This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
: Crises, Justifications, and Dynamics
Paul du Gay and Glenn Morgan
Print publication date: 2013 Print ISBN-13: 9780199595341 Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: Jan-13 DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199595341.001.0001
A Journey Through French-Style Critique
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter outlines the programme of a sociology of critical practice. It distinguishes this from Bourdieu's critical sociology and the theory of domination by emphasizing the role of actors. In this perspective, the actors are very different from the agents to which the critical sociology of domination had been accustomed to analyze. In the sociology of critical practice, are always active, not passive, openly critical, condemning injustices. From this standpoint, the social world is no longer seen a place of passively accepted domination, or even of domination suffered unconsciously, but instead a site full of disputes, critiques, disagreements, and attempts to restore local, always contestable, harmony. The chapter argues that the effort to renew the contribution of sociology to social critique by relying in this way directly upon the criticism formulated by the actors has however had only modest success because it does not permit mounting a wider critique encompassing social reality regarded in its totality, with different components systematically linked one to another, a critique that would consequently advocate for a drastic change of the political order. It argues that this reflects not a failing of the theory but a realistic understanding by actors of the nature of the situation in which they find themselves. It is institutions that have the task of maintaining in working order the current formats and rules and, hence, the task of confirmation of the reality of the reality. However, institutions are always precarious in the sense that they claim to be timeless, disembodied and eternal but their rules etc. can only ever be articulated by embodied actors. This hermeneutical contradiction opens a breach within which critique can develop and the issue of emancipation can arise.
Page 1 of 20
A Journey Through French-Style Critique
PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: New York University; date: 12 February 2014
Keywords: critique, pragmatism, domination, institution, emancipation
French sociology, having lost after the Second World War the prominence it claimed during the Durkheimian era, regained international recognition —especially in the United States—by taking up a programme of critical sociology which had been, until then, associated with the Frankfurt School. This reimplementation of a critical orientation, launched in the French context of May 1968, has taken a different path, however, from the one followed by the German heirs of the Frankfurt School. Specific to the French style of critical sociology is the attempt to build a synthesis between Marxist and Durkheimian traditions, centred on the notion of institution. This synthesis entailed elements borrowed from Weberian sociology as well as approaches rooted in the phenomenological tradition. One can say without reservation that Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology presented the most visible aspect, both in France and abroad, of this diverse and proliferating archipelago constituted by the new French critical sociology of the 1970s. This new critical sociology became, in turn, the target of numerous critiques. Some were inspired by political considerations that amounted, briefly, to a purely conservative dismissal of critical sociology for targeting the established political and social order. Other critiques, however, were grounded not in political but instead in basic theoretical disagreements. These internal critiques were sometimes developed by sociologists who had been—as was my case—close collaborators of Pierre Bourdieu, but were at odds with some of the theoretical postulates underlying the Bourdieusian conceptual system. Such theoretically inspired critical stances did not imply, however, giving up the project of associating sociology and social critique. These critiques recognized, at least implicitly, the legitimacy of such a project, as old as sociology itself. Despite the inner tensions and perhaps internal contradictions of (p.44) such a project, it has defined what is unique to the sociological discipline. Arguably, sociology has always been caught, as in a pincer, between, on one hand, the requirement for scientific description from an objective distance and, on the other, the need to adopt a normative stance allowing judgement of the prevailing social order. It is in this context of debates about the relations between sociology and social critique that another programme—in which I was involved—took form during the 1980s, namely, the pragmatic turn to a sociology of critical
Page 2 of 20
A Journey Through French-Style Critique
PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: New York University; date: 12 February 2014
