Jean-François Revel

Jean-François Revel

Revel in 1999

Revel in 1999
Born Jean-François Ricard
(1924-01-19)19 January 1924
Marseille, France
Died 30 April 2006(2006-04-30) (aged 82)
Kremlin-Bicêtre, France
Language French
Nationality French
Education Lycée du Parc
École normale supérieure
Spouse Claude Sarraute
Yahne le Toumelin
Children Matthieu Ricard

Jean-François Revel (born Jean-François Ricard; 19 January 1924  30 April 2006) was a French journalist, author, philosopher and a member of the Académie française from June 1998 onwards. A socialist in his youth, Revel later became a prominent European proponent of classical liberalism and free market economics.

Revel is best known for his books Without Marx or Jesus: The New American Revolution Has Begun, The Flight from Truth: The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information and his 2002 book Anti-Americanism, one year after the September 11 attacks of 2001.[1] In the last of these books, Revel criticized anti-Americanism and Europeans who argued that the United States had brought the terrorist attacks upon itself by misguided foreign policies: "Obsessed by their hatred and floundering in illogicality, these dupes forget that the United States, acting in its own self-interest, is also acting in the interest of us Europeans and in the interests of many other countries which are threatened, or have already been subverted and ruined, by terrorism."

In 1975, he delivered the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, Netherlands, under the title La tentation totalitaire (English: The Totalitarian Temptation).

Early life and education

Revel was born Jean-François Ricard, but later adopted his pseudonym, Revel, as his legal surname.[2] During the German occupation of France in World War II, Revel participated in the French Resistance and later noted that the officious but disgraceful manner of French collaborators influenced his writings.[2]

Revel studied at the Lycée du Parc in Lyon and was accepted at the prestigious École normale supérieure, where he studied philosophy.


Revel with his son in 1999.

Revel began his career as a philosophy professor, and taught in French Algeria, Italy and Mexico before settling in Lille. He stopped teaching in 1963 and embarked on his career as an essayist and writer as well as directing various publications. From 1998 to 2006, he was president of the Institut d'Histoire Sociale. His successor is Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. In 1986, Revel was honored with an honorary doctorate degree[3] for his commitment to individual freedom.

A socialist until the late 1960s, Revel was a speechwriter for socialist President François Mitterrand and ran as a socialist candidate in parliamentary elections in 1967 but lost. During the Cold War, Revel was known as a champion of classical liberal values such as liberty and democracy at a time when many pre-eminent European intellectuals praised Communism or Maoism.[2] The publication of his 1970 book, Without Marx or Jesus: The New American Revolution Has Begun signalled the transition of his views to liberal "philosopher of freedom in the tradition of Raymond Aron."[2] In 1973, he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto II.[4]

Personal life

He is survived by his second wife, Claude Sarraute, a journalist, and has three sons from two marriages. His first marriage to painter Yahne le Toumelin ended in divorce.

One of his sons, Matthieu Ricard, is a well-known Buddhist monk who studied molecular biology at the Pasteur Institute before converting to Tibetan Buddhism. Father and son jointly authored a book Le moine et le philosophe (The Monk and the Philosopher) about the son's conversion and Buddhism.



  1. "French Thinker, Journalist Jean-Francois Revel, 82". Washington Post. 3 May 2006.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "J.-F. Revel, French Philosopher, Is Dead at 82". New York Times. 2 May 2006.
  3. Honorary Doctoral Degrees at Universidad Francisco Marroquín
  4. "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Retrieved 10 October 2012.

Further reading

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Étienne Wolff
Seat 24
Académie française
Succeeded by
Max Gallo
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