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The honored outsider : Raymond Aron as sociologist
Sociological Theory
  • William Peter BAEHR, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
Document Type
Journal article
Publication Date
Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Aron,
  • remembrance,
  • stipulative oscillation,
  • unmasking,
  • the other sociology

Raymond Aron (1905–1983) assumed many guises over a long and fruitful career: journalist, polemicist, philosopher of history, counselor to political leaders and officials, theorist of nuclear deterrence and international relations. He was also France’s most notable sociologist. While Aron had especially close ties with Britain, a result of his days in active exile there during the Second World War, he was widely appreciated in the United States too. His book Main Currents in Sociological Thought was hailed a masterpiece; more generally, Aron’s books were extensively reviewed in the American Journal of Sociology, the American Sociological Review (in earlier days, it hosted a review section), Contemporary Sociology, and Social Forces. And he was admired and cited by sociologists of the stature of Daniel Bell, Edward Shils, and David Riesman. Yet despite appearing well poised to become a major force in international sociology, analogous to his younger collaborator, Pierre Bourdieu, Aron has almost vanished from the sociological landscape. This article explains why, offering in the process some observations on the conditions—conceptual and motivational—of reputational longevity in sociological theory and showing how Aron failed to meet them. Special attention is devoted to a confusing equivocation in Aron’s description of sociology and to the cultural basis of his ambivalence toward the discipline.

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Citation Information
Baehr, P. (2013). The honored outsider: Raymond Aron as sociologist. Sociological Theory, 31(2), 93-115. doi: 10.1177/0735275113489561