Books & Ideas

by CarlD

Just found out about Books & Ideas, the English-language version of the French-language website La vie des idees. Here’s their mission statement:

Books & Ideas includes hitherto unpublished articles and book reviews written in English, and translations of a selection of the writings published in French in laviedesidees.fr. Our purpose is to provide quality information about current intellectual life and publications in France and internationally, as well as discussions of the great issues of our time, in the form of in-depth essays, interviews and public debates.

We intend to give all fields of scholarship (the human sciences, but also the exact sciences, aesthetics, literary criticism, architecture, and so on) a wide exposure that makes use of all the resources of the internet. We want to contribute in this way to disseminating knowledge and investigations beyond their sphere of production, with a view to decompartmentalizing academic disciplines.

To reach such an objective, we have adopted three principles:

— to bring together in the same place, and in equal numbers, essays and book reviews, written by the best specialists.

— to do this with a view to pluri- and trans-disciplinarity: to recognize all of the separate components of knowledge, but at the same time to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue.

— to embrace the international by taking an interest in the debates and books at the center of intellectual life on each and every continent, and by drawing on a worldwide network of correspondents.

Books & Ideas means to make the most of the possibilities offered by the internet: texts with links to each other and referring to other online resources; videos and podcasts of conversations with key figures in the intellectual world; dialogues and debates encouraging more perspectives on controversial issues; and thematic dossiers assembling contributions from various intellectuals and researchers, thereby making for better-informed views on the defining issues of current events.

It looks pretty good, including currently on the front page an interview with Howard Becker, who we’ve invoked here recently, on “social life as improvisation.” He argues that agreement and shared understanding are the basic idea that explain how a society can exist. To him, society is information flows.

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2 Comments to “Books & Ideas”

  1. The interview with Becker is brilliant. He is one of my intellectual heroes.

  2. Becker’s comments on his differences with Bourdieu struck me as a topic worth exploring. Could we call the two positions (1) building shared understandings in a world of material circumstances vs (2) having some autonomy but being pushed here and there by impersonal forces?

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