André Glucksmann in January 2012
19 June 1937|
|Died||10 November 2015
|Alma mater||École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud|
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.
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.
Glucksmann's father was killed in World War Two, and his mother and sister were active in the French Resistance. 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".
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. 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. In the years of the Vietnam War, Glucksmann rose to national prominence after expressing his support for Vietnamese boat people. He began working with Bernard-Henri Lévy criticizing Communism. 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.
1980s and 1990s
In 1985, Glucksmann signed a petition to President Reagan urging him to continue his support for the Contras in Nicaragua. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Glucksmann became an advocate for the use of nuclear power. In 1995 he supported the resumption of nuclear tests by Jacques Chirac. He supported the NATO intervention in Serbia in 1999. He also called for Chechnya to become independent.
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.
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.
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?
Glucksmann supported military action by the West in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was highly critical of Russian foreign policy, supporting for example Chechen independence. 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".
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!" 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.
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.
He was a signatory of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism.
In reaction to his death, President François Hollande said that Glucksmann always "listened to the suffering of peoples". 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".
- Voltaire counter-attacks (Voltaire Contre-Attaque) (2014)
- A Child's Rage (Une rage d'enfant) (2006)
- The Discourse of Hate (Le Discours de la haine) (2004)
- West Versus West (Ouest contre Ouest) (2003)
- Dostoevsky in Manhattan (Dostoïevski à Manhattan) (2002)
- The Third Death of God (La Troisième Mort de Dieu) (2000)
- Silence, It Kills (Silence, on tue) (1986) (with Thierry Wolton)
- Stupidity (La Bêtise) (1985)
- Cynicism and Passion (Cynisme et passion) (1981/1999)
- The Force of Vertigo (La Force du vertige) (1983)
- The Master Thinkers (Les Maîtres penseurs) (1977)
Note: Many of his works were translated into German by his long-term colleague Helmut Kohlenberger.
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