1Hermès is a journal with three subtitles: cognition, communication, and politics. The last of these terms has a multiplicity of meanings. For Edgar Morin (2018, 62), politics refers to “the common reinvention of the world,” whereas for Pope Francis (2017, 40), it represents “one of the highest forms of charity.” It is this polysemy that interests this journal—which did not wish to apply a definite article to the term. The intellectual challenge here is to encompass the majority of current acceptances without either favoring or neglecting any of them. Hence, the journal examines politics, both in its ideal form as favored by Aristotle, with his search for sovereign virtue, and in its pragmatic form, as backed by Machiavelli, with the art of keeping power. Prescriptive political philosophy articles on the public space, argumentation, or the ethics of discussion may be found together with empirical descriptions of communication strategies for politicians. The journal also embraces the political as a term that is often used to refer to a sub-section of life in society. Max Weber (1972), for instance, contrasts the political (which features the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force) with the economic and the social. For Niklas Luhmann (1999), the political is an autopoietic sub-system governed by a specific generalized symbolic medium—that of power. For Claude Lefort (1986), on the other hand, the political cannot be treated “as a particular section of social life. .. On the contrary, it implies the notion of a principle or of a set of principles giving rise to relationships that people conduct between one another and with the world.” In other words, any society is political, even if society cannot be reduced to the political. The journal takes the same line as this latter notion of the political, although it has opened its pages to authors who, drawing from Jürgen Habermas, maintain a more Weberian stance. In short, the journal shall not restrict itself through some emasculating dogmatism; instead, it seeks to illuminate the political as a whole—from a description of the role played by local actors to the critical theory of democracy via an analysis of the complex interactions between elected politicians, journalists, and public opinion. In rejecting the definite article, Hermès is setting out a strong bias—in illuminating our common existence in all its complexity.
An anthropology of the political that is both multidisciplinary and open to doctrinal dispute
2To put it another way, Hermès’ scientific aim is not to defend one conception of politics and the political realm over another, but rather to develop a political anthropology that is multidisciplinary. This scientific aim has been in place from the first issue, which featured works relating to political philosophy (by Jean-Pierre Dupuy), sociology (by François Bourricaud), and even management sciences (Gilles Achache)—works that have drawn on such diverse theoretical references as those of Wittgenstein (Plinio Walder Prado Jr.), Pascal (Christian Lazzeri), and Weber (Giacomo Marramao). The reason for this emphasis on multidisciplinarity and on doctrinal openness in the journal is that Hermès’ understanding of the political theme is not confined to one particular domain such as institutional politics, to one single discipline such as political science, or to one type of geographical space such as the nation state. It responds, rather, to the powerful intellectual requirement to account for the multiple perceptions of the challenges of globalization by studying more geographical areas (Europe, Asia, and South America), more disciplines (including philosophy, sociology, and anthropology) and more theoretical references (Habermas, Ulrich Beck, Stuart Hall, etc.). This is not to derive an exclusively political reading of the world; rather, it is to illuminate the political issues in all domains that shape technological disruption, cultural shocks, and claims of identity. That is the primary feature of the political anthropology that has been developed over thirty years by Hermès.
Strong coherence from important theoretical choices
3The second characteristic is to have exercised strong, coherent theoretical choices, thus avoiding theoretical anarchy—but without necessarily making this explicit. It may have been feared that such doctrinal openness might have led to a collection of texts resembling more of an academic potluck than a well-organized scientific banquet. This is not the case at all, in fact—and for two reasons. Firstly, each issue is framed around a robustly defined and explicitly presented problem, with the result that coherence is maintained in diversity. Multiple facets of the subject are illustrated, but without any attempt to present an exhaustive selection of all the works written on it. Secondly, the editor and editorial board of the journal made three major choices:
41) To make the ambiguity in the processes clear. Hermès is known for its staunch opposition to the idea of technological determinism and for the value it places on communication at a time when it is being equated with manipulation. These strong and vindicated editorial decisions come with a desire to present analyses that call into question the evidence offered by certain academic paradigms. To give one example, in the issue devoted to langues de bois (a term covering Newspeak, Doublespeak, etc.), several articles sought, as is customary, to describe the mechanisms by which this type of language has been constructed and to criticize certain negative aspects (e.g. the articles by Joanna Nowicki and Luciana Radut-Gaghi). Other pieces, on the other hand (in particular those by Olivier Arifon and Anne-Marie Laulan), emphasized the closeness of Newspeak to the language of diplomacy, highlighting the dangers in supposing that “straight talking” means avoiding Newspeak (Michaël Oustinoff), and invited the reader to eschew a simplistic critical attitude on the subject.
