Michel Crozier, Bruno Tilliette

Convictions Publication date : August 23, 2007

“Convictions are discernible behind all forms of behaviour. But where do convictions come from? They were forged, during childhood and the formative years, from the values that were dominant in our environment; they are based on models and sometimes on counter-models. A simplistic sociology has insisted on the persistence of conditioned reflexes. I do not share this deterministic, rather facile idea. The new era, by accelerating change, has only succeeded in increasing the possibility of having a more enriching human experience. Certain traits may endure, but others are transformed, or upset. Above all, we can act upon them.

“Convictions are also collective beliefs that can influence others and change lives. I have tried to assert some of these convictions and to spread them. In describing the convictions that I uphold, I reveal the values from which they spring. But the danger, with values, is that we can toss them back and forth, endlessly, in one another's faces. This is why I prefer to discuss them based on my own experience. At a time when the loss of social reference points and values is under constant discussion, it seemed useful to me to re-examine those values that I believe to be essential: first of all, liberty and responsibility, but also knowledge and work. It is not by clinging stubbornly to the past that we will affirm those beliefs, but by fighting to transform and adapt them to a world that we are constantly contributing to change. As for democracy, it has been so greatly inflated, that, in my opinion, it would be preferable to start listening to others more closely, in order to improve our understanding of them and our ability to work with them,” writes Michel Crozier.

Freedom, responsibility, work, institutions, confused values, listening to others: an eminent intellectual gives us his view of some of the issues that agitate contemporary society. He concludes by reaffirming certain ideas and naming the forms of commitment that he believes are important.

Along with Pierre Bourdieu, Raymond Boudon and Alain Touraine, Michel Crozier is regarded as one of the masters of French sociology of the past forty years. This is the spirited intellectual legacy of an independent thinker.

A sociologist and founder of the Centre for the Sociology of Organisations (at the CNRS), Michel Crozier was formerly a professor at the University of Paris X-Nanterre. In 1998, he was awarded the De Tocqueville Prize. He is a member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences and the author of such influential books as Le Phénomène bureaucratique, La Société bloquée, which had a great impact in France in the 1960s and 1970s. His more recent works, Etat modeste, Etat moderne and L'Entreprise à l'écoute, illustrate the development of his ideas about how organisations work, the limits of change and the forces that drive it.