Lucien Sève

Lucien Sève
Born(1926-12-09)9 December 1926
Chambéry, Savoie, France
Died23 March 2020(2020-03-23) (aged 93)
Alma materÉcole normale supérieure
Notable work
Marxisme et théorie de la personnalité (1969)
Penser avec Marx aujourd’hui (2004–2019)

Lucien Sève ([ly.sjɛ̃ sɛv]; 9 December 1926 – 23 March 2020) was a French philosopher, communist and political activist. He was an active member of the French Communist Party from 1950 to 2010. His 1969 work Marxisme et théorie de la personnalité (Marxism and theory of personality) has been translated into 25 different languages. Sève died on 23 March 2020 of COVID-19.

Family, career and death[]

Sève was born in 1926 in Chambéry.[1] His parents ran a publishing house for children's books.[2] He studied at the Lycée de Chambéry, and the Lycée du Parc.[2] Sève entered the École normale supérieure in 1945,[3] where he earned agrégation of philosophy in 1949.[4] He became a philosophy teacher at a lycée in Brussels,[2] although he was later removed from the post due to his Marxist beliefs.[5] Sève performed military service in Algeria,[6] from 1952 to 1953.[7] After his military service, he worked at the Lycée Saint-Charles in Marseille.[7]

In 1952, Sève married Françoise Guille in Gap, Hautes-Alpes, and they had two children.[2] Guille died in 2011.[1] Sève died on 23 March 2020 of COVID-19 at the age of 93.[2][8]

Political life[]

Sève was an avid Politzerian.[9] He supported the views of fellow French Marxist philosophers Louis Althusser and Roger Garaudy, arguing that the PCF should follow some humanist aspects of the Marxist philosophy.[10][11] However, Sève also focused on a scientific, rather than a purely humanist or non-humanist, basis for Marxism, something that was different from most Western European Marxist ideas of the time. Most Western Communist parties, including the French Communist Party, were moving towards social democracy.[10][11][12] He also focused upon the relationship between Marxism and psychology.[13] He supported a Communist regime where the Communist Party was the dominant force, and as such his views have been compared to Joseph Stalin's USSR.[11] Nevertheless, after the death of Stalin, Sève supported the De-Stalinization of the USSR.[6] In the 1980s, Sève supported the creation of the medical ethics committee Comité consultatif national d'éthique (CCNE).[14]:138 He was a member of the CCNE committee from 1983 to 2000.[14]:53[15] He was a supporter of embryo testing, but only from excess IVF embryos. He saw embryos as "the potential of a human being", so considered using them solely for testing as unethical.[14]:54,138 Sève also had very strong opinions on how a Marxist biography should be written. His works included very specific, albeit almost unachievable, criteria that he believed should be adhered to for all Marxist biographies.[16] He was a founding member of the Grande Édition de Marx et d'Engels [fr] project, which aimed to translate and republish all of Marx's and Friedrich Engels' works.[15] In 2019, on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Sève gave an interview in which he said that Communism is relevant today, and that Karl Marx was centuries ahead of his time.[17]

In 1950, Sève joined the French Communist Party (PCF).[2] He was elected as a member of the Central Committee in 1961,[18] and stayed elected until 1994.[5] From 1970 to 1982, he ran the PCF publishing house.[7] He was appointed because members of the PCF considered him one of the best intellectuals in the party.[19] In 1970, he attended a panel discussion organised by Catherine Clément, which also included Serge Leclaire and André Green.[9] During the 1980s, Sève began to distance himself from the PCF,[18] after disagreements with the political leaders.[5] In 1984, he proposed a refounding of the PCF, arguing that the party had lost its way.[5] Sève withdrew from the party in 2010, citing a lack of political support for the party at the 2007 French presidential election and 2010 French regional elections,[8][5] as well as a distaste for the younger movement of the party.[20]


