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Luc Boltanski and His Critics: An Afterword, in The Spirit of Luc Boltanski: Essays on the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’

AbstractThis chapter provides a detailed Afterword, which is intended to give the reader a thorough overview of the principal issues examined in "The Spirit of Luc Boltanski: Essays on the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’ (London: Anthem Press, 2014)". more

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Abstract: The core claims of the practice turn in International Relations (IR) remain ambiguous. What promises does international practice theory hold for the field? How does the kind of theorizing it produces differ from existing perspectives? What kind of research agenda does it produce? This article addresses these questions. Drawing on the work of Andreas Reckwitz, we show that practice approaches entail a distinctive view on the drivers of social relations. Practice theories argue against individualistic-interest and norm-based actor models. They situate knowledge in practice rather than “mental frames” or “discourse.” Practice approaches focus on how groups perform their practical activities in world politics to renew and reproduce social order. They therefore overcome familiar dualisms—agents and structures, subjects and objects, and ideational and material—that plague IR theory. Practice theories are a heterogeneous family, but, as we argue, share a range of core commitments. Realizing the promise of the practice turn requires considering the full spectrum of its approaches. However, the field primarily draws on trajectories in international practice theory that emphasize reproduction and hierarchies. It should pay greater attention to practice approaches rooted in pragmatism and that emphasize contingency and change. We conclude with an outline of core challenges that the future agenda of international practice theory must tackle.

144 citations

01 Sep 2018
Abstract: Economics is one of the most influential social science disciplines, with a high level of internal consent around a common theoretical and methodological approach to economic analysis. However, marginalised schools of thought have increasingly unified under the term “heterodox” economics, with their critical stance towards the “neoclassical mainstream” as common denominator. This has spawned debates among scholars about how to understand the nature of the mainstream-heterodoxy divide in economics.This thesis sets out to explain how such a common approach to science is generalised and stabilised in modern economics, and how this process is related to heterodoxy. Grounded in the sociology of science, it aims first to provide an empirical account of the mainstream-heterodoxy dynamics in Swedish economics, and second, to contribute to theory development. Drawing on the literature on distinct styles of reasoning in the history of science, I develop a theoretical framework of relational disciplinary styles of reasoning, which is used to analyse two bodies of empirical material from Swedish economics. The first is an in-depth interview study with researchers in economics, and the second is a document study of expert evaluation reports from the hiring of professors of economics at four of the top Swedish universities during 25 years. Through the two empirical studies, the fine-grained qualitative material provides an insight into the ways economists understand their discipline and the character of proper knowledge production.I argue that the mainstream-heterodoxy divide is fruitfully understood in terms of the institutionalised stabilisation of a disciplinary style of reasoning, and show how economists understand their scientific approach and its merits. The maintenance of the style of reasoning is the achievement of the thought collective of economists, where boundaries are constructed in relation to contesting heterodox economics and to other scientific disciplines. I show how the disciplinary style with its conception of good science and the notion of a core of the discipline is linked to the reproduction of disciplinary boundaries. I trace how this plays out through shifting quality evaluation practices, and show how top journal rankings have become a powerful judgement device which links the hierarchical ranking of top journals to the notion of a disciplinary core, and effectively functions as a mechanism of disciplinary stabilisation. In conclusion, I argue that these processes form a self-stabilising system in which the disciplinary style of reasoning and its boundaries is reproduced, with potential implications for how we understand intellectual dynamics and pluralism. (Less)

72 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: How could a de facto moratorium on shale gas exploration emerge in Quebec despite the broad adoption of fracking in North American jurisdictions, support from the provincial government and a favourable power position initially enjoyed by the oil and gas industry? This paper analyses this turn of events by studying how stakeholders from government, civil society, and industry mobilized modes of justification and forms of power with the aim to influence the moral legitimacy of the fracking technology during a controversy surrounding shale gas exploration. Combining Boltanski and Thevenot's economies of worth theory with Lukes’ concept of power, we analytically induced the justification of power mechanisms whereby uses of power become justified or ‘escape’ justification, and the power of justification mechanisms by which justifications alter subsequent power dynamics. We finally explain how these mechanisms contribute to explaining the controversy's ultimate outcome, and advance current debates on political corporate social responsibility.

55 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: This article aims to demonstrate the enduring relevance of Pierre Bourdieu and Luc Boltanski’s ‘La production de l’ideologie dominante’ [‘The production of the dominant ideology’], which was originally published in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales in 1976. More than three decades later, in 2008, a re-edited version of this study was printed in book format as La production de l’ideologie dominante, which was accompanied by a detailed commentary, written by Luc Boltanski and entitled Rendre la realite inacceptable. A propos de « La production de l’ideologie dominante » [Making Reality Unacceptable. Comments on ‘The production of the dominant ideology’]. In addition to containing revealing personal anecdotes and providing important sociological insights, this commentary offers an insider account of the genesis of one of the most seminal pieces Boltanski co-wrote with his intellectual father, Bourdieu. In the Anglophone literature on contemporary French sociology, however, the theoretical contributions made both in the original study and in Boltanski’s commentary have received little – if any – serious attention. This article aims to fill this gap in the literature, arguing that these two texts can be regarded not only as forceful reminders of the fact that the ‘dominant ideology thesis’ is far from obsolete but also as essential for understanding both the personal and the intellectual underpinnings of the tension-laden relationship between Bourdieu and Boltanski. Furthermore, this article offers a critical overview of the extent to which the unexpected, and partly posthumous, reunion between ‘the master’ (Bourdieu) and his ‘dissident disciple’ (Boltanski) equips us with powerful conceptual tools, which, whilst illustrating the continuing centrality of ‘ideology critique’, permit us to shed new light on key concerns in contemporary sociology and social theory. Finally, the article seeks to push the debate forward by reflecting upon several issues that are not given sufficient attention by Bourdieu and Boltanski in their otherwise original and insightful enquiry into the complexities characterizing the daily production of ideology.

42 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: The main purpose of this paper is to examine Rainer Forst’s account of ‘noumenal power’. Forst’s proposal for a revised ‘critical theory of power’ is firmly embedded in his philosophical understanding of ‘the right to justification’. Whereas the latter has been extensively discussed in the secondary literature, the former has – with the exception of various exchanges that have taken place between Forst and his critics at academic conferences – received little attention. This paper is an attempt to fill this gap in the literature. Given the increasing influence of Forst’s scholarly writings on paradigmatic developments in contemporary critical theory, it is imperative to scrutinize the key assumptions underlying his conception of ‘noumenal power’ and to assess its usefulness for overcoming the shortcomings of alternative explanatory frameworks. In order to accomplish this, the analysis is divided into four parts. The first part provides some introductory definitional reflections on the concept of power. The second part focuses on several dichotomous meanings attached to the concept of power – notably, ‘soft power’ vs. ‘hard power’, ‘power to’ vs. ‘power over’, and ‘power for’ vs. ‘power against’. The third part elucidates the principal features of Forst’s interpretation of ‘noumenal power’, in addition to drawing attention to his typological distinction between ‘power’, ‘rule’, ‘domination’, and ‘violence’. The final part offers an assessment of Forst’s account of ‘noumenal power’, arguing that, although it succeeds in avoiding the drawbacks of rival approaches, it suffers from significant limitations. The paper concludes by giving a synopsis of the vital insights that can be obtained from the preceding inquiry.

38 citations