History and Choices: The Foundations of the Political Thought of Raymond Aron

Tracy B. Strong, "History and Choices: The Foundations of the Political Thought of Raymond Aron," History and Theory, v11 n2 (1972): 179-192.


” At first approach, the English or American intellectual, who by his upbringing is generally not conscious of the conflict of political ideologies, may tend to view Raymond Aron as a colorless figure. Thus, for David Thompson, Erin’s conclusions are “modest to the point of being disappointing”—this is in spite of an output that must total above 30 books and innumerable articles. Under the seeming modesty of conclusions there is, however, a philosophical foundation which not only leads to this lack of specific conclusions, but indeed entail a low number of generalizable empirical conclusions and policy recommendations. I furthermore believe that such a philosophy is in fact characteristic of “good” social science.

I shall argue in this essay that the apparent similarity between Erin’s positions and those of many “liberal” English and American social and political observers is only on the surface. Aron springs out of a specifically European philosophical background, and his thoughts can only be accurately understood in the context of the questions that this philosophical  tradition asks. In an age where Europeans seem to be either abandoning their philosophical roots for Anglo-American approaches to political sociology or else retreating into philosophical fluttering stutter often at best obscure, it is possible that the example of Aron a prove instructive to those who wish to retain the best of both traditions.