implementing methods of direct observation borrowed from the anthropological tradition. Another part of the programme was devoted to the study of ‘affairs’. 2004). it meant taking as one’s main object of research those situations in which people are producing criticisms and justifications. (p. in France. by stressing a circular relationship between. I will not recall the now well-known objections opposed to the Bourdieusian scheme. 1995) and Jacques Rancière in France (Rancière. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. in other words. one of its main aims was to renew the possibility of a critical sociology. The ethnographic field sites were deliberately chosen to provide access to a wide array of disputes emanating from domains as diverse as possible. We thus launched a series of ethnographic fieldwork studies. of which the famous Dreyfus affair remains. date: 12 February 2014 .oxfordscholarship. on one side. moreover. we mean.com/page/privacy-policy). abounding in ordinary life.practice. All Rights Reserved. commissions for health or welfare. The programme of a sociology of critical practices The main orientation of the programme of a sociology of critical practices was to pursue and enhance a critical sociology grounded in rigorous empirical fieldwork by offering fine-grained accounts of actors engaged in situations. On the contrary. by Jeffrey Alexander in the United States (Alexander. media. In the course Page 3 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. 2013. tends to ignore or underestimate the state of uncertainty that persons frequently face when they are acting. such as firms. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. The strategy implemented consisted of a return to the things themselves. By this term. trade unions. What was particularly objectionable for us was the excessive weight placed on the delusion of the agents and the deep asymmetry between deluded actors and the clear-minded sociologist. triggered by a case entailing uncertain features and involving a question of justice. 2006). for example. especially in the course of disputes (Boltanski and Thévenot. as phenomenology used to say. the paradigm. embedded dispositions. thereby. studying disputes. in which actors put into play these capacities. etc. a big public debate.oxfordscholarship. Consequently.45) schools and universities. Subscriber: New York University. This programme was not oriented against critique—contrary to what has often been said—either in reproach or in praise. analysing and understanding the disputes in which actors become engaged. on the other. Under the terms of the licence agreement. it precludes the possibility of taking into account the very logic of social action and. Such a paradigm. up to our time. In the case of criticism. and this by focusing on the critical capacities of ordinary actors and by taking as the subject of empirical research those situations. underlying structures and. town councils.com).
and in viewing them as the principal agencies performing the social. Different incompatible accounts are publicly advocated. for example. These trends.com). this programme has drawn resources from different trends more or less inspired by the pragmatist tradition.g. furthermore. They were always active. Latour. as. or developed arguments to defend themselves against criticisms levelled against them. 2013. 2005). critiques. One must mention also other orientations which. analytical philosophy. although not directly connected to pragmatism. not hesitating to adopt. These approaches reprocessed a part of the pragmatist legacy frequently via tortuous paths by way of the work of Gilles Deleuze (e. From this alternative standpoint. Page 4 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. a conflict. that is. date: 12 February 2014 . The conflicting parties seek. harmony. Under the terms of the licence agreement. almost in the style of critical sociologists. but instead a site full of disputes. to mobilize as large a group of actors as possible in support of their cause. or even of domination suffered unconsciously. the second Wittgenstein.oxfordscholarship. and.of these affairs. They pressed home their demands. or the attempts. Some of the trends informing our approach were inspired by American pragmatism. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. condemned injustices. nonetheless directed sociological attention towards language and the interpretative work implemented by actors in situations. the social world no longer seemed a place of passively accepted domination. Subscriber: New York University. always contestable. ethnomethodology. Inversely. which is originally local. such as interactionism or. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. All Rights Reserved. But one must also mention other variants that were rooted in the French intellectual context. resulting in a persisting uncertainty about ‘what really happened’. as in Bruno Latour’s effort. the schemata of critical sociology that could have been popularized by education (often by post-school education) and by the media. spreads and takes on a general significance. continuously unmasking the hidden foibles and intentions of their opponents. were united in directing sociological attention towards actors in situations. less directly. On methodological and theoretical grounds. they discouraged sociology from producing quasi-cartographic descriptions of the social world viewed from an overhanging point of view and described as an already formed solidified entity. at merging analytical philosophy and phenomenology (Ricoeur. taking different paths. They were openly critical.com/page/privacy-policy). The actors revealed by these inquiries were very different from the agents to which the critical sociology of domination had accustomed us. disagreements. developed (p. then.46) in France by Paul Ricoeur. 2008). not passive.oxfordscholarship. when it suited them. a scene more in line with a lawsuit. and attempts to restore local. produced evidence to support their complaints.
