Så här beskriver Raymond Aron sig själv 1977, när han var 72 år gammal.
An observer of history in the making but one engaged also in taking a stand, simultaneously preoccupied with objective knowledge and epistemological awareness, I have sought to base my rejections and my choices on reason by comparative analysis of types of regimes and to mark the point at which verifiable knowledge ends and leaves the responsibility to one’s conscience. Out of the partial and inevitable subjectivity of the representations of the universe in which each of us lives, I have done my best to elicit the example of an effort, one that must always be renewed, to understand others and myself.
Because of this, friends and colleagues find it difficult to know where to place me or what to call me. Philosopher or sociologist? In politics, should I be put on the Right? But in 1957, long before most men of the Left, I wrote a pamphlet in favor of Algerian independence. Antirevolutionary — that I am for sure. So was Alexis de Tocqueville: must he be ranged on the Right, among the conservatives? Furthermore, I do not feel the kinship with the Ancien Régime that Tocqueville transcended out of historical consciousness. I accept the democratic ideas that opened the gates of freedom to our ancestors, and to the Jewish community, and which allowed me to become a full-fledged French citizen.
I have been isolated and sometimes almost alone, but not today. Tocqueville, at the time of the Second Empire, wrote in a letter that he felt more solitary than in the deserts of the New World. I would write nothing of the sort, though between 1947 and 1953 I was proscribed by the intelligentsia: I denounced Stalinism with more moderation than my opponents of that time do today, when they sometimes strive to outdo Khrushchev in his speech of 1956.
To some extent, I remain on the fringe of the French intelligentsia. Of the two values invoked by our times, equality and freedom, I give first place to the second — not for intellectual comfort but as a result of historical experience. Now neither the Right nor the Left in France cares for economic liberalism. Though both proclaim democratic values, both reinforce state power in many ways. The Right in power restrains, corrects, blocks, paralyzes, and deforms the mechanisms of the market. The Left would push this age-old propensity of the French nation even further. Of course, I am well aware that popular demands lead irresistibly to a certain degree of socialism whether it be social security, guaranteed employment, the redistribution of income, or fiscal growth. Like anyone else, I largely subscribe to these demands. But the conflicting examples of Great Britain and the German Federal Republic seem to me instructive and decisive. There is a certain distributive, and not productive, socialism that leads a nation to ruin or in any case condemns it to decadence. An economy, liberal in its functioning, social in its goal, holds the most promise.
[. . .]
I choose, once and for all, not the role of the reactionary but that of the adversary, he who reacts against the tendencies of the social body and his country, against the statist regime, against the unrealizable ideologies that so many Parisian intellectuals delight in, and against the disregard of economic necessities.
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