Régis Debray – France

Linked with Institut Européen en Sciences de Religions IESR.

Jules Régis Debray (born 1940) is a French intellectual, journalist, government official and professor. He formerly engaged in Che Guevara’s activities, especially in Bolivia where he was arrested and jailed in 1967. He is today better known for his theorization of mediology, a critical studies of signs and transmission of signs in human society, and was a member of the 2003 Stasi Commission, named after Bernard Stasi, which was at the origins of the 2003 French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools. (full text).

Philosopher Alain Badiou and writer Régis Debray are among the numerous other French intellectuals attacked by BHL for their views on international affairs. (full text, Nov. 1, 2007).

Son site internet en français.

Régis Debray - France.jpg.

Régis Debray – France

Endnote: Jean-Pierre Chevènement resigned as Defense Minister in 1991 in protest against President Mitterrand’s decision to take France into the first U.S. war against Iraq; he ran as an independent candidate for President in 2002 and supported Ségolène Royal’s candidacy in 2007, serving as an advisor. Born in Jerusalem, Rony Brauman was president of Médecins sans frontières from 1982 to 1994; he has become a sharp critic of Israel and of the Kouchner-BHL line on “humanitarian intervention” by military means. (full text).

Then a few more steps – reading Franz Fanon and Regis Debray on the liberating potential of revolutionary violence, for example, and wondering whether it might ever apply in the United States. Before you know it, friends have created a bomb factory in your basement. But this does not happen overnight – and it involves really complicated and unstable combinations of deep seriousness and self-delusion. (full text, Nov. 11, 2007).

He writes: ” … The guerrilla force is independent of the civilian population, in action as well as in military organisation; consequently it need not assume the direct defence of the peasant population. The protection of the population depends on the progressive destruction of the enemy’s military potential. It is relative to the overall balance of forces: the populace will be completely safe when the opposing forces are completely defeated … By restricting itself to the task of protecting civilians or passive self-defence, the guerrilla unit ceases to be the vanguard of the people as a whole and deprives itself of a national perspective … By choosing to operate at this level, it may be able to provide protection for the population for a limited time.

But in the long run the opposite is true: self-defence undermines the security of the civilian population … limiting oneself to passive defence is to place oneself in the position of being unable to protect the population and to expose one’s own forces to attrition. On the other hand, to seek for ways to attack the enemy is to put him on the permanent defensive to exhaust him and prevent him from expanding his activities, to wrest the initiative from him, and to impede his search operations … the political and the military are not separate, but form one organic whole, consisting of the people’s army, whose nucleus is the guerrilla army … the guerrilla force is the party in embryo”. (full text).


In contemporary New Zealand drawing attention to political claims via armed means will result in a uniformly negative reaction by the majority. Rather than garner supporters and engender more acts of violent collective action, it will alienate potential followers and steel the resolve of the political elite. This is true regardless of the claim, be it indigenous separatist or class-based in nature (pre-modern or modern, as it were). Rosa Luxemburg, Antonio Gramsci, Mao Tse Tsung, Ho Chin-Minh, Franz Fanon and Regis Debray all noted that counter-hegemonic struggles are more ideological than physical, and that the physical battlefield had to be constructed according to the lay of the socio-economic, political and cultural environment, not just the lay of the land. Nothing indicates at this point that perpetrating a terrorist act would generate broad support for a political cause in this country. Even if they had been plotting to undertake some sort of political violence, the Urewera 17 would have failed to understand the basic realities of counter-hegemonic strategy. (full text, Nov. 5, 2007).

Last year President Jacques Chirac asked Régis Debray to study the situation in the Middle East. On 15 January 2007 Debray sent the French authorities the following document on Palestine. It is an important key to understanding a long policy drift whose results are now obvious. (full text).

In the 1990s, Régis Debray coined the term mediology. Is this a new discipline that has emerged in academic circles or simply the whimsy of a philosopher? Not widely discussed in either francophone or Anglo-Saxon milieus, mediology remains fairly unknown and little taught. But by reading Debray’s books or issues of Cahiers de médiologie, (1) we can gain a better understanding of what mediology is … Mediology, though it’s seldom acknowledged, owes much to the incredible insights of Marshall McLuhan. The second chapter of this introduction is titled “The Medium Is the Message,” and Debray explicitly recognizes the vital contribution of what he calls the School of Toronto (McLuhan, Innis and Derrick de Kerckhove, McLuhan’s French translator). (full text).

He says: “In themselves, the barricades in the Latin Quarter were a joke. It was their concrete connection with a symbolic period (May 1968), with an economic situation and with the struggles of the workers, which made them politically decisive”. (full text).

We address this letter to the Government of the Bolivian Republic on the behalf of Régis Debray, French philosophy teacher and scholar, journalist and writer, and of Andrew Roth, British free-lance photographer (July 13, 1967).

Régis Debray, a 1960s radical turned champion of the nation-state, formally broke with humanitarianism during the Kosovo conflict. He made himself thoroughly unpopular by travelling to Serbia, dodging the bombs, and writing on his return that the NATO campaign was doing more harm than good. The humanitarian Left rounded on Debray, lambasting him as naïve at best and a closet supporter of Milosevic at worst. The debate raged briefly in Le Monde in May 1999, and ended with Debray’s discomfiture. France’s smart opinion, like the public at large, applauded the bombing of Yugoslavia. (full text).

