Tribute to Michel Freyssenet (1941-2020)

Michel Freyssenet, co-founder of Gerpisa, sociologist, outstanding researcher and dear friend of all of us, has suddenly passed away on January 22, 2020.
We pay tribute to him.
Just a few weeks ago he published on his personal website the latest national statistics on the sale of electric vehicles, which he carefully compiled. It was a work of ants that nourished his reflection on the "second automobile revolution" of which he had been one of the first to draw the outlines and theorize the conditions of emergence. We were also looking forward to the publication of the book on the theory of social relations that he had been writing for some years. It was the culmination of a reflection that had been going on since the 1970s on the emergence and transformation of wage-labour nexus in a context of increasing domination of the capital-labour relationship over other social relationships. We were all preparing to celebrate together the 40th anniversary of Gerpisa, which he co-founded with Patrick Fridenson in 1981 and which he transformed in 1992 into the international research network that still makes us work together with passion today. Michel left too soon and will be sorely missed.
In recent years he had withdrawn from Gerpisa, so as not to overshadow the new generation, which he wanted to be as free and daring as the "founding fathers". We will always remain faithful to his approach, at once demanding with oneself and benevolent with others, ambitious on the theoretical level, rigorous on the methodological level, and founded on bonds of friendship and affection that bring us together today to honour the memory of an outstanding researcher and a dear friend. We are thinking of Elsie, his companion and our dear colleague, who has always been at his side and who has contributed enormously to this collective adventure which is Gerpisa.
We are opening a space here that will allow us to pay tribute to Michel Freyssenet. All his work, including the latest unpublished works, will be made available here, and we will report on all the initiatives that will be taken in the weeks and months to come to honour his memory and celebrate his work.
Tommaso Pardi, Director of Gerpisa

Michel Freyssenet, analyst of the historicity and centrality of work
Robert Boyer (EHESS)

Born at Le Teil in Ardèche on 6 August 1941, Michel Freyssenet died suddenly in Paris on 22 January 2020. After studying sociology in Lyon, he first conducted studies on regional planning before becoming a researcher at the Centre de sociologie urbaine and being recruited by the CNRS in 1978, where he continued his career until 2009. He has never ceased to explore the various facets of the same question: how was work as a salaried activity invented and how has it continued to change in the contemporary period under the effect of automation and industrial change and crises? He showed how new forms of the division of the intelligence of labour had been invented,...

The division of labour at the heart of the dynamics of capitalism Pascal Combemale, social science teacher in preparatory classes at the Lycée Henri-IV 

I discovered Michel Freyssenet a long time ago, reading The Capitalist Division of Labour (Savelli, 1977). This book was based on the results of a survey conducted in 1973-1974, within the framework of the Centre de sociologie urbaine. So we are in the 1970s, marked by the workers' strikes: in May 1971 in Renault-Le Mans, in February-March 1972 in Penarroya in Lyon, from March to May 1972 at the French Joint in Saint-Brieuc, in March-May 1973 in Renault-Billancourt, and so on. In June 1973, the Lip movement begins. These struggles followed the hot Italian autumn, during which it was the very...

You were a committed researcher and intellectual who believed deeply that our work should be thought out and organized in collectives.
Bernard Jullien, University of Bordeaux, former director of Gerpisa

Dear Elsie, dear friends,
I just wanted to say here what Michel has meant to me for more than 25 years.
I first came to our Friday meetings on Boulevard Raspail in 1995. At that time I was still a little young and didn't really know what it meant to be a researcher. While I had seen, in other circles, people imbued with themselves, anxious to shine and crush others, I found at GERPISA men and women, researchers, automotive professionals or trade unionists, who were working together on real issues in the real life of a real industry.
In these...

A huge loss for our academic community
Par Takahiro Fujimoto, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo

I am very sad to hear that  Michel Freyssenet passed away.  A huge loss for our academic community as well.  I remember when Koichi and I were first invited to the international colloquium  in La Défense in the early 1990s and witnessed the historical moment when Michel, Robert started their enormous efforts to build the framework of productive models that can cover the world auto industry across regions and time.  GERPISA and IMVP were not in sinc with each other at that time, but Koichi, Uli Juergens and Giuseppe Volpato set up a series of assembly automation conferences  and invited both...

