chapter  1
10 Pages

From Factual History to the Philosophy of History

Thesocialmythistheinstrumentwhichtriggersrevolution.But whenphilosophiesofhistorybecomeenshrinedasStatereligions, boththeyandthesocialforcesfortifyingthemarenolongervaluable asradicalcritiques.ThetotalidentificationofChristianrevelation withmedievalEuropemademessianismandthesocialinterpretation ofthegospelssuspectandheretical.Mysticism,whatforSorelisthe beareroftheapocalypticvision,wasreplacedbyaconservative scholasticismthatarguedthelanguageandlogicofproblems.Even thequestionofsocialstructurewasexaminedonlyintermswhich precludedanexaminationofsocialprocesses.Similarly,thecomplete identificationofreasonandprogresswithEuropeancapitalismledto acorruptionofdoctrineassoonascapitalismbecameentrenched. Capitalismbecameidentifiedastherationaleconomy,andprogress wasreducedtoameasurementofgainswithinthesystem.Therevolutionaryimpetuswhichinitiallygaverisetoageneraltheoryofprogress,wasreplacedbyidealistbombastandvaguereferencestothe conquestsofscience.l

Thetroublewithpastphilosophiesofhistorywasthattheirformulatorsinsistedonconvertinghistoryintoeitherreligionorscience. ForSorel,thephilosophyofhistorywhensoconvertedisacorruptionofthepowerfulandgreatsocialmythswhichinspiredpastages toaction.ThiswasparticularlyevidentinthedisseminationofEnlightenmentthought,aboutwhichSorelfeltmoststrongly.Hefeltita centraltaskof'contemporarysocialismtodemolishtheentirestructureofconventionalfalsehoodsandtoruintheesteemwhichthose whopopularizethepopularizationsoftheeighteenthcenturyarestill held.' 2WhatthisrequiresforSorelisaviewofcivilizationasindeterminateratherthanpre-determined.Eachbusinessdepression, forexample,isdifferentowingtotherealhistory,or'durationalfactor'whichcontributestoit.Thereforethecalculationsofreasoned foresightarenotvalidinsocialmovements.