Life and career
Lipovetsky was born in Millau in 1944. He studied philosophy at University of Grenoble, and participated in the 1968 student uprising in Paris to change the French educational model. However he criticizes the model that came from that as producing alienated individuals with fragile personalities prone to emotional disorder due to hedonism and immediate gratification.
He began his academic career teaching classes with his alma mater. With the success of his first book, he has become well known in many parts of the world and has become one of the most important French intellectuals of the latter 20th century.
Along with tenure, he has received two honorary doctorates from the Université de Sherbrooke in Canada and from the New Bulgarian University in Sofia, membership in the Conseil d'analyse de la société of the French government, knighthood in the Legion of Honor, membership in the National Council of Programs and is an consultant with the Association of Management Progress.
Lipovetsky began his philosophical career as a Marxist, similar to many others in the 1960s, affiliated with the “Socialisme ou Barbarie” which demanded the world not to transform it but rather to “swallow it.” However since then, his philosophy has changed significantly, including the acceptance of capitalism as “the only legitimate economic model.” When questioned about his change in stance from his Marxist beginning he replies “Only idiots never change opinion.”
Lipovetsky’s work focuses on the modern world from the latter 20th century to the present. His has divided this time period into three periods: “Marxist self criticism” (1965-1983), post- modern (1983-1991) and the hyper modern period from 1991 on. This began with his 1983 book, which declared the world to be post-modern, characterized by extreme individualism and the dissolution of politics based on political parties, turning its back on a strong sense of social duty on which democracy and socialism depend. However, by the end of the 2000s, he proposed that this term had become obsolete and unable to describe the world past 1991. He then proposed “hyper-modern,” similar to post-modern but with a superlative and unstoppable meaning, focusing n new technologies, markets, and global culture.
From his 1983 book which brought him to prominence, Lipovetsky has continued to write on topics such as modernity, globalization, consumerism, modern culture, markets, feminism, fashion, and media, but they have the common thread of individualism. He defines individualism as the desire to break with tradition and the past and to look towards the future and our own pleasure. In 1987 he wrote L'Empire de l'éphémère : la mode et son destin dans les sociétés modernes continuing the argument of the 1983 work focusing on fashion as a reflection of individualism and hyper consumerism. It also indicates the desire to be young forever and that only the here-and-now exists. In 1992 he published Le Crépuscule du devoir. In this work he states that the vision of a secular world started with Martin Luther's revolt against the Catholic Church, and developed by thinkers such as René Descartes, Kant and Thomas Aquinas, leading to the idea that one purpose of God is to define and protect individual rights. In La Troisième femme in 1997 he argues the idea that the women's liberation movement is strongly connected to hyper consumerism as women are the main customers of luxury goods. In Métamorphoses de la culture libérale – Éthique, médias, entreprise in 2002, he examines the paradoxes of hyper modern democracies, with emphasis both on the individual, regionalization vs. globalization and the collective and a society that is both open and closed, concluding that they are interdependent. The 2003 book Le luxe éternel examines the concept of luxury over human history. Le bonheur paradoxal. Essai sur la société d'hyperconsommation in 2006 examines the multiplication and globalization of major brands and the connection between fashion and luxury which is the basis of hyper-consumerism. In La société de déception (2006) he analyzes the concept of disappointment following on the work of Jacques Lacan that desire creates a vacuum and can never be filled. In L'écran global. Culture-médias et cinéma à l'âge hypermoderne (2007) he analyses a “second modern revolution” declaring the end of post modernism, arguing that paradoxes are multiplying due to the complexity of modern life. His 2013 book, L'esthétisation du monde : vivre à l'âge du capitalisme artiste focuses on capitalism and its relationship to art, especially the cinema.