Michel was my mentor
Tommaso Pardi, CNRS IDHES, Director of Gerpisa

Dear Elsie, dear friends

As you well know Elsie, Michel was my mentor, I owe him a lot. I don't know where to begin to mention all the things he did for me, that he passed on to me, that make me a much better researcher today, and probably a better person, if my path hadn't crossed his. Of all these things, the one for which I will be forever grateful to him is that he believed in me. Not only when he entrusted me with what was perhaps the most precious thing he had created in his career, the Gerpisa, because then I knew I could count on his trust, but much earlier when I was a young researcher and he took me under his wing and made me understand, although I had not yet fully understood it,...

We have all lost an irreplaceable colleague and human being
Alex Covarrubias, El Colegio de Sonora

I just learned on Michel death and I am totally in shock. 
Gerpisa was born from Michel --and a few other brilliant scientists-- professional commitment to the automobile industry and its workers. Under his leadership Gerpisa became the most lasting and impactful international scholar network for the study of the sector.
I got into Gerpisa thanks to Michel enthusiastic invitation to a closer common friend. I am deeply honored to have had his perceptive orientation, warm friendship, and unique example to proudly embrace the study of vehicles and its employees.
My heartfelt solidarity for the...

The international network exists because of Michel. 
Mario Sergio Salerno, Escola Politécnica da USP, Departamento de Engenharia de Produção

Dear Elsie,
I’m really sorry for your loss. To some extent, it is also my loss.
I came to know Michel in the early 90s in São Paulo. He was there invited by Helena Hirata, how could return to the country due to the ending of the military dictatorship. Michel was launching Gerpisa at the international level, and he invited me to participate. The international network exists because of Michel.
I remember the first Colloquium at La Defense when he was not so happy with the quality of the lunch… I also remember the several discussions we had on the...

He will be greatly missed
Paul Stewart, Grenoble Ecole de Management

I'm terribly shocked and saddened by this awful news. Michel was a good and friend to me and a supporter for my work and activity. A solid and principled man. Gerpisa was one of his many achievements but typically he wouldn’t have presented it this way as he would have acknowledged the work and resourcefulness of other colleagues along the way. He will be greatly missed. Paul

Michel was a real intellectual
Jorge Carrillo, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte

Dear friends and colleagues, It is with great sadness that I received the news that my friend and colleague Michel FREYSSENET (78) passed away on 22nd January 2020. It was well-known that Michel had problems with his heart, but he was so full of energy, and with a very active and lucid mind that this was a very unexpected and heartbreaking announcement.

Michel was a real intellectual, and his departure is not only a significant loss for the GERPISA network, which he co-founded, but also for the international community of sociology studies, a field in which he became a considerable influence. His excellent work on the automobile industry’s productive models...

The productive models approach became part of who we are as researchers.
Bruce Belzowki, Automotive Futures

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

It is with great sorrow that I add my condolences for Michel's passing. Since the nineties when I first met Michel, he has always been a thoughtful and friendly scholar. Thoughtful in his approach to the global automotive industry through "productive models" and friendly in to his support for all the hundreds of researchers who have participated in GERPISA over the years. Though many have built on his and Robert's work in GERPISA, the network would not have lasted as long as it has without his strong foundation.
The productive models approach gave all of us the broad understanding of an...

The theory of productive models will be a reference for generations to come.
Bruno Jetin, University of Brunei Darussalam, Institute of Asian Studies

Dear colleagues and friends
It was with great sadness that I learned of Michel's death.
His death was brutal and premature. All his life, he was passionate about research. He never stopped looking for answers to essential questions through theoretical reasoning. I believe that his contribution resides in the elaboration of a general theory of the company capable of explaining all the past and present strategies of car manufacturers, which can also help to anticipate possible futures. Conceived with Robert Boyer, the theory of productive models is an...

Il etait non seulement soucieux de partager ses découvertes, mais de faire éclore des nouveaux acteur de la recherche.
Marco Dayan Diani, EHESS-CNRS

Cher Patrick Fridenson,
Merci pour votre message au sujet de la mort de Michel Freyssenet.
Je crois que nous sommes tous envahis par la tristesse, et aussi par la nostalgie. J'avais tout juste 20 ans quand j'ai commencé à travailler dans le monde de la recherche sous la direction et la très dynamique férule de Michel, il y a plus de 45 ans.
Ce fut une expérience marquante à tous les sens du mot.
Michel a toujours eu une force d’entrainement et de stimulation...

