A taboo-free discussion co-organized by The Tocqueville Foundation, Le Figaro and The Atlantic Council, bringing together politicians, intellectuals and civil society actors from both sides of the Atlantic.
An acute political understanding of the depth of the crisis Western democracies are facing, both in the US and in Europe
The steering committee organizing the Tocqueville Conversations is co-chaired by Ana Palacio and Laure Mandeville.
In this time of abysmal political divide and revolutionary technological change, suddenly, the future looks blurred and very menacing. Revolution and rebellion are on our doorstep, or already at the heart of our institutions. Our traditions, codes and political arrangements are being put to the test, making our democracies vulnerable. The world balance of power is shifting away from the West. Authoritarian leaders are increasingly admired and listened to even when they spell out blatant lies. In that challenging context, our capacity to defend the truth and agree on what is truth, has become particularly endangered. The big noise of social media, made of real but scattered news but also of “post facts”, “fake news” and partisan indignation, often cover the truth and paralyze our critical thinking. How will our democracies handle “tomorrow” in such conditions? Can they even survive, if truth is lost?
For the third time, the Future will be at the heart of the Tocqueville Conversations which will hold their third annual meeting at Tocqueville, Normandy on the 19 and 20th of June 2020. After taking a close look at the Future of nations last year, our attention will be focused on “The Future of truth”. The stakes, the threats, the traps, but also the ways and means to defend it.
The question of truth is nothing new of course. In troubled times somehow similar to ours, Georges Orwell and Aleksander Solzhenitsyn warned us of its vital importance, the latter not hesitating to go against “common socialist truth” at his own risk and peril to unveil the true nature of communism. Tocqueville, whose intellectual heritage is an important inspiration for the Tocqueville Conversations, warned us too, as he was observing the birth of the Democratic age, pondering its grandeur and its traps. In Volume Two of Democracy in America, the French philosopher already foresaw with striking clarity the future we would face: as the authority of families and of other mediating institutions collapsed or were undermined, modern citizens would become isolated, form ideas in the solitude of their imagination, or bow down to public opinion and to those who shape it.
Today, this sociological fact is exacerbated by advances in technology, which strain democratic regimes to the breaking point. When public opinion rules, how is independent thought possible? When citizens build worlds in their imagination, on what basis can they build a world together? When technology frees us from the discipline and concern that face-to-face communications require, how can civility be cultivated and maintained, political divide breached and compromise reached? When the instant gratification that technology offers shortens our attention spans, how can we have sustained and difficult conversations? When entertainment is available “on demand,” what happens to politics? If authority disappears, how can we distinguish “fake news” from the real thing? Are advances in Artificial Intelligence threatening truth in ways it never was, with the advance of deep fakes and other vertiginous discoveries ? When technology makes cross-border penetration instantaneous and effortless, what stops one nation from overwhelming another nation with propaganda? What responsibility for journalists, intellectuals and other observers of reality in this difficult time? Has political correctness of the mainstream media accelerated the embrace of “alternative news” by significant segments of the population? How do we ponder the need to give everyone a voice without empowering dangerous discourse, lies and conspiracy theories? These questions and more will occupy our attention as we ponder “The Future of Truth.”
Laure Mandeville, Senior Journalist, Le Figaro
Roundtable 1 – The Nation and the Crisis of the Western
Democracies : Should the Nation be protected ?
Lunch – The German nation and the European uncertainty.
Roundtable 2 – Nations and the challenge of mass immigration.
Dinner – Eternal Russia, current Russia, a conversation with Boris Akounine.
Theatre – What Solzhenitsyn told us about the Western crisis.
Roundtable 3 – “Nation First” and the future of the International System.
Conversation – Business and the Nations.
Lunch – The Future of Europe.
Roundtable 4 – Nations, democracy and Foreign Policy.
Roundtable 1 – Democracy and populism: crisis of representation or existential challenge to our existing understandings?
Lunch – A Chinese Look at Western Democracy.
Roundtable 2 – Democracy and Globalization: is Inclusive Growth Possible?
Dinner – Democracy in the West: Threats and Challenges, a Vision from America, and Conversation – Europe in a Time of Crisis.
Roundtable 3 – Democracy and Religious Fundamentalism: What Challenges?
Lunch – Conversation – A Russian Look at Western Democracies.
Roundtable 4 – Democracy and the Digital Revolution