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Reflections of Violence

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Reflections of Violence
By Georges Sorel. Introduction by Edward A. Shils. Translation by T. E. Hulme and J. Roth (Dover Publications, Mineola, New York: 2004. Pg. 286.) ISBN: 0-486-43707-8.

Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - January 28, 2005

Written in French, and published in book form in 1908, Reflections of Violence was a treatise on the necessity of violence as a means of social change. It was originally published in serial form in Le Mouvement Socialiste in 1906. Written by Georges Sorel, this book was to become required reading for revolutionaries around the world. Sorel was a socialist, and former Marxist, who lived in pre-communist Europe. Modern readers need to differentiate Sorel's political philosophy from modern preconceptions of Communism ala Soviet Russia as Sorel's Socialist theories were developed before Soviet styled Communism was formalized. Failure to study Sorel's work within the historical context in which he wrote, will cloud the readers understanding and appreciation of Sorel's underlaying socialist theory and his belief in the motivating power of myth. Sorel's theory on the power of myth was wholeheartedly adopted and expanded upon by the Fascist, in particular Benito Mussolini.

Reflections of Violence is an important addition to the body of literature on Socialist Theory. It is also an important work in regard to the evolution of communism and many popular revolutionary movements. This book is as controversial today as it was when it was first written - in part because Sorel is advocating the necessity of using violence to enact social change. While his advocacy for violence may be repugnant, his theories are intriguing - in an historical context. In addition to advocating violence, Sorel also advocates a system called Syndicalism that would, if it reach fruition, give over all control of all industry and governmental agencies to the workers' unions. The main weapon used by the Syndicalist was the general strike. The theory of Syndicalism was a precursor to later communist economic theory that advocated disavowed private ownership in favor of state control of all industry.

This edition of Reflections of Violence was translated into English by T. E. Hulme and J. Roth and includes an informative introduction by Edward A. Shils. This book should be required reading in any college level Political Science course dealing with revolutionary movements, fascism, communism, or socialism.


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