I will always remember him as a person of great humbleness and humanity.
Bertha Vallejo, Tilburg University

I read with sorrow the news of the departure of Prof. Freyssenet. I will always remember him as a person of great humbleness and humanity. I pray for his soul and for his family to find the strength to continue and honor his memory. My condolences to his family, friends and to the Gerpisa group,

Bertha Vallejo  

Michel was a fabulous intellect and a lovely human being.
Carole Thornley, Keele Management School

Dear Elsie,

My sincere condolences for your sad loss of Michel - I was so sorry to hear of this and my heart goes out to you. Michel was a fabulous intellect and a lovely human being. He (and you) made the world a warmer, brighter and more inspiring place filled with endless possibilities.

With warm regards,


Un ricordo di grandissima carica intellettuale e umana di Michel
Francesco Zirpoli, Università Ca' Foscari di Venezia

Ciao Tommaso,

ho appena appreso della scomparsa di Michel Freyssenet.
Ho frequentato moltissimo Gerpisa nei primi anni della mia carriera universitaria e serbo un ricordo di grandissima carica intellettuale e umana di Michel.
Immagino che per te sia una perdita molto dolorosa.
Ti faccio le mie condoglianze che ti prego di estendere ai suoi cari.


Michel’s huge contributions to GERPISA – and beyond
John Paul Macduffie, Wharton University of Pennsylvania

Dear Tommaso,

I’m sad to hear of Michel’s death. Getting to know him over the years, particularly during the conferences Taka organized in Japan that we jointly attended (where there was plenty of time to talk), was a great pleasure and source of stimulation. Yes the Detroit joint conference of Gerpisa and PMVI will be a good opportunity to honor and remember Michel’s huge contributions to GERPISA – and beyond.

Best wishes,
John Paul

His intellectual rigor in building and deepening analysis in terms of plurality of models, as well as his sense of organization have left a lasting impression on me and have inspired both my research work and my organizational practices in my scientific labs and networks.
Yannick Lung, University of Bordeaux, Former Director of CERPISA

Michel left us far too soon. Michel played an important role in my life. My first encounters with him date back to 1982 or 1983 when, with a few friends from Bordeaux, we discovered the automobile industry while working on automation at the Ford site in Blanquefort. We had been lucky enough to join the monthly meetings of GERPISA on boulevard Raspail very quickly, where I was marked by Michel's ability to engage in the...

I always enjoyed his wit and sharp argumentation
Martin Krzywdzinski, Wissenschaftzentrum Berlin

Dear Elsie,
I am so sorry to hear about Michel's passing. I feel extremely sad about your loss and about losing myself the opportunity to meet him and talk to him at the GERPISA meetings. I did not know Michel for such a long time as Uli had the chance to do, butiI always enjoyed his wit and sharp argumentation. I will miss him

Michel a suivi et guidé mes premiers pas dans la recherche et m’a initié à une exigence scientifique et une rigueur théorique
Cédric Lomba, CNRS, Centre de Recherches Sociologiques et Politiques de Paris, Equipe CSU

Chère Elsie,
je suis sincèrement désolé et triste d’apprendre le décès de Michel. Comme tu le sais, Michel a été pour moi très important. Il a suivi et guidé mes premiers pas dans la recherche et m’a initié à une exigence scientifique et une rigueur théorique. Je garde les très bons souvenirs de nos échanges et une dette majeure envers lui. Il m’a aussi appris à défendre bec et ongles la recherche publique. Je suis d’autant plus ému que je travaille actuellement sur les Cahiers de Mai, une expérience collective et militante très importante à...

