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Michel Maffesoli (born on 14 November 1944 in Graissessac, Hérault) is a French sociologist.

He is a former pupil of Gilbert Durand and is at present a professor at the Paris Descartes University. Michel Maffesoli made a work around the issue of social link community, the prevalence of imagination and everyday life in contemporary societies. His work contributes to the postmodern paradigm approach. Director of the magazines Sociétés and Les Cahiers Européens de l'imaginaire, he is also the Secretary General of the Center for Research on the imagination and a member of the scientific committee of several international journals, including Social Movement Studies, Space and Culture and Sociologia Internationalis.

Maffesoli Michel was awarded the Grand Prix des Sciences de l'Académie française in 1992 for La transfiguration du politique. He is Vice-President of the Institut international de Sociologie, founded in 1893 by René Worms, and member of the Institut Universitaire de France since September 2008, after a very controversial nomination.[1] More generally, Michel Maffesoli has been the subject of much controversy in both scientific and professional, the most famous of those is about the thesis which he directed and made to support Elizabeth Teissier.


Sociological activities

In 1972, Michel Maffesoli was co-director of the team of urban sociology in Grenoble (ESU). He developed a reflection on space which he continued in his work on nomadism (Du Nomadisme, Vagabondages initiatiques, La Table ronde, 1997). His works were marked by the stamp of Pierre Sansot and Jean Duvignaud, who were members of the jury of his thesis in 1978. Maffesoli gave the space a founder dimension for the social link and the expression of subjectivity forms.

In 1978, Michel Maffesoli was selected by Julien Freund as a lecturer in Strasbourg. Freund also proposed him to host the Institute of Polemology whose a report can be found in his later works, under the theme of the founder conflict (La violence fondatrice, 1978), the conflictual society (thesis, 1981), and the use of the myth of Dionysus as regenerator disorder (L’Ombre de Dionysos, 1982).

In 1982, he founded with Georges Balandier the Centre d'études sur l'actuel et le quotidien (CEAQ), a research laboratory in the humanities and social sciences at the Paris Descartes University, at the Sorbonne. He is currently the leader.

Criticism from the scientific community

Within the scientific community od French sociologists, scientificity of Maffesoli's works is often questioned, especially since the issue around the thesis of Elizabeth Teissier "has created great controversy within the community [of French sociologists and beyond], and has led many sociologists to intervene in order to challenge the legitimacy ".[2] On this controversial issue, Maffesoli presented arguments on his methods, particularly through the new edition of his epistemological book, La connaissance ordinaire, in 2007. Beyond this controversy, an opposition currently exists between the positions of Maffesoli on "sensitive thinking" and the supporters of a sociology embedded in the criteria of systematic and transparent scientificity. The conference "Raisons et Sociétés", held at the Sorbonne on 18 December 2002 in order to debate the issue of methods in human sciences beyond the controversial thesis, identified differences between the various sociological traditions relating to this case.

Other controversies lead to a challenge of the institutional position of Michel Maffesoli : the scientific community also protested against his appointment to the board of the CNRS and against his appointment at the Institut Universitaire de France. On the other hand, Maffesoli's theories were sometimes the subject of conter-inquiries, such as survey by Laurent Tessier on free parties in France and England.[3]

Maffesoli's work obtain a certain success among authors including Serge Moscovici, Edgar Morin, Patrick Tacussel or Patrick Watier who regularly mention him. The influence of Maffesoli's work can also be seen in various foreign journals, but this is probably his book Le Temps des tribus (1988, 1991), translated into nine languages, which made his notoriety outside France. Universities in Brazil, Korea and Italy request him for conferences. Moreover, Michel Maffesoli has received a chair that was named after him in Brazil, and a honoris causa doctorate from the University of Bucharest.

