French social theorist André Gorz dies, aged 84


André GorzBy Stefan Steinberg:

On September 24, the economist and social theorist André Gorz, 84, committed suicide together with his wife in their house near Paris. The couple had made a pact to end their lives together following a prolonged illness on the part of Gorz’s beloved wife, Dorine.

For a number of decades towards the end of the twentieth century, Gorz played a central role in the elaboration of theories relating to the role of labour and the working class in capitalist society. In particular, Gorz’s rejection of the working class as a force for social progress in his book Farewell to the Working Class (1980) was eagerly espoused by layers of the so-called European “New Left,” and his theories became the theoretical underpinning for policies adopted by sections of the western European trade unions and the Green movement.

Born Gerard Horst [Hirsch, according to Wikipedia] in Vienna in 1923, Gorz grew up in a fractious, unhappy family consisting of a Catholic mother and Jewish father. His mother changed his name to Gorz to disguise his Jewish roots. As a boy, Gorz sought to resolve his unhappy childhood through a series of abrupt affiliations—first at the age of 12 with strict Catholicism, and then just a year later with even a brief flirtation with Nazism.

Moving to Switzerland as a young man, Gorz met the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in Lausanne in 1946. A principal factor in Gorz’s move to France at the end of the Second World War was his enthusiasm for Sartre’s writings. Amid the turmoil of postwar Europe, and under conditions where the atrocities committed by fascists in both Germany and France were increasingly coming to light, Gorz—the ex-Jewish, ex-Austrian citizen—found solace in the nihilist traits of Sartre’s philosophy. Sartre’s existentialist philosophy, which held the promise of unbridled freedom for the individual, appealed to the young intellectual who, in his autobiographical book The Traitor (1958), described himself as a “nullity rejected by the world.”

Gorz commenced a career as a writer and journalist in postwar France working closely with Sartre. In 1954, Gorz co-founded the influential French magazine Nouvel Observateur and in 1961 took over as political director of Sartre’s magazine Les Temps Modernes.

See also here.

Michel Foucault: here. And here.

French philosopher Francis Jeanson has died: here.

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