Page:Georges Sorel, Reflections On Violence (1915).djvu/36

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

working-class violence which has no such aim, seems to them only folly and an odious caricature of revolution. Do what you like, but don't kill the goose.


In the course of this study one thing has always been present in my mind, which seemed to me so evident that I did not think it worth while to lay much stress on it—that men who are participating in a great social movement always picture their coming action as a battle in which their cause is certain to triumph. These constructions, knowledge of which is so important for historians, I propose to call myths;[1] the syndicalist "general strike" and Marx's catastrophic revolution are such myths. As remarkable examples of such myths, I have given those which were constructed by primitive Christianity, by the Reformation, by the Revolution and by the followers of Mazzini. I now wish to show that we should not attempt to analyse such groups of images in the way that we analyse a thing into its elements, but that they must be taken as a whole, as historical forces, and that we should be especially careful not to make any comparison between accomplished fact and the picture people had formed for themselves before action.

I could have given one more example which is perhaps still more striking: Catholics have never been discouraged even in the hardest trials, because they have always pictured the history of the Church as a series of battles between Satan and the hierarchy supported by Christ; every new difficulty which arises is only an episode in a war which must finally end in the victory of Catholicism.

  1. In the Introduction à, l'économié moderne, I have given the word myth a more general sense, which closely corresponds to the narrower meaning given to it here.