Sorel (Georges)

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175 Sorel as a thinker. Another magical thinker. Brilliant, inspiring but limited. Still too relativised to certain modern issues, perhaps historically trivial.


141 Roots of the right. Anyone, it seems, who is not personally taken in by the shallow logic which is used as the popular support of a leftist state is apparently to be regarded as right wing. Thus Sorel.
Rousseau, the first real leftist. Proposing a kind of holy lie that we deceive ourselves with. For not to be deceived, and yet to concur in the deception of others, is right wing,
Marx was a subtle thinker. He at least does give a reason for accepting cheap logic, arguing for the death of higher modes.
Sorel is an extremely interesting thinker. Compare and contrast with Nietzsche and Spengler. His contention that Homeric virtues are exhibited by the Yankee might seem absurd. This can be explained in terms of his Marxism, which puts him on the side of those who produce as against those who consume. The slave owner and the entrepreneur are seen equally as producers. The important thing is to have control of the conditions of one’s being. A most interesting viewpoint, that the Hellenistic philosophies are philosophies for consumers. Is being a producer or a consumer a state of mind? Is opting out of politics to be taken as a sign that one accepts a role as consumer i.e. having all the benefits of civilisation without attempting to control their development?

Seeing the Yankee as Homeric is for popular culture. New myths Sorel is in the process of making, almost like Marx himself. So he does not entirely escape from believing in his own myths. He is not interested in history, only in the future, and how energy can be galvanised.
Spengler does not say that the modern businessman is heroic, only that he is inevitably what Nietzsche reduces to in the modem age. But Nietzsche was far more farseeing than Spengler.

146 Sorel says that it doesn’t really matter if we believe things that are not strictly true, provided they succeed in energising us. So he does not see vulgarisation and bigotry as such an appalling disaster.
The same of course goes for McLuhan.

Reflections on Violence, Introductory letter to David Halevy “The communication of thought is always very difficult for any one who has strong metaphysical preoccupations; he thinks that speech will spoil the most fundamental parts of his thought, those which are very near to the motive power of the mind, those which appear so natural to him that he never seeks to express them. A reader has great difficulty in grasping the thought of an inventor, because he can only attain it by finding again the path traversed by the latter. Verbal communication is much easier than written communication, because words act on the feelings in a mysterious way and easily establish a current of sympathy between people; it is for this reason that an orator is able to produce conviction by arguments which do not seem very comprehensible to any one reading the speech later.”

French revolution made by lawyers. Use of lawyers to ensure discipline of Bourbon administration following example of Inquisition, in so doing getting lawyers to perform what are essentially non judicial functions, i.e. not to protect the individual against crime.
Christianity did not regenerate because it took over an dying system. Comparison with parliamentary socialism.

Sorel, a regenerative movement must not compromise with the old order. Economic interdependence means compromise, he says, and compromise means decadence.

194 Sorel suggests that there are basically two kinds of philosophy, two quite discrete lines of investigation which he calls the scholastic and the mystical. He says that the obscurities of Kant derive from the confusion of these two Thus the noumenon is a remnant of the old idea of substance, which is a redundant concept from the empirical viewpoint, yet expresses the mystical idea of that position from which everything is comprehensible. The urge to understand more that can be rationally understood.


13& Sorel on Bruno. It appears that Nietzsche was following Renan in counting Bruno a martyr for truth. Sorel insists it is hardly as simple as that.
Sorel and his insistence on the influence of the Inquisition. Identification of dissent with crime. Taken further by Robespierre.
Reading Sorel, who is delightful. No doubt a very dangerous book. Idea of proletarian culture. Youth movements alienness of the past.
How oppressive to us sounds even the relatively recent past.
Perhaps Sorel takes some Marx too literally. He does seem to believe Marx, even though he makes it into myth, this is not just Nietzsche. A lot of his ideas have gone into Marxist propaganda.
Try and see what I find so attractive. His pessimism. I still can’t really see the relevance of Bergson. What attracts us is some recognition of the frustration of our will. That society doe not satisfy. The promise is that of an overcoming of decadence. See it as a Nietzschean gloss on Marx.
The vigour of capitalism, capitalist development.
Looking at society as it is what seems fixed, ideas not properly articulated, that have to be carefully unearthed, Yet once, perhaps, there was an era when they were discussed and worked out.

