Page:Georges Sorel, Reflections On Violence (1915).djvu/46

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REFLECTIONS ON VIOLENCE

not a cause but a consequence; it results from the weakening of the heroic myths which had such great popularity at the beginning of the nineteenth century; the belief in "glory" perished and a limited historic outlook became predominant at the time when these myths vanished.[1]

As long as there are no myths accepted by the masses, one may go on talking of revolts indefinitely, without ever provoking any revolutionary movement; this is what gives such importance to the general strike and renders it so odious to socialists who are afraid of a revolution; they do all they can to shake the confidence felt by the workers in the preparations they are making for the revolution; and in order to succeed in this they cast ridicule on the idea of the general strike—the only idea that could have any value as a motive force. One of the chief means employed by them is to represent it, as a Utopia; this is easy enough, because there are very few myths which are perfectly free from any Utopian element.

The revolutionary myths which exist at the present time are almost free from any such mixture; by means of them it is possible to understand the activity, the feelings and the ideas of the masses preparing themselves to enter on a decisive struggle; the myths are not descriptions of things, but expressions of a determination to act. A Utopia is, on the contrary, an intellectual product;

  1. "Assent," said Newman, "however strong, and accorded to images however vivid, is not therefore necessarily practical. Strictly speaking, it is not imagination that causes action; but hope and fear, likes and dislikes, appetite, passion, affection, the stirrings of selfishness and self-love. What imagination does for us is to find a means of stimulating those motive powers; and it does so by providing a supply of objects strong enough to stimulate them" (op. cit. p. 82). It may be seen from this that the illustrious thinker adopts an attitude which strongly resembles that of the theory of myths. It is impossible to read Newman without being struck by the analogies between his thought and that of Bergson: people who like to make the history of ideas depend on ethnical traditions will observe that Newman was descended from Israelites.