Sunday, February 12, 2012

La République des Idées

Mediapart (paywall, alas) has two interesting articles on "La République des Idées," the publishing house founded by Pierre Rosanvallon, professor of political theory and history at the Collège de France. To call RepId a publishing house is a bit of a misnomer. It's both less than that and far more, a gathering place for political intellectuals and a force for attracting an audience to their ideas. It also favors a particular style of intellectual intervention, one more grounded in empirical research and less dependent on brilliant rhetoric than is often the case in France. (At this point, I should show my true colors: I have translated four books by Pierre Rosanvallon, I consider him a friend, he has invited me to speak at the Collège and at the Grenoble colloqium that he organized a few years ago, and I greatly admire the influence that he has had in reshaping French intellectual debate). I was struck by the way that Pierre characterizes the difference between the Fondation Saint-Simon, which he also headed for a time, and RepId:

Elles sont à la fois structurelles, puisque Saint-Simon était d'abord un think tank, et la République des idées avant tout une collection de livres. Mais aussi idéologiques. «Il fallait faire quelque chose de nouveau. Les années 1980 et 1990 étaient des années de grand flottement politique et intellectuel. On pouvait encore penser que la politique de Reagan ou Thatcher constituait seulement l’émergence d’une nouvelle droite, d’une nouvelle idéologie. Nous avons mis du temps à comprendre que nous rentrions dans un nouveau régime de la société capitaliste, que nous avions affaire à une révolution du mode de production, à une révolution presque anthropologique. Au début des années 2000, on pouvait voir que nous vivions l’équivalent de la grande transformation décrite en son temps par Karl Polanyi.»

Of course, any intellectual, any school of thought, and any publishing venture with such influence will not remain for long without critics, and the Mediapart articles quote several of them. The underlying theme goes back to Daniel Lindenberg's book, Les nouveaux réactionnaires, which painted "the social liberal" current of the ex-Second Left as a group compromised by links to business circles, insufficiently militant in regard to growing inequalities in French society, and generally too soft on "third way" politics of vaguely Blairesque derivation. J'assume. La Révolution est depuis longtemps terminée. But the "great transformation" that Rosanvallon describes above deserves to be confronted in thought and not merely denounced, and I see no one more committed to that project than the people of RepId. I'm glad that Mediapart has brought the group to the attention of its readers.

Check out La vie des idées Web site, which is the Web arm of RepId.

1 comment:

Louis said...

Once we are on the subject, I would like to mention the collection Rosanvallon coordinates for the publisher Le Seuil, "Livres du Nouveau Monde". A nice series of books, to which Rosanvallon himself contributed with La société des égaux.