Raymond Aron

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Raymond Aron, 1966. (left)
Thinking hardly
or hardly thinking?

Icon philosophy.svg
Major trains of thought
The good, the bad
and the brain fart
Come to think of it

Raymond Claude Ferdinand Aron (1905–1983) was a French liberal intellectual who was active in the turbulent 20th century. He is considered one of the greatest intellectuals in France in the 20th century, and is the pride of the liberal conservative journalist Le Figaro.

Political position[edit]

After World War II, the French intellectual community was largely divided into two groups: left-wing pro-communist socialists(ex. Jean-Paul Sartre) and center-right anti-communist liberals who criticized them.[note 1]

Aron was an avid anti-communist and advocate of liberalism and the free world. He was able to receive much support from American capitalists such as the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.[1]

He believed that communism necessarily brought totalitarianism, that it should be viewed as fascism, and he consequently took an anti-totalitarian stance. This position was criticized by many college students and left-wing intellectuals because Marxism was popular in the French intellectual community at that time.


In his book Democracy and Totalitarianism (1967), Aaron listed what he believed to be the five main elements of totalitarianism:[2]

  • The totalitarian phenomenon occurs in a regime which gives to one party the monopoly of political activity.
  • The monopolistic party is animated or armed with an ideology on which it confers absolute authority and which consequently becomes official truth of the state.
  • To impose this official truth, the state reserves for itself in turn a double monopoly, the monopoly of the means of coercion and the means of persuasion. The means of communication, radio, television, press, are directed and commanded by the state and its representatives.
  • Most economic and professional activities are subject to the state and become, in a way, part of the state itself. As the state is inseparable from its ideology, most economic and professional activities are coloured by the official truth.
  • As all activity is state activity and subject to ideology, an error in economic or professional activity is by the same token an ideological fault. Thus at the very root there is a politicization, an ideological transfiguration of all the possible crimes of individuals and in the police and ideological terrorism.

Relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre[edit]

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote his own essay in the then left-wing daily Libération, while Raymond Arron wrote his own essay in the liberal conservative daily Le Figaro. He is best known as Jean-Paul Sartre's intellectual opponent.

They were born in 1905 and graduated from the same 'Grandes écoles' university.

His main books[edit]

  • Introduction à la philosophie de l'histoire (1938)
  • Le Grand schisme (1948)
  • L'Opium des intellectuels (1957)
  • Démocratie et totalitarisme (1965)
  • Le spectateur engagé (1981)

See also[edit]


  1. Even now in France, "liberalism" is used in a different sense than "liberalism" in the United States. In the United States, "liberalism" mainly means social liberalism, but in France, "liberalism" mainly means classical liberalism and is often used by conservatives, unlike in the United States.


  1. Iain Stewart (2019). Raymond Aron and Liberal Thought in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge University Press
  2. Aron, Raymond; Ionescu, Valence (1968), Democracy and Totalitarianism, Weidenfeld and Nicolson. pages 193-94