52) To challenge the division between economics and politics. Going back to the spirit of the original Encyclopédie (indeed, it was Rousseau who penned the note on “Économie” in the edition produced by Diderot and d’Alembert) and staying true to its support for interdisciplinarity, Hermès does not treat economics as a separate field, but rather as an aspect of our common existence that cannot be entirely separated from questions of politics. This was especially true of issue 36 (“Économie solidaire et démocratie,” 2003), which interrogated the notion of public space from the basis of economic practices by actors seeking an alternative to capitalism—an interrogation that was in fact a criticism of Habermas’s position, making the economy an autonomous system seeking to take over the world we live in without realizing that it is also a battlefield where citizens organize themselves collectively and strive to conquer their capacity for self-determination.
63) To scientifically legitimize subjects that have been marginalized by traditional political approaches. If we examine politics without prior definitional or doctrinal assumptions, this allows us to break down disciplinary boundaries and to examine subjects neglected by political science, political philosophy, and political sociology. Two issues of the journal are symbolic in this regard. We have already mentioned the first of these: the edition entitled “Économie solidaire et démocratie,” which took us beyond practices of solidarity deriving from socioeconomics alone. While the first two sections (historical and descriptive) made use of recognized researchers in the solidarity economy field (such as Jean-Louis Laville, Laurent Fraisse, and Daniel Goujon), the third asked researchers who were not specialists on the topic to revisit their conceptions of the public space in light of the solidarity initiatives studied in the first two parts. This then allowed researchers in political science (Julien Weisbien), in sociology (Laurence Roulleau-Berger), and in information and communication sciences (Bernard Floris) to integrate this new research field into their analyses. Having now come under the scientific spotlight, the solidarity economy will gradually become a subject of political science, as evidenced by the colloquium devoted to it by the Institute of Political Studies of Bordeaux in 2007.  The second issue, No. 34, was dedicated to “Political Issues of Space.” “Two aims guided the compilation of this issue: opening up issues concerning space to a readership that is generally unfamiliar with this field and its specialist literature, attempting as we did so to set out multidisciplinary approaches and a new reference grid for space activity and the jurisdictions in which it occurs.” (Sourbès-Verger 2002, 9) With this in mind, the first section, “Space in the Imagination,” focused on representations of space. The second part, “Space Policy and Political Communication,” studied the links between political decisions by governments and the communication policies set up by space agencies. The third section, “Return to Earth,” analyzed how the discovery of space has manifested itself through political and economic issues on earth. Regrettably, this original issue failed to establish space as an analytical topic of political sciences, information and communication sciences, or sociology. As elsewhere, the consumer is king here.
7The primary characteristic of this journal is open-mindedness, with a desire to analyze the political dimension of social phenomena in all their complexity. That is part of our very DNA. In seeking to restore ambiguity to the processes we analyze, in refusing to give in to the “sophist economist” (Polanyi 2007), who treats economic choices separately from the institutions that carry out these choices, and in taking the risk of examining subjects that have not been legitimized by politics experts, this journal instead offers a heuristic vision of that which is termed political. That is its second characteristic. Its third is to have legitimized research on political communication in France by revealing the scientific potential of the concept of public space.