His reception outside France is ambivalent. In an article published by the Sociological Review published in 1997, sociologist David Evans reviewed Maffesoli's theories and concluded that they are not a positive sociological paradigm. Evans deemed the work of Michel Maffesoli as "incoherent" and "biased".[4] The accounts of books written by foreign sociologists were less radical but sometimes, however, stressed that Maffesoli's approach was subjective and had a lack of reflexivity. A sociologist even stated that Michel Maffesoli's sociology was a "sociology of club".[5]

Controversy about Élizabeth Teissier's thesis

The general public discovered Michel Maffesoli in April 2001 when he defended the thesis of Élizabeth Teissier about the ambivalence of the social reception of astrology, highly contentious theory that he directed and whose jury was chaired by Serge Moscovici at the Paris Descartes University.[6]

The attribution to Élizabeth Teissier of doctor of sociology title at the end of the thesis "created great controversy in the [scientific] community, and led many sociologists to intervene to challenge the legitimacy". The thesis immediately aroused many criticisms in the field of French sociology, particularly that published by Le Monde by Christian Baudelot and Roger Establet on 17 April 2001,[7] and the petition of 30 April 2001 for the President of the Paris V University, and signed by 300 social scientists.[8] Many critical comments were published in the national daily press,[9] along with less radical comments.[10] Beyond sociology, four French Nobel Prize winners (Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Jean-Marie Lehn, Jean Dausset and Pierre-Gilles de Gennes) also protested against the title of "doctor" awarded to Élizabeth Teissier throughout a protest letter addressed to Jack Lang, Minister of Education at the time.[11]

The scientific, philosophical and sociological aspects of the thesis were studied by a group of scientists from several disciplines,[12] including members of the Collège de France. The thesis was analyzed in detail by a group of astrophysicists and astronomers (Jean-Claude Pecker, Jean Audouze, Denis Savoie), a group of sociologists (Bernard Lahire, Philippe Cibois and Dominique Desjeux), a philosopher (Jacques Bouveresse), and by specialists of pseudo-science (Henri Broch and Jean-Paul Krivine).[13] From this analysis, it appeared that the thesis was not valid from any viewpoint (sociological, astrophysical, or epistemological).[14]

In an email of 23 April 2001 addressed to many sociologists, Michel Maffesoli acknowledged that the thesis of Élizabeth Teissier included some "slippages". His email minimized the importance of these errors and denounced a fierceness on Élizabeth Teissier and him.[15]

After this controversy, two symposia were held to discuss the thesis's content and validity :

  • A discussion-meeting entitled "La thèse de sociologie, questions épistémologiques et usages après l'affaire Teissier" was held at the Sorbonne on 12 May 2001 by the Association des sociologues enseignants du supérieur (ASES).[16] Michel Maffesoli was present at this meeting and attended the accounts by Christian Baudelot and Lucien Karpik.[17]
  • A symposium entitled "Raisons et Sociétés" was organized at the Sorbonne on 18 December 2002 to discuss and propose a theoretical answer to criticism. Several intellectuals and scientists participated in the meeting to bring the debate on scientific issues raised by the controversy. Edgar Morin, physicist Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond, Mary Douglas, Paolo Fabbri, Franco Ferrarotti among others were present at this meeting.

This controversy was sometimes caricatured as an opposition between positivism and phenomenology. However, criticism of Michel Maffesoli came from these two research programs, though positivist critics received more publicity.[18]

Appointment to the board of the CNRS

Michel Maffesoli's appointment to the board of Directors of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique caused an outcry in the scientific community.[19] The decree of 5 October 2005 by which the appointment was established stated that the appointment was justified "because of [his] scientific and technological competence".[20]

A petition entitled "Un conseil d’administration du CNRS doublement inacceptable !" was launched after Maffesoli's appointment.[21] The petitioners protested both against the non-respect for parity and the appointment of Michel Maffesoli, deemed as disrespectful of "the need for scientific credibility of the board".[22]

From October 2005 to February 2007, the petition received over 3,000 signatures, including these of Christian Baudelot, Stéphane Beaud, François de Singly, Jean-Louis Fabiani, Bernard Lahire, Louis Pinto, Alain Trautmann, Loïc Wacquant and Florence Weber. Ironically, and as an effect of the petition having two goals, it remains absolutely unclear whether the petitioners signed against Michel Maffesoli's appointment, or against the non-respect for parity.

