|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2013)|
Élie Halévy (6 September 1870 – 21 August 1937) was a French philosopher and historian who wrote studies of the British utilitarians, a history of 19th-century England and the acclaimed book of essays, Era of Tyrannies.
Élie Halévy was born in Étretat, Seine-Maritime, where his mother had fled as the German army marched on Paris. His father was the playwright Ludovic Halévy, his brother Daniel Halévy; Halévy grew up surrounded by musicians, scholars, and politicians. After studying at the École Normale Supérieure, he received his doctorate in philosophy in 1901 with the theses The Platonic Theory of Knowledge and The Origins of Philosophical Radicalism. The latter formed the base of his first major study, The Formation of English Philosophical Radicalism (3 vols., 1901-1904).
In an article of 1893, Halévy suggested that the great moral question of modern thought was how the abstract idea of duty could become a concrete aim of society. This question had first attracted him to the utilitarians, and he found at the core of their answer a fundamental contradiction. Utilitarianism, he said, was based on two principles: first, that the science of the legislator must bring together the naturally divergent interests of individuals in society; and, second, that social order comes about spontaneously through the harmony of individual interests. To Halévy, this exemplified two fundamental human attitudes toward the universe: the contemplation of the astronomer and the intervention of the engineer.
In 1892, Émile Boutmy invited Halévy to lecture on English political ideas at the newly founded School of Political Science. After 1900, he alternated this course with another, on the history of socialism. At the same time he helped found the Revue de métaphysique et de morale, in which he retained an interest until his death.
Halévy's teaching led him to undertake annual trips to England, during which he became the intimate friend of many of the most important scholars and political figures of the age. He thoroughly explored the Jeremy Bentham manuscripts at Cambridge for his work on philosophical radicalism and over the years developed a deep and intensive knowledge of all the sources of 19th-century English history. In 1901 he began to work on the first volume of his masterpiece, the History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century (published from 1913 onwards). In this first volume, he described England in 1815 and sought to explain how England avoided violent social change. "If economic facts explain the course taken by the human race," he wrote, "the England of the nineteenth century was surely, above all other countries, destined to revolution, both politically and religiously." Neither the British constitution nor the Established Church was strong enough to hold the country together. He found the answer in religious nonconformity: "Methodism was the antidote to Jacobinism."
He did not write his history in chronological sequence, nor did he live to complete it. The second and third volumes of this history (1923) carried the story up to 1841. Then Halévy, profoundly moved by World War I, turned his attention to the period from 1895 to 1914. The two volumes on this period (published in 1926-1930) were written with considerable detachment, considering the immediacy of the problems he discussed. Together with Célestin Bouglé he would republish a set of Saint-Simonian lectures of the 1830, bundled in the 1924 work Doctrine de Saint-Simon.
In lectures of 1929, revised in 1936 (published in 1938; The Era of Tyrannies), Halévy argued that the world war had increased national control over individual activities and opened the way for de facto socialism. In opposition to those who saw socialism as the last step in the French Revolution, he saw it as a new organization of constraint replacing those that the Revolution had destroyed. Wallas translates:
|“||The age of tyrannies dates from the month of August, 1914, that is to say from the time when the belligerent nations first adopted a form of social organisation which may be defined as follows:
The whole of post-war Socialism is derived from this war-time organisation far more than from Marxism. The policy which it offers to men who have often been drawn to it by their distaste for and hatred of war is the continuation of war-time organisation in time of peace. That is the paradox of post-war Socialism.
In what proved to be his last work (which he did not live to complete), Halévy began to bridge the gap between 1841 and 1895 with a volume entitled The Age of Peel and Cobden (1841-1852). A liberal individualist to the last, Halévy died at Sucy-en-Brie on 21 August 1937. His publishers posthumously commissioned R. B. McCallum to contribute a supplementary essay to link this volume with the concluding ones, the whole appearing under the title Victorian Years in 1961.
- La théorie platonicienne des sciences. Paris 1896; Reprints: Scientia, Aalen 1974 ISBN 3-511-00925-1; Nabu-Press, 2010 ISBN 1-177-31160-7
- Histoire de peuple anglais aux dix-neuvième siècle (in English: Halévy's History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century. Translated by E. I. Watkin. London: Ernest Benn Ltd, 1931-32.) (in 6 volumes)
- England in 1815 (1913)
- The Liberal Awakening (1815-1830) (1923)
- The Triumph of Reform (1830-1841)
- Victorian Years (1841-1895)
- Imperialism and the Rise of Labour (1895-1905)
- The Rule of Democracy (1905-1914)
- Halévy, Élie (1938). L'Ère des tyrannies. Paris: Gallimard.
- in English: The Era of Tyrannies. Essays on Socialism and War. Translated by R. K. Webb. Note by Fritz Stern. New York: Doubleday 1965; London: Allen Lane 1967
- Halévy, Élie; Wallas, May (1941). "The Age of Tyrannies". Economica (Economica, Vol. 8, No. 29) 8 (29): 77–93. doi:10.2307/2549522. JSTOR 2549522.