Krytyka ideologii XVIII wieku w filozofii Georges’a Sorela

Jan Plata-Przechlewski


The Critique of the Ideology of the 18th Century in the Philosophy of George’s Sorel

The aim of this paper is to analyze Sorel’s critique of ideology and his philosophy of history. Criticizing the 18th century ideas and the widespread approval of the French Revolution at the beginning of the 19th century in France, Sorel shows their bourgeois source and the “salon character.” This ideology is also present in the 18th century’s science, emphasizing superficial studies, the ideal of eclecticism and shallowness. The optimistic theory of progress, advocated for example by Condorcet, was created in an epoch when the bourgeoisie achieved its status as a leading class. The task of the historian of ideas is to describe that kind of the “ideology of winners.” Analyzing the changes of patterns in literature, manners, science and upbringing, Sorel shows how the traditions of the upper social spheres sneaked into the ideas of the bourgeoisie in the 18th century. The beginning of the end of absolute monarchy was the creation of a parasitic class of clerks, who originally were meant to enable a competent administration of subordinate territory and to uproot the feudal localisms. The ideology of this group developed in the three realms: the economic, which was based primarily upon the ideas taken from England; the judicial, which sought to expand the state power, as well as strengthen the power of oligarchy; the tendency to imitate the manners and ideas of the upper spheres of society. Sorel performs the deconstruction of the main ideas of the 18th century, namely the idea of progress. Analyzing the phenomenon of violence, he distinguishes two of its manifestations: the bourgeois, the judiciary one, which gave its fullest expression in the post-revolutionary tribunals and the heroic one, which at the cost of a few victims made the gulf between the oppressors and the oppressed impassable.

Keywords: progress, Cartesianism, French Revolution, violence, history, George Sorel, Paul Hazard.

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