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Sorel, Georges (1847–1922)

Jeff Shantz


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Social theorist Georges Sorel developed a primarily intellectual version of syndicalism in the 1910s and 1920s in France. Revolutionary syndicalism, as this variant was known, saw working-class direct action as the basis for a new society based on values of heroism and sacrifice, which, for Sorel, stood counter to the apathy and social degeneracy of bourgeois society. Syndicalism, and worker direct action, stood also as a refutation of the rule of society by bureaucratic and technocratic professionals. For Sorel, social movements were mobilized around inspirational “social myths” that condensed the hopes, desires, and aspirations of the movement in a striking and easily recognizable form. The social myth showed the potency of the social group in action and served to bring disparate actors together under a single banner. This unity was provisional and always in need of defending. The syndicalist general strike was most important not as a practical approach to labor organizing but rather as a “revolutionary myth” that served to rouse the fighting spirits of the working class and provided them with an image of the power of their unity in struggle. The vitality of the general strike was not so much material as ideological. The myth provides simultaneously an image and a feeling of unity. It serves as a unifying spirit pervading social relationships, which points beyond material interests. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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