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Militer pour la science

Les organisations rationalistes en France (1930-2005)
A sociology of activism
in the name of reason

This book is one of those unforeseen works, born in the course of an investigation begun on another subject and leading to the opening up of partially unpublished collections. These collections were bound to fascinate, and gradually absorbed me.

After my book on the day-to-day work of lobbyists in Brussels, and the way they enlist science to consolidate their positions vis-à-vis European Commission officials, I turned to the now central question of the role of scientific information in regulatory processes and in the production of public policy.

I then embarked on an investigation into the scientific information market: the work of these specialized journals, communications agencies or press agencies around a series of public issues (such as drugs, endocrine disruptors, pesticides, etc.). This investigation is ongoing, but could only take on its full meaning through the present work, which enables us to grasp the historicity of commitments in the name of science since the 1930s.

Pro Science
Movements & Science Lovers

This book traces the history of rationalist organizations in France since the 1930s. In particular, it focuses on the events surrounding the creation of the Rationalist Union in 1930 and the French Association for Scientific Information in 1968.


Even if the rationalist organizations described in this book rarely seem to exceed a handful of a few thousand members, they constitute a sociological object that enables us to ask questions that are conversely broader than their size or relative confidentiality might suggest. They show under what conditions and by what processes "reason" or the "defense of science" can be permanently erected as a political argument and mobilized in the public arena by science enthusiasts or by scientists themselves.

A conditional extension of the scholarly ethos, these fragile commitments are intimately bound up with both the state of bureaucratic research structures and the objectified forms of scientific truth production. In France, rationalist investment was, in many respects, born out of the very specific historical context of the 1930s, a context in which certain scientists had to both gain administrative autonomy from political and military powers and counter the structuring of an intellectual world based on religion.

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Une partie des fonds utilisés dans le livre ont fait l'objet d'un dépôt aux archives de La Contemporaine. Les fonds Michel Rouzé seront disponibles à compter de la rentrée 2019.

Pseudoscience and truth in public debate

At a time when many public debates focus on the question of truth, "post-truth" or "Fake News" in politics, this book proposes to distance ourselves from the terminologies of the moment, and looks back on a series of sequences in which scientists have already had to position themselves in relation to problems of a similar form.


Drawing on previously unpublished archives, the book looks back at the Lyssenko affair, a controversy that caused major rifts in the world of committed scientists in the late 1940s. From the point of view of the rationalist movement, the Lyssenko affair raised the question of the truly scientific nature of scientific socialism. It fundamentally questioned the project of a science unified from the physical sciences to the natural sciences, with scientific socialism at its pinnacle as the embodiment of the most accomplished philosophy.

He also looks back at the fight against pseudo-sciences as it was structured in France as a point of consensus between militant rationalists from the communist galaxy and engineers committed to the defense of the experimental method.


Vidéo réalisée par les éditions de l'EHESS pour le lancement du livre.

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