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The Virtues of ViolenceDemocracy Against Disintegration in Modern France$
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Kevin Duong

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190058418

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190058418.001.0001

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Redemptive Violence on the Eve of the Great War

Redemptive Violence on the Eve of the Great War

(p.123) 4 Redemptive Violence on the Eve of the Great War
The Virtues of Violence

Kevin Duong

Oxford University Press

This chapter studies how an image of irrationalist redemptive violence saturated French intellectual culture on the eve of the First World War. It links the proliferation of that image of violence to the popularity of Henri Bergson. It draws attention to the way his philosophy was adapted into a political theory of decadence and degeneration across the political spectrum after 1900. The chapter highlights the writing of Georges Sorel because a conceptual reconstruction of his Reflections on Violence dramatizes how so many French thinkers could link voluntaristic violence with moral regeneration. It concludes by describing the nationalistic fate of Sorel’s argument as it travelled in and beyond France.

Keywords:   Georges Sorel, Henri Bergson, First World War, political violence, general strike, French fascism, Charles Péguy, French socialism

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