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CASBS Partners with Premier French Online Social Sciences Forum

Jun 17 2022

The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University is pleased to announce a partnership with La Vie des Idées, a leading publishing platform for social science and humanities dialogue and thinking. The partnership publicly launched on June 8, 2022, at CASBS.

The June 8 gathering of invited guests included Frédéric Jung, the French consul general in San Francisco, on hand to lend his support to the initiative as well as cut a ceremonial ribbon at the very moment inaugural content went live on the La Vie des Idées website and appeared on the Center’s main meeting room screen. Joining him to cut the ribbon and deliver remarks were CASBS’s incoming director, Woody Powell, and La Vie des Idées’s co-editor-in-chief Jules Naudet.

The inaugural content (French and English versions), published on June 8, features in-depth interviews with five CASBS-affiliated scholars – current CASBS fellow Megan Finn, 2020-21 fellow and current research affiliate James Guszcza, CASBS senior research scholar Roberta Katz, 2013-14 CASBS fellow Nilam Ram, and 2020-21 fellow and current research affiliate Allison Stanger. Each possesses deep expertise on aspects of the social consequences of and societal dynamics related to the digital revolution and our Big Tech-driven political economies.

On June 17, La Vie des Idées published a review ( French and English versions) of a book, Going the Distance, by 2017-18 CASBS fellow Ron Harris, as part of the partnership. Harris wrote much of the book during his fellowship year. A copy resides in the Center's Ralph W. Tyler Collection.


Frédéric Jung, France's consul general in San Francisco, speaking at CASBS on June 8, 2022.

Upcoming releases as part of the partnership will explore a variety of topics including civil rights and the politics of identity, with current CASBS fellow Hakeem Jefferson; the societal consequences of gun violence and police brutality, with current fellow Laurence Ralph; authoritarian threats to democracy and democratic institutions, with current fellows Helen Milner and Daniel Treisman; and a book review on what we can learn from a new history of American capitalism.

La Vie des Idées (which translates to The Life of Ideas), founded and directed by Pierre Rosanvallon, is associated with the Institut du Monde Contemporain, part of the Collège de France, a renowned institution with a rich tradition dating to 1530. Since its debut in 2008, La Vie des Idées has served as an “intellectual cooperative” providing a forum for essays, interviews, and reviews that cross both international and disciplinary divides while bridging gaps between academic and public discourses. It engages the expertise of a network of global writers and correspondents, having published more than 5,000 original essays by more than 2,600 contributors since its inception.

In the span of only 14 years, La Vie des Idées has established itself as the preeminent publishing platform of its kind in France and the French-speaking world, welcoming hundreds of thousands of unique website visitors per month. In the collegial spirit of disseminating shared knowledge, the online platform offers its work with open access to the public.

Indeed, in his remarks, Mr. Jung, the Consul Général de France à San Francisco, emphasized not only the exchange of ideas as strengthening both partner organizations, but also the importance of open sharing of those ideas with the public, embracing a spirit with a long tradition at CASBS and a much longer one at the Collège de France.

It doesn’t hurt that La Vie des Idées’s platform for reaching public audiences is so impressive.

“Having a half-million people a month looking at a social science website is quite an achievement,” Jung said. “Combined with the quality of scholars CASBS attracts, this is a great partnership being launched right now.”

Moreover, to further extend its reach, La Vie des Idées publishes some of its content on its English-language website, Books & Ideas. Notably, all published content as part of the partnership with CASBS will be published in both French and English.

The partnership will be comprised of three types of publications. One is reviews of recent books initiated, drafted, completed, or otherwise worked on by CASBS fellows while they were in residence at the Center. Such books are entered into the CASBS’s renowned Ralph W. Tyler Collection. A second type is essays or “intellectual portraits” of influential scholars throughout CASBS’s 68-year history. This could include collaborative groups of fellows involved in the generation of ideas and the development of new sub-disciplines or generative lines of research; CASBS is known to have played major roles in this capacity. The third type is interviews with current members of the current CASBS class (and other CASBS-affiliated scholars) in a given fellowship year. Interviewees are experts through which critical topics, ideas, and debates will be explored. Here, too, collaborative groups working under the CASBS umbrella may serve as the vehicles for such exploration.

While the launch interviews appear in written form, some future releases will be in video format. For example, in fall 2022 CASBS fellows Hakeem Jefferson, Helen Milner, Laurence Ralph, and Daniel Treisman, mentioned earlier, will share their thought leadership via recorded video interviews.


Woody Powell, Frédéric Jung, and Jules Naudet cutting a ceremonial ribbon

As one of La Vie des Idées’s co-editors-in-chief since 2009, Jules Naudet, a 2021-22 CASBS fellow as well as sociologist at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris, played the pivotal role of connective tissue between the French publisher and the Center. Upon arriving in residence at CASBS in September 2021, he immediately recognized synergy and collaborative potential.

“The idea of this partnership stems from common values our organizations share about the advancement of people’s thinking on problems and challenges of societal importance,” said Naudet in his remarks at the June 8 launch gathering. “Together, CASBS and La Vie des Idées can facilitate greater circulation and exchange of ideas. Our joint ambition, through short, readable, and open-access essays and videos exploring cutting-edge empirical social science and humanities research, is to further expand and enrich public discourse – across national boundaries – and thus widen the perspectives and common understandings of global audiences.”

Once Naudet and his CASBS collaborators, including director Margaret Levi, established the partnership’s contours during fall 2021, they set about the task of curating a roster of talent and candidate topics that would populate the inaugural content. Naudet personally conducted the interviews and composed the introduction (French and English versions) to the first set of publications.

The subject matter explored in the launch content acknowledges not only CASBS’s location within Silicon Valley, but also its position as a wellspring of thought leadership on issues interrogating relations between technology and society. One of its ongoing multi-year research programs is on Humans, Nature, and Machines. The Center also co-steers the Ethics, Society, and Technology Hub, a presidential initiative at Stanford University. And it has hosted or produced a multitude of tech and society-related events, each featuring CASBS-based experts, in recent months and years.[i]

Jules Naudet, it should be noted, also played the role of connective tissue that ultimately resulted in the June 8 appearance at CASBS of Frédéric Jung, the French consul general in San Francisco, and his participation in the launch.

In his remarks to the invited guests, delivered shortly before the partnership’s first written interviews made their public online debut, Mr. Jung counted himself among those who will be eager to participate in the expanded discourse that Naudet had spoken about just minutes earlier.

I look forward to seeing all the new contributions, and myself being one of the partnership’s many readers,” he said. “Long live the partnership between CASBS and The Life of Ideas.”

Written by Mike Gaetani


[i] These include “Building Social Science into the Foundation of AI Practice;” “High-tech Modernism,” “The Digital Dilemma in the Time of COVID;” “Today’s Technologies, Tomorrow’s Humans;” “Digital Media, the Public Sphere, and Democratic Governance;” “The Consequences of Technological Developments for Politics and Government;” “The Effects of Technology on Human Interactions;” “AI, Automation, and Society;” and “Women in Tech: Where Have We Seen Progress? Where are We Stuck?” View them all on CASBS’s YouTube channel.