Alain Peyrefitte, Raymond Boudon, Pierre Chaunu

Values and Modernity Expanding on Alain Peyrefitte Publication date : May 1, 1996

The hypothesis which Alain Peyrefitte superbly developed in The Society of Confidence is now well known. Growth is not primarily founded on the material wealth of a nation, the climate, the capital, or even on work. It is intrinsically linked to mentalities and behaviour, and especially that which Alain Peyrefitte has called the “confidence ethos” – a mindset which favours innovation, responsibility and competition. The history of the West from the 15th century to the 18th century can be easily held up as being particularly illustrative of this thesis. However, the theory of Alain Peyrefitte does merit a fuller demonstration, and this is why it becomes here the subject of passionate discussion between eminent experts in this field. Raymond Boudon emphasises the role which Protestantism played in the emergence of this “confidence ethos”, and analyses the work which Max Weber dedicated to this question. Pierre Chaunu concentrates on the ontological foundations of the notion of confidence : in his opinion, it is the idea of transcendence, created with Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai, which makes this liberty possible. Jean Delumeau focuses on reconciling the ideas of millenarianism and modernity. The debate is also expanded to other areas, for example Japan also comes under scrutiny. This country presents an interesting paradox as the first non-Western country to enter into the era of progress, which gives us a different model of modernity. It is both a pleasure and an education to read this book which also contains numerous other contributions (René Pomeau, Shmuel Eisenstadt, Tsehuri Hara, Seymour Martin Lipset, Franois Caron, Alain Touraine...) and which deals with extremely relevant questions for today’s world. This is especially so as, in the debate which continues within the French nation, there is a tendency to forget that the key variable is development. This development does not invent itself, it is constructed with the establishment of more active and more effective communication between the members of a society.

Based on an international conference at the Institute de France, organised by Raymond Boudon and Pierre Chaunu.