Raymond Aron: The Last of the Liberals

"Raymond Aron: The Last of the Liberals," New Criterion, September 1985.


A few weeks ago, when I was in Paris, I went to have lunch at my friend Jean-Claude Casanova’s home. As I entered the great doors of the building on the Boulevard St. Michel, I had one of those experiences which only an American amateur of things French would call Proustian. I felt a sudden shock, a powerful awareness of an absence linked to the entire substance of my adult life. I recognized that this was where Raymond Aron had lived and that I would find him there no longer.

I could not pretend to be his student or his friend, but he was the teacher and friend of all my friends, admired by everyone I admired on both sides of the Atlantic. He was the protective tent under which we lived, the urbane and always benevolent defender of reason, freedom, and decency when all these were passing through unprecedented crises. He incarnated the bon sens which is supposed to be the leading characteristic of liberal democracy and …

New Criterion