The writer Michel Schneider is dead

The writer, senior civil servant and psychoanalyst Michel Schneider died on Thursday July 21 in Villejuif (Val-de-Marne), following cancer. He was 78 years old. Born May 28, 1944 in Dammarie-les-Lys, in Seine-et-Marne, into a family of Alsatian origin, he had studied at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, then at the ENA (promotion Thomas More). During the few years following 1968, he leaned towards the Maoist extreme left, with a Lacanian tendency.

In 1971, leaving the ENA, he began his career in the sub-directorate of financial forecasts, at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, before becoming, ten years later, referendum advisor to the Court of Auditors, until when he retired in 2009. But the most salient, most visible moment of his career in the civil service began in October 1988, when he joined the Ministry of Culture as director of music and dance. From this position, in the midst of the Mitterrand era, with Michel Rocard at Matignon, he resigned in May 1991 and returned to the Court of Auditors.

From these three short years of experience in Rue de Valois, he drew a book that was violently critical, but without personal resentment, against the choices and funding of French cultural policy: The comedy of culture (Threshold, 1993). Michel Schneider attacks Jack Lang, then Minister of Culture, who, he maintains, distributes subsidies, without necessarily favoring a real democratization of culture. “Nothing is worse than a prince who thinks he is an artist”, he points out, and also the role of these courtesan artists who consider their generous state funding as perfectly natural. What dominates, according to him, is an advertising logic and the obsession to multiply the cultural offer, without taking into account the diversified demand of the public.

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One of his main targets was then the composer Pierre Boulez (1925-2016), founder and director of the Institute for Acoustic/Music Research and Coordination, who benefited from large subsidies, to the obvious detriment of other creators. “‘Ircamian’ music, which claims to be all contemporary music, is the computer plus the subsidy”, he squeaks. It’s good from a point of view ” from the left “ that Schneider draw up a balance sheet in the form of an indictment against “a spectacular and dispersed, voluntarist and costly cultural policy, expensive even in certain areas”. In February 1993, a memorable program by Bernard Pivot, “Bouillon de culture”, saw Michel Schneider, Jack Lang and (especially) Pierre Boulez confront each other in a spectacular way.

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