Appointment to the Conseil National des Universités

In late 2007, when Michel Maffesoli was appointed to the Conseil National des Universités (CNU), section 19 (Sociology, Demography), the Association des Sociologues Enseignants du Supérieur (ASES) and the Association Française de Sociologie (AFS) protested against this decision.[23]

In addition, in June 2002 and after the Teissier controversy, Michel Maffesoli himself proposed to delete the CNU, which he deemed "unnecessary".[24] However, he participated in the work of the section 19 of the CNU, including the controversial self-promotion of its own members in June 2009.

Appointement to the Institut Universitaire de France

Maffesoli Michel was one of the persons appointed to the Institut Universitaire de France by a decree issued by the Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche, Valérie Pécresse, in August 2008. This decree was the subject of a controversy over the appointment of people not selected by juries from the institute, including Michel Maffesoli. According to economist Élie Cohen, president of the jury, Michel Maffesoli "would be never accepted by the jury even if there were more places".[25]



By Michel Maffesoli

  • Logique de la domination, Paris, PUF. (1976)
  • avec Pessin A. La violence fondatrice . Paris, Champ Urbain Ed. (1978).
  • La Violence totalitaire, Paris. PUF. (1979) Reed. (1994) La Violence totalitaire. Essai d’anthropologie politique. Paris, Méridiens/Klincksieck.
  • La Conquête du présent. Pour une sociologie de la vie quotidienne. Paris, PUF. (1979)
  • La Dynamique sociale. La société conflictuelle . Thèse d'Etat, Lille, Service des publications des thèses.(1981)
  • L'Ombre de Dionysos (1982), Le Livre de Poche, reed. 1991
  • Essai sur la violence banale et fondatrice, (1984) Paris, Librairie Méridiens/Klincksieck.
  • La Connaissance ordinaire. Précis de sociologie compréhensive. (1985), Paris, Librairie des Méridiens. Paris ed., Klincksieck, 2007.
  • La société est plusieurs, in : Une anthropologie des turbulences. Maffesoli M. (under the direction of) (1985), Berg International Ed., 175-180.
  • Le Temps des tribus (1988), Le Livre de Poche, 1991.
  • Au creux des apparences. Pour une éthique de l'esthétique.(1990), Paris, Plon. Reed. (1993) Le Livre de Poche,
  • La Transfiguration du politique (La Table Ronde, 1992), Le Livre de Poche, 1995.
  • La Contemplation du monde (1993), Le Livre de Poche, 1996.
  • Eloge de la raison sensible. Paris, Grasset.(1996)
  • Du nomadisme. Vagabondages initiatiques. Paris, Le Livre de Poche, Biblio-Essais,(1997)
  • La part du diable précis de subversion postmoderne, Flammarion (2002)
  • L'instant éternel. Le retour du tragique dans les sociétés postmodernes. Paris, La Table Ronde, (2003)
  • Le rythme de vie - Variation sur l'imaginaire post-moderne, Paris, Ed. Table Ronde, Collection Contretemps, 2004, 260 pages.
  • Pouvoir des hauts lieux (14p.) dans Pierre Delorme (dir.) La ville autrement, Ste-Foy, Ed. Presse de l'Université du Québec, 2005, 300 pages.
  • Le réenchantement du monde - Morales, éthiques, déontologies, Paris, Table Ronde ed., 2007.
  • Iconologies. Nos idol@tries postmodernes, Paris, Albin Michel, 2008.
  • Après la modernité ? - La conquête du présent, La violence totalitaire, La logique de la domination, Paris, CNRS ed., coll. Compendium, 2008.
  • La République des bons sentiments, Le Rocher ed., 2008.
  • Apocalypse, CNRS Éditions, 2009.

