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- Sorel: Reflections on Violence (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
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Optional message. Book description. Aa Aa. Refine List. Actions for selected content:. Send content to. Please be advised that item s you selected are not available. It is abundantly clear that this text can be, and is, read very differently by different readers — hence, for example, how it becomes possible for both left wing and right wing thinkers to claim Sorel as an influence, and the attendant disagreements about whether Sorel himself was of the left or the right.
So, now let us return to our own interpretation of this work. We write as critical students of organisation, from an explicit poststructuralist perspective. However, at least part of this apparent vagueness is attributable to a concern about the use of language that seems very familiar to contemporary ears.
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His approach to language was very particular, and he decried attempts to use language so that meanings might be fixed and controlled, might constrain the boundaries of both thought and action. In defending himself against the charge of imprecision Sorel asserted:.
Georges Sorel, Émile Durkheim, and the Social Foundations of la morale
We must beware of too much strictness in our language because it would then be at odds with the fluid character of reality; the result would be deceptive. Sorel was opposed to reductionism, the creation of artificial order, of one-size-fits-all, the one best way, there is no alternative, dogmas. He was a theorist of uncertainty and disorder, of chaos, and opposed to consoling certainty and comforting unity. Sorel requires effort on the part of the reader. There can be seen in his work, however, a poststructuralist approach to language and text, avant la lettre.
In particular, and deriving from this approach, it is important that the reader retains a critical awareness of the range of possible significations that can be attached to language and does not jump to the assumption that terms and concepts used by Sorel that have commonplace contemporary currency must, therefore, have commonplace contemporary meanings and significations.
Sorel was, for example, strongly opposed to sabotage and terrorism because they are, in essence, destructive see, for example, Sorel, ; see also various discussions in, for example, Humphrey, ; Berlin, ; Portis, 72 and ; Stanley, ; Jennings, Violence is action, and, as is the case with all action, what defines its value is function and motive: what it is meant to achieve and how it is meant to do that.
The same wider point can be made about the concept of the general strike, a far cry from the kind of event that such a concept might customarily evoke today see below. This is not the case, however. Hughes , however, engages with the idea more fully. Diremption, he argues, consists in.
To juxtapose a number of mutually incompatible statements, Sorel argued, meant to illuminate aspects of reality that might otherwise have passed unobserved. Hughes Space precludes a full articulation of the link, but there does seem to be a strong resonance here with the concept of deconstruction so central itself to poststructuralism.
But he was adamantly opposed to the penetration of science, and the adoption of scientific templates, in the realm of the social, the human. Specifically, he opposed the idea that the social could be measured by, explained by, and perfected in accordance with, natural science.
Sorel was convinced of the role and significance of the irrational in human thought. It is clear to Sorel that if science cannot inhibit the forms taken by social practice, neither is science in a position to promote practice. It is therefore necessary to move beyond the orbit of science, beyond the probabalism of calculus, and locate the mainsprings of action in non-rational behaviour. Horowitz Sorel opposed, root and branch, the view of the social, characteristic of functionalist Organisation Theory and which was already becoming prominent in his own time, as explicable by the rules, practices and methodologies of natural science.
The purpose of such practice could only be to impose artificial order and control, to de-humanise, and to deny the inherent disorder and struggle of existence. He continues:.
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For the middle class science is a mill which produces solutions to all the problems we are faced with: science is no longer considered as a perfected means of knowledge, but only as a recipe for procuring certain advantages. Sorel, For an interestingly commensurate contemporary view, see Lecourt, Although contemporary developments such as The New Physics might elide these distinctions further, it is still an easily recognisable position today. Sorel sees nature as chaotic, necessarily made comprehensible through an order imposed on it by humans. Some of this understood order may be derived from science, but, in the realm of the social, perceived order relies, not on science, but on religion, myth, tradition, fantasy, experience, the mystical, the subjective.
One of the major influences in the development of contemporary COT was the emergence in the s of an awareness of the importance of the symbolic in understanding organisation.
Sorel: Reflections on Violence (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
One major element of this interest focused on myth. The concept of myth also has a major place in the work of Sorel. In particular, he saw the development of a myth, or of myths, of emancipation as prerequisite to achieving revolutionary change. Myth, qua myth, motivates. As noted, Sorel saw no progress without struggle, and the vehicle of struggle which Sorel advocated was the general strike — or, more specifically, the myth of the general strike.
What Sorel meant by this is not entirely clear, but the general strike should not be understood as a rational, analysable, programmable project. It should be seen as an idea, a vision, something to believe in, a motivating ideal to work towards. Indeed, Sorel is quite clear that myth and fact should never be allowed near each other. However, as the general strike is a myth it can never happen.