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Ehrenberg Alain

Sociologist, Research Fellow, CNRS

Contact: alain.ehrenberg(at)parisdescartes.fr



My research focuses on the transformations of freedom and equality produced by the values and standards of autonomy through the vast field of "mental health." It aims to clarify the new articulations between "the common" and "the each" in a form of life impregnated by collective representations of autonomy.

After having worked for a few years on the history of military training (Le Corps militaire. Politique et pédagogie en démocratie [The military corps – Politics and pedagogy in democracy], 1983), a first study focused on the dissemination of these collective representations in France through transformations in competition, in entrepreneurship, and in consumption (Le Culte de la performance [The performance cult], 1991), a second study focused on the rise of a new culture of mental suffering (L'Individu incertain [The Uncertain Individual], 1995), a third consisted of a case study showing connections between new ways of acting and enduring in society through the lens of depression (La Fatigue d'être soi. Dépression et société, 1998, translated into six languages [English translation: The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age, 2009]).
My approach then evolved to a comparative approach. My latest book, La Société du malaise [The malaise society],2010 (translated into Italian and German) dealt with the psychoanalytical version of the autonomous condition in its US and French varieties by questioning the canonical topic of the opposition between the individual and society. A book on cognitive neuroscience as a social phenomenon is in progress. It tackles the neuroscientific version of the autonomous condition through another broad canonical topic: the opposition between biological and social factors.

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