René Schérer

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Schérer (left) and Hocquenghem (right) pictured together

René Schérer (25 November 1922 - 1 February 2023) was a French philosopher and professor emeritus of the universite de Paris VIII. In 1959, left-wing activist and early queer theorist Guy Hocquenghem began an affair with Schérer, then his teacher, at the age of 15, and the two went on to publish together and remained lifelong friends. Schérer was a prominent and influential academic peer to many of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, including Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and others who (alongside Schérer and Hocquenghem) signed the 1977 French petition against age of consent laws. Schérer wrote extensively about age-disparate relationships, including paedophila/pedophilia and child sexuality, before these terms became highly stigmatized and taboo after the 1980's.

As part of a tribute to Schérer after his death,[1] his friend a former sexual partner Patrick Schindler gives a brief account of minor-initiated sexual activity, arguing that Schérer was not a pedophile or advocate for sexual activity between pre-pubescents and older people:

I must point out that when I went to his house the many times with my friend Guy P. (who was one of his lovers), I always knew René to be in a relationship with consenting minors over the age of eighteen (obviously at the time the majority were 21 years old, so...!). And that I affirm loud and clear!

Anecdotally, at sixteen, therefore a minor, I was part of the MLJ (Mouvement de Libération de la Jeunesse) which called for total liberation, especially sexual. That year I had had one of my first homosexual experiences with R., a friend of my mother's, and I can swear that it was really me who initiated it! Today, this wouldn't be serious since the age of consent is now 15, but at the time, imagine the trial my partner would have had!...

Schérer died in Châtillon, Hauts-de-Seine on 1 February 2023, at the age of 100. In life he authored more than 20 books, and co-edited the journal Chimères. He was, arguably, part of the 1st wave of the MAP Movement.

General overview

Information on Schérer is sparse in the English-language, however, we provide links and quotations from these few English examples for readers in the next section. The Wikipedia page (translated from its more detailed French version) includes the following general information:

In the 1960s, when phenomenology dominated the philosophical field, René Schérer contributed to making Husserl's work known in France. He is also known as a commentator on Heidegger. After May 68, Schérer develops a thought of utopia and childhood influenced by Charles Fourier. Champion of a reinvention of pedagogy and the child-adult relationship, he analyzes the “childhood system”, that is to say the way in which permanent supervision of the child is instituted. In his main work, "Emile perverti", Schérer speaks on this subject of the panopticon of childhood, shortly before Michel Foucault [sic] in "Discipline and Punish" [...] In the 1970s he was also involved in homosexual activism, and will remain known for having been the teacher and lover of Guy Hocquenghem, with whom he co-wrote two books. Criticizing the ubiquitous surveillance of children and the denial of their desires, René Schérer is accused of apologizing for pedophilia in his writings, which he denies. He was briefly accused in 1982 in the Coral case, before being exonerated and his accuser convicted of slanderous denunciation.

In addition to Wikipedia, queer historian Kadji Amin situates Schérer within the sphere of:

Leftist pro-pedophile authors [who] tended to affirm the child’s will, autonomy, maturity, and active consent, bringing the child in proximity to full adult agency, while emphasizing the child at the heart of every adult. (Disturbing Attachments,[2] footnote 20, p. 217).

Freedom and resistance to fixed categories: René Schérer's philosophy

Though much has been produced in French, Diane Morgan's article (quoted below), is the most detailed discussion of his philosophical corpus in the English-language. By contrast, Mason's Disturbing Visions of Childhood is the most extensive discussion of Schérer's writings on intergenerational issues to-date, in English. We make Mason's article available as a PDF, in the list below.

Schérer, hospitality, the Immigrant/Stranger, and 'victim' culture

The distinctive contribution that Schérer makes to our understanding of what anarchism is, or could be, is his insistence on its being combined with Utopianism and Hospitality. Indeed, a Schérerian theory and practice would be the embodiment of, what could be called, anarcho–utopian hospitality. This stance goes hand-in-hand with a far-reaching interrogation of who “we” are in relation to “others”. Schérer calls upon us to resist any notion of identity that wishes itself securely located in an homogeneous core or body (corps). He therefore rejects any form of identitarian politics.

The "more numerous the passions are, the more easily will they harmonize with each other (Fourier 2008, 13). Social harmony cannot arise from a commonality of stock characteristics that “we” are all supposed to share. Instead it emerges from the proliferation of intensely divergent passions" [...]

Nature, including humans, was originally no monoculture (Fourier 2001b: 113). Like other, more natural forms, we too thrive in profusion [...], a range of people with and against whom they can nurture their diverse, sometimes bizarre and hybrid tastes, interests, and predilections. [...]

Schérer purports that [a Fourierist society] would be a society that knows neither courts nor judgments, only passions and attractions, and whose aim is to “multiply social relations” (Schérer 2008a, 57). [Anarchy] is a necessarily ongoing quest for a “stateless society” - [...] presented as a “playspace” [espace de jeu](Schérer 2008b, 30). Anarchy is a “lubricating oil” [l’huile lubrifiante] that relaxes and opens up the “mechanisms of power” [dispositifs de pouvoir] thereby permitting new possibilities to emerge (ibid). In other words, anarchism is a resistant/irresistible “political paradigm” and a powerfully “immanent critique” that has the potential to expose the closed “rigidity of political principles to the test of praxis” (ibid 31)."

