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Through historical studies of some of the work of Montesquieu, Comte, Durkheim, Boas, Morgenthau, Aron and Bourdieu, Derek Robbins examines the changing and competing conceptualisations of the political and the social in the Western European intellectual tradition. He suggests that we are now experiencing a new ‘dissociation of sensibility’ in which political thought and its consequences in action have become divorced from social and cultural experience. Developing further the ideas of Bourdieu which he has presented in books and articles over the last twenty years, Robbins argues that we need to integrate the recognition of cultural difference with the practice of international politics by accepting that the ‘field’ of international political discourse is a social construct which is contingent on encounters between diverse cultures. ‘Everything is relative’ (Comte) and ‘everything is social’ (Bourdieu), not least international politics.

Aron: Politics and/or Sociologism
Aron: Politics and/or Sociologism
Aron’s Early Career

In the 1950s and 1960s, Aron occasionally related his thinking to that of Morgenthau as he tried to develop a sociology of international relations. Some brief introduction to Aron’s early career will help to clarify the nature of his response.

Aron was born in Paris in March 1905. According to his own account, his family ‘belonged to the solid French Jewish bourgeoisie’ (Aron, 1990: 6). His father was a non-practising Jew. Aron was admitted to the École Normale Supérieure in 1924. He studied Kant for his diplôme d’études supérieures. The main philosophical influences were Bergson (who had just retired), Brunschvicg, and Alain. Aron passed his agrégation in 1928 and then spent 18 months on compulsory military service.

In Chapter 3 of his Memoirs, he recounts how he began ...

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