Making a link between communication and politics
8There can be no politics without communication and, conversely, all communication in the public space contains a political dimension. From this perspective, “political communication” is not a sub-domain of either politics or communication; it is the theoretical affirmation of the unshakable link between communication and politics. This is why political communication represents the founding pillar of the journal. “Hermès is devoting its first issue to political communication. How does political communication operate in our modern democracies?” These were the words that began the journal’s first-ever issue. The question is whether political communication plays an important role. It is indeed important, as is recognized by researchers, as there are certain articles on the modeling of political communication (Wolton 1989), local electronic communication (Maigret and Monnoyer-Smith 2000), and political marketing (Achache 1989) that are almost always cited in theses or other works devoted to these areas of political communication. This is also recognized by the general public, judging by the fact that the top-selling issue of the “Essentiels d’Hermès” collection (which promotes journal articles among students and others with an interest) was La Communication politique. This issue was edited by Arnaud Mercier, a well-known specialist in the area and one of the stalwarts of the Hermès editorial board in the late 1990s. Hermès’s first intellectual contribution was thus to have legitimized political communication as an object of study without reducing it to mere notions of manipulation or marketing. Its second contribution has been to develop an analysis of the increasing complexity of the political game as engendered by the media by steering clear of American functionalism, Marxist analysis, or technological determinism. This narrow path may seem quite natural today, but it was Hermès that made a major contribution to shaping an era (1988) when McLuhan, Katz, and Adorno had been the dominant references in France in the then still new field of information and communication sciences. The third point was to offer this media analysis without disconnecting it from the more traditional research on rhetoric and argumentation. The articles by André Gosselin (“La rhétorique des conséquences non prévues,” 1995) and Anne-Marie Gingras (“L’argumentation dans les débats télévisés entre candidats à la présidence américaine,” 1995) provide illustrations of this. The journal’s fourth and final intellectual contribution to the analysis of political communication has been to provide a critical examination of the revolution heralded by the internet—for better or for worse. The contributions devoted to this subject challenge this idea of a digital revolution that has supposedly brought political communication into a new era. Instead, as with Hermès Nos. 26-27, 2000 (at www.démocratielocale.fr), the emphasis has been placed on a repositioning of the links between elected representatives, citizens, and the media, and on the hybridization of the traditional mass media and the digital media, along with the contradictory imperatives of the new media landscape. In other words, while the material carried by Hermès takes account of the new materiality of political communication tools, it entirely avoids getting bogged down in technological determinism—which this journal shall unceasingly oppose.
The critical discussion of public space: A long-term mission
9This scientific effort to legitimize political communication has drawn on a rich and sustained body of conceptual work on the public space. Indeed, Hermès has devoted no less than seven editions to these topics.  The first of these issues (“Le Nouvel espace public,” Hermès, no. 4, 1989) has become a classic work, cited in most academic studies on the subject. Bringing together contributions from prestigious authors such as Raymond Boudon, Alain Touraine, and Elihu Katz, this issue has played a pioneering role in the francophone world, noting that the theses of Habermas (presented in the journal from the first issue ) would not be properly discussed by the English-speaking social sciences until 1992 at the earliest.  Furthermore, the edition headed “Espaces publics, traditions et communautés” (Hermès, no. 10, 1992) offered clear distinctions between the public space, the political space, and the common space, a theme that remains live today, while another issue, “Espaces publics en images,” (Hermès, nos. 13-14, 1992), took us away from received ideas about the televisual public space by demonstrating the structural role of the media in modern democracies. As we have already mentioned, the issue headed “Économie solidaire et démocratie,” (Hermès, no. 36, 2003) addressed the economic dimension of the public space from a critical but non-Marxist perspective. The edition entitled “L’opinion publique. Perspectives anglo-saxonnes” (Hermès, no. 31, 2001) contained translated texts, notably by John Dewey, Walter Lippmann, and George Gallup, which allowed us to reflect on the public space from a non-Habermasian perspective. Finally, “Paroles publiques, communiquer dans la cité,” (Hermès, No. 47, 2007) combined these traditional approaches to the public space with theories of deliberative and participative democracy, which have since shaped the academic field. In sum, Hermès’ intellectual undertaking has been a success. Public space has become a key concept of the social sciences in French, and this review is now an essential intellectual reference for those wishing to draw on this notion.
