Public debate

2 min

On Disobedience, by Frédéric Gros

In On Disobedience, Frédéric Gros analyses different types of obedience in a bid to understand disobedience within democracy.

© Albin Michel - Flammarion

A renowned philosopher

A graduate of the École Normale Supérieure, doctor of philosophy and essayist, Frédéric Gros is currently a professor of political thought at Sciences-Po. After submitting his doctoral thesis "Theory and history of knowledge” in 1999, he focused on the history of psychiatry and Western thought about war.

An expert on Michel Foucault, he has enjoyed significant public recognition and acclaim with his book A Philosophy of Walking, published in 2009 by Carnets Nord.


Escaping submission

In On Disobedience, Frédéric Gros highlights the need for disobedience in our dysfunctional society and asks “Why do we not disobey? ". In uncompromising writing, he describes the mechanisms of submission and conformism, often enacted through cowardice or compromise. By invoking archetypal figures of disobedience such as Antigone or The Grand Inquisitor, he illustrates his point by dissecting the reasons that compel us to obey and proposes solutions for emancipation. 


An attempt to understand humankind

For Frédéric Gros, his essay is above all an attempt to understand why humankind despairs of the present state of the world while being unable to improve it due to inability to disobey. He analyses the inertia of humans, who by obeying “by social conformity and habit”, fail to call into question and change an unfair and unequal system.


An award-winning essay

In September 2018 On Disobedience received the Paris Liége literary prize, which recognises the best French-language essay on humanities. He won for the quality of his writing and the originality of his subject.

In the same year, he was also awarded the first Montluc Résistance et Liberté prize (Montluc Resistance and Freedom prize) by a judging panel who wanted to “showcase a literary work that helps combat resignation and its consequences”.

Also awarded the Prix du Livre Incorrect 2018 prize (the Incorrect Book Prize 2018), On Disobedience was praised for its freedom of tone and uniqueness.

The Institut français and the project

On Disobedience has been translated into Arabic with the support of the Institut français.

Through its translation support programmes, the Institut français participates in the global dissemination of French-language literature.


Find out more about the translation support programmes here