by this same operation. in the long run. create or sever social ties. One can also attribute to the pragmatist influence the tendency of the sociology of critical practices to describe the social world as if it were the scene of a trial. in the course of the disputing process. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship. This participation would take the form of rendering generally accessible the Page 5 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. to modelling the cognitive resources and normative tools available to actors. We started then to build models of the manifested sense of justice. date: 12 February 2014 . But we also drew upon generative linguistics. from which we borrowed (in a somewhat unorthodox manner) the notion of competence. formalize their interpretations of the state of affairs into reports. provide a firm ground on which sociology could base its claim to participate in social change. our intention was to make normative stances emerge from the description itself. implement inquiries. All Rights Reserved. we tried to understand the way in which actors succeed in reaching a loose coordination of their actions and making their interpretations more or less convergent. we made particular use of linguistics. Such structuralist orientation. In terms of advancing a critical orientation. rooted in the structuralist tradition. or moral sense. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. however. plunged in uncertain situations. then. the kind of truth that such analysis sought to reach can be compared to the notion of acceptability as it is used in linguistics. was redirected. in the course of which actors. develop experiments. I would add that the programme of a sociology of critical practices maintained an objectivistic orientation. Subscriber: New York University. and subject one another to tests.com/page/privacy-policy). by shifting the focus from the mapping of a social morphology. The main task of sociology. in some aspects. This notion allowed us to infer the presence of underlying cognitive schemes displayed in the capacity of actors to produce criticisms and justifications within situations as well as their ability to discriminate between those that were appropriate to the situation and those that were not. to make explicit the methods implemented by actors themselves by which they select a meaning from among a large array of possible interpretations and. Relying upon these models. Under the terms of the licence agreement.com). considered from this epistemological position. is. 2013.Among this disparate array. determine qualifications. From this perspective. and even remained.oxfordscholarship. We first drew elements from pragmatic linguistics aimed at analysing indexicality and the process of making sense within situations. We thought that analysing disputes and clarifying the moral sense and the sense of justice practised by actors would. Thus. the object of sociological research lay in rendering explicit and delineating the generative grammar yielding the operations implemented by actors in the process of making and unmaking social ties and associations.
can we say the same thing with regard to our second objective.47) formulations whose general meaning could be recognized and validated and hence have warranted political significance. We refer to these procedures as reality tests.g. a book originally published in French in 1991 and translated and published in English only in 2006 by Laurent Thévenot and myself (Boltanski and Thévenot.oxfordscholarship. date: 12 February 2014 .com/page/privacy-policy). or question the test format itself. 2006). It develops a theoretical model.oxfordscholarship. based on extensive fieldworks. for example. It outlines the cognitive tools implemented by people so as to generate criticisms and justifications and lays stress on the plurality of the principles of evaluation and interpreted criticisms as based on a conflict between these. unlike a critical sociology of domination. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. But. exams or other selecting procedures) can be more or less institutionalized and are more or less bound to conform to certain formats. at least on the ground of descriptive adequacy. Under the terms of the licence agreement. The programme makes it possible to rely on the actor’s criticisms such as might be directed. 2013.com). But. it does not permit mounting a wider critique encompassing social reality regarded in Page 6 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. can be seen as the core example of such an approach. Can a critical sociology be developed on the basis of a sociology of critical practice? This research programme has undoubtedly achieved a better description of the various critical practices evident in everyday life. Moreover. Subscriber: New York University. They can take two different directions: either challenge the specific way in which the test is implemented by showing that it does not conform to the approved correct format. These tests (e. On Justification.frustrations and aspirations expressed by actors by translating such local claims into (p. Without going into the details of the model. I will just point out that it seeks to describe not only the argumentation but also the procedures people use to support their claims. the results seem rather modest. it facilitated the spelling out and modelling of the collective resources available to disputants. All Rights Reserved. against selection tests in school or work that fail to conform to their correct format. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. one can analyse the criticisms developed by the actors in the course of their disputes. of the sense of justice in our society. that the programme reached its objectives. Using such a frame. One can say. which was to renew the contribution of sociology to social critique by relying directly upon the criticism formulated by the actors? In terms of this second aim. then.
