Jean Jaurès, “a moral and intellectual requirement”

Jean Jaurès, “a moral and intellectual requirement”

“War to war!” 1912-1914. Works of Jean Jaurès, volume 15”, edition established by Marion Fontaine and Christophe Prochasson, Fayard, 668 p., €35, digital €34.

Seventeenth volume of Works by Jean Jaurès (1859-1914) – although it bears number 15, volumes 16 and 17, already published, being thematic volumes escaping chronological classification –, War to war!which covers the last years of the intellectual and politician, spearhead and emblem of French socialism, closes one of the most important editorial undertakings of the early 21st centurye century, launched twenty-three years ago by the historians Madeleine Rebérioux (1920-2005) and Gilles Candar, under the aegis of the Society of Jauresian Studies. Responsible for this latest volume, Marion Fontaine, university professor at Sciences Po, and Christophe Prochasson, director of studies at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, draw up an initial assessment.

These “Works”, however plethoric they may be, do not present themselves as complete. Was completeness impossible to achieve?

Marion Fontaine: No, but there wouldn’t have been much point in searching for it. We must realize that, if we really brought together all of Jaurès’ writings, they would fill eighty volumes… He wrote several articles per day, not to mention speeches. He was necessarily repeating himself. These are, if you like, “selected works”, with an element of subjectivity, but they still allow us to shed light on his entire journey, by offering an overview of his themes, his principles, his his positions on political events and struggles.

Christophe Prochasson: It must be emphasized that Jean Jaurès is not, first of all, a theoretician. Apart from The New Army (1911; Worksvolume 13, Fayard, 2012), his most theoretical book, his natural form of expression is the article, in newspapers and magazines. His work has a fragmented form, which is betrayed a little by giving it a bookish aspect. Except that this also allows us to see our thoughts being constructed, through a dialectic between principles and reality which notably takes into account the balance of power. He does not seek to build a large intellectual machinery, but to put his thinking at the service of concrete social and political reality.

You note in the introduction that he demonstrates a very complete knowledge of the issues he addresses. What place does inquiry occupy in his conception of politics?

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Mattie B. Jiménez

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