The Companion to Raymond Aron

Part of the series Recovering Political Philosophy pp 163-176

Revisiting Aron’s The Class Struggle: Rereading Fifty Years after

  • Serge Paugam


Among Raymond Aron’s sociological studies, the three essays on industrial society (18 Lectures on Industrial Society, The Class Struggle, and Democracy and Totalitarianism), publications derived from seminars given at the Sorbonne between 1955 and 1958, constitute a representative sample of his sociological thinking and method. Initially duplicated from the original stencils by the Sorbonne’s center for documentation, seven years later, the texts were professionally edited and made available to the larger public. After some hesitation, Aron agreed to the publication of the texts that still contained sections improvised in the lecture, as well as their use in teaching, even though they were not initially destined for publication. According to Aron, what we have at hand corresponds to “research minutes” or “a working tool for students,” rather than a completed book comparable to his earlier publications. However, the three seminar texts became widely read, and they occupy an important place in the overall set of writings of the author. In his memoirs, Aron recognized their value by noting that they embrace themes at the center of his attention for more than a decade: “comparison of the economies and societies of both parts of Europe, the diversity of regimes and patterns of growth, social structure as a function of the regime and the stage of growth, the relative autonomy of the political system, and its influence on style of life and class relations.”1