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

Wright, Julian (2017) Socialism and the Experience of Time: Idealism and the Present in Modern France. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 9780199533589

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How do we make social democracy? Should we seize the unknown possibilities offered by the future, or does lasting change really occur when we focus our attention on the immediate present in which we live? These arguments are fundamental to the divisions within left-wing politics in particular. The modernist vision of revolution suggests that the present is precisely the time that needs to be surpassed. But can society change without putting today’s experience of social injustice at the heart of our programme?This book asks how, from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, socialists in France tried to follow a democratic commitment to political voices in the present. The debate about time and modernity that emerged in French socialism sat beneath the surface of political arguments within the left. Socialists reflected on how political programmes of change connected with social experience. But how did this focus on the present relate to the tradition of revolution in France? And in particular, what did socialism have to say about the human experience of the present?The book examines French socialism’s fascination with modern history, through a new reading of the multi-authored project to write a ‘socialist history’ of France since 1789, led by Jean Jaurès. Then, in four interlocking biographical essays, it analyses the search for a new timeframe of social transformation, by uncovering the reformist and idealist socialism of the Third Republic, long side-lined in the historical literature. With an intimate and emotional focus on the present-times of Benoit Malon, Georges Renard, Marcel Sembat and Léon Blum, a personal history of socialist thought emerges that allows us to revisit the story of left-wing intellectual life and modern socialism through the ‘human scale’ of time—that of the present.

Item Type: Book
Uncontrolled Keywords: History, France, Socialism, Time, Modernity, Intellectual, Reformism, Social Democracy, Temporality, Revolution
Subjects: V200 History by area
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
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Depositing User: Ay Okpokam
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2017 11:55
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2017 11:55

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