Lipovetsky has made provocative statements on modern life and elements related to it, which have been often at odds with intellectual trends of the last decades. He has compared fashion with democracy as unstable, ephemeral and superficial, but states it as a positive and more workable then a more interdependent society. He states that the focus of modern life is the new, which then quickly becomes old and we look for something else, leading the his notion of “hyper” as this need for new becomes faster in the age of Internet and social media, which also breaks down traditional institutions such as nation and family. Even “culture” succumbs to this, according to him, as people go to museums more as tourists rather than for education. The need for new triggers hyper-consumerism, with people trying to keep up with trends, and creating frustration among the poorer who cannot keep up. However, he makes a distinction between hyper-consumerism and consumerism. He does not criticize the latter, which he says has had positives in rising living standards. He believes that consumption should be a means to an end, not an end in itself and believes that concerns such as ecology are not incompatible with capitalism.
Lipovetsky does not have a well-defined style of presentation, varying among manners of speaking similar to that of psychologist or sociologist as well as philosopher often gesturing emphatically. His methodology varies as well, and often deals in paradoxes. His approach to issues is almost nonexistent epistemologically. There is also strong influence in his writing from French literature although he does not write fiction.
- L'ère du vide : Essais sur l'individualisme contemporain, Gallimard, 1983
- L'Empire de l'éphémère : la mode et son destin dans les sociétés modernes, Gallimard, 1987
- Le Crépuscule du devoir, Gallimard, 1992
- La Troisième femme, Gallimard, 1997
- Métamorphoses de la culture libérale – Éthique, médias, entreprise, Montréal, Édition Liber, 2002
- Le luxe éternel (with Elyette Roux), éditions Gallimard, 2003
- Les temps hypermodernes, éditions Grasset, 2004
- Le bonheur paradoxal. Essai sur la société d'hyperconsommation, éditions Gallimard, 2006
- La société de déception, éditions Textuel, 2006
- L'écran global. Culture-médias et cinéma à l'âge hypermoderne (with Jean Serroy), Seuil, 2007
- La Culture-monde. Réponse à une société désorientée, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2008 (with Jean Serroy)
- L'Occident mondialisé : Controverse sur la culture planétaire, Paris, Grasset, 2010 (with Hervé Juvin)
- "Gilles Lipovetsky, defensor del capitalismo" (in Spanish). Guadalajara: El Informador. August 31, 2009. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Raul Corral Quintero (October–November 2007). "Gilles Lipovetsky: Una sociología del presente pos(hiper)moderno". Casa del Tiempo (in Spanish) (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana) IV (4 pages 41-46). Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- "El exceso domina la sociedad actual; se perdieron los límites" (in Spanish). Mexico City: La Jornada. March 28, 2012. p. 9. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Jesus Alejo (March 23, 2012). "Gilles Lipovetsky: vivimos un tiempo en que la cultura no tiene influencia" (in Spanish). Mexico City: Milenio. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- "Gilles Lipovetsky volverá a México" (in Spanish). El Universal. August 14, 2013. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Alberto Sauret (Spring 1991). "Gilles Lipovetsky, el Imperio de lo efímero". Estudios, filosofia-historia-letras (in Spanish) (Instituto Tecnologico Autonoma de Mexico). Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Jesus Alejo (August 10, 2007). "Visitará Gilles Lipovetsky el Tecnológico de Monterrey". Cronica Intercampus (in Spanish) IV (51). Mexico: Tec de Monterrey. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- "Reflexionarán sobre la pantalla global con Gilles Lipovetsky" (in Spanish). Tec de Monterrey. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Ellis Cashmore (January 20, 1995). "Free style -- The Empire of Fashion by Gilles Lipovetsky and translated by Catherine Porter" 8 (336). New Statesman & Society. p. 37.
- "Entrevista / Gilles Lipovetsky / No sólo de marcas vive el hombre" (in Spanish). Mexico City: Reforma. October 5, 2008. p. 5.
- Interview with Gilles Lipovetsky by Denis Failly about his book Le bonheur paradoxal: Essai sur la société d'hyperconsommation, 2006. (in French)
- Un extrait de Culture-monde: réponse à une société désorientée sur la webtélé de Jacques Languirand: Les repères de Languirand
- Europe’s Times and Unknown Waters, Cluj-Napoca, Braşoveanu, Narcisa (April 2009). "The Narcissistic and the Cynical Attitudes - Two Identitary Masks, Gilles Lipovetsky, L'ère du vide. Essais sur l'individualisme contemporain and Peter Sloterdijk, Kritik der zynischen Vernunft"