On Michel Maffesoli

  • Dérive autour de l'œuvre de Michel Maffesoli, Ceaq (introduction by Gilbert Durand), Paris, L’Harmattan, 2004.
  • T.Keller, Ein französischer Lebenssoziologe : Michel Maffesoli, in S Moebius et L.Peter. : Französische Soziologie der Gegenwart EVK verlag . Konstanz, 2004.
  • R.Keller: Michel Maffesoli: eine Einführung, Uvk Verlags GmbH Konstanz 2006.
  • S.Curti et L.F.Clemente, Michel Maffesoli. Reliance. Itinerari tra modernità e postmodernità. Mimesis, Milano, 2007.
  • S.Curti, Le zone d'ombra. Vita quotidiana e disordine in Michel Maffesoli. Ombre Corte, Verona, 2007.
  • F. Antonelli, Caos e postmodernità. Un'analisi a partire dalla sociologia di Michel Maffesoli. Philos, Roma, 2007.
  • P. Le Quéau, L'homme en clair-obscur. Lecture de Michel Maffesoli. Les Presses de l'Université de Laval, 2007.


  1. ^ Mauvais thème astral à l’université", Libération, 6 October 2008 ; Sylvestre Huet, "Affaire Maffesoli et Institut universitaire de France, l'astrologie à l'origine", 6 October 2008 ; "Michel Maffesoli à l’Institut universitaire de France : une nomination controversée", liens-socio, 9 October 2008 ; Denis Colombi, "Le vrai problème de Michel M.", 9 October 2008 ; Baptiste Coulmont, "Le noyautage", 12 Octobee 2008.
  2. ^ Serge Paugam, La pratique de la sociologie, Paris, PUF, 2008, p. 117 ; cf. Gérald Houdeville, Le métier de sociologue en France depuis 1945. Renaissance d'une discipline, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2007, p. 261-302 (ch. 7, "La sociologie mise en cause"), and Bernard Lahire, "Une astrologue sur la planète des sociologues ou comment devenir docteur en sociologie sans posséder le métier de sociologue ?", in L'esprit sociologique, Paris, La Découverte, 2007, p. 351-387.
  3. ^ L. Tessier, Musiques et fêtes techno : l’exception franco-britannique des free parties", Revue française de sociologie, vol. 44, n°1, pp. 63-91, 2003.
  4. ^ David Evans, "Michel Maffesoli's Sociology of Modernity and Postmodernity: An Introduction and Critical Assessment", Sociological Review, vol. 45, n°2, pp. 220-243, 1997.
  5. ^ Account by Jason Ryan MacLean in the journal Critical Sociology, vol. 26, n°12, p. 166-170 : "Maffesoli attempts to hide behind a thin veneer of scholarly objectivity, but his own political predilections shine through nonetheless. But more problematic than this patent inconsistency is Maffesoli’s failure to be self-reflexive in a manner that might have helped him better understand how his own social and political position informs his reading of the “signs of the times" (…) Of course, the idea that one can, from the lofty perch afforded by the Sorbonne, capture and capitulate our “epoch” is on its face absurd. (Armchair sociology is not an unfair characterization of MaVesoli’s approach to social analysis.)”.
  6. ^ For the full history, see Daniel Filâtre, "Affaire Teissier : historique", Lettre de l'ASES, 30 December 2001.
  7. ^ Christian Baudelot, Roger Establet, "La sociologie sous une mauvaise étoile", Le Monde, 17 April 2001.
  8. ^ Text, "Liste des signatures de la pétition", and Daniel Filâtre, "Affaire Teissier : historique", op. cit..
  9. ^ Alain Bourdin, "La sociologie, l'antithèse de Teissier", Libération, 19 April 2001; Articles published by the AFIS : part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.
  10. ^ Alain Touraine, "De quoi Élizabeth Teissier est-elle coupable ?", Le Monde, 22 May 2001.
  11. ^ Hervé Morin, "La thèse d'Elizabeth Teissier ravive la fracture au sein de la sociologie", Le Monde, 4 May 2001.
  12. ^ Bernard Lahire, Philippe Cibois, Dominique Desjeux, Jean Audouze, Henri Broch, Jean-Paul Krivine, Jean-Claude Pecker and Jacques Bouveresse, "Analyse de la thèse de Madame Elizabeth Teissier", April 2001.
