He is a former pupil of Gilbert Le métier de sociologue en France depuis 1945: Renaissance d’une discipline PDF and Julien Freund, and an emeritus professor at Paris Descartes University. Michel Maffesoli has been a member of the Institut Universitaire de France since September 2008, following a controversial nomination. More generally, he has been the subject of several controversies, both scientific and professional, the most widely known of which concerns his supervision of the PhD dissertation of astrologer Élizabeth Teissier.
L’analyse de l’activité scientifique a généralement conduit, jusqu’à présent, anthropologues, historiens et sociologues à investir de façon privilégiée le domaine des sciences de la vie, des sciences de la nature et des mathématiques et à délaisser, relativement, celui des sciences sociales. Ce livre entend contribuer à modifier cette donne. Délaissant un autre point de vue souvent adopté – celui de l’histoire des idées et de l’épistémologie – il propose de prendre pour objet d’étude la sociologie en train de se faire et les sociologues français en exercice dans le monde académique en se fondant sur un travail d’investigation approfondie (observations, entretiens, questionnaire, analyse de documents). Pour ce faire, il a fallu inverser la relation habituelle de travail de recherche et inviter les sociologues, professionnels de l’enquête, à se laisser interviewer et observer. Contre l’évidence de l’existence de la sociologie comme discipline d’enseignement et de recherche, l’ouvrage s’efforce de décrire et de comprendre ces pratiques professionnelles telles qu’elles ont été mises en œuvre dans les universités et les grands organismes de la recherche de 1945 aux années 2000. Il montre que les manières de faire aujourd’hui sont en réalité les produits de la (re)constitution progressive au cours de la seconde moitié du XXe siècle d’un capital disciplinaire fait d’éléments institutionnels et d’autres ressources (outils, univers de références) dont la croyance dans la sociologie comme discipline à part entière n’est pas la moindre. Enseignants et chercheurs y puisent les moyens et les raisons d’exercer aujourd’hui leur métier de sociologue.
In 1972, Michel Maffesoli was co-director the ESU urban sociology research team in Grenoble. In 1978, Michel Maffesoli became the teaching assistant of Julien Freund, a conservative political theorist and follower of Vilfredo Pareto, while he as lecturing in Strasbourg. Paris Descartes University, where he led a doctoral seminar until his retiring in 2012. Maffesoli Michel was awarded the Grand Prix des Sciences de l’Académie française in 1992 for La transfiguration du politique. Michel Maffesoli called to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy in the French presidential election of 2012. Michel Maffesoli is sometimes associated with freemasonry, although there is no way to prove that he ever was a member of it.
Within the scientific community of French sociologists, the scientificity of Maffesoli’s works is often questioned, especially since the furore concerning the thesis of Elizabeth Teissier « has created great controversy within the community , and has led many sociologists to intervene in order to challenge the legitimacy ». Other controversies have led to challenges to Maffesoli’s institutional position: the scientific community protested against his appointment to the board of the CNRS and against his appointment at the Institut Universitaire de France. Maffesoli’s work has achieved acclaim from authors including Serge Moscovici, Edgar Morin, Patrick Tacussel, Philippe-Joseph Salazar or Patrick Watier who regularly cite him. His influence can also be seen in various foreign journals. His reception outside France is ambivalent.
In a 1997 article in the Sociological Review, sociologist David Evans concluded that Maffesoli’s theories were not a positive sociological paradigm, criticising his work « incoherent » and « biased ». The attribution of a doctorate to Teissier « created great controversy in the community, and led many sociologists to intervene to challenge the legitimacy ». The scientific, philosophical and sociological aspects of Teissier’s thesis were studied by a group of scientists from several disciplines, including members of the Collège de France. In an email of 23 April 2001 addressed to many sociologists, Michel Maffesoli acknowledged that the thesis included some « slippages ».
His email minimized the importance of these errors and denounced a fierceness against Élizabeth Teissier and him. Maffesoli was present at this meeting and attended the accounts by Christian Baudelot and Lucien Karpik. A symposium entitled « Raisons et Sociétés » was organized at the Sorbonne on 18 December 2002 to discuss and propose a theoretical answer to criticism. Several intellectuals and scientists participated in the meeting to bring the debate on scientific issues raised by the controversy. This controversy was sometimes caricatured as an opposition between positivism and phenomenology. However, criticism of Michel Maffesoli came from both research schools, though positivist critics received more publicity. Maffesoli’s appointment to the board of Directors of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique caused an outcry in the scientific community.
A petition entitled « Un conseil d’administration du CNRS doublement inacceptable! The petitioners protested both against the non-respect for parity and the appointment of Michel Maffesoli, deemed as disrespectful of « the need for scientific credibility of the board ». In addition, in June 2002 and after the Teissier controversy, Michel Maffesoli himself proposed to delete the CNU, which he deemed « unnecessary ». However, he participated in the work of the section 19 of the CNU, including the controversial self-promotion of its own members in June 2009. Maffesoli was one of the persons appointed to the Institut Universitaire de France by a decree issued by the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche, Valérie Pécresse, in August 2008.
This decree was the subject of a controversy over the appointment of people not selected by juries from the institute, including Michel Maffesoli. Manuel Quinon and Arnaud Saint-Martin, two sociologists who were students of Michel Maffesoli in the early 2000s, have taken inspiration from the Sokal hoax to demonstrate the lack of intellectual rigour in Maffesoli’s work, as well as the absence of any serious peer review in one of the two journals that he directs. Using a false identity, Quinon and Saint-Martin submitted an intentionally inept and absurd article on the « Autolib' », a small rentable car in Paris, to the Sociétés journal. The article was deliberately incoherent and plastered with liberal quotes and references to Maffesoli and other postmodern thinkers. The authors of the hoax published an article explaining their aims and methods in March 2015.