Saturday, February 20, 2010

Social Democratic Tolerance as Appreciation

After a couple of weeks of squabbling about veiled Trotskyists and halal hamburgers, I was heartened to come across this eloquent description of tolerance in a multicultural society, which concisely captures my own attitude: "The idea of social democracy is an open society, which means a society in which alternative ways of life are not only tolerated but appreciated, even when regarded as partially mistaken." This is from Avishai Margalit's brilliant and important book, On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. I recommend it to you all.

Why is it important not just to tolerate but also to appreciate ideas and ways of life that we regard as partially mistaken? Because appreciation connotes the recognition that we, too, may be and probably are partially mistaken in some or all of our beliefs and transforms tolerance from condescension into dialogue, both with oneself and others. For me, a secular atheist social democrat gourmet, veils, dietary laws, fast food, revolutionary vanguards, and hyper-republican zealotry are alternative ways of life, which I regard as partially mistaken but symbolic of important truths and indicators of lacunae and contradictions in my own thinking. I appreciate them for preventing me from falling into complacency.

Upcoming Lectures (apologia pro vita sua)

I will be giving the keynote speech at the Friday luncheon of this year's Society for French Historical Studies Conference in Tempe, AZ, on Friday, April 9. The full program for the event is here. I know that some of you readers are SFHS members, and I hope to see you there. My subject will be "Three Decades of French History in Translation."

I will also be speaking at the Collège de France in Paris on May 7 at 11 A.M. (on "Démocratie, égalité, et équité") and at the Tocqueville Review Conference ("Individualisme, populisme, et démocratie") in Nice (May 10-11; program not yet set).

Glücklich wie Gott im Frankreich

France is viewed favorably by 76% of Democrats but only 52% of Republicans (still a majority of Republicans, though--a bit of a surprise). The Republic is most popular among Americans 18-34, and popularity declines with age. (h/t Boris)

On the whole, la Grande Nation is not doing as badly in the US as one might have feared, ranking 7th on the overall hit parade. I guess Lafayette still hasn't exhausted his credit here.

Show Me the Figures

Louis Maurin has compiled statistics about French life from a variety of sources. According to this review, Maurin believes that much of the discourse about French society is at odds with the realities revealed by his statistics.