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Alain Ehrenberg

Sociologist, research director, CNRS

Contact: alain.ehrenberg(at)



My research projects are on the transformation of freedom and equality by values and norms of independence, within the vast domain of “mental health”. Their goal is to highlight new links between the ordinary and the individual in a way of life that is permeated by collective representations of independence. 

After having worked for several years on the history of military training (The Military Corps. Politics and Pedagogy in a Democracy, 1983), a first book was on the dissemination of these collective representations in France through transformations in competition, the entrepreneurial spirit and consumption (“The Cult of Performance”, 1991). A second publication was on the rise of a new culture of mental suffering (“The Uncertain Individual”, 1995). A third one consisted of a case study using depression to link the new ways of acting and suffering in society (“The Weariness of the Self. Depression and Society”, 1998, translated into six languages). 

My approach then evolved towards a comparative approach. My preceding book, “La Société du malaise” (2010, translated into Italian and German) dealt with the psychoanalytic version of the condition of independence – in its American and French variants – by questioning the canonical theme of the opposition between the individual and society. “La Mécanique des Passions. Cerveau, comportement, society” (2018) attacks the neuroscientific version of the condition of independence using another important canonical theme, the opposition between the biological and the social.

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Centre de recherche, médecine, sciences, santé, santé mentale, société
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