Jean Jaur├Ęs

The Inner Life of Social Democracy

Hardback or cased
Geoffrey Kurtz
Published 28 Aug 2014
List Price £49.95

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“Jean Jaurès is one of the most interesting figures of French socialism and the Second International. Geoffrey Kurtz’s intelligent and thoughtful book succeeds admirably in capturing the man’s philosophical erudition, political courage, and contemporary importance. Jaurès’s deep commitment to reformism, cosmopolitanism, and pacifism anchored one of the important wings of the international socialist movement, and his equally important intellectual work informed generations of students and activists alike. Kurtz succeeds admirably in uncovering ‘the inner life of social democracy,’ and his own courage in approaching his subject contributes to a very important and revealing examination of what it means to be a socialist.”

—John Ehrenberg, Long Island University

“Jean Jaurès, perhaps the most remarkable exponent of social democracy not just in France but anywhere, deserves to be better known. Geoffrey Kurtz’s introduction to his life and work succeeds brilliantly in reviving both Jaurès and the unduly neglected social democratic tradition in French political culture. This book deserves to be read by all students of European politics.”

—Arthur Goldhammer, Harvard University

“Geoffrey Kurtz has written an excellent biography of Jean Jaurès. It is high time for a new appreciation of this leading figure in the early French labor movement. Kurtz beautifully situates Jaurès in his intellectual and political milieu even as he illuminates his enduring relevance for contemporary progressive theory and practice.”

—Stephen Eric Bronner, Rutgers University

“Geoffrey Kurtz’s insightful book is both a biographical and analytical survey of Jaurès’s political and philosophical thought that accurately describes him as a forerunner of the reformist orientation of French socialism. It places emphasis on Jaurèsian idealism, as opposed to Marxist materialism, in socialist theory and practice.”

—Leslie Derfler, Florida Atlantic University

Jean Jaurès was a towering intellectual and political leader of the democratic Left at the turn of the twentieth century, but he is little remembered today outside of France, and his contributions to political thought are little studied anywhere. In Jean Jaurès: The Inner Life of Social Democracy, Geoffrey Kurtz introduces Jaurès to an American audience. The parliamentary and philosophical leader of French socialism from the 1890s until his assassination in 1914, Jaurès was the only major socialist leader of his generation who was educated as a political philosopher. As he championed the reformist method that would come to be called social democracy, he sought to understand the inner life of a political tradition that accepts its own imperfection. Jaurès's call to sustain the tension between the ideal and the real resonates today.

In addition to recovering the questions asked by the first generation of social democrats, Kurtz’s aim in this book is to reconstruct Jaurès’s political thought in light of current theoretical and political debates. To achieve this, he gives readings of several of Jaurès’s major writings and speeches, spanning work from his early adulthood to the final years of his life, paying attention to not just what Jaurès is saying, but how he says it.



List of Abbreviations

Introduction: The Problem of Hope

The Battle Is Never Won

Democracy Unfrozen

A Socialist State of Grace

The Question of Method

Life in Common

Conclusion: An Awkward Politics




Geoffrey Kurtz is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY.

A study in social democratic political theory that examines the writings of Jean Jaurès (1859-1914), the parliamentary and philosophical leader of French socialism.