In Sorel's "On Violence" how does the psyche relate to society? I know that there is the collectivity of the masses, but then there is also the individual who starts the myth. I am confused how it...

In Sorel's "On Violence" how does the psyche relate to society? I know that there is the collectivity of the masses, but then there is also the individual who starts the myth. I am confused how it all fits together. 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Sorel sees a very intricate relationship between society and "psyche." Sorel sees the society as an external manifestation of what lies in the psyche.  The psyche exists as the base from which society and its shifting realities emerge.  Sorel understands the psyche to be what creates change on a social level.  Due to its location as the base of the individual, it is the origin of human essence.  

Sorel sees the psyche inextricably linked to myth.  The development of the myth in Sorelian logic is something that becomes a "mobilizing image," as it fuses together "conscious ideas and more indistinct impressions that lie dormant in the people."  He suggests that myth had to speak to a passionate intensity within the people and inspire them on such a visceral level that bringing mythic construction into reality was the sole driving force within them.  It had to tap into this dormant notion that existed within the psyche.

It is in this light where psyche is related to society.  Sorel sees social change as only possible when the inner citadel of the individual is awoken. Myth accomplishes this.  It functions as a the means where the feelings of the psyche are manifested into external reality.  Sorel argues that myth is able to "produce an entirely epic state of mind" because it triggers social change that exists on a base level within the psyche.  It is in this way where the psyche relates to the society, as it serves as the internal reality from which external consciousness is and should be based.

In this regard, Sorel's argument comes the belief that social change must be a reflection of internal belief.  Accordingly, he embraces a "proletarian violence" because it reflects the basic state of being in the world.  Myth is a reminder of this because it functions as "the product of a collective will- to- believe."  Sorel understands that the investigator, or individual who starts the myth, who is able to remind individuals in society of the myth and its presence in the world is triggering something from within, something that exists in the psyche.  Sorel believes that the investigator is a part of the mythic construction.  

It is for this reason that he embraced Lenin's work in Russia, even though he was far off from what Sorel advocated in terms of the investigator being an extension of the myth.  Sorel understood that the collectivity of the masses existed in the function of the myth.  It represented them because it was a reflection of their inner-most state of being.  This "will to believe" transcended the individual.  Sorel did not believe that the individual who started the myth was more important than the myth, which is why Lenin would not necessarily fit into pure Sorelian logic.  Lenin saw himself and his leadership as part of the vanguard of the proletariat, including the power that came along with it.   Sorel suggested that the collectivity of the masses was triggered when it was reminded of its condition in the psyche through the myth.  The investigator is a part of this process because of how they are able to put forth the myth that is "akin to the inner self of the social sphere."

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