Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Honoris causa

  • Presentation
  • Investiture Ceremony
  • Professional Background

Professional Background

Alain Touraine was born on 3 August 1925, in Hermanville-sur-Mer. He joined the cole Normale Suprieure as a student in 1945, from which he qualified as agrg in History in 1950. Afterwards, he was appointed, in turn, Researcher Assistant and then Researcher at the CNRS (Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique), a position he occupied until 1958. Between 1952 and 1953, he was Rockefeller Fellow at Harvard, Columbia and Chicago universities.

In 1956, he created the Sociology of Work Research Centre at the University of Chile. In 1965, Alain Touraine earned a doctorate of letters and, in 1960 was appointed as Director of Studies at the cole Pratique des Hautes tudes, later renamed the cole des Hautes tudes en Sciences Sociales. From 1966 to 1969 he lectured at the Faculty of Arts at the Universit Paris-Nanterre. In 1958, he founded the Laboratoire de Sociologie Industrielle and, in 1970, the Centre d'tudes des Mouvements Sociaux. Finally, in 1981 he founded the Centre d'Analyse et d'Intervention Sociologiques, which he directed from 1981 to1993, when he handed over the reigns to Michel Wieviorka.

Member of a number of sociology associations, Alain Touraine was President of the French Sociology Society from 1968 to 1970, and Vice-President of the International Sociological Association from 1974 to 1978. He has also been a member of the Haut Conseil l'Intgration (1994-96) and is member of the Governing Council of the Maison d'Amrique Latine. He is also a foreign member of numerous academies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Europe, the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the Brazilian Academy of Letters.

His career can be divided into three stages:

Firstly, that given over to the sociology of work and, in particular, the sociology of worker consciousness. To this period belong his first works carried out in Latin America, on the Chilean mineworkers and foundry workers, as well as his book on the post-industrial society, La socit post-industrielle [‘The Post-Industrial Society’].

This period was given over to defining and focusing his sociology, as explained in his book Sociologie de l'action [‘The Sociology of Action’] (1965), and, eight years later, in Production de la socit [‘The Self-Production of Society’].

The events of May '68 and the military coups in Latin America led Alain Touraine to focus upon the study of social movements. With a group of friends, he developed a sociological intervention method and carried out a series of studies, from La voix et le regard [‘The Voice and the Eye’] to Le Mouvement ouvrier [‘The Workers' Movement’], in 1984. Over the course of this second period, he turned his attention to studying Latin America and the problems of development in general. In 1981, he went to live in Poland to study Solidarity and, in Latin America, he wrote a book, initially published in Chile and later reviewed, rewritten and published in France under the title La parole et le sang. Politique et socit en Amrique Latine [‘Blood and the Word. Politics and Society in Latin America’].

The third stage began with titles such as Le retour de l'acteur [‘The Return of the Actor’] and, above all, Critique de la modernit [‘Critique of Modernity’], Qu'est-ce que la dmocratie? [‘What is Democracy?’], Pourrons-nous vivre ensemble? gaux et diffrents [‘Can we live together? Equality and difference’] and Comment sortir du libralisme? [‘Beyond Neo-Liberalism’], which cover the subjects of concern to him. The dominant idea is that of the Subject, considered as the central principle of action of social movements (cf. Penser le Sujet. Autour d'Alain Touraine, [‘Thinking of the Subject. About Alain Touraine’], F. Dubet and M. Wieviorka, ed. (Fayard, 1995)). His latest book, La recherche de soi. Dialogue sur le Sujet [‘The Search for Self. Dialogues with the Subject’], with Farhad Khosrokhavar, focuses on the choice of the Subject, as is the case with his most recent books.

Thus it is that the entire corpus of his work constitutes a sociology of action, studied on a practical level during the first stage, with a broader historical focus during the second and more philosophically in the third.

Throughout his life, he has attempted to link together different types of studies: theoretical and analytical studies, sociological empirical research per se, analysis of real historical events and, finally, books of a more controversial or intimate type. He has always considered it vital to remain as best informed as possible about different kinds of societies. It is for this reason that he wrote a book on North American universities and their student movement, has followed with keen interest developments in French-speaking Canada, has carried out a vast study on post-communist countries and has dedicated a large part of his life to the study of the countries of South America.

He has placed increasing emphasis on the general cultural shift that has led from a Descartes-style outlook, oriented towards a conquest of the world by means of knowledge, law, economy and arms, to a new culture oriented towards the construction of the subject in other words, each individual's will to act, understood as the purpose of their very existence. And Alain Touraine constantly highlights the leading role of women in this change.

Honorary Doctor of the following universities

Geneva (1988), Montreal (1990), Catholic Leuven (1992), La Paz (1995), Bologna (1995), Mexico (1996), Santiago de Chile (1996), Quebec (1997), Menndez Pelayo (1997), Crdoba (Argentina, 2000), Puebla (Mexico, 2001), Candido Mendes (Brazil, 2002), Rome (2003), Jÿvaskÿla (Finland, 2004), San Martn (Argentina, 2005), Valparaso (2005) and Bogot (2006).

Professional positions

President of the French Sociology Society (1968-70)
Vice-President of the International Sociological Society (1974-78)
Member of the Governing Council of the Maison de l'Amrique Latine

Member of the following academies:

Member, Academy of Europe (1990-99)
Foreign member, Polish Academy of Sciences (1991)
Foreign honorary member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1994)
Correspondent member, Mexican Academy of Sciences (1998)
Correspondent member, Brazilian Academy of Letters (1998)
Member, National Academy of History, Argentina (1998)
Member, Chilean Academy of Political Sciences (1998)
Foreign member, Academy of Sciences of Turin, Moral, Historical and Philological Sciences Division (2003)


A selection of the most recently published books.

2006 Le Monde des femmes [‘The World of Women’], Paris: Fayard.

2005 Un dbat sur la lacit [‘A Debate about laicity’], with Alain Renaut, Paris: Stock, Les essais.

2005 Un nouveau paradigme pour comprendre le monde d'aujourd'hui [‘A new paradigm for understanding the world of today’], Paris: Fayard. [Translated into Spanish (Paids, 2005)].

2004 Conocimiento e identidad. Voces de grupos culturales en la investigacin social [‘Knowledge and Identity: Voices of Cultural Groups in Social Research’], Alain Touraine, Michel Wieviorka, Ramn Flecha et al., Barcelona: El Roure ed.

2002 Barbarie et progrs [‘Barbarism and progress’] (complete edition of the Noms de Dieux interviews by Edmond Blattchen), Liege: Alice ditions.

2000 La recherche de soi. Dialogue sur le Sujet [‘The Search for Self. Dialogues with the Subject’], with Farhad Khosrokhavar, Paris: Fayard. [Translated into Portuguese (Instituto Piaget, 2001), Brazilian Portuguese (Ed. Bertrand Brasil, 2001, 2004), Spanish (Ed. Paids, 2002), Italian (Il Saggiatore, 2003)], new edition in Livre de Poche, 2005.

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