André Glucksmann

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André Glucksmann
Andre Glucksmann (cropped).jpg
André Glucksmann in January 2012
Born(1937-06-19)19 June 1937
Died10 November 2015(2015-11-10) (aged 78)
Paris, France
Alma mater École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud
Era 20th-/21st-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Continental philosophy
Nouveaux Philosophes
Main interests
Political philosophy

André Glucksmann (French:  [ɡlyksman] ; 19 June 1937 – 10 November 2015) was a French philosopher, activist and writer. He was a member of the French new philosophers.


Glucksmann began his career as a Marxist, but went on to reject communism in the popular book La Cuisinière et le Mangeur d'Hommes (1975), and later became an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russian foreign policy. He was a strong supporter of human rights. In recent years he opposed the claim that Islamic terrorism is the product of the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Human rights Inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled

Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected as natural and legal rights in municipal and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable, fundamental rights "to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being" and which are "inherent in all human beings", regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status. They are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal, and they are egalitarian in the sense of being the same for everyone. They are regarded as requiring empathy and the rule of law and imposing an obligation on persons to respect the human rights of others, and it is generally considered that they should not be taken away except as a result of due process based on specific circumstances; for example, human rights may include freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture and execution.

Early years

André Glucksmann was born in 1937 in Boulogne-Billancourt, the son of Ashkenazi Jewish parents from Austria-Hungary. His father was from Bukovina, which later became part of Romania, and his mother from Prague, which later became the capital of Czechoslovakia. [1]

Boulogne-Billancourt Subprefecture and commune in Île-de-France, France

Boulogne-Billancourt is a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 8.2 km (5.1 mi) from the centre of Paris. Boulogne-Billancourt is a subprefecture of the Hauts-de-Seine department and the seat of the Arrondissement of Boulogne-Billancourt.

Austria-Hungary Constitutional monarchic union between 1867 and 1918

Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy in Central and Eastern Europe between 1867 and 1918. It was formed when the Austrian Empire adopted a new constitution; as a result Austria (Cisleithania) and Hungary (Transleithania) were placed on equal footing. It dissolved into several new states at the end of the First World War.

Bukovina Historical region

Bukovina is a historical region, variously described as in Central or Eastern Europe. The region is located on the northern slopes of the central Eastern Carpathians and the adjoining plains, today divided between Romania and Ukraine.

Glucksmann's father was killed in World War II, and his mother and sister were active in the French Resistance. [2] The family "narrowly escaped deportation to the camps" during the Holocaust, which influenced Glucksmann's developing ideas of "the state as the ultimate source of barbarism". [2]

French Resistance collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime

The French Resistance was the collection of French movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and the collaborationist Vichy régime during the Second World War. Resistance cells were small groups of armed men and women, who, in addition to their guerrilla warfare activities, were also publishers of underground newspapers, providers of first-hand intelligence information, and maintainers of escape networks that helped Allied soldiers and airmen trapped behind enemy lines. The men and women of the Resistance came from all economic levels and political leanings of French society, including émigrés, academics, students, aristocrats, conservative Roman Catholics, and also citizens from the ranks of liberals, anarchists and communists.

He studied at the Lycée la Martinière in Lyon, and later enrolled at École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud. His first book, Le Discours de la Guerre, was published in 1968. [3]


Early career

In 1975 he published the anti-Marxist book La Cuisinière et le Mangeur d'Hommes - subtitled Réflexions sur l'État, le marxisme et les camps de concentration, in which he argued that Marxism leads inevitably to totalitarianism, tracing parallels between the crimes of Nazism and Communism. [3] In his next book Les maitres penseurs, published in 1977 and translated into English as Master Thinkers (Harper & Row, 1980), he traced the intellectual justification for totalitarianism back to the ideas articulated by various German philosophers such as Fichte, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. [4] In the years of the Vietnam War, Glucksmann rose to national prominence after expressing his support for Vietnamese boat people. [3] He began working with Bernard-Henri Lévy criticizing Communism. [5] Both had formerly been well known Marxists. Shortly afterwards they became known, along with others of their generation who rejected Marxism, as New Philosophers, a term coined by Lévy. [5]

Marxism economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working-class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Totalitarianism political system in which the state holds total authority

Totalitarianism is a political concept of a mode of government that prohibits opposition parties, restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is regarded as the most extreme and complete form of authoritarianism. Political power in totalitarian states has often been held by rule by one leader which employ all-encompassing propaganda campaigns broadcast by state-controlled mass media. Totalitarian regimes are often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, restriction of speech, mass surveillance and widespread use of state terrorism. Historian Robert Conquest describes a "totalitarian" state as one recognizing no limits to its authority in any sphere of public or private life and which extends that authority to whatever length feasible.

