The French political philosopher Raymond Aron, who died, at the age of seventy-eight, in October 1983, is perhaps best known to American readers as the author of a crushing indictment of Western Marxism and philo-Communism, The Opium of the Intellectuals (1955), and of a skeptical, questioning, yet sympathetic view of America’s world role, The Imperial Republic (1973).[1] In fact, though Aron made many other significant contributions—in sociology, in strategy and international relations, in the history of ideas, in judgments on public policy, and in philosophy—to the culture and the spirit of democracy in the twentieth century, these two books well illustrate the range of his interests, sympathies, and learning.

Aron wrote The Opium of the Intellectuals from 1951 to 1954 as a refuge from personal tragedies, and in order to...

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