Alain Touraine

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Author of Critique of Modernity


Born in Hermanville (France) in l925, son of Albert Touraine and Odette Cleret, husband of Adriana Arenas (marriage in 1957, deceased in 1990) ;

2 children : Marisol (l959), Philippe (l961). He graduated at the Ecole Normale Superieure in l945 ; he has been Rockefeller Fellow at the Universities of Harvard, Columbia and Chicago (l952-53.

He began his academic career as history lecturer in l950, to become first assistant and then researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, where he remained until l957.

In l956, he created the Centre for Research in Sociology of Labour at the University of Chile. Two years later, he founded the Laboratory on Industrial Sociology in France then, in l970, the Centre for the Study of Social Movements. In l981, he founded and was the first director (role that he covered until l993) of Cadis (Centre d'Analyse et d'Intervention Sociologiques).

In l960, Alain Touraine was appointed Professor ("Directeur d'études") at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, which later became Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. He has also taught at Paris-Nanterre University and in Chile, Brazil, the United States and Canada.

Professor Touraine has also served as President of the French Association of Sociology (l968-70) and Vice-President of the International Sociological Association (l974-78).

Alain Touraine has taken part in several Committees and Commissions such as The Commission for University Reform (l966-68), the Commission of Counselors of the Minister for Research and Higher Studies, the Commission of studies on "Nationality" (l987), the Committee on ethics in Parisian hospitals (l988), and the Minc Commission on the challenges of the year 2000. At present, he is a member of the World Bank High Commission for Sustainable Development. He is member of the board of Directors of "La Maison d'Amérique Latine" and of Ecole Normale Supérieure.

Honorary member of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Academy of Science in Poland, he is also a former member of the Academia Europeae.

Alain Touraine is a frequent speaker at conferences and participates in various symposia and political and intellectual discussions both in France and abroad.

He is the author of numerous books and essays translated into several languages. His latest books, translated into English are : Critique of Modernity (l995, Blackwell), What is democracy ? (l997, Westview), Can we live together ? Equal and different (l999, Polity Press) and Beyond Neo-liberalism (2001, Polity Press). Alain Touraine, Jon Clark and Marco Diani eds, was published by Falmer Press in l996. His last book, written with Farhad Khosrokhavar, La recherche de soi. Dialogue sur le Sujet, was published by Fayard in 2000.

Alain Touraine received several degrees ad Honorem from the Universities of Cochabamba (l984), Geneva (l988), Montreal (l990), Louvain-La-Neuve (l992), La Paz (l995), Bologna (l995), Santiago (l996), Quebec (l997), Cordoba (2000), Candido Mendes de Rio de Janeiro (2002), Roma (2003), Jÿvaskÿla (Finland, 2004). He is also Officier de la Legion d'Honneur and Officier de l'Ordre du Merite.

His work can be divided into three periods :


The first one is devoted to the sociology of work, and more precisely to the sociology of labour consciousness. This is during this period that he wrote, in Latin America, his first studies on Chilean coal miners and iron and steel workers, as well as his book on Post-Industrial Society.

This was the time when he conceived his sociology, as he explained in Sociology of Action and, ten years later, in Self-Production of Society.

The May 68 events as well as the military coups in Latin America led him to target his interests on the study of social movements. With a group of friends, he worked out a method for a sociological intervention which they applied to various studies, related in books from The Voice and the Eye, in l978, to The Labour Movement, in l984. During this second period, he concentrated his interests on the study of Latin America, and more generally on the problems of development. He spent l981 in Poland studying Solidarnosc and wrote, in Latin America, a book which was first published in Chile, then adapted, written again and published in France under the title : La parole et le sang (voice and blood).

The third period, more philosophical, opens with Return of the Actor (University of Minnesota Press). His latest books, Critique of Modernity (Blackwell), What is Democracy ? (Westview), Can we live together ? Equal and different (Polity Press) and Beyond Neo-liberalism ? (Polity Press) illustrate his main idea of a Self considered as the central principle of action for social movements (See, too : Penser le sujet (Thinking the Self), F. Dubet and M. Wieviorka ed., (Fayard). His last book, not yet translated into English is : Un nouveau paradigme pour comprendre le monde d'aujourd'hui (Fayard, 2005)

His whole work constitutes a sociology of action, set out in a practical way during the first period, in a broader historical way during the second one, and more philosophically during the third one.

Throughout his life he has tried to link together different types of studies : theoretico-analytical ones, empirical sociological researches, the analysis of real historical events and, finally, works of a more polemical or intimist type.

Keenly interested in all aspects of societies, he has written a book on North American universities and the US student movement (The Academic System in American Society, Transaction Publishers), followed the evolution of French-speaking Canada, carried on a big study on post-communist Eastern countries and devoted large part of his time to the study and understanding of Latin American countries.

Alain Touraine, Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, founded in l981 and chaired till 1993 the Centre of Sociological Analysis and Intervention (CADIS). He is the author of many books, among which : The May Movement : Revolt and Reform, Random House, l970, The Post-industrial Society, Random House, l971, The Self-Production of Society, The University of Chicago Press, l977, The Academic System in American Society, McGraw Hill, l974, and Transaction Publishers, l996, The Voice and the Eye, Cambridge University Press, l981, Return of the Actor, University of Minnesota Press, l988, Critique of Modernity, Blackwell, l995, What is Democracry ?, Westview, l997, Can we live together ? Equal and different, Polity Press, 1999, Beyond neoliberalism, Polity Press, 2001. His last book, not yet translated into English, is : Un nouveau paradigme pour comprendre le monde d'aujourd'hui, Fayard 2005



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