisme,” 47–49; Fleischmann, “Ce qu’est un vrai libéral,” 103–105; Bloom, “Le dernier des libéraux,” 174–182.

5 For Aron’s account of the brief time spent there, see Aron, Mémoires, 279–281.

6 Judt, Past Imperfect, 245, 304.

7 Aron, Mémoires, 485–486; Aron, La révolution introuvable, 13, 133; Winock, “La Tragédie algérienne,” 271.

8 Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes.

9 On the intellectual culture of the time, see, e.g., Aron, Mémoires; Judt, Past Imperfect; Judt, Burden of Responsibility; Hughes, The Obstructed Path; Sirinelli, Sartre et Aron; and Beauvoir, La force de l’âge.

10 Aron relates, e.g., Robert McNamara’s flattery for him over his book, Le grand débat, in Aron, Mémoires, 600. Kissinger considered Aron to be his teacher. See Kissinger, “My teacher,” 129.

11 Gaspar, “Aron and the Cold War,” 46.

12 Aron, Introduction.

13 Cf., Shils, “Raymond Aron: A Memoir,” 14.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
philosophy of history political ethics French intellectual industrial society liberal democracy 20th century Europe
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 307 pp.

Biographical notes

Scott B. Nelson (Author)

Scott Nelson is a Dr. phil. graduate of the University of Vienna and is an independent writer. He has written various articles related to political ethics and is currently researching to write a book on Cicero and politics in modern liberal democracy.


Title: Tragedy and History
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