Socialism and the Experience of Time: Idealism and the Present in Modern France

ISBN : 9780199533589

Julian Wright
352 ページ
153 x 234 mm

How do we make social democracy? Should we seize the unknown possibilities offered by the future, or does real change develop when we focus our attention on the immediate present? The modern tradition of social revolution suggested that the present is precisely the time that needs to be surpassed, but can society change without an intimate focus on today's experience of social injustice? In Socialism and the Experience of Time, Julian Wright asks how socialists in France from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century tried to follow a democratic commitment to the present. The debate about time that emerged in French socialism lay beneath the surface of political arguments within the left. But how did this focus on the present relate to the tradition of revolution in France? What did socialism have to say about social experience in the present, and how did this discussion shape socialism as a movement? Wright examines French socialism's fascination with modern history, through a new reading of Jean Jaures' multi-authored project to write a 'socialist history' of France since 1789. Then, in four interlocking biographical essays, he analyses the reformist and idealist socialism of the Third Republic, long side-lined in the historical literature. With a sometimes emotional focus on the present times of Benoit Malon, Georges Renard, Marcel Sembat, and Leon Blum, a personal history unfolds that allows us to revisit the traditional narrative of French socialism. This is not so much a story of the future hope for revolution, as an intimate account of socialism, intellectual engagement, and the human present.


Part 1: Introduction
1 Modern ideas of the present
2 Socialism and socialist intellectuals in French history

Part 2: The present in the past: The Histoire socialiste and the socialist vision of time
3 Socialists and their history
4 Socialism and the flow of time in modernity

Part 3: Intellectual biography and the socialist experience of time
5 Benoit Malon and Andre Leo: socialism and the harmonious present
6 Georges Renard: socialist idealism and intellectual commitment
7 Marcel Sembat and the daily life of socialism: between experience and enthusiasm
8 Leon Blum: in the present, for the future



Julian Wright is Professor of History and Head of Humanities at Northumbria University, having previously taught at Durham University and held a Junior Research Fellowship at Christ Church, Oxford. He is the author of The Regionalist Movement in France: Jean Charles-Brun and French Political Thought, also published by OUP. Julian is co-editor of the OUP journal French History and Musical Director of the Durham Singers. The completion of this book was made possible with a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in 2015-16.