Apart from Reflections on Violence, I am unfamiliar with Georges Sorel's writings, and I have done only very limited reading on Bergson and Bergsonianism.

I understand that Bergson is among the main influences on Sorel's social criticism and syndicalism. This appears to be due, as far as I can tell, to Sorel's distaste for positivism and insistence on the inadequacies of social "sciences," which makes sense for an anti-economistic, non-doctrinaire Marxist like Sorel.

But that is pretty superficial. So, I'm looking for explanations of how Bergson fits into Sorel's thinking and/or into other Marxist lines of thought. I realize this is a pretty obscure question, so in lieu of direct answers I'd be happy to have any suggestions on reference works or articles treating this topic.

1 Answer 1


Maybe there is no "deep" reason: Bergson was an highly influential French thinker in late 19th Century.

See e.g.Georges Sorel, Reflections on Violence (1999, Cambridge UP), page x: "He [Sorel] was, however, also a great listener (regularly attending Bergson’s lectures in Paris)", and see page xiii on Bergson and "Sorel’s most controversial ideas: the importance of myths", where Sorel used Bergson's concept of intuition.

Thus, I presume, there is a general influence of Bergson's "evolutionary" views on Sorel in general, and not something specific regarding Marxism.

See also Ellen Kennedy, Bergson's Philosophy and French Political Doctrines Sorel, Maurras, Péguy and de Gaulle (1980): "Significantly, Bergson’s philosophical arguments interested them more than his relatively minor, but concrete, statements about contemporary politics."

And (page 76):

According to Sabine, Sorel justified the place of ‘the general strike’ within a Marxist theory of social change by replacing Hegel’s logic of history with Bergson’s vitalistic irrationalism. Julien Benda, one of Bergson’s most critical contemporaries, understood his philosophy as encouraging social instability through a blindly irrational approval of change for its own sake.

Maybe useful also: Shlomo Sand, Quelques remarques sur Sorel critique de L'évolution créatrice. Quatre lettres inédites de Bergson à Sorel (1983).

  • Thanks, I suspect you are right. I wasn't looking for a direct Bergson to Socialism link, but how his philosophy shaped Sorel and others. I can see that Sorel disputes the various "social scientific" views of history, curation, and social action with something like an "elan vital" approach, though he never calls it this. I believe he refers to a Bergsonian concept of "myth," but not sure what he means by that. He also appeals to irrational motivations to dispute the economic-historical dogma and rational moderation of Second International Marxism. Jan 19, 2023 at 16:53

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