Book Review: On Critique by Luc Boltanski
TL;DR: Boltanski and Thevenot as discussed by the authors compare two sociological modelsof critique: Bourdieusian critical sociology and the pragmatic sociology of critique developed by Boltanski and his colleagues.
Abstract: Over the past few years, French sociologists Luc Boltanksiand Laurent Thevenot have developed a so-called “prag-matic sociology of critique.” In an e ort to overcome theperceived shortcomings of Bourdieusian “critical sociol-ogy”—namely, the relative neglect of the perspectives ofsocial actors—Boltanksi and Thevenot’s work turns to theways in which individuals justify their actions and legitimizetheir views to others in quite ordinary, everyday situations(see Boltanski and Thevenot, 1999, 2006). In his most recentbook, On Critique: A Sociology of Emancipation, Boltanksigoes a step further to argue the interdependence of both crit-ical sociology and a pragmatic sociology of critique.On Critique stems from three talks Boltanski gave as partof the Adorno Lecture series at the Institute for Social Re-search in Frankfurt, Germany in November 2008. Each talkis divided in two, making up the six chapters of the book.Boltanski focuses on the sociology of domination throughoutand in doing so, he attempts to make explicit the relationshipbetween sociology and critique.In part one, Boltanski compares two sociological modelsof critique: Bourdieusian critical sociology and the prag-matic sociology of critique developed by Boltanski and hiscolleagues. Although critical sociology is concerned withthe role of reﬂexivity in both the discipline of sociology andeveryday life, for Bourdieu, the relationship between criti-cal reﬂexivity and practical reﬂexivity remains asymmetrical(see Bourdieu, 2004). The pragmatic sociology of critique,on the other hand, reexamines the distinction between criti-cal sociologist and “ordinary” actor. This pragmatist modelroots the capacity for critique in the situations where “ordi-nary” actors engage evaluation and criticism in their day today activities. Whereas critical sociology requires the criticto assume a privileged position in order to debunk the facadesof social reality (as for example in the traditional critique ofideology); pragmatic sociology of critique involves a plural-ism of critique. The main contribution of pragmatic sociol-ogy of critique, according to Boltanski (pg. 68), has been toshow how everyday moments of dispute have the potentialto shed light on the relationship between reality (that which
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...The pragmatic turn introduces that both Boltanski and Thévenot have developed their theory ‘in an effort to overcome the perceived shortcomings of Bourdieusian “critical sociology”— namely, the relative neglect of the perspectives of social actors’ (Stoner 2012, 37)....