Steven Vincent

Steven Vincent
Résidents Labex RFIEA+
pas Eurias

dates de séjour

01/02/2015 - 15/07/2015


Histoire des idées
Histoire moderne

Fonction d’origine


Institution d’origine

North Carolina State University (États-Unis)

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

Elie Halevy : Between Socialism and Liberalism (1870-1937)

The history of French liberalism is undergoing a renaissance. For much of the twentieth century, it was viewed with disdain, as insufficiently “engaged,” as too tentative in its demands for social reform, as overly optimistic about the progress of reason and science. Scholarship during the past three decades has challenged these views. Part of this reassessment has been the consequence of the decline of marxisant frameworks of analysis following 1968, reinforced by the more general decline of the Left following the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991. Another important element in this reassessment has been the emergence of more nuanced definitions of “liberalism,” ones that are not limited to legal (civil liberties), political (constitutionalism), and/or economic (free-trade) dimensions. Equally important are intellectual and cultural elements: conceptions of science, of religion, of the role of the state, of solidarity, of sociability, of moeurs, of identity, of gender, of the self. These broader dimensions of French liberalism were a central concern of my recent book on Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), and it remains at the heart of my current project on Élie Halévy. Halévy was a preeminent French liberal intellectual of the French Third Republic. He became famous in the Anglo-American world for his three-volume history of British Utilitarianism (1901-04), and for his multi-volume history of England during the nineteenth century (1905-46). In France, he is better known for his activities as co-founder and co-director of the Revue de métaphysique et de morale, for his activities in defense of Alfred Dreyfus, and for his lectures on the history of European socialism at the École libre des sciences politiques between 1902 and 1937. After World War I, he gained a European wide reputation for his searing analyses of post-World War I radical movements in essays like “The Era of Tyrannies.” What my study will demonstrate is that late-nineteenth century French liberalism addressed a wider set of problems than generally appreciated. It has a more complex history than traditional accounts have described. Halévy’s liberalism was informed by an engaged reflection on the nature of public institutions; it demanded a careful analysis of how these institutions were related to economic forces. And, it insisted that one consider carefully how these were situated within complex historical traditions.


Dr K. Steven Vincent is a professor of modern Europe History, specialized in modern Europe intellectual history, more specifically late-modern French political, social and cultural history. His PhD dissertation, defended in 1981 at the University of California, Berkeley, is entitled « Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Socialism ». He has been holding teaching positions at the North Carolina State University since 1981, and became a professor of the same university in 1991. He is a member of several professional organizations, the Association Benjamin Constant or the Association des Amis de Benoît Malon, and of the editorial boards of prestigious journals such as the European Journal of Political Theory, since 2007, or The European Legagy, since 1996. He is also co-founder and co-coordinator of discussion and academic groups involved in the study of Intellectual History.