Constantly open to the world
10Hermès’s success in legitimizing political communication and in disseminating the concept of public space can be explained in no small measure by the wide degree of international openness that features in its writing. This openness falls into four categories:
11– First, there is the keenness to explore particular geographical zones with original themes. In this regard, the journal’s most recent issue, “Les BRICS un espace ignoré” (Hermès, no. 79, 2017), is symbolic, as it defines the BRICS countries as an original political project that, paradoxically, makes use of an absence of communication (or incommunication) in a number of respects. Over its history, Hermès has investigated the Pacific (in “Le monde Pacifique dans la mondialisation,” no. 65, 2013), China, and the Far East (in “Société civile et Internet en Chine et Asie Orientale,” no. 55, 2009) and Latin America (in “L’Amérique latine,” no. 28, 2000). The journal devoted two further issues to the building of Europe, with the first entitled “La cohabitation culturelle en Europe” (nos. 23-24, 1999), and the second “Les incommunications européennes” (no. 77, 2017).
12– Secondly, attention has been given to the links between language and international politics. This level of interest, which is an underlying theme in the issue headed “Les langues de bois” (no. 58, 2010), and which lies at the heart of the issues entitled “Traduction et mondialisation” (no. 49, 2007 and no. 56, 2010), resulted in the compilation of two editions with themes that had generally received little coverage by politics specialists: globalization from a French-speaking perspective (“Francophonie et mondialisation,” no. 40, 2004) and the influence of a billion speakers of Latin languages (“Langues romanes : un milliard de locuteurs,” no. 75, 2016).
13– Thirdly, there is the usefulness of combining different national perspectives on a single global topic. Over the years, Hermès’s political analysis has gone beyond studying the specifics of one geographical area or another (such as Europe), and has combined perspectives—shifting viewpoints and opening up new ways of understanding the problem at hand. The issue headed “Événements mondiaux, regards nationaux” (no. 46, 2006) is particularly illustrative of this approach. This edition features four key texts on the rejection of the European constitutional settlement, with analysis not only from the fifteen European Union member states at the time but from eastern Europe (Bulgaria and Romania) and even Canada. This combination of viewpoints allows us to gauge the national “framing” that the media deploy when describing international events (this being the explicit aim of that issue), as well as allowing French-speaking researchers in particular to widen their perspectives as they learn about how foreign researchers tackle the same issues.
14– Finally, the editorial board is multicultural in its makeup. By stepping back from a specifically French approach in addressing international political questions, the journal has made a financial commitment to bring together researchers from five continents on its editorial board—accounting for 40 percent of its members. The entire board membership comes together for a meeting twice a year. Most issues of the journal are co-edited by a team of three (two editors and a supervisor), which allows international political themes to be addressed with a multicultural approach, even as the issue to be tackled is still being defined. This international openness on the part of the editorial board makes it easier to attract contributions from specialist foreign researchers in their respective fields, even if they are not well known in France, which can introduce theoretical references hitherto little used in French-based research.
Three avenues to explore
15The future of the journal’s political research lies beyond rehearsing the settled analyses of the political upheavals prompted by information and communication technologies. Three avenues shall be explored. The first is to pursue a wide interdisciplinary range of work including social sciences and political philosophy, as now, but also the basic sciences. The aim here is to develop a political anthropology free from the blinkers of set disciplines so as to engage in dialogues and explore the tensions around approaches that are too often unused. The second path involves a concept of globalization removed from the Western logos, paying heed to what Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2014) referred to as the “Epistemologies of the South.” In this respect, the editorial board’s international openness is an advantage that could be used to even greater effect. The third and final avenue is to introduce recent works on incommunication, which have been extensively carried by the journal, to the study of political communication. How should this absence of political communication be addressed? What theoretical paths should be pursued? What empirical methods should be deployed? The thirty years to come promise to be every bit as rich and enthralling as the thirty years that have just passed.
Translator’s note: Unless otherwise stated, all translations of cited foreign language material are our own.
The colloquium was held on November 29 and 30, 2007, under the title “Économie sociale et solidaire, territoire et politique: regards croisés” (“The Social and Solidarity Economy, Territory and Politics: Comparing Perspectives”).
“Le Nouvel espace public” (no. 4), “Espaces publics, traditions et communautés” (no. 10), “Espaces publics en images” (nos. 13-14), “Économie solidaire et démocratie” (no. 36) (originally entitled “Économie solidaire et espace public”), “L’opinion publique. Perspectives anglo-saxonnes” (no. 31), and “Paroles publiques, communiquer dans la cité” (no. 47).
Via texts by Pierre Livet (1988) and Plinio Walder Prado (1988).