CASBS Partners with French Online Platform La Vie des Idées

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

Man in suits addresses people around table
Frédéric Jung, France’s consul general in San Francisco, speaks at the public unveiling of the partnership between CASBS and La Vie des Idées on June 8. (Photo: CASBS)

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.

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, which has 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 and has open-access published more than 5,000 original essays by more than 2,600 contributors.

In his remarks, Jung 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.

La Vie des Idées has established itself as the preeminent publishing platform of its kind in France and the French-speaking world. “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.”

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

The partnership comprises 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. 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 — for example, the appearances by Jefferson, Milner, Ralph, and Treisman — will be in video format.

As one of La Vie des Idées’s co-editors-in-chief since 2009 is 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. Upon arriving in residence at CASBS in September 2021, he immediately recognized synergy and collaborative potential, and he played the pivotal role of connective tissue between the French publisher and the center.

“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,” Naudet said 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 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. 1

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.”

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Michael D. Gaetani

Mike Gaetani is the communications director for the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He has held previous communications positions with USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy, UCLA’s Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. His education background involves social science research, having earned a M.A. in international relations from USC and completed doctoral course work in political science at UCLA.

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