National Socialism, more commonly known as Nazism, is the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party—officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party —in Nazi Germany, and of other far-right groups with similar aims.

1980s and 1990s

In 1985, Glucksmann signed a petition to President Reagan urging him to continue his support for the Contras in Nicaragua. [6] After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Glucksmann became an advocate for the use of nuclear power. [3] In 1995 he supported the resumption of nuclear tests by Jacques Chirac. [7] He supported the NATO intervention in Serbia in 1999. He also called for Chechnya to become independent. [8]


Glucksmann speaking at a conference in Paris, 2002 Andre Glucksmann2.jpg
Glucksmann speaking at a conference in Paris, 2002

In his book Dostoyevsky in Manhattan, Glucksmann asserts that nihilism, particularly as depicted by Dostoyevsky in his novels Demons and The Brothers Karamazov , is the 'characteristic form' of modern terrorism. Drawing on Ivan Karamazov's dictum that "If there is no God, everything is permitted", Glucksmann argues that:

The inner nature of nihilistic terrorism is that everything is permissible, whether because God exists and I am his representative, or because God does not exist and I take his place. [9]

His 2006 book Une rage d’enfant is an autobiography which talks about how his experiences as a young Jew in occupied France led to his interest in philosophy and his belief in the importance of intervention:

My style of thinking is to compare what happens on the TV, in the news and so on, and then extract what I can from books of philosophers to understand it. Philosophy for me is like subtitles. The problem comes from current events but the answer is supplied by philosophy. [10]

Glucksmann criticises the notion that Islamic terrorism is a product of the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, arguing that the first victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslims:

Why do the 200,000 slaughtered Muslims of Darfur not arouse even half a quarter of the fury caused by 200-times fewer dead in Lebanon? Must we deduce that Muslims killed by other Muslims don’t count – whether in the eyes of Muslim authorities or viewed through the bad conscience of the West? [9]

Later years

Glucksmann supported military action by the West in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was highly critical of Russian foreign policy, supporting for example Chechen independence. [11] However, he was against the Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence from Georgia, arguing that Georgia is essential to maintaining European Union "energy independence," vis-a-vis Russia, through access to oil and gas reserves in the former Soviet republics: "If Tbilisi falls, there will be no way to get around Gazprom and guarantee autonomous access to the gas and petroleum wealth of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan". [11]

Glucksmann in Festival SOS 4.8 in Murcia, 2009 Glucksmann.JPG
Glucksmann in Festival SOS 4.8 in Murcia, 2009

As proof of Russia's plans to use energy blackmail, Glucksmann referenced a biting anti-Gazprom satirical song performed at the annual satirical award show "Silver Rubber Boot", which made jokes like: "If the Eurovision Song Contest denies victory to Russia again, we are going to drive to their concert and block their gas with our bodies!" [12] Glucksmann cited this as evidence that the Russian people want to cut off gas to Ukraine and Europe. He wrote:

Consider a popular song performed by a military choir in Moscow. Its chorus depicts the “radiant future” that Gazprom is preparing: “Europe has a problem with us? We will cut off its gas..." The Russian public loves the song. [13]

Glucksmann supported Nicolas Sarkozy for the April–May 2007 presidential election. [14]

In August 2008 he co-signed an open letter with Václav Havel, Desmond Tutu, and Wei Jingsheng calling upon the Chinese authorities to respect human rights both during and after the Beijing Olympic Games. [15]

He was a signatory of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism. [16]


Glucksmann died in Paris on 10 November 2015 at the age of 78. [3] He is survived by his son Raphael, who announced Glucksmann's death on Facebook. [17]

In reaction to his death, President François Hollande said that Glucksmann always "listened to the suffering of peoples". [5] Former president and opposition leader Nicolas Sarkozy commented on Glucksmann's death by saying: "[Glucksmann] turned a page in French thought from the second half of the 20th Century". [5]


Note: Many of his works were translated into German by his long-term colleague Helmut Kohlenberger.


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