Jean-François Revel (19 January 1924, Marseille – 30 April 2006, Kremlin-Bicêtre) was a French journalist, author, prolific philosopher and member of the Académie française from June 1998. A socialist in his youth, Revel later became a prominent European proponent of classical liberalism and free market economics.
Life and career
He was born Jean-François Ricard, but later adopted his pseudonym Revel as his legal surname. During the German occupation of France in WWII, Revel participated in the French Resistance and later noted that the officious but disgraceful manner of French collaborators influenced his writings.
He studied at the Lycée du Parc in Lyon and was accepted at the prestigious École normale supérieure where he studied philosophy. He began his career as a philosophy professor, and taught in French Algeria, Italy and Mexico, before settling in Lille. He stopped teaching in 1963 and embarked on his career as an essayist and writer, as well as directing various publications. From 1998 to 2006, he was president of the Institut d'Histoire Sociale. His successor is Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. In 1986 Revel was honored with an honorary doctorate degree for his commitment to individual freedom.
A socialist until the late 1960s, Revel was a speechwriter for socialist President François Mitterrand and ran as a socialist candidate in parliamentary elections in 1967 but lost. During the Cold War, Revel was known as a champion of classical liberal values such as liberty and democracy at a time when many preeminent European intellectuals praised Communism or Maoism. The publication of his 1970 book, Without Marx or Jesus: The New American Revolution Has Begun signalled the transition of his views to liberal "philosopher of freedom in the tradition of Raymond Aron." In 1973 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto II.
He is survived by his second wife, Claude Sarraute, a journalist, and has three sons from two marriages. His first marriage to painter Yahne le Toumelin ended in divorce.
One of his sons, Matthieu Ricard, is a well known Buddhist monk who studied molecular biology at the Pasteur Institute before converting to Tibetan Buddhism. Father and son jointly authored a book Le moine et le philosophe (The Monk and the Philosopher) about the son's conversion and Buddhism.
Revel was best known for his books Without Marx or Jesus: The New American Revolution Has Begun, The Flight from Truth : The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information and his 2002 book Anti-Americanism, one year after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In the last of these books, Revel criticised those Europeans who argued that the United States had brought the terrorist attacks upon itself through misguided foreign policies. He wrote thus: "Obsessed by their hatred and floundering in illogicality, these dupes forget that the United States, acting in its own self-interest, is also acting in the interest of us Europeans and in the interests of many other countries which are threatened, or have already been subverted and ruined, by terrorism." In 1975 he delivered the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, The Netherlands, under the title: La tentation totalitaire (The Totalitarian Temptation).
- Pour l'Italie (1958)
- Without Marx or Jesus (1972) ISBN 0-440-59729-3
- The Totalitarian Temptation (1976)
- How Democracies Perish (1983)ISBN 0060970111
- The Flight from Truth : The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information (1992) ISBN 0-394-57643-8
- Democracy Against Itself: The Future of the Democratic Impulse/Regain démocratique (1993) ISBN 0-02-926387-5
- The Monk and the Philosopher : A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life (1999) ISBN 0-8052-1103-9
- The Anti-American Obsession: Its Functioning, Its Causes, Its Inconsequentialness/La obsesión antiamericana (2003) ISBN 1-893554-85-6
- Last Exit to Utopia: The Survival of Socialism in a Post-Soviet Era/Le Grande Parade (2009) ISBN 1-59403-264-5
|This section is a candidate to be copied to Wikiquote using the Transwiki process.|
- "... anarchy leads to despotism ... despotism leads to anarchy ..."
- "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself."
- "It is unlikely that we will ever be capable of building a world that is qualitatively better than we ourselves are."
- Democracy against Itself
- "Strangely, it is always America that is described as degenerate and 'fascist,' while it is solely in Europe that actual dictatorships and totalitarian regimes spring up." From Europe's Anti-American Obsession. A similar statement can be found in his book Anti-Americanism, Encounter Books, 2004, p. 156 (paperback).
- "A human group transforms itself into a crowd when it suddenly responds to a suggestion rather than to reasoning, to an image rather than to an idea, to an affirmation rather than to proof, to the repetition of a phrase rather than to arguments, to prestige rather than to competence"
- "J.-F. Revel, French Philosopher, Is Dead at 82". New York Times. May 2, 2006.
- Honorary Doctoral Degrees at Universidad Francisco Marroquín
- "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
- "French Thinker, Journalist Jean-Francois Revel, 82". Washington Post. May 3, 2006.
- Honorary Doctoral Degrees, Universidad Francisco Marroquín
- (French) L'Académie française
- Douglas Martin, "J-F Revel, French Philosopher, is dead at 82," May 2, 2006, Section B, Page 7, The New York Times