It is in chapter VI of the hidden God , chapter entitled “Jansenism and nobility of dress”, that Lucien Goldmann presented his socio-historical explanation of Jansenism, trying to answer the following question: “What was the infrastructure economic, social and political of what we would be tempted to call the first Jansenism, the Jansenism of Barcos, Mother Angelica, Pascal and the tragedies of Racine? ”  . Let us first summarize his conclusions.
A sociological explanation of Jansenism supposes in the first place that one can establish a very clear correlation between the Jansenist movement, on the one hand, and a well defined social milieu, on the other. Lucien Goldmann thinks so: if we except “a few figures of the great aristocracy, who did not accept the domestication required of them by the absolute monarchy” Jansenist thought would have essentially spread in “the circles of officers – especially members of sovereign courts – and lawyers ” . Indeed, “not only the Arnauld themselves come from a family of lawyers closely linked to Parliament, but also many other families of officers and members of sovereign courts, the Pascal, Maignart, Destouches, Nicole, Bagnols, Tillemont, Bignon, Domat, Buzenval, Caulet, Pavillon played a leading role in the life of the Jansenist group frock design 2020.
Finally, not less important, the memories of the time show that Port-Royal enjoyed a fairly pronounced sympathy in parliamentary circles, evn among those who, like Molé, Lamoignon, Broussel, etc. were far from any temptation to ‘abandon their office and retire in solitude’ . And Goldmann believes he can conclude that there is “a fairly typical case of the relations between an ideological movement and the social group to which it corresponds”  .
If Jansenism thus appears as the ideology of a well defined social group, the nobility of dress, it is still necessary to explain why. The explanation, seeks the Goldmann in “the development of absolute monarchy and the constitution of its most important organ, bureaucracy dependent on the central power and intimately connected with it, the bureaucracy of Commissioners  . “.
The constitution, under the reigns of Henri IV and Louis XIII, of this new administrative apparatus, as well as “an economic and social policy clearly favorable to the aristocracy . “, Resulted in” gradually decreasing the social and administrative importance of the officers as well in relation to the great in general as compared to the Councilors of State and the intendants in particular  . “. Hence, among the officers, a discontent which progressively distances them from monarchical power, one would therefore expect, as Goldmann recognizes, that they would orient themselves “towards an opposition to the monarchy . “. But, says Goldmann, they could not really engage in an oppositional attitude, because “the monarchical State from which they gradually moved away on the ideological and political level, nevertheless constituted the economic foundation of their existence as ‘officers, and members of Sovereign Courts. Hence this paradoxical situation par excellence – which seems to us the infrastructure of the tragic paradox of Phèdre and Pensées – of dissatisfaction and distancing from a form of state – absolute monarchy – which we cannot in no case want disappearance or even radical transformation . “. And Goldmann concludes, with a lot of assurance, that “it would be useless to insist at length on the link between the economic and social situation of the officers in the XVII th century attached and opposed at the same time to a particular form of state, the absolute monarchy […] and the Jansenist and tragic ideology of the essential vanity of the world and of salvation in retirement and solitude  . “.
This is, for the most part, Goldmann’s thesis. Let us start by first noting that the formulas which he uses to present it to us are fairly contradictory  . Sometimes – and this was the case with the passage that we have just quoted – he seems to give us certain and definitive conclusions; sometimes he seems to offer us, on the contrary, only fragile conjectures, especially when he declares at the very beginning: “In this chapter, we would like to present a hypothesis in support of which we can only invoke for the moment a number of scattered texts . “.
Either these prudent formulas are sincere, and so how can we not ask ourselves, with M. Jacques Morel, if it is “possible to make history with” fragile hypotheses “(p. 116),” impressions ” (p. 122) and “isolated examples” (p. 130), “disregarding” (p. 127) what does not fit into the bed of sociological Procuste constructed by the author  . “. Or else prudence is only apparent and modesty purely formal, and we believe that this is the case: it appears clearly, in the rest of the work as in Goldmann’s subsequent writings, that he considers this hypothesis as already demonstrated and that when he says that . He did not doubt their result for a moment. Unfortunately for him, as Jacques Truchet notes, recent historical research has not confirmed this hypothesis  ., And one can, with Jean Dubu, consider this formula as an “understatement”  . “.
Thus M. René Taveneaux declares that Godmann’s thesis calls for “serious reservations . Before making objections that leave nothing to it. But the opinion of Mr. Robert Mandrou is perhaps even more interesting because it is that of a historian who manifestly has sympathy for Goldmann’s perspective. Now, by examining the chapter VI of the hidden God, “Jansenism and nobility dress,” which he says he is, in his eyes historian, “the heart of the book  . “, He underlines” its real fragility . “And, forgetting to have declared two pages above that” the heart of the book “was the historical part, he comes to say:” The bottom of the hidden God, the strong part of the demonstration,
is the analysis of Thoughts and of the Racine theater more convincing for the historian himself than the pages devoted to the temperate or absolute monarchy . “.