Famous French Sociologists

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Find out more about the greatest French Sociologists, including Emile Durkheim, Pierre Bourdieu, Jean Baudrillard, René Girard and Vilfredo Pareto.
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 1 
Emile Durkheim
(French Sociologist Who Established the 'Academic Discipline of Sociology')
Emile Durkheim
12
Birthdate: April 15, 1858
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Épinal, France
Died: November 15, 1917

Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist. He is credited with establishing the discipline of sociology for academic purposes and is widely regarded as the chief architect of modern social science. During his lifetime, Emile Durkheim published several works on topics like morality, religion, and education. He also played a major role in the development of sociology and anthropology as disciplines.

 2 
Jean Baudrillard
(French Sociologist Known for His Analyses of Media, Contemporary Culture, and Technological Communication)
Jean Baudrillard
10
Birthdate: July 27, 1929
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Reims, France
Died: March 6, 2007

Renowned sociologist and cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard is remembered for introducing concepts of hyperreality and simulacrum. Initially a teacher of German literature in schools, he later taught sociology at Paris X Nanterre. He coined the phrase the desert of the real, which was later used in the film The Matrix.

 3 
Pierre Bourdieu
(French Sociologist Known for 'Theorizing the Link Between Education and Culture')
Pierre Bourdieu
8
Birthdate: August 1, 1930
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denguin, France
Died: January 23, 2002

Renowned sociologist and intellectual Pierre Bourdieu is best remembered for his theory of habitus. Initially sent to Algeria as part of the French Army, he later taught and conducted ethnographic research there. His best-known work remains La Distinction, and he also inspired a hit French documentary.

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 4 
Vilfredo Pareto
(Economist, Writer, Philosopher, Sociologist, University teacher)
Vilfredo Pareto
6
Birthdate: July 15, 1848
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris
Died: August 19, 1923

A qualified civil engineer, Vilfredo Pareto had initially worked for the railways and the ironworks. However, he gradually deviated to philosophy, sociology, and politics and gained fame for his application of math to economic issues and his introduction of Pareto efficiency. Mind and Society remains his best-known work.

 5 
Bruno Latour
(French Philosopher Known for His Innovative and Iconoclastic Work in the Study of Science and Technology in Society)
Bruno Latour
10
Birthdate: June 22, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Beaune, France

Holberg Prize-winning French sociologist and anthropologist Bruno Latour had initially studied theology and even received his PhD in the subject. His later research Ivory Coast drew him to anthropology, and he soon gained fame as a renowned academic in the field, having co-written iconic books such as Laboratory Life.

 6 
Marcel Mauss
(French Sociologist and Anthropologist Best Known for His Work on Social Exchange and Gift-Giving)
Marcel Mauss
5
Birthdate: May 10, 1872
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Épinal, Vosges, France
Died: February 10, 1950

Sociologist and anthropologist Marcel Mauss is regarded as the Father of French Ethnology. Shunning his family business, he became influenced by his uncle, sociologist Émile Durkheim. His best-known work remains Essai sur le don, or The Gift. He also influenced Claude Lévi-Strauss, who founded structural anthropology.

 7 
Gustave Le Bon
(Physician, Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Psychologist, Philosopher, Historian, Sociologist)
Gustave Le Bon
3
Birthdate: May 7, 1841
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nogent-le-Rotrou
Died: December 13, 1931

French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon is best remembered for his research on crowd psychology. In his iconic work La psychologie des foules, or The Crowd, he stated that people are driven by their emotions and not by their intellect when they act as part of a crowd.

 8 
Jacques Ellul
(French Philosopher Known for His Study on the Interaction Between Christianity and Politics)
Jacques Ellul
5
Birthdate: January 6, 1912
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bordeaux, France
Died: May 19, 1994

French philosopher, Christian anarchist, and social scientist Jacques Ellul initially wished to be a naval officer but was pushed to study law. He is best remembered for his iconic volume La Technique, or The Technological Society. He taught social history and the history of law at various universities.

 9 
Henri Lefebvre
(French Marxist Philosopher and Sociologist)
Henri Lefebvre
3
Birthdate: June 16, 1901
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hagetmau, France
Died: June 29, 1991

One of the greatest Marxist philosophers ever, Henri Lefebvre is remembered for introducing iconic ideas such as right to the city and the production of space. He initially mingled with the Surrealists and the Dadaists before moving toward Communism. His Dialetical Materialism remains one of his most celebrated books.

 10 
Daniel Defert
(Sociologist)
Daniel Defert
3
Birthdate: September 10, 1937
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Avallon, France

Best known as the partner of legendary French philosopher Michel Foucault, Daniel Defert was initially a professor of sociology. After Foucault died of AIDS, Defert turned into an AIDS activist and formed AIDES, France’s first AIDS awareness organization. He inherited Foucault’s estate, despite opposition from Foucault’s family.

 11 
Julia Kristeva
(Bulgarian-French Author and Academic Whose Themes Surrounded on Feminism, Semiotics, and Psychoanalysis)
Julia Kristeva
4
Birthdate: June 24, 1941
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sliven, Bulgaria

Bulgarian-born French author and literary critic Julia Kristeva is also a professor at the University Paris Diderot. Her writings, such as the Female Genius trilogy, are centered around feminism, semiotics, and psychoanalysis. She has also pioneered semanalysis and has been recognized with honors such as Commander of the Legion of Honor.

