Convening 17 March 2022 Paris (France)
The Fragility of Democracy: Rescuing Dialogue and Deliberation
Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme

The principles of dialogue and deliberation that form the backbone of democratic systems are under unprecedented strain. In Europe, governments in Hungary and Poland have chipped away at the rule of law, while the region grapples with the implications of right-wing nationalist forces inching their way ever closer, swaying voters’ minds in favor of demagoguery and tribalism. In North Africa and Turkey, fragile electoral democracies are undergoing fierce challenges to the rule of law. The international franchising of Trumpism permeates the fabric of democratic societies, echoing in the recent French and German electoral campaigns. The possibility of populist contagion rears its head: several months before the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021, anti-government protesters stormed the Bundestag in Berlin. Defiance of the customs and rules of decency continue to challenge public discourse, turning elections from a shared ritual into a divisive experience. These trends are a reflection and a catalyst of rapidly eroding trust in democratic institutions and its central tenets. Issues that once formed a consensus — such as the necessity of public health policies and the veracity of electoral results — now provoke vitriolic debate. 

Can there be common ground when political narratives and basic truths collide, replacing rationality? With polarized rhetoric on the rise, can democratic degeneration still be reversed? What once seemed like a distant challenge now threatens the stability of our centuries-old institutions. Where political dialogue becomes impracticable, deliberative democracy is imperiled. A concerted effort is needed to guide public discussion and conquer the temptation to retreat or abstain

Reset Dialogues on Civilizations, in collaboration with our partners, has a long history of confronting global threats to pluralism and democracy. Through a day-long international conference jointly organized with the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, we aim to define an agenda to craft solutions for overcoming the biggest threats to our public discourse: 


–> Analyzing Strategies for Civic Immunity to Manipulation

    • Protecting citizens from “big lies” and disinformation
    • Historical and scholarly approaches to tackling political sectarianism and tribalism 


–> Examining Ways of overcoming divisions to restore trust and dialogue

    • What methods can be used to rebuild trust and cohesion in politics?
    • Are institutional reforms needed to restore the conditions for dialogue among citizens? 


The conference will be structured around 4 sessions over the course of the day, with a conclusive public roundtable. All sessions will be live-streamed on the Reset DOC and FMSH channels, while the final roundtable will also be open to the wider Paris-based audience.

To follow the panels via webinar, register here.

To attend the round-table in person, register here.

Stay tuned for more details on how to follow all panels and the final roundtable over Zoom.


Conference Agenda


Thursday, 17 March 2022

9.00 Welcome and registration


9.20 Opening remarks

Giancarlo Bosetti (Reset DOC)

Flore Gubert (FMSH)


09.45 Session I: Fear and mistrust. At the roots of democratic discontent

Keynote speech  Craig Calhoun (Arizona State University)

 Sofia Näsström (Uppsala University)

Christophe Pébarthe (Université Bordeaux-Montaigne)

Camila Vergara (Cambridge University)


11.00 Coffee break


11.15 Session II: The great technological trap. Tools for debate or sectarianism?

Alberto Alemanno (HEC / The Good Lobby)

Amel Boubekeur (ISSRA / EHESS)

Carme Colomina-Salò (CIDOB)


12.30 Q&A and Sessions wrap-up


12:45 Lunch


14.00 Session III: Protecting the public space from “big lies” and misinformation

Lisa Anderson (Columbia University)

Daniel Andler (ENS)

Thierry Vedel (Sciences Po)

Giovanni Zagni (Pagella Politica / European Digital Media Observatory)


15.15 Coffee break


15.30 Session IV: Gone, or waiting in the wings? Populism after the Pandemic

Annabelle Lever (Sciences Po)

Hans Kundnani (Chatham House)

Edit Zgut (IFIS PAN)


16.45 Q&A and Sessions wrap-up


18.00 Public roundtable: Restoring dialogue and deliberation in contemporary society

Alberto Alemanno (HEC / The Good Lobby)

Craig Calhoun (Arizona State University)

Christophe Deloire (Reporters Sans Frontières)

Sylvie Goulard (Banque de France*)

Annabelle Lever (Sciences Po)

* Speaking in a personal capacity


19.30 Closing remarks

Jonathan Laurence (Boston College / Reset Dialogues)



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