Monday, December 21, 2009

Sorman on Revel's Last Exit to Utopia

Guy Sorman has an article in the City Journal about one of Jean-François Revel's books titled Last Exit to Utopia: The Survival of Socialism in a Post-Soviet Era (La grande parade, Essai sur la survie de l'utopie socialiste). Here's an extract:

French public intellectuals have a reputation—well-deserved—for being socialists, Marxists, or Trotskyists. One thinks in this regard of popular figures like Jean-Paul Sartre, Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Derrida, and Simone de Beauvoir, all with fan clubs on American campuses. Some French thinkers, however, have carried forward another intellectual tradition, that of classical liberalism—pro-democracy and pro-market—and running from the work of Alexis de Tocqueville to Albert Camus to the philosopher and journalist Jean-François Revel, who died at 82 in 2006. ...

Revel tried to explain this [leftist] utopian yearning through Rousseau’s influential doctrine: man was inherently good, society bad. Therefore, as Rousseau had it, reforming society—starting with the suppression of private property—would allow man’s fundamentally good nature to shine forth. Another source of the utopian fantasy, he believed, came from the European Catholic canon: good intentions count most. Even after learning that the Soviet Union and the Third Reich killed approximately the same number of their own citizens, leftist intellectuals rejected any comparison between the two regimes; after all, the Soviets’ intentions were better than the Nazis’, and intentions trump results. Revel could barely contain his ire at leftist scholars who refused to discuss the matter honestly.

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