For Schérer today’s society is characterized by “securitarian politics and a withdrawal into an individualistic opportunism” (ibid). Desires have been commodified, i.e. manufactured and standardized, therefore those very dynamic forces that could be mobilized to bring about alternative ways of living have been deactivated. Utopianism enables them to restore their “passional movement” [le mouvement passionnel] by enjoining us to “encounter the impossible” or rather, what is conventionally perceived as impossible"

Schérer makes it clear how this philosophical position necessarily leads to a vision of a better world, animated by a different form of politics, in the following passage:

[Hospitality] is not so much a fact as a way of behaving, or an ethics, or even an irreality to be brought into being, or a utopia. In short hospitality consists essentially in the relation to the other that it introduces. To receive, to welcome, to recognise in the other one’s likeness and, what is more, to appreciate his presence, his contact, as a contribution and an enrichment, not as an irritation. To move away from a conception of the world that valorises “the same”, the “identical”, to the detriment of everything that is foreign, towards a philosophy that attaches great value to the other, to the respect of differences [...] (Schérer 2004, 2-3)

Schérer boldly makes a stand for hospitality, and against the dominant discourse on immigration. Schérer passionately declares:

No! It is a case of absolutely refusing, of radically opposing, everything that represents the foreigner negatively as an intruder, and not positively as an invaluable asset. Everything that merely tolerates the stranger and doesn’t welcome him. The living conditions of those sinister, abject detention zones, [...] are not to be tolerated. The very idea that places of exception, beyond the reach of law, where rights are suspended can exist is intolerable [...] (Schérer 2004, 126).

He refuses "what he sees as today’s “victimary society” (la société victimaire) which encourages us to categorize some as “victims” and others as guilty. To do so [...] divests us of our liberty." He considers the term "“minority” as a systematised policing of sexuality." He commented on the case of Natasha Kampusch, an "Austrian female [who] was kidnapped when she was ten years old and sequestered for more than eight years in an underground vault. For Schérer, it is significant that Kampusch refused to take on the conventionalized role of the victim that the media world so much wanted her to play. For him, she refused to denounce her abuser, by speaking like an abused person and therefore kept her "secret". Schérer pays her homage in the following way:

She represents the refusal to give in to all the media hype of today. She stands for the density, profundity and secrecy of life, in stark contrast to the puppets or ghosts of the televisual world, that uses its pixellising effects supposedly to respect people’s anonymity, whilst at the same time avidly soliciting them for their confessions (Schérer 2008a, 13)

The category “victim” is indicative for Schérer of “a threatening society”, a society that requires, and trades in, supposedly clear-cut distinctions (Schérer 2008a, 14). Such a society cannot tolerate ambiguity and complexity, despite feeding on ambivalence. It crudely carves the world into what is good or bad, right or wrong, acceptable or not. This society fosters a blame “culture” wherein one always fears getting on the “wrong side”. Blame “culture” paradoxically leads to a world where abuses of power, gross misconduct and lamentable negligence end up being “nobody’s fault”. In such a society – which is ours – despite the existence of hierarchies, nay precisely because hierarchies exist, no-one ultimately takes responsibility for themselves and their actions. Consequently, blame is handed down, pushed sideways, whilst upwardly directed complaints are deflected. Reigns of terror take control at varying scales as, Schérer suggests:

...everyone revels in being a victim and in designating a perpetrator so as to divest themselves of their own freedom. On this point I am totally in agreement with Sartre: at no moment should one stop affirming oneself as the author of oneself and of one’s acts so as not to become a larva, a thing. But unfortunately this is what many people love being and want to be... (Schérer 2007, 161)

By reneging on our liberty, we become more or less actively complicit with corruption. We therefore in effect contribute to the unhealthy, sickening, destabilising sense of crisis that dominates our culture".

Schérer, childhood and sexual freedom

For Schérer, childhood is an idea or system, rather than a natural category of human existence. His stress on the social construction of childhood demonstrates the influence of the historian Philippe Ariès (1914–1984). In L’Enfant et la vie familiale sous l’Ancien Régime (1960), Ariès argues that the modern conception of childhood and what he terms ‘le sentiment de la famille’ emerged gradually from the early modern period onwards.

Schérer has been cited and discussed in the 2020's by two University of Chile scholars. Leonardo Arce Vidal in his 2016 writings - Pedophiles and infants: folds and folds of desire,[3] (MA Thesis) - and Pedophilia and childhood: a possible relationship?;[4] as well as Mauricio Quiroz Muñoz in his 2020 thesis The pedagogue's denied wish: being a pedophile,[5] where he writes on Scherer's La pedagogía pervertida [EN: Perverted pedagogy] (1983). These scholars are mentioned together after their writings attracted controversy in 2023.

See also