a Note reading : Sociology of the self. Test of hermeneutics applied

Johann Michel, the Sociology of the self. Test of hermeneutics applied

The book of JNote de lecture : Sociologie du soi. Essai d’herméneutique appliquéeohann Michael, straddle the line between philosophy and sociology, is formed around an intellectual project : to develop a “sociology of hermeneutics” of human action, borrowing from Paul Ricoeur, certain philosophical concepts. Reworked in a sociological sense, the concepts of the self and narrative identity, as developed by the philosopher in Time and narrative, allow to Johann Michel for laying the foundations of a sociological hermeneutics that is attentive to reconstructions of the individuals.

Structured in a binary way between an essay theoretical, occupying the first part of the book, and a “test” (p. 16) empirical occupying the second and third parts, doing work concepts defined from a survey on the life stories of descendants of workers and algerian immigrants in France, the Sociology of the self proposed by the author allows to think of new fresh the notions of memory, narrative of self and identity.

Johann Michel warns philosophers and sociologists at the beginning of the work : if it is to speak of the ” self “, it is in a sense socialized of the term, the author wishing to “stand out from the theories that make the individual the bearer of ultimate meaning and rationality” (p. 16).

The strength of the theoretical proposal of Johann Michel lies in the ability to think both frameworks, the social and psychological consequences of the existence of individual subjective without falling into the two excess inverse of “all” determinism or the “all” subjectivism. It is a science of hermeneutics that offers Johann Michel, who think the subject to the times “as subjectification and like to be socialized” (p. 41).

The author provides the means to analyze the productions narratives of individuals crossing events biographical :the example he will put to the test in the empirical part of his work is the Algerian war and its retranslation work in the personal history, family… The events of the biographical may give rise to a biographical work of individuals, the latter taking the form of narratives of the self. Johann Michel pays special attention to the updates in the story of the self, which he defines as “feedback devices reflected on itself to the favor of configurations narrative of its past existence” (p. 43), the sociological tradition may call for life stories. The change of formula can mean the door to the attention of the philosopher : to know the meaning for the individual that should take on these stories. Free to taken of the “illusion biographique” denounced by Pierre Bourdieu[1], Johann Michel is careful to reconstructions, to the deformations of these stories.

Referring to Michel Foucault, the notion of ” technology of the self “, the author proposes to consider the updates in the story itself, as the tools at the disposal of individuals, unevenly distributed as it is stated on page 50, ” to “negotiate” breaks biographical ” and “to resist to the process of subjugation and domination” (p. 42).

Johann Michel then proposed to test these concepts from the analysis of the life stories of descendants of workers and algerian immigrants in France and descendants of the harkis. He forged the notion of’event biography not lived to analyze the way in which certain traumatic events, such as the Algerian war can have lasting experience of individuals, even if they have not experienced themselves. From the analysis of “narratives or stories” of traumatic events related to the war of Algeria, migration, and acculturation in France for families, the algerian, the author shows the impact of events told to children, grandchildren… These traumatic events “delegates” have an influence on theplot existential of the respondents. Johann Michel analysis of the means implemented by the members of the “second generation” to integrate, to make their, these stories.


[1] Bourdieu, Pierre, ” illusion biographique “, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, vol. 62-63, 1986, p. 69-72

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