Christophe Fourel & Françoise Gollain: André Gorz: Thinker of Emancipation

André Gorz’s multiform thought is entirely centred on liberation: from work, which prevents individuals from thriving; from consumption, which grows ever higher; and from the social system, which reduces individuals to mere pawns in a “megamachine”.

When mapping the European intellectual landscape of social critique since the 1960s, André Gorz stands out for his originality and singularity. His work on social and political society, which unquestionably stands out from the rest, is both recognised yet little known.

There are several ways of creating an intellectual portrait of an author. One is to trace the person’s career and offer a history of the development and critical reception of their ideas. Another consists in listing the main themes of their work and discussing the specific contributions made in each one. A third way consists in identifying the unifying thread – which always exists – of their thought and showing how it structures and unifies their work. These different methods are not mutually exclusive, of course; instead they complete each other and thus allow a certain level of faithfulness to the author to be maintained. André Gorz’s death at the end of September 2007 gives us permission to revisit and analyse his work as a whole. In this essay we shall therefore favour the third method. We consider it to be relevant for two vital reasons. Firstly, his work was not given the same reception everywhere. In the last interview he gave in late 2006 to the Nouvel Observateur , where he worked as an economic journalist for almost twenty years under the pseudonym Michel Bosquet, André Gorz talked about his doctrinal heritage for the first time, stating, “The British think of me as an heir to Sartre; the Germans see me as a descendant of the Frankfurt School (Adorno and Marcuse); in France, I am considered more as a disciple of Illich”. Existentialism, Critical Theory and Political Ecology: the whole protean nature of his work may be summarised in these few phrases referring to the way in which it was received, perceived and interpreted according to the readers’ location.

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