Believing and making others believe. Political uses of faith

One would think that the era of beliefs has passed in our societies, which are steeped in secularism and weary of ideologies. Such is not the case. Under new forms and through new avenues, believing and making others believe remain vibrant. This phenomenon is described and explained in the collective work “Croire et faire croire. Usages politiques de la croyance [Believing and making others believe. Political uses of faith], edited by Anne Muxel, researcher at Sciences Po’s Center for Political Research (CEVIPOF). Through a collection of contributions it sheds light on the new terms, areas and uses of belief. Interview.

What is a belief? Do people still believe in today’s France?

Anne Muxel – Belief is a matrix through which mentalities and representations of a society at a given moment of its history develop. It expresses the repertoire of senses and the mental maps that individuals use to find their bearings in the social and political world. Belief has several dimensions: it is a mechanism that feeds and articulates the capacity to believe and make others believe, but it also involves certainty and doubt as forces of subversion. To dispense with belief is not realistic, let alone possible. French society is certainly among the most secular in Europe, but beliefs have not disappeared – far from it. They are increasingly fragmented and compartmentalized, however. They are expressed through a mosaic of references, models and purposes. Even collective beliefs – for example, the relationship to ideologies and values such as human rights – have become more particularized and individualized.

Your book draws on fields like literature and visual arts (cinema, painting). How is the merging of these disciplines with the social sciences and humanities fruitful?

A.M – This book seeks to shed light on the changes and reconfigurations of belief on the basis of diverse perspectives. Belief operates in all areas of social life, from family to politics, encompassing private, religious and cultural choices. The chapters are wide-ranging, exploring the representation of prayer in the history of painting, ways of staging power in film, the difficulty that the children of collaborators have dealing with the beliefs of their parents, and the perspectives of mothers on their children’s jihadist involvement.

You show a link between belief and politics….

A.M –A number of contributions reveal a proliferation of institutions of belief, and therefore of beliefs, that goes hand in hand with a weakening of belief in politics. For example, the new forms of populism that have emerged as established political ideologies have declined, promote a weak and eclectic ideology that can respond to various frustrations and identity malaises. No surprise that populism especially draws young generations.

How would you position this book in relation to the two preceding works you edited: “La vie privée des convictions” [The private life of convictions] and “Temps et politique. Les recompositions de l’identité” [Time and politics. Reconfiguring identity]?

These three books form a series resulting from work on the subject of “Politics, affectivity and intimacy” that I have been pursuing over the past five years. The goal was to expand certain political science inquiries by drawing on disciplines like history, psychoanalysis, philosophy, literature and cinema, and to study the construction of political identities, the temporality and sustainability of involvement, and the end of ideologies, from underexplored perspectives. “La vie privée des convictions” analyzes links between the private sphere and the public sphere, to what I have called the “intimate politicization” of individuals. 

We demonstrated that everyone develops their choices on the basis of criteria derived from notions of resemblance and proximity. This turns the private sphere into an integral field in the democratic adventure. “Temps et politique. Les recompositions de l’identité” looked at the reconfigurations of political identities and the impact of historical, social and biographical temporalities on the relationship to politics. It provided a fresh perspective on how politics is shaped by time, be it the collective time of generations or the more intimate time of life stages. “Croire et faire croire” concludes this series by tackling the bedrock of social and political order: belief.

More information

Anne Muxel is a Research Director at the Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po (CEVIPOF) where she specialises in electoral and political behaviour, abstentionism, etc. She focuses on the younger generations and more specifically their attitudes to and relationship with politics.

This interview was originally published in COGITO n°4, Sciences Po's Research Newsletter.

Prioritising Mental Health at Sciences Po

Prioritising Mental Health at Sciences Po

With a busy academic schedule and a wealth of extra-curricular activities to balance alongside, life at Sciences Po can feel intense at times. With this in mind, the university is committed to prioritising questions of mental health and promoting the welfare of its students. It sees the provision of emotional and mental support as a responsibility of equal importance to teaching in order to help students reach their full academic and personal potential at Sciences Po.

More
Sciences Po aims to raise 100 million euros by 2022

Sciences Po aims to raise 100 million euros by 2022

Without sponsors, Sciences Po would not exist. Neither would the renowned Equal Opportunity Programme (CEP). For many years now, donors’  commitment of donors have made many projects come to life, particularly in terms of social innovation. Sciences Po has now launched its most ambitious fundraising campaign in its history, with a goal to raise 100 million euros by 2022, Sciences Po’s 150th anniversary. 

More
120 Mastercard Scholars to study at Sciences Po

120 Mastercard Scholars to study at Sciences Po

As of 2017, Sciences Po and the Mastercard Foundation provide full scholarships to students with great academic potential and limited financial resources. Over six years, this program will support 120 students from Sub-Saharan Africa admitted to its undergraduate, graduate and summer programs. This exceptional scholarship program aims to recruit talented students who aspire to shape the future of the African continent and help them develop their full potential.

More

"When I discovered the French startup ecosystem, I was hooked"

On 11 October, delegates from Station F spoke at Sciences Po to give students a glimpse of life inside the biggest start-up campus in the world – and the only one in Paris. Station F Director Roxanne Varza, an alumna of Sciences Po, discussed the richness of possibility for entrepreneurs starting out in one of the tech world’s most underrated capital cities, as well as Station F’s methods for reeling in the very best of them. We asked where her particular passion for the French entrepreneurial ecosystem came from and what role universities have to play in inspiring the founders of tomorrow's tech giants.

More
Our Regional Campuses Open Their Doors

Our Regional Campuses Open Their Doors

Are you a high school student hoping to apply to Sciences Po? Teaching, programmes, campus life: come and ask us all your questions at one of the Open House Days on our six regional campuses. A unique opportunity to meet the students, lecturers, and course leaders of the Sciences Po Undergraduate College.

More
Why Recruit from Sciences Po?

Why Recruit from Sciences Po?

As part of a programme of initiatives designed to introduce students to the wealth of professional pathways open to them upon graduation, Sciences Po organises each year a Careers Forum that brings together major employers and their potential future employees. What did the employers present at the Forum have in common? All share an interest in the open-mindedness, multi-disciplinarity, and breadth of knowledge that characterise the Sciences Po profile.

More
App Icons are the New Trademarks

App Icons are the New Trademarks

The explosion of the mobile app market has completely changed the way that consumers interact with logos and trademarks. Apps now rely on their icons to distinguish them from large numbers of brands offering similar and rival services. Zeeger Vink, Intellectual Property Lawyer and Lecturer in Communications, Media & Creative Industries at the School of Management and Innovation, gives ten recommendations to ensure the creation of a strong, distinctive, and protected app icon. Watch his tutorial.

More
On Board the Peace Boat

On Board the Peace Boat

This week is Oceans Week at Sciences Po and alongside a series of events on the topic, we spoke to Eve Isambourg, a third year undergraduate student and ocean activist. After two years of study at the Sciences Po Paris campus, Eve spent her third year abroad raising awareness of oceanic issues around the world. The last stop on her mission: a conference of the UN in New York.

More