Nous perdons en Michel un chercheur d’haute volée : attentif, rigoureux, précis sur le terrain, à l’écoute et en lien étroit avec les acteurs
Jean-Claude Monet, Ancien Responsable des recherches et des relations avec les chercheurs en Sciences Humaines chez Renault

Chere Elsie,
J'apprends, terriblement attristé, la mort de Michel. Nous perdons en Michel un chercheur de haute volée : attentif, rigoureux, précis sur le terrain, à l'écoute et en lien étroit avec les acteurs, fermement convaincu que la production des connaissances et du savoir est une affaire collective mobilisant toutes les disciplines des sciences sociales et les praticiens. Son travail courageux à l'échelle internationale est exemplaire : l'aventure du Gerpisa est à cet égard éloquente.

Michel a fait partie des fondateurs du laboratoire et ses travaux à la reconnaissance internationale, ont largement contribué à la réputation du CSU
Delphine Naudier, CNRS, CSU/CRESPPA-CNRS/Université Paris 8

Chère Elsie,

j'ai appris avec une très grande tristesse le décès de Michel que je n'avais pas vu depuis des années.

Sache Elsie que j'avais une sincère estime personnelle et professionnelle pour Michel qui a toujours manifesté à mon endroit une gentillesse très estimable et réconfortante quand on est une jeune chercheuse.

Je me souviens aussi de lui, à l'occasion de la projection d'un film sur la lutte des hors statuts à laquelle il avait participé. Son témoignage m'avait beaucoup impressionnée. Je sais aussi tous les engagements militants...

I remember him as a teacher to many
Lourdez Alvarez, UNAM Mexico

today I learned of Michel's sad I'm very sorry for his early departure. I don't know how to express my sadness to you. Michel was a brilliant researcher, generous, patient and understanding with those like me and my Mexican colleagues who were starting the investigation. I remember him as a teacher of many, founder of Gerpisa and always by your side.

Sa générosité et son sens de la fraternité. Un chercheur aussi engagé que rigoureux
Jacques Freyssinet, Economiste, Ancien Directeur de L’ IRES

Elsie, bonjour
Je suis très mauvais dans l’expression de mes sentiments mais je dois te dire combien il était un ami que j’appréciais de longue date pour sa générosité et son sens de la fraternité, en plus de ses qualités de chercheur aussi engagé que rigoureux.

Le meilleur exemple de l’intellectuel
Vincent Frigant, GREThA UMR CNRS 5113 , Université de Bordeaux

Chère Elsie,
Je viens d'apprendre la terrible nouvelle. J'ai vraiment beaucoup de peine car Michel constituait pour moi le meilleur exemple de l'intellectuel que j'aspirais à devenir quand je l'ai rencontré. Un vrai exemple à suivre.

Michel was one of the founders of the laboratory and his work for international recognition has largely contributed to the reputation of the CSU.
Delphine Naudier, chercheure CNRS, CSU/CRESPPA-CNRS/Université Paris 8

Michel was one of the founders of the laboratory and his work for international recognition has largely contributed to the reputation of the CSU.

Dear Elsie,

I was very saddened to learn of the death of Michel, whom I hadn't seen in years.

As you know Elsie I had a sincere personal and professional esteem for Michel, who always showed me a very estimable and comforting kindness as a young researcher.

I also remember him, on the occasion of the premiere of a film on the struggle for non-statutory status in which he had...

Great respect and admiration
Professor William Hua WANG 王华
Associate Dean EM Lyon business school里昂商学院副校长
Dean EM Lyon business schoolAsia里昂商学院亚洲校长
French Dean Asia Europe Business School亚欧商学院法方院长

I was reading the literature of Michel yesterday and today!!!
Please transfer my sincere condolence to the family of Michel, and express my great respect and admiration for this devotion to the Gerpisa community and intellectual contribution.

Michel was a very inspiring researcher, he was the heart and soul of GERPISA
Ulrich Jürgens, WZB Wissenschaftzentrum Berlin

Dear Elsie,
I have just heard that Michel has passed away and I want to send you my heartfelt condolences. This is such a hard loss and I am feeling so sorrow for you.
I have known Michel for such a long time and it was almost self evident that we would see us at least once every year. I remember you and Michel waiting at the Charles de Gaulle airport when I met you the first time. The plane came in with a long delay and you both wer etired and frustrated. But this did not last long.
Michel was a very inspiring researcher, he was the heart and soul of Gerpisa which he has built so strong that it will last still for a long...

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Concéption Tommaso Pardi
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