The Spirit of Luc Boltanski: Chapter Outline, in The Spirit of Luc Boltanski: Essays on the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’
03 Nov 2014-Social Science Research Network-
16 Jul 2018
TL;DR: In this article, the authors use the pragmatic sociology of critique to study interactional settings where BIAs engage in normative and morally-laden discussions about urban revitalization, focusing on the Downtown London BIA's involvement in the revitalization of a four-block downtown street called Dundas Place.
Abstract: BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT AREAS AND THE JUSTIFICATION OF URBAN REVITALIZATION: USING THE PRAGMATIC SOCIOLOGY OF CRITIQUE TO UNDERSTAND NEOLIBERAL URBAN GOVERNANCE Daniel Kudla University of Guelph, 2019 Co-Advisors: Dr. Patrick Parnaby Dr. Mervyn Horgan Business Improvement Areas (hereafter BIAs) have become a central feature of urban revitalization across North America, Australia, Western Europe, and South Africa. Urban scholars describe BIAs as a neoliberal form of urban governance insofar as these quasi-state organizations use private sector strategies to make changes to public spaces. Despite growing literature highlighting BIAs’ neoliberal form of power, there is little understanding of the influence these organizations have during urban revitalization decision-making processes. Drawing on interviews, participant observation, and document analysis from two BIAs in London, Ontario, I use the pragmatic sociology of critique to study interactional settings where BIAs engage in normative and morally-laden discussions about urban revitalization. I specifically focus on the Downtown London BIA’s involvement in the revitalization of a four-block downtown street called Dundas Place as well as the Old East Village BIA’s involvement in the neighbourhood’s residential development planning process. I argue that the production of BIA spaces is contingent on interactional settings where social actors engage in dialogue, debate, and negotiation. This is not to discount BIAs’ political and economic forms of power; rather, I argue these forms of power cannot be separated from socio-cultural forms of power enacted during interactional decisionmaking processes. In addition to showing the justificatory strategies used by BIAs, I show how BIArelated decision-making processes are influenced by their organizational interests and limited by certain institutional arrangements. iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to the family, mentors, and friends who have supported me over the last six years. First and foremost, I would like to thank my wonderful wife Jacqueline for all her encouragement and support throughout my academic career. We have certainly experienced all the highs and lows that came along the way and I could not have done this without her (and our little dachshund Violet) by my side. I look forward to the future that lies ahead for us. To my parents, sister, and cousins, I would have never been able to attain a doctoral degree at a Canadian university without your courage to leave Poland to begin a new life in Canada when I was just 5 years old. For that I am truly grateful. There are many people who have made a direct impact on the academic I am today. First, my doctoral studies would not have been as enjoyable without the mentorship and advice from my dedicated supervisors Dr. Patrick Parnaby and Dr. Mervyn Horgan. Patrick taught me invaluable writing, research, teaching, and grading skills throughout my six years at the University of Guelph. Because he treated me as a co-researcher and not an assistant, I was able to experience for the first time what it is like to produce and publish original sociological research. Mervyn has been instrumental in helping me guide the theoretical framework in my dissertation. It was his Advanced Topics in Sociology PhD course that taught me the importance of connecting theory to practice. Many of the ideas contained in the following chapters would not have been as clear and developed without their timely and helpful comments. A special thanks to my advisory committee member Dr. Bill O’Grady whose important work on homelessness as well as his criminological approach has certainly shaped my doctoral work. I would also like to thank Dr. Joe Michalski who has been my academic role model from the beginning of my university career. Joe has played a major role helping me navigate the academic world, starting from an undergraduate student to a part-time faculty member at Kings University College at Western University. I have also benefited from frequent discussions with my fellow graduate students and colleagues, including Michael Courey, Gregg Cullen, Brittany Etmanski, Timothy Kang, Ryan Lafleur, Laura MacDiarmid, and Crystal Weston. In particular, my frequent chats with Michael Courey about community development in London as well as broader discussions about urban sociology and social theory have helped me shape and make it through my doctoral work. His passion has certainly made an impact on my work.
09 Oct 2020
TL;DR: Pragmatic Inquiry as discussed by the authors is a collection of essays from a group of researchers who met on a regular basis over four years to explore together novel analytical tools to make sense and account for social reality.
Abstract: Pragmatic Inquiry brings together a remarkably creative transcontinental and interdisciplinary group of researchers who met on a regular basis over four years to explore together novel analytical tools to make sense and account for social reality. It will give the reader a renewed sense of possibilities for capturing social complexity. Each chapter zooms in on a different conceptual device that aims to illuminate relatively unexplored aspects of reality. The authors draw on the work of influential scholars – for instance, Foucault’s notion of “dispositif” – but they go beyond them by digging in greater depth, extending and transposing such concepts to new objects.
TL;DR: The core claims of the practice turn in International Relations (IR) remain ambiguous as discussed by the authors, and it is worth noting that practice approaches entail a distinctive view on the drivers of social relations, arguing against individualistic-interest and norm-based actor models.
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.
01 Sep 2018
TL;DR: The authors 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.
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)
TL;DR: In this article, the authors analyze 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.
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.
01 Jun 2016-Cultural Sociology
TL;DR: Bourdieu and Boltanski's La production de l'ideologie dominante as mentioned in this paper, which was originally published in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales in 1976, has received little serious attention in the Anglophone literature on contemporary French sociology.
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.
22 Aug 2017-Journal of political power
TL;DR: In this article, the authors examine Rainer Forst's account of "noumenal power" and assess its usefulness for overcoming the shortcomings of alternative explanatory frameworks, arguing that, although it succeeds in avoiding the drawbacks of rival approaches, it suffers from significant limitations.
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.
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