 12 
Raymond Aron
(Sociologist, Philosopher, and Political Scientist Known for His Skepticism of Ideological Orthodoxies)
Raymond Aron
3
Birthdate: March 14, 1905
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 17, 1983

Best known for his book The Opium of the Intellectuals, Raymond Aron was one of the most influential thinkers of his time. While he initially taught social philosophy, he also served the French air force during World War II. He also had long-term stints as a columnist for Le Figaro and L’Express.

 13 
Jean-François Lyotard
(French Philosopher and Sociologist Known for His Analysis of the Impact of Postmodernity on the Human Condition)
Jean-François Lyotard
3
Birthdate: August 10, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Versailles, France
Died: April 21, 1998

French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard initially wished to be a monk and even a painter. He started his career as a school teacher in Algeria and later various socialist groups. While he later taught French and philosophy at various institutes, he also became a leading figure of the postmodernist movement.

 14 
Tzvetan Todorov
(Historian, Philosopher, Sociologist Known for His Contributions to Literary, Cultural, and Thought History)
Tzvetan Todorov
3
Birthdate: March 1, 1939
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sofia, Bulgaria
Died: February 7, 2017

Tzvetan Todorov was a Bulgarian-French historian, philosopher, literary critic, and sociologist. He completed his doctorat ès lettres at the University of Paris and had a brilliant academic career. He helped to found the journal Poétique and served as one of its managing editors. He authored many books, including Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. 

 15 
Gabriel Tarde
(French Sociologist, Criminologist and Social Psychologist Best Known for His Criminological Work and His Criticism of 'Durkheim')
Gabriel Tarde
2
Birthdate: March 12, 1843
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sarlat-la-Canéda, France
Died: May 13, 1904

Sociologist and criminologist Gabriel Tarde is best remembered for his theory of social interaction. Initially a magistrate, he later taught modern philosophy. He is remembered for his ideas on imitation and his criticism of the concept of the atavistic criminal. He also penned a sci-fi novel.

 16 
Edgar Morin
(French Philosopher and Sociologist Known for His Work on 'Complexity' and 'Complex Thought')
Edgar Morin
2
Birthdate: July 8, 1921
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France

Born Edgar Nahoum, sociologist and philosopher Edgar Morin changed his surname while fighting for the French Resistance. He was part of the French Communist Party and the French Occupation Army in Germany. He is remembered for his studies on complex thought. He also introduced transdisciplinary research.

 17 
Pierre Guillaume Frédéric le Play
(French Engineer, Sociologist and Economist Who Developed Techniques for Systematic Research on the Family)
Pierre Guillaume Frédéric le Play
1
Birthdate: April 11, 1806
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: La Rivière-Saint-Sauveur, France
Died: April 5, 1882
French mining engineer and sociologist, Pierre-Guillaume-Frédéric Le Play, developed techniques for systematic research on the family. Le Play's first important work, European Workers was a collection of monographs on the moral life and material conditions of 36 working-class families. He utilized the device of the family budget for the purpose of determining standards of living. 
 18 
Helene Rytmann
(Louis Althusser's Wife)
Helene Rytmann
2
Birthdate: October 15, 1910
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 16, 1980

Helene Rytmann was a French sociologist and revolutionary who played an important role in the French Resistance. Widely regarded as a historically important Jewish woman, Helene Rytmann was murdered by her husband Louis Althusser. The case was never properly investigated and the scandal of Rytmann's murder inspired the 2002 novel Shroud which was written by Irish novelist William John Banville.

 19 
Maurice Halbwachs
(French Philosopher and Sociologist Known for Developing the Concept of Collective Memory)
Maurice Halbwachs
2
Birthdate: March 11, 1877
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Reims, France
Died: March 16, 1945

Maurice Halbwachs was one of the few French sociologists to work empirically. One of the brightest students at École Normale Supérieure, he later joined socialist movements. Though appreciated for his work on memory and its social conditions, he was detained by the Nazis and died in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

 20 
Roger Caillois
(literary critic)
Roger Caillois
2
Birthdate: March 3, 1913
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Reims, France
Died: December 21, 1978

French scholar Roger Caillois is best remembered for his work Man, Play and Games, which studied the concept of play and games in the social context. He also established the UNESCO-funded journal Diogenes and received honors such as awards such as the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière.

 21 
Loïc Wacquant
(Sociologist)
Loïc Wacquant
2
Birthdate: August 26, 1960
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montpellier, France

Urban sociologist Loïc Wacquant is best known for his work on topics such as the body, ethnography, and racial inequality. A University of California, Berkeley professor, he has also been a MacArthur Prize Fellow and a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows. He also co-founded the journal Ethnography.

 22 
Maurice Duverger
(Politician)
Maurice Duverger
2
Birthdate: June 5, 1917
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Angoulême, France
Died: December 16, 2014

Jurist and political scientist Maurice Duverger is best remembered for proposing the Duverger's law, related to the formation of a two-party system. He taught at the Sorbonne and had also been an MP, representing the Italian Communist Party first and then the Democratic Party of the Left

 23 
Gilles Lipovetsky
(Philosopher)
Gilles Lipovetsky
1
Birthdate: September 24, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Millau, France

Gilles Lipovetsky is a French sociologist, philosopher, and writer. He also serves as a professor at the prestigious Stendhal University in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France. An influential figure, Lipovetsky has written about important topics like globalization, feminism, consumerism, and modern culture.

 24 
Didier Fassin
(Anthropologist, Sociologist)
Didier Fassin
0
Birthdate: August 30, 1955
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: France
 25 
René Dumont
(Engineer)
René Dumont
1
Birthdate: March 13, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cambrai, France
Died: June 18, 2001
 26 
Maurice Hauriou
0
Birthdate: August 17, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ladiville, France
Died: March 12, 1929