In This Review

The Committed Observer
The Committed Observer
By Raymond Aron
Regnery Gateway, 1983, 292 pp

Raymond Aron, who died in October, was a brilliant, erudite intellectual, one of the few authoritative voices of Europe's old liberal tradition. This autobiographical conversation-a welcome prelude to his memoirs just published in France-makes clear that all his adult life he followed two self-assigned "imperatives": to seek the truth and at the same time to be an actor in the world. A scholar who was at once philosopher, historian and sociologist, he was also a prolific writer-journalist. He saw his double career as complementary-"journalists are just as intelligent as university professors, often more so." With Montesquieu and Tocqueville as models, Aron wrote his commentary on contemporary events as a practical moralist, a liberal realist, imbued with civisme, and at odds with all the parties, especially the left, with which he basically sympathized. Impatient with all ideologues, a foe of all totalitarianisms always, he was an early advocate of Algerian independence and a critic of all Marxist and Marxisand tendencies. Editor of a Gaullist paper in wartime London, he believed, at least until November 1942, that there was "a France, deep-seated and silent, that was both Gaullist and Petainist." He was by temper and conviction a man of mesure, of prudence; especially in the 1930s his being Jewish and assimilated restrained his writing. Even this small book reminds us that his death is an immeasurable loss to public reason in the West.