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social science and politics an historical case study of impact or conceptual exchange

“Social Science and Politics.” An historical case-study of impact or conceptual exchange:

Raymond Aron in 1948/9Subtitle goes here

project context
Project context
  • A follow up to my French Post-War Social Theory: International knowledge transfer (Sage, 2011) which analysed the French production and English reception of the works of Raymond Aron, Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard, and Pierre Bourdieu in decade sections from 1945 to the present.
  • My dissatisfaction with the concentration of the book on texts.
  • I wanted to explore the social conditions of production and reception of texts. In Bourdieu’s terminology, the book analysed the ‘structured structures’ of communication and I wanted to complement this with analysis of the ‘structuring structures’.
  • I am pursuing this extension of the book by posting work on a web-site:


  • Jan 16,Vincent Auriol (Socialist) elected first President of the 4th Republic
  • Jan 28,Paul Ramadier (Socialist) becomes PM
  • Mar 10 to Ap 25,unsuccessful meeting of foreign ministers of US, UK, France and USSR in Moscow on the future of Germany
  • April 7,founding of the Rassemblement du peuplefrancais (RPF)
  • May, suppression of revolts in Madagascar
  • May 4, Communists leave tripartite govt
  • June 5,announcement of Marshall Plan
  • Oct, municipal elections marked the emergence of de Gaulle’s RPF
  • Oct, meeting of European communist parties in Poland
  • Nov, Thorez meeting with Stalin.
  • Nov 13, Nobel Prize for literature awarded to Andre Gide
  • Nov, secession of Force Ouvriere (FO),Socialist, from the Confederation generale du travail (CGT),Communist.
  • Nov 19,resignation of Ramadier
  • Nov 22,Robert Schuman (MRP) becomes PM.
  • France
  • Jan 26,devaluation of the franc
  • July 26,Andre Marie (Radical) becomes PM
  • establishment of North African Liberation committee
  • Aug,Communistscreated the Mouvement de la Paix, pres. J.-F. Joliot Curie
  • Sept 11,Henri Queuille (Radical) becomes PM
  • RA: Le Grand schisme, Paris, Gallimard
  • RA: Introduction à la philosophie de l’histoire, Paris, Gallimard (revisededition of 1938)
philosophical context
  • The project is an extension of my attempt to demonstrate the phenomenological foundation of the work of Bourdieu. This is connected with an attempt to explore the affinities or complementarities between the work of Bourdieu and Lyotard.
  • See Geoff Bennington: Lyotard. Writing the Event (1988) where he discusses Lyotard’s “Le tombeau de l’intellectuel” [The Intellectual’s Tomb), 1983.
  • e.g.
  • “An ‘intellectual’ ... is someone who identifies and identifies with a collective subject given a universal or potentially universal value ...”
  • “In Lyotard’s view, this is not at all the position of the experts ....: their role is not to embody any universal or potentially universal subject, but simply to achieve the best possible performance in their field – performance being judged in terms of an input/output ratio, the highest output for the lowest input defining success. The expert accepts the constitution of his or her field and attempts to succeed in these terms within it.”
  • “It would be a gross mistake to assume that because Lyotard is engaged in questioning unities and totalities, he is necessarily promoting some form of individualism. If it is true that totality is a negatively marked term in his thought, the corresponding positive term is, rather, singularity. A singularity is not so much an individual as an event, ...
  • (Bennington, pp. 5-9)
  • the question for the project, therefore, is: what kind of relationship existed between the writing of Aron and the events of his context? Did he ‘intervene’ as an intellectual or as an expert? If the latter, what was the nature of his expertise?
  • I suggest that these questions are relevant for ourselves.
background to raymond aron 1905 83
Background to Raymond Aron (1905-83)
  • A philosopher of history.
  • Author of an account of contemporary German sociology (1935) – advocate for Max Weber.
  • Based in London, 1940-5, with de Gaulle’s ‘Free French’, he wrote a monthly ‘chronique de France’ for La France libre.
  • From 1947 until 1977, he wrote a column for Le Figaro.
  • He applied unsuccessfully in 1948 for the Chair of Sociology at the Sorbonne.
  • From 1947/8 until 1952 he was a member of de Gaulle’s Rassemblement du people français (RPF)
  • He was to be appointed to the Chair of Sociology at the Sorbonne in 1955.
  • In 1959 he wrote a long introduction to the first French translation of Max Weber’s two 1919 lectures: Science as a Vocation and Politics as a Vocation, published as Le savant et le politique. [the scientist and the politician]
aron le grand schisme
Aron: Le Grand Schisme.

Written between the Autumn of 1947 and April, 1948.

Published by Gallimard on November 3rd, 1948.


Première partie.

Le schisme diplomatique.

La paix belliqueuese.

1. Paix impossible, guerre improbable.

On what grounds, scientific or journalistic, did Aron conceptualise the Cold War ?

aron s articles for le figaro september 1947 to april 1948
Aron’s articles for Le Figaro, September, 1947 to April, 1948.
  • There are about weekly articles in this period. I intend to analyse what he writes and what stimulates what he writes in this period in order to try to define what might have differentiated his journalism from his incipient sociologies of international relations and of society.
  • Focussing on these 8 months, I shall also try to understand the attitudes of key political players, notably de Gaulle and Maurice Thorez (leader of the French Communist Party).
relevance in considering our own situation
Relevance in considering our own situation.
  • My hypothesis is that there is a dialectical relationship between political action and the conceptualisation of society by social scientists. Aron partly constituted ‘cold war’ discourse and there was an important relationship between what was ‘actually’ happening, how he perceived what was happening, and how political actors perceived the events in which they were participants. Was Aron’s analysis ‘scientific’ or did his perceptions have influence because they seemed to be legitimated by scientificity?
  • These dilemmas are even more acute for us because attitudes and opinions are mediated. Our views of political issues are largely constituted by media journalists and the question for me is whether instituted social science can offer a convincing critique of these mediations.