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An original glance at contemporary society

· Paul Yonnet dies ·

Unfortunately, the French sociologist, Paul Yonnet, still young at 63, died unable to finish his trilogy of  studies on the family. Of this trilogy, in fact, only the first volume by Gallimard ( Le recul de la mort. L’avènement de l’individu contemporain ) was released in 2006, with two more planned – the second already in production – on the relation between men and women.

Attentive and original in his observations of the changes suffered by families in recent decades, in Le recul de la mort Yonnet analyzed in particular the changes deriving from the elongation of human life and the establishment of contraception, therefore the model of the “wanted child”, a topic already elaborated on by his friend Marcel Gauchet.

On the subject of the family, the scholar has accumulated a great deal of experience: for years he worked at l’Union nationale des associations familiales (UNAF),  on which he served as observer for contemporary society. So, he was not an academic but a freethinking intellectual: a frequent contributor to the magazine Le Débat , he published many essays through Gallimad on leisure, sports and domestic animals. With his keen and critical eye, he knew how to distinguish the profound meaning of modernity from minor details  and eviscerated them with an interdisciplinary approach, pulling together sociology and history, psychology and anthropology, in a less academic way, and for that reason an extremely stimulating way.

Critical of the prevailing intellectual fads, he was able to come to conclusions about today’s society, which are considered “politically incorrect”. Because of this, Yonnet was sometimes considered a conservative and not all smiled upon the success and fame that his original studies undoubtedly deserved.

We will miss his acute insight in explaining contemporary society, and above all the completion of his trilogy on the family. In 2008, unable to come to Rome to participate in a conference at the Pontifical Lateran University  on the Encyclical Humane Vitae , he did, however, send his lecture. As always, it was an innovative and intelligent text, which enriched the collection of documents.

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