He writes also: “Admittedly, McLuhan, a quick-witted, intuitive, but not very rigorous man, used the term medium a bit too extravagantly, but simplistic thinking isn’t necessarily stupid. It can lead to quite complex notions.” (4) There is much to be said on this difficult relationship between Debray’s mediology and McLuhan’s writings, but it is important here to see that the difference between the two men, as always, boils down to style—the skeptical rationalism of the former Marxist and friend of Che Guevara versus the ambiguous aphorisms and other intuitive annotations of McLuhan, a conservative and a converted Catholic. For both Debray and McLuhan, poets provide scientific backing as much as “serious” thinkers do—Mallarmé, Valéry or Hugo as much as Hippolyte Taine, Michel de Certeau, Jacques Derrida (5) or François Dagognet. Debray sees them, together with fine artists, as the veritable forerunners or pioneers of mediology. (full text).

His publications: on Google video-search; on YouTube video-search; on Google book-search; on Google blog-search; on Google scholar-search; on wikipedia; on amazon.

Lire: ‘Aveuglantes lumières’, réflexion sur aujourd’hui.

Son parcours: Il réussit le concours d’entrée à l’École normale supérieure en 1960 fort brillamment, (puis) il:

  • entre cacique, puis en 1965 passe l’agrégation de philosophie;
  • adhère au parti communiste, part ensuite s’installer à Cuba et suit Che Guevara en Bolivie où il est arrêté et incarcéré pendant 4 ans. À sa libération, il part au Chili et rencontre Salvador Allende et Pablo Neruda. De la rencontre avec Allende émergeront le livre Entretiens avec Allende sur la situation au Chili, ainsi qu’un entretien vidéo: Ce que disait Allende (dont un extrait est disponible sur le site de Régis Debray). Il rentre en France en 1973;
  • analyse alors l’impact des médias, de la communication et fonde les cahiers de médiologie. Plusieurs formulations où il fait référence à des travaux scientifiques étant violemment contestées par Alan Sokal, Jean Bricmont et Jacques Bouveresse, il proteste – sans toujours convaincre – du fait qu’il a juste cherché à user de métaphores accessibles au lecteur, non à développer des analogies au fondement discutable comme on le lui reproche, et moins encore à user des mathématiques ou des sciences comme « signifiants d’autorité » plutôt que comme « outil de travail » (voir culte du cargo);
  • s’est caractérisé au début des années 1980 par une controverse concernant Bernard Pivot dont il avait dénoncé l’emprise « hégémonique » sur le monde des livres. Il tenta de démentir ce propos, mais ce démenti fut lui-même démenti par une bande vidéo diffusée à la fin d’une émission d’Apostrophes. Peu rancunier et sans doute taquin, Pivot invita par la suite Régis Debray dans cette émission. Beau joueur, celui-ci accepta;
  • devient Maître des requêtes au Conseil d’État, nommé au tour extérieur; il sera, en 1992, le seul membre du Conseil d’État à en avoir démissionné. Il a été le premier Président de l’Institut européen en sciences des religions et fut membre de la commission Stasi. (wikipedia .fr).

Plus malin que les autres, BHL a refusé de se perdre dans la foule victorieuse. Pendant la campagne, il s’est attribué le rôle de conseiller idéologique Ségolène Royal. Après sa défaite, il a préféré s’attarder sur le champ de bataille politique afin de s’emparer de l’étendard tombé de la gauche. Ou bien, comme le suggère le titre de son dernier livre, pour récupérer son cadavre. Ce livre prétend donner des leçons à la gauche afin de la réanimer. BHL voudrait infuser le cadavre de ses paroles et de ses pensées, le transformant en une sorte de zombie pour effaroucher Ségolène, et l’écarter de Jean-Pierre Chevènement, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Rony Brauman, Alain Badiou, Régis Debray, Harold Pinter et tous les autres adeptes de mauvaises idées qui mèneraient la gauche, selon BHL, vers un nouveau ‘totalitarisme’. (full text, Nov. 14, 2007).

Il dit: Est-ce qu’il ne serait pas temps que la Communauté des communautés élise domicile dans la ville des villes, la capital trois fois sainte des trois religions monothéistes, et de deux États ? Est-ce qu’il ne serait pas grand temps, pour parler clair, que le Conseil de Sécurité et le Secrétariat Général de l’ONU quitte New York pour Jérusalem ? Ce serait la seule façon pour l’ONU de retrouver son indépendance, son équidistance et une authentique neutralité. Et au-delà, de sauver sa légitimité, aujourd’hui menacée d’effondrement. (l’ONU à Jerusalem).

Compagnon d’armes de Che Guevara, conseiller spécial de François Mitterrand, directeur de l’Institut européen de l’histoire et des sciences des religions, le philosophe “non religieux” Régis Debray a un parcours pour le moins inusité … Chassez le religieux et il revient au galop. C’est ainsi qu’on pourrait résumer les propos du philosophe Régis Debray, invité par le Centre d’étude des religions le 14 octobre dernier à présenter son ouvrage Le feu sacré: fonctions du religieux. (full text).

Fondu au noir.


Che’s Visage on the Shroud of Time, Nov. 12, 2007;

In the 60s, Regis Debray fought beside Che Guevara in Bolivia. Today, his obsession isn’t ideology – it’s ‘mediology’;

Parables of the Dung Beetle, Doris Lessing and the Dynamite Prize, Oct. 16, 2007;

The Bitterness of Regis Debray, May 12/13, 2007;


Régis Debray accusé de la mort d’Ernesto Che Guevara;

La mort du Che et Régis Debray;

A Che Guevara website.

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