Disappearance. Michel Pinçon, critical sociologist of the upper middle class, is dead

A great name in sociology is gone. Michel Pinçon, a great critic of the upper middle class, died Monday at the age of 80, his wife Monique Pinçon-Charlot announced on Wednesday. This old director of research at the CNRS died at the Broca hospital in Paris after being affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Most of his work was written in collaboration with his companion. “I always say that we wrote 27 books with four hands,” she told AFP. Their reference books are called In nice neighborhoods (Threshold, 1989) or even The Ghettos of Gotha (Threshold, 2007).

Slayer of the upper middle class

He had first published two books on popular circles, including one in 1982 (live together) at the end of a long investigation in immersion in a housing estate in the suburbs of Nantes. Then, noting the disinterest of their sociologist colleagues for the most privileged, the couple had chosen to immerse themselves in the life of wealthy families. Thanks to the intervention of a colleague from this social class, Paul Rendu, they had been able to speak with and share a little of the life of the very rich, of whom they were extremely critical. « Living for the most part in their neighborhoods and in protected areas, the privileged classes have hardly any contact with other social groups », write the authors of In nice neighborhoods.

Since their retirement in 2007 and the abandonment of their reserve obligation, the Pinçon-Charlots have taken positions that are sometimes strongly criticized, especially for taxation of the rich.

Michel has always been inhabited by this desire to understand the injustices

Born May 18, 1942 in Lonny, a village in the Ardennes, Michel Pinçon grew up in a working-class family. “He has been passionate about sociology since childhood, with his working-class background in the Meuse valley, and his attachment to the welfare state which gave children like him the opportunity to study,” explained his wife. They met in 1965 during their studies in Lille. « It was a mutual love at first sight, between two lame people who had inverted class neuroses », commented Monique Pinçon-Charlot, who is of bourgeois origin, daughter of a magistrate.

Fascinated by the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, who was their professor at the University of Lille, they had a long career as researchers from the 1970s. “Michel has always been inhabited by this desire to understand injustices, whether social, economic, and above all symbolic, those from which he himself suffered the most”, explained his wife.

Books against Sarkozy and Macron

The two sociologists have published very critical works against two Presidents of the Republic. It was Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010, in The President of the Rich: Investigating the Oligarchy in Nicolas Sarkozy’s France. Then Emmanuel Macron in 2019, in The President of the ultra-rich: chronicle of class contempt in the politics of Emmanuel Macron.

The national secretary of the Communist Party Fabien Roussel, on Twitter, paid « homage to this fellow traveler, a great sociologist, who never ceased, with Monique, to decipher the relationship of domination in all its forms ».

« Michel Pinçon has never pretended to be neutral, » wrote the socialist mayor of Marseille, Benoît Payan.


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