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Régis Debray: Wikis


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Jules Régis Debray (born 1941) is a French intellectual, journalist, government official and professor. He is known for his theorization of mediology, a critical theory of the long-term transmission of cultural meaning in human society; and for having fought in 1967 with Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara in Bolivia.




1967 to 1973

Regis Debray studied at the École Normale Supérieure under Louis Althusser, and became "agrégé de philosophie" in 1965.

In the late 1960s he was a professor of philosophy at the University of Havana in Cuba, and became an associate of Che Guevara in Bolivia. He later wrote a book entitled Revolution in the Revolution?. This book analysed the tactical and strategic doctrines then prevailing among militant socialist movements in Latin America, and acted as a handbook for guerrilla warfare that supplemented Guevara's own manual on the subject. Shortly before Guevara was captured in Bolivia, 1967, Debray (also in Bolivia at the time) was imprisoned, convicted of having been part of Guevara's guerrilla group, and on November 17 sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was released in 1970 after an international campaign for his release which included Jean-Paul Sartre, André Malraux, Général De Gaulle and Pope Paul VI. He sought refuge in Chile, where he wrote The Chilean Revolution (1972) after interviews with Salvador Allende. Debray returned to France in 1973 following the coup by General Pinochet in Chile.

1981 to 1995

Following the election of Président François Mitterrand, in 1981, he became an official adviser to the Président on Foreign Affairs. In this capacity he developed a policy that sought to increase France's freedom of action in the world, decrease dependence on the United States, and promote closeness with the former colonies. He was also involved in the development of the government's official ceremonies and recognition of the bicentennial of the French Revolution. He is on record, however, as saying that the President did not pay any attention to his ideas. He resigned in 1988. Until the mid-1990s he held a number of official posts in France.

In 1996 he published a memoir of his life, translated into English as Régis Debray, Praised Be Our Lords (Verso, 2007).

He was rebuked, on behalf of then-French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, for his alleged involvement in the overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former President of Haiti, a charge that Debray strongly denied.

2003 onwards

Debray was a member of the 2003 Stasi Commission, named after Bernard Stasi, which examined the origins of the 2003 French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools. Debray supported the 2003 law. This was in defense of French laïcité (separation of church and state) which aims to maintain citizens' equality through the prohibition of religious proselytism within the school system. Debray, however, appears to have encouraged a more subtle treatment of religious issues within school history teaching in France.

Debray is currently preoccupied with the situation of Christian minorities in the Near East (and with the status of the Holy Places in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and elsewhere), a traditional interest of the French state, and has established an 'observatory' to monitor the situation. His recent work deals thoroughly with the religious paradigm as a social nexus able to support collective orientation on a wide, centuries-long scale. This led him to propose the project of an Institut Européen en Sciences des Religions, a French institute founded in 2005 aimed at monitoring sociological religious dynamics and informing the public on religion through conferences and publications.

Work: mediology

Debray is the founder and chief exponent of the discipline of médiologie or "mediology", which attempts to scientifically study transmission of cultural meaning in society, whether through language or images. Mediology is characterized by its multi-disciplinary approach. It is expounded best in the English-language book Transmitting Culture (Columbia University Press, 2004). In Vie et mort de l'image (Life and Death of Image, 1995), an attempted history of gaze, where he distinguished three regimes of the images (icon, idol and vision), he explicitly prevented misunderstandings by differentiating mediology from a simple sociology of mass media. He also criticized the basic assumptions of history of art which present art as an atemporal and universal phenomenon. According to Debray, art is a product of the Renaissance with the invention of the artist as productor of images, in contrast with previous acheiropoieta icons or other types of so-called "art," where these "works of art" did not fulfil an artistic function but rather a religious one.

Current political views

In a February 2007 op-ed in Le Monde, Régis Debray criticized the tendency of the whole French political class to move toward the right-wing of politics. He also deplored the influence of the "videosphere" on modern politics, which he claimed has a tendency to individualize everything, forgetting both past and future (although he praised the loss of the 1960s messianism), outside of any common national project. He criticized the new generation in politics as being competent but without character, and lacking ideas: "So they [think they] recruit philosophy with André Glucksmann or Bernard-Henri Lévy and literature with Christine Angot or Jean d'Ormesson". He called for a vote to the "left of the left," in order to attempt to block a modern "anti-politics" which has turned into political marketing [1].



  • Révolution dans la révolution? et autres essais (1967)
  • La Frontière, suivi de Un jeune homme à la page [littérature] (1967)
  • Nous les Tupamaros, suivi d'apprendre d'eux (1971)
  • L'Indésirable [littérature](1975)
  • Les rendez-vous manqués (pour Pierre Goldman)[littérature](1975)
  • Journal d'un petit bourgeois entre deux feux et quatre murs [littérature](1976)
  • La neige brûle prix Femina [littérature] (1977)
  • Le pouvoir intellectuel en France (1979)
  • Critique de la raison politique (1981)
  • Comète ma comète [littérature](1986)
  • Christophe Colomb, le visiteur de l'aube, suivi des Traités de Tordesillas [littérature](1991)
  • Contretemps : Eloge des idéaux perdus (1992)
  • Trilogie "Le temps d'apprendre à vivre" I: Les Masques, une éducation amoureuse [littérature](1992)
  • Vie et mort de l'image (1995)
  • Contre Venise [littérature](1995)
  • L'œil naïf (1994)
  • A demain de Gaulle (1996)
  • La guérilla du Che (1996)
  • L'État séducteur (1997)
  • La République expliquée à ma fille (1998)
  • L'abus monumental (1999)
  • Shangaï, dernières nouvelles [littérature](1999)
  • Trilogie "Le temps d'apprendre à vivre" II: Loués soient nos seigneurs, une éducation politique [littérature](2000)
  • Trilogie "Le temps d'apprendre à vivre" III: Par amour de l'art, une éducation intellectuelle [littérature](2000)
  • Dieu, un itinéraire (2001, Prix Combourg 2003)
  • L'Enseignement du fait religieux dans l'école laïque (2002)
  • Le Feu sacré : Fonction du religieux (2003)
  • À l'ombre des lumières : Débat entre un philosophe et un scientifique (2003) (Entretien avec Jean Bricmont).
  • Ce que nous voile le voile (2004)
  • Le plan vermeil [littérature](2004)
  • Empire 2.0 [littérature] (2004)
  • Le siècle et la règle [littérature](2004)
  • Le siècle et la règle. Une correspondance avec le frère Gilles-Dominique o. p.
  • Julien le Fidèle ou Le banquet des démons [théâtre] (2005)
  • Sur le pont d'Avignon, Flammarion, 2005.
  • Les communions humaines (2005)
  • Supplique aux nouveaux progressistes du XXIe siècle, Gallimard, (2006).
  • Aveuglantes Lumières, Journal en clair-obscur, Gallimard, (2006).
  • Un candide en Terre sainte, Gallimard, (2008)

In English:

  • Transmitting Culture (Columbia University Press, 2004).
  • Against Venice (Pushkin Press, 2002).



Further reading


External links


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