November 15, 2019


On November 22, 2019, Prof. Yves Cohen, a famous historian from the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) in Paris, will give an open lecture on WHY SHOULD THE TWENTIETH CENTURY BE CALLED THE "CENTURY OF THE CHIEFS"? 

Date: November 22, 2019

Time: 14:00

Venue: Conference Hall (CH), AUCA

To attend, please register at http://tiny.cc/dlj2cz

Summary: At the end of 19thcentury and in beginning of the 20th, mass societies bring up new challenges to their elites. How to control workers in large enterprises? How to lead masses of soldiers into battles while facing devastating modern artillery? How to direct crowds in political street protests and how to organize this into a revolution? In industrialized countries of Europe and America, new forms of leadership are being invented in all areas and spheres. They are accompanied by an insisting discourse on the “need for leaders”. They heavily rely on social psychology and, in particular, on “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind” by Gustave Le Bon, a world bestseller published in 1895 and almost immediately translated into more than fifteen languages. Emergence of Bolshevism started with Lenin's What is to be Done? published in 1902, and was part of the same story. A strong party is an “organization of leaders” showing to the “masses” the right path to revolution, otherwise they would just slide into "economism."

Since 1900, a new leadership culture has evolved in the United States; at the same time, a new culture of command (commandement) takes shape in France. The same in Germany under the name of Führung. Russia developed on its side rukovodstvo and nachal’stvo (leadership and command). We stand here before the World War I, that is before the totalitarianisms of the 20thcentury. The leader’s cult, the obsession with command, the idea of the ​​necessity of hierarchy are not a totalitarianism characteristic, whether fascist or communist. They are also a feature of capitalism and liberalism. They are certainly embodied in the great world-known leaders, as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Roosevelt and many others, but also in many many less-known leaders, all the bearers of a parcel of authority at all levels of all sorts of hierarchies. This is this portrait of the twentieth century I would like to present at this conference.

I would also like to discuss whether this century really ended with the century that is now only twenty years young. Global capitalism is less and less dependent on unskilled labor. Communist revolutions, which sought to rely on industrial proletariat, led to terrible consequences. Organizing within institutions with rigid hierarchies in the spheres of economy, politics, opposition, as well as in culture, religion, education and even family, is progressively losing its significance. New collective, cooperative, and autonomous experiences emerged everywhere, and are more or less visible in today's society. Large horizontal socio-political movements rejecting leaders and parties have swept the globe since 2010s following the example of such countries as Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine, Brazil, and recently Hong Kong, Algeria and, of course, France, with its Yellow Vests movement. There are still leaders insisting they are necessary. However, their efforts are nothing more than attempts to curb these new far-reaching trends. The main one of these trends is certainly a growing number of acting women in all spheres of public life.


Yves Cohen is historian and professor at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) in Paris. His focus is a study of “influence practices,” consisting of 20th and 21st centuries concepts such as marketing, public relations, propaganda, advertising, communication, social psychology. This study is transnational and focuses on France, Russia, Brazil, and United States. He devoted himself to it in 2019 as a visiting scholar at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University. His publications include Le Siècle des chefs. Une histoire transnationale du commandement et de l’autorité (1890-1940) (The Century of Leaders: A Transnational History of Command and Authority), Paris, 2013, and Organiser à l’aube du Taylorisme. La pratique d’Ernest Mattern chez Peugeot, 1906-1919 (Organising at the Dawn of Taylorism: The Practice of Ernest Mattern at Peugeot, 1906-1919), Besançon, 2001.

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