Alain Touraine, a committed sociologist


Alain Touraine is no more. Died Friday at the age of 97, he had devoted his life to deciphering the frictions of the post-industrial world. The sociologist, father of the…

Alain Touraine, a committed sociologist

Alain Touraine, a committed sociologist

Alain Touraine is no more. Died Friday at the age of 97, he had devoted his life to deciphering the frictions of the post-industrial world. The sociologist, father of the former minister Marisol Touraine and the doctor Philippe Touraine, was the author of a work which “made France shine by the force of his ideas and his commitment”, underlined the Prime Minister Elisabeth Thick headed.

Left-wing intellectual esteemed on the right, this “noble, loyal and great spirit”, according to his friend the philosopher Edgar Morin relentlessly scrutinized the dynamics of societal change, and in particular social, student, regionalist, feminist, anti-nuclear movements… right down to the workings of the Polish trade union Solidarnösc.

Sociological intervention

Often a precursor, Alain Touraine had developed a method for studying social movements: “sociological intervention”. To listen and report, such was, in his eyes, the vocation of the sociologist.

In 2013, he prophesied in “The End of Societies”, the advent “of another type of collective and individual life based on the defense of universal human rights against all logics of interest and power”.

The shame of France

Born near Caen, but having grown up in Paris, Alain Touraine said he had lived through a dull adolescence, muzzled by war in an occupied city. “My great impression of youth is the capitulation of a country, the shame of France in 1940, he confided on “France-Culture”.

His studies, in Khâgne at the Lycée Louis-Le-Grand, bored him. He escapes by digging into his father’s library. He was both an “elated child of literature and a son of the debacle”, summed up “Liberation”.

It was in Alexandra David-Néel’s books on Tibet that he acquired his taste for travel and a change of scenery, he who would marry the Chilean researcher Adriana Arenas Pizzaro, who died of cancer in 1990. “My life, I finds rather sinister, he said again on “France Culture”. But the personal life makes it possible to be enlightened by the collective. »

A thesis on Renault workers

He completes his studies at Normale Sup, gets the history aggregation, and always anxious to rub shoulders with reality, gets hired in a mine in the North. But it was his thesis on Renault workers, with Georges Friedmann, whose “magnificent book on the human problems of industrial machinery” he devoured, which launched his career. In the manufacturer’s factories, it explores the consequences of progress on working conditions. Then, in Chile, looks at the fate of coal miners, before witnessing the fall of Allende in 1973.

In France, in addition to the Liberation of Paris which he will describe as “a rescue of the country” as “of himself”, he was pionate about the Algerian War, “loved” May 68, and seen comforted by the surge of French people in the street after Charlie Hebdo…

“For him, what was simple was not interesting. He fled from the explanations given, the frozen models… His gaze went wherever things moved, tells “L’Obs” Daniel Cohn Bendit, of whom he was the teacher in Nanterre.

The stupidity of the entrenched camps

Also close to the CFDT, he was criticized for having criticized the 1995 strikes against the Social Security reform which, according to him, did not ask the right questions. A social democrat at heart, he denied having become a liberal.

For the one whose father had taken it upon himself, during the war, to care for French and German soldiers, it was rather a question of “overcoming the stupidity of the entrenched camps”, recalls Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

Researcher at the CNRS, director of studies at the EHESS, he founded, among other things, the Center for Sociological Analysis and Intervention, of which he entrusted the reins to Michel Wieviorka, one of his “disciples” with François Dubet or Didier Lapeyronie.

Humanist, committed, he had slammed, in 1996, the door of the High Council for integration as he considered “unacceptable” the treatment of undocumented immigrants from the Saint-Bernard church. Friday, Edgar Morin hailed a “pride of French thought”.

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