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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 December 2014

Director of Research, CNRS/Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon E-mail:


In 1995, the Presses universitaires de France re-published (for the very first time in French) Elie Halévy's classic book La formation du radicalisme philosophique (first edition 1901–4). Startlingly, in the afterword of volume 1, Jean-Pierre Dupuy explained that even if this book on Bentham and his school of thought has been considered a classic and one of the first serious historical studies in any language, Halévy had been a “bad interpreter” of utilitarianism.

Forum: Elie Halévy, French Liberalism, and the Politics of the Third Republic
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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1 Dupuy, Jean-Pierre, “Postface,” in Elie Halévy, La formation du radicalisme philosophique, vol. 1, La jeunesse de Bentham (1776–1789) (Paris, 1995)Google Scholar. The main themes of this preface were immediately republished in an article by Dupuy, “Elie Halévy mauvais interprète de l’utilitarisme,” La Revue du MAUSS, 6 (1995) 61–79. Dupuy's article relied on claims first made by Francisco Vergara, “Utilitariasme et hedonisme: Une critique d’Elie Halévy . . . et de quelques autres,” Economie et sociétés, 29 (1995), 31–60, série PE; and Vergara, “Une critique d’Elie Halévy: Réfutation d’une importante déformation de la philosophie britannique,” Philosophy, 73 (1998), 97–111. Dupuy and Vergara's analytic claims have been criticized by Mongin, Philippe and Sigot, Nathalie, “Halévy's Bentham IS Bentham,” Philosophy, 74 (1999), 271–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 Parsons, Talcott, “Utilitarianism: Sociological Thought,” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 16 (1968) 229–36Google Scholar.

3 Caillé, Alain, “Présentation,” La Revue de MAUSS, 6 (1995), 414Google Scholar.

4 Girard, René, La Violence et le Sacré (Paris, 1972)Google Scholar.

5 Stephen, Leslie, The English Utilitarians, 3 vols. (London, 1900)Google Scholar.

6 Gillespie, Charles C., “The Work of Elie Halévy: A Critical Appreciation,” Journal of Modern History, 22 (1950), 232–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Marrou, Henri Iréné, De la connaissance historique (Paris, 1975; first published 1954)Google Scholar.

8 Halévy, Elie to Bouglé, Célestin (26 June 1900), Correspondance (1891–1937), ed. Henriette Guy-Loë (Paris, 1996), 281Google Scholar.

9 Viner, Jacob, “Bentham and J. Mill: The Utilitarian Background,” American Economic Review, 39 (1949), 360–82, 368Google Scholar.

10 Robbins, Lionel, The Theory of Economic Policy in English Classical Political Economy (London, 1952), 192–3Google Scholar. See also the study of West, Edward G., Adam Smith and Modern Economics (Brookfield, VT, 1990)Google Scholar. In his 1966 study of Mandeville, Hayek presented the same criticism of Halévy and noted, “the identity of interests was thus neither ‘natural’ in the sense that is independent of the institutions which had been formed by men's actions, nor ‘artificial’ in the sense that it was brought about by deliberate arrangement, but the result of spontaneously grown institutions which had developed because they made those societies prosper which tumbled upon them.” See Hayek, Friedrich, “Dr. Bernard Mandeville,” in The Collected Works of Friedrich Hayek (London, 1991), 3: 91Google Scholar.

11 For the various discussions and commentaries on Halévy's book see L. J. Hume's survey, “Revisionism in Bentham Studies,” Bentham Newsletter (May 1978), 4–20.

12 Elie Halévy to Célestin Bouglé (19 Oct. 1896), Correspondance (1891–1937), 184.

13 Elie Halévy to Florence Halévy (28 Dec. 1906), Correspondance (1891–1937), 382.

14 On the notion of “two Frances” see the classical thesis of Digeon, Claude, La crise allemande de la pensée française (Paris, 1956)Google Scholar. For the distinction between the “Party of Movement” and the “Party of Order” see Goguel, François, La politique des partis sous la IIIe République (Paris, 1958)Google Scholar.

15 Halévy, Elie, The Era of Tyrannies, trans. Webb, R. K. (New York, 1966; first published 1938), 269Google Scholar. Biographical information can be found in Raymond Aron, “Pour le centenaire de Elie Halévy,” Bulletin de la société française de philosophie (1970), 1–31; Chase, Myrna, Elie Halévy: An Intellectual Biography (New York, 1980)Google Scholar; François Furet, “Préface,” in Elie Halévy Correspondance (1891–1937), 19–54.

16 See Frobert, Ludovic, Elie Halévy: République et économie (1896–1914) (Villeneuve d’Ascq, 2003)Google Scholar.

17 Elie Halévy, “Les principes de la distribution des richesses,” Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 14 (1906), 593, 594.

18 Christophe Prochasson, “Philosopher au XXe siècle: Xavier Léon et l’invention du système R2M (1891–1902),” Revue de métaphysique et de morale (1993), 109–40.

19 Descombes, Vincent, Modern French Philosophy (Cambridge, 1980), 11Google Scholar.

20 Ferry, Luc and Renaut, Alain, Political Philosophy, vol. 3, From the Rights of Man to the Republican Idea (Chicago, 1992), 123Google Scholar. Also see Nicolet, Claude, L’idée républicaine en France (1789–1924) (Paris, 1982)Google Scholar.

21 Notable here is Halévy's involvement in the Dreyfus affair. See his Correspondance (1891–1937), 203–40; and Duclert, Vincent, L’affaire Dreyfus (Paris, 1996)Google Scholar.