17 Profound thought, Like Sorel. Anything that helps us escape from cliché.

Sorel. Idea that the Lutheran reformation in protecting against renaissance ideas preserved Roman education and with it the discipline and acquiesce in inequality that were the best virtues of the Romans.
Sorel’s references to Nietzsche are so few that he cannot be accounted a French Nietzschean.
Then some sort of interesting parallel
His idiosyncratic, highly individual synthesis. If not a Nietzschean, yet he seems like one interpretation of how to get rid of Nietzschean decadence,.
But his angles on Judaism, Luther, the renaissance, Christianity, are all very different.


284 Adam Smith. The great plausibility of this view of life which has almost converted the world. Ruskin and Carlyle were his great opponents. The mediaeval system of craft guilds had much to recommend it. Think of master morality in this sense of the word ‘master’.
Capitalist masters in America, admired by Sorel. Later people such as Hoover, Firestone and Ford.
The aesthetic squalor we find expresses our own concerns, what we object to, obstructions to our own wills.

Ww 47 Bergson and influence on Sorel. Idea of myth, creation and dynamic religion as the medium of progress. I see Sorel as having basically a Nietzschean scheme. Nietzsche is more fundamental to him than Bergson.
Bergson’s idealist conception of ‘novelty’. I don’t think Sorel is concerned with novelty in this sense, he is concerned with heroic morality. But Bergson’s idea of myth applies. Evolutionary function of myth.
Bergsonian science.
Appeal of Bergson’s philosophy. Idea of defeating nature, overcoming nature. The excitement this generates, similar to a kind of self deification.
Different from Hegelian idealism because the latter is said to be logically determined.
Different from Lamarckism. Creative evolution is not inheritance of acquired characteristics, but a kind of directional impulse. Intelligence as furtherance of instinct by other means.
What Bergson says about moral heroes, Jesus etc, is not impressive. His ideas of human progress is conformist in implication.


26 Quinton’s book The Politics of Imperfection. The people he feels it is necessary to come to terms with, Sorel, McLuhan, Hegel.

Sorel’s idea of socialism and heroic values.. Sorel on myth and magic. He is entirely relevant to contemporary Britain. I suspect his book is suppressed because of suspected dangerous tendencies
There are supporters of capitalism who express a decidedly antiheroic outlook, a square, repressed and repellently mundane outlook. But this is not the whole truth about capitalism, nor is capitalism the whole truth about contemporary culture and society.
And from another point of view it is the socialists who are the prigs and the puritans.


192& Mann’s Doctor Faustus. He seems to suggest that much twentieth century art went wrong because it forsook truth for the sake of making a stir. He finds Sorel pernicious. Perhaps the use that was made of Sorel was indeed so. But guided by truth there is nothing you cannot achieve.


5 The critical interest from the point of view of producer rather than consumer. Producers and consumer. The producer ideology is better in the sense that there is a power and freedom involved in creating something. Imposing your will on others is more stimulating than allowing them to impose theirs on you, even to the extent of making you happy.
I doubt if there is much room in society for the producer ethos in Sorel’s sense however. Economic matters are generally matters for much constraint. But it may be that the producer thesis is not so liable to complete debasement as the consumer ethos.
Modern aesthetics. It is the producer ethos attached to the appreciation of modern art that accounts for much of its boringness and incomprehensibility from the consumer point of view.
But then traditionally art was not just a question of ‘consumption’ anyway. If art is merely entertainment it is decadent and the shift in interest from art as directly experienced to artist as producer can seem to restore a current of Nietzschean vitality to the whole subject.
Essence of the consumer position. Essentially it is being told what to feel and what to think.

12 I think Georges Sorel should certainly be counted among the greats of recent history. His field was a strange one, his ‘social poetry’ was not made of the stuff of which art is usually made. But the artist is he who imposes form upon unruly matter.


67 What Sorel says about Aristotle's consumer ideology. The good to be aimed at had become friendship between cultivated gentlemen.


240 Sorel’s thesis that decadence can only be arrested by means of a complete economic break with the past. Perhaps this thesis is disputable. How to get a producer attitude? Perhaps there is philosophical means by which it may be done. Perhaps he should be thought of as pointing out a way to mobilise revolutionary energies.

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