During the period in which RAYMOND ARON (1905–83) came of age, most of his contemporaries in the French intelligentsia embraced Marxism in one of its iterations; his own commitments — liberty and skepticism — were incompatible with Marxism in its apparent apotheosis in the Soviet Union. Although he was morally supportive of socialism and fiercely opposed to totalitarianism, Aron’s dismissiveness towards Marxism as analytical tool — his 1955 Opium of the Intellectuals is a takedown of reflexive ideological joiners — led leftists to pigeonhole him as a reactionary. (“I would rather be wrong with Sartre than right with Aron,” as the saying went.) These politicized intellectual battles were ancient history by the time members of my generation encountered the English translation of Aron’s Sorbonne lectures on the history of sociological thought. In these masterful examples of critical analysis, Aron brings his attention to detail and his capacious knowledge to the ongoing effort to understand the way that groups of people organize the relationships between themselves and space and things imperfectly and unjustly. His signal contribution was his commitment — throughout the struggles of his partisan era — to fight with clarity and integrity.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Albert Einstein, Robert Bingham, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Diane Arbus, Algernon Blackwood, Osa Helen Johnson.
READ MORE about members of the Partisan Generation (1904-13).