In 1969, he authored the work Marxisme et théorie de la personnalité (Marxism and theory of personality).[21][22] The work has been translated into 25 different languages.[12] His 1978 work Man in Marxist theory and the psychology of personality focused on how personality was a "product of social relations". This strongly opposed Hans Eysenck's view that personality was a mixture of genetics and learned behaviours.[23] In 1990, he authored Communisme : quel second souffle? (Communism: what a second wind?), and from 2004 to 2019, he worked on four volumes of Penser avec Marx aujourd’hui (Thinking with Marx today.)[1][22][5] The works aimed to highlight Sève's perceived problems with people's interpretation of Marxism, including Stalinism, ideological mistreatment by Luc Ferry, and theories from Louis Althusser and Gilles Deleuze that Sève believed incompatible with Marxism.[24] The first of the four volumes was entitled Marx et nous (Marx and us), and the second volume, published in 2008, was entitled L’homme? (The Person).[15] In 2008, he was awarded a prize by the Union rationaliste [fr].[25]




  1. ^ a b c "Penser l'aujourd'hui, avec Lucien Sève". Gauchebdo (in French). 14 March 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "SÈVE Lucien". (in French). 23 March 2020.
  3. ^ [1], sur
  4. ^ [2], sur
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Le philosophe marxiste Lucien Sève est mort". Libres Hebdo (in French). 24 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Lucien Sève : mort d'un grand philosophe marxiste". Regards (in French). 23 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Vincent, Clara (25 March 2020). "Décès du philosophe Lucien Sève". ActuaLitté [fr] (in French). Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  8. ^ a b Pierre Chaillan (23 March 2020). "Disparition. Lucien Sève s'est éteint". (in French).
  9. ^ a b Roudinesco, Elisabeth (1990). Jacques Lacan & Co: A History of Psychoanalysis in France, 1925–1985. University of Chicago Press. p. 534.
  10. ^ a b Shame, Carl (Spring 1981). "The Scientific Humanism of Lucien Sève". Science & Society. 45 – via JSTOR.
  11. ^ a b c O'Donnell, Paddy (8 November 2007). "Lucien Sève, Althusser and the contradictions of the PCF". Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  12. ^ a b c Elhammoumi, M. (2012). "Sève, Lucien". Rieber R.W. (eds) Encyclopedia of the History of Psychological Theories. Springer Publishing. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  13. ^ Kupers, Terry (Spring 1973). "Review: Historical Materialism and Scientific Psychology". Science & Society. 37: 81–90. Retrieved 25 March 2020 – via JSTOR.
  14. ^ a b c Banchoff, Thomas (July 2011). Embryo Politics: Ethics and Policy in Atlantic Democracies. Cornell University Press.
  15. ^ a b c Prost, Laurent (2009). "Entretien avec Lucien Sève". Le Philosophoire [fr] (in French) (32): 27–40 – via
  16. ^ Roche, Julian (19 September 2018). "Can Biography Benefit from a Marxist Theory of Individuality? Lucien Sève's Contribution to Biographical Theory and Practice". A Journal of Economics, Culture & Society. 2018 (2): 291–306. Retrieved 25 March 2020 – via Taylor & Francis.
  17. ^ Chaillon, Pierre (23 March 2020). "DISPARITION. LUCIEN SÈVE S'EST ÉTEINT". L'Humanité. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Lucien Sève, figure du PCF, est mort du coronavirus". Orange S.A. (in French). 24 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  19. ^ Hazareesingh, Sudhir (1991). Intellectuals and the French Communist Party: Disillusion and Decline. Clarendon Press. p. 156.
  20. ^ "La Jeunesse communiste défie les "Archaïsants" du Parti Communiste Français" (in French). French Communist Party. 5 June 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  21. ^ "Coronavirus: Lucien Sève, figure du parti communiste, est mort". Agence France-Presse (in French). 24 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020 – via 20 minutes.
  22. ^ a b Mestre, Abel (24 March 2020). "La mort du philosophe marxiste Lucien Sève". Le Monde (in French). Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  23. ^ Richards, Graham (2002). Putting Psychology in Its Place: A Critical Historical Overview. Psychology Press. p. 145.
  24. ^ Dion, Jacques (January 2005). "Penser avec Marx aujourd'hui". Le Monde diplomatique (in French). Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Remise du prix de l'Union rationaliste 2008 à Lucien Sève" (in French). Union rationaliste [fr]. 2018. Retrieved 25 March 2020.

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