  13. ^ Analysis by Henri Broch, 2001 ; "Analyse de la thèse de Madame Elizabeth Teissier", 6 August 2001.
  14. ^ "Analyse de la thèse de Madame Elizabeth Teissier". Bernard Lahire, Philippe Cibois, Dominique Desjeux, Jean Audouze, Henri Broch, Jean-Paul Krivine, Jean-Claude Pecker and Jacques Bouveresse. 6. Retrieved 2008-01-06.  
  15. ^ Bernard Lahire, "Comment devenir docteur en sociologie sans posséder le métier de sociologue ?", Revue Européenne de Sciences Sociales, vol. XL, n°122, pp.42-65, 2002 : "En toute honnêteté, lequel d'entre nous, directeur de thèse n'a pas laissé passer de tels "dérapages" ? (…) Il ne faudrait pas que cette thèse serve de prétexte à un nouveau règlement de compte contre une des diverses manières d’envisager la sociologie. (…) Est ce que cette thèse n'est pas un simple prétexte pour marginaliser un courant sociologique, et disons le crûment, pour faire une chasse à l'homme, en la matière contre moi-même ?"
  16. ^ Hervé Morin, "La sociologie au miroir de la thèse d'Elizabeth Teissier", Le Monde, 15 mai 2001.
  17. ^ D. Filâtre, "Affaire Teissier : historique", op. cit..
  18. ^ E.g. : Pierre Tripier, "Le hasard, la publicité et la sociologie ou Pitié pour Husserl !" (4 May 2001) : "J'admire le courage de M. Maffesoli car je suppose qu'il est suffisamment bon tacticien pour savoir que ce qui lui ouvrirait les portes de la renommée médiatique lui sculpterait en même temps l'image sublime du bouc émissaire. Et, s'il est dans la disposition d'esprit que je suppose, c'est au volume de vente de ses livres (c'est pas cher, c'est nouveau, mais c'est abondant) qu'il mesurera les résultats de son action.".
  19. ^ Association Française pour l'Information Scientifique, "Le directeur de thèse d’Elizabeth Teissier nommé administrateur du CNRS", 9 November 2005
  20. ^ Decree of 5 October 2005 about the appointement to the administration board of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique
  21. ^ "Un conseil d’administration du CNRS doublement inacceptable !", liens-socio, 19 October 2005
  22. ^ "Un conseil d’administration du CNRS doublement inacceptable !", op. cit. : ": … il est pour le moins étonnant de voir nommer comme représentant des disciplines « Homme et Société » Michel Maffesoli, un universitaire bien connu pour ses prises de position anti-rationalistes et anti-scientifiques. Pourquoi nommer quelqu’un qui a suscité, il y a peu, la réprobation de l’ensemble de la communauté scientifique en commettant une grave faute : l’attribution du titre de docteur en sociologie à une astrologue, Elizabeth Teissier, dont la thèse faisait l’apologie de l’astrologie ?"
  23. ^ Source : AFS, "Feuille d'Info Rapide", 3 December 2007 : "La communauté des sociologues par le biais de ses institutions représentatives (AFS, ASES) déplore qu'un tiers des nominations effectuées par le Ministère à la 19e section du CNU (sociologie, démographie) ait été employé au profit d'une seule école de pensée ; elle demande au CNU d'être particulièrement vigilant pour les qualifications et de s'assurer que les candidats aient fait la démonstration d'une maitrise du lien entre problématisation théorique et mise en oeuvre d'un corpus systématisé de données empiriques."
  24. ^ Michel Maffesoli, "Quelques considérations sur la grippe aviaire", m@gm@, April-June 2002.
  25. ^ Sylvestre Huet, "L’économiste Elie Cohen « scandalisé »", Libération, 27 October 2008.
This article incorporates information from the revision as of 2009-07-12 of the equivalent article on the French Wikipedia.

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