22 Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 9 (1901), supplement, 4, original emphasis. All reviews were anonymous. However, in this case (and numerous others) we can assume Halévy was the author, since he took personal responsibility for reviewing the works of English economists.

23 Halévy, La formation du radicalism philosophique; Halévy, Thomas Hodgskin (1787–1869) (Paris, 1903); Halévy, “La doctrine économique saint-simonienne,” La Revue du Mois, (1908), 641–76, 39–75.

24 Halévy, “Les principes de la distribution des richesses.”

25 Bulletin de la société française de philosophie (1905), 197–8.

26 Elie Halévy, “La naissance du Méthodisme en Angleterre,” La revue de Paris (1906), 519–39, 841–67; Halévy, Histoire du peuple anglais au XIXe siècle, vol. 1, L’Angleterre en 1815 (Paris, 1912).

27 Elie Halévy, La théorie platonicienne des sciences (Paris, 1896), ii.

28 Ibid., i–ii.

29 Ibid., viii.

30 Ibid., x.

31 Elie Halévy to Célestin Bouglé, 15 May (1898) Correspondance (1891–1937), 247, original emphasis.

32 Halévy, La théorie platonicienne des sciences, xxiii.

33 Halévy, Elie, The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism, trans. Morris, Mary (London, 1949), xvGoogle Scholar.

34 Ibid., 33.

35 Halévy referred to Marx as a “synthesizer,” not a “great creator of ideas.” Halévy, Elie, Histoire du socialisme européen (Paris, 1948), 75Google Scholar.

36 Halévy, The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism, 491–2.

37 Ibid., 496.

38 Ibid., 486.

39 Ibid., 434.

40 Ibid., 476–7.

41 Ibid., 477–8.

42 Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 9 (1901), supplement, 12. Halévy's main works in psychology were “Quelques remarques sur l’irréversibilité des phénomènes psychologiques,” Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 4 (1896), 756–77; “L’explication du sentiment,” Revue de metaphysique et de morale, 5 (1897), 703–24; “De l’association des idées”, Bibliothèque du congrès de 1900 (Paris, 1900), 219–35; De concatenatione quae inter affectiones mentis propter similitudinem fieri dicitur, Latin thesis (Paris, 1901).

43 Halévy, The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism, 487.

44 Ibid., 489.

45 See Mongin, Philippe, “Le libéralisme, l’utilitariame et l’économie politique classique dans l’interprétation d’Elie Halévy,” Revue du MAUSS, 10 (1990), 135–69Google Scholar.

46 Halévy, The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism, 489–90.

47 Ibid., 490.

48 Ibid.

49 Ibid., 491.

50 Halévy's dialectic was perfectly described by Aron: “The mechanism of contradiction seems to me to be more or less the following. Fundamental principle: interest. Derivation: the interest of the greatest number. Contradictory hypotheses: the interests of different groups are spontaneously reconciled, through the functioning of the market, by the competition of egoisms. In certain cases, with regard to the rent or even, more generally, with regard to distribution of wealth according to Ricardo, the reconciliation does not occur by itself. Thus an intervention of the law or the state imposes itself. The principle of interest, in accordance with the mode of reconciling interests, thus leads either in the direction of socialism or in the direction of liberalism. But this contradiction is not Hegelian, it does not resolve itself with syntheses but with compromises. Starting with a common trunk, we follow the different branches as they separate themselves, distance themselves from one another, and then come closer to one another. Raymond Aron, “Pour le centenaire de Elie Halévy,” 28.

51 See Frobert, Elie Halévy: République et économie, 34–49; and Frobert, “Elie Halévy's First Lectures on the History of European Socialism,” Journal of the History of Ideas, 68 (2007), 329–53.

52 Halévy, The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism, 492.

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid., 493–4.

55 Ibid., 495.

56 Ibid., 496.

57 Ibid., 498.

58 Ibid., 499.

59 Ibid., 499.

60 Ibid., 500.

61 Ibid., 501.

62 Ibid., 503.

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid., 504.

65 Ibid., 506.

66 Ibid., 508.

67 Ibid.

68 Ibid., 106.

69 Ibid., 10.

70 Ibid., 90.

71 Ibid., 105.

72 Ibid., 225.

73 Ibid., 230.

74 Ibid., 230–31 (emphasis in original).

75 Ibid., 231.

76 Ibid., 230.

77 Elie Halévy, Histoire du peuple Anglais au XIXe siècle, vol. 3, De la crise du Reform Bill à l’avènement de Sir Robert Peel Bill (1830–1841) (Paris, 1923), 316.

78 Halévy, The Growth of Philosophic Radicalism, 514.

79 “Compte-rendu de la séance générale du IIème Congrès International de Philosophie,” Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 12 (1904), 1103–13.

80 Elie Halévy to Célestin Bouglé (24 Nov. 1902), Correspondance (1891–1937), 329.

81 Halévy, “Les principes de la distribution des richesses,” 548–9.

82 Aron, Raymond, “L’ère des tyrannies d’Elie Halévy,” Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 46 (1939), 283307Google Scholar.

83 Review of Célestin Bouglé's Le solidarisme, in Revue de métaphysique et de morale (1907), supplément, 5.

84 Halévy, Elie, “Grandeur, décadence et persistence du libéralisme en Angleterre,” in Elie Halévy et al., Inventaires: Le crise sociale et les idéologies nationales (Paris, 1936), 23Google Scholar.