more probably. 2013. Their sense of reality is constantly reinforced by their ordinary experiences. Subscriber: New York University.oxfordscholarship. Must we conclude from this. it seems that it did not succeed in fostering a form of critique of more salient potency that could supply actors with the resources needed to reinforce their critical will and their critical efficiency. privileged or disadvantaged. the critical stances formulated by social actors and collected by the social scientist tend to be relatively limited and directed towards local settings. the sociology of critical practices wanted to really listen to the critical activity developed by ordinary actors.com). They do not ask for the impossible. But. They can judge unjust the way a certain test was performed in a certain situation. Ordinary persons. the institutionalized formats of tests and qualifications. actors can be aware of the general forms of injustice they suffer. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. This outcome is rather easy to understand and can be attributed to the fact that. And this can be noticed even when they are not paralysed by fear. for all that. Inversely.com/page/privacy-policy). taken as a whole. And the reason for this. in ordinary times as opposed to exceptional periods of uprising or revolution. that critical sociology was right when it considered social actors to be plunged in a world of illusion. A first reason is that they do not have access to the kind of tools necessary to totalize. then. with different components systematically linked one to another. a critique that would consequently advocate for a drastic change of the political order. As frequently demonstrated by the sociology and anthropology of resistance. by referring to the situations of other actors they regard as comparable in various respects. enjoying political contexts where free speech is a right. But the primary reason is. are rarely driven to question the general frame that informs their particular state of affairs leading to protest or indignation. without expressing strong claims.oxfordscholarship. which could be appropriated by ordinary actors in order to support their own bluntly critical claims. date: 12 February 2014 . All Rights Reserved. that actors implicitly know that the tests Page 7 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. We have then to face a kind of paradox. They can appreciate to what extent their condition can be said to be just or unjust. But it seems that this critical sociology did open (p.its totality. as individuals and in face-to-face interactions. is that actors are realistic. and not capable of gaining an awareness of their subjected state? Our interpretation is different. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. We reproached critical sociology for presenting people as subjected to mighty structures and for ignoring their critical capacities as agents. blinded by dominant ideologies. but without questioning. Under the terms of the licence agreement.48) the way to a radical critique. we would argue. at least in daily life.
seen as a questioning of the reality of reality. or given Page 8 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. Similarly. as such. Such contexts are favourable to the development of critique. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. it becomes fragile when this solidarity is weakened and the necessity of existing reality is no longer constantly auto-confirmed. selection procedures. etc. considered in the course of their ordinary life.49) in Vichy France. the pressure that reality imposes upon the aspirations and claims of actors is variable in different historical contexts.oxfordscholarship. be able to cope with trigonometry. of course. for example. as pure dreams can be transformed into aspirations. then. which is not reducible to the laws of the state. he would not. In contemporary societies. One can suggest that it depends. I have used the word reality to mean what sociology has referred to for nearly forty years as the ‘construction of social reality’. it would be another matter if he took a correspondence course and obtained a diploma. 2013. it would be irrational to demand. definitions. Reality is robust when the very existence of each of its components is symbolically and practically sustained and. and then into claims. on their own behalf. his denial of opportunities normally opened up by the professional exam would be a matter of discrimination. test formats. Up to this point. that reality. up to that moment.oxfordscholarship. Under the terms of the licence agreement. to break up. for instance. by context. date: 12 February 2014 . standards. an Afro-American person in the racist states of the United States. A waiter in a café knows implicitly that it would make no sense to consider unjust the fact of not being a university professor. hence. if tested. effective changes that would require a drastic transformation of this wider frame. what actors could only have considered. All Rights Reserved. will always hold them prisoners as in an iron cage. But I must point out that. confirmed by others. reality seems. mainly. because he realizes that. I mean a network of qualifications. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. however. on the degree to which reality appears robust or. my position is that this constructed reality does not determine in a mechanical way all of an actor’s experiences. rules. etc. Although. By reality. Certain experiences can be authentically lived. even if they cannot be formulated in terms of. consequently.com/page/privacy-policy). I designate the social context in which actors are involved. for being a Jew (p. these different formats rely mainly upon a juridical logic. Granting that actors are realistic does not mean. As demonstrated by the literature on revolt and uprising. seems to hold. Subscriber: New York University. In such a case. The actors. Inversely. seem to take seriously the mere fact that what we call reality tests are grounded upon reality. However.com).and their institutionalized formats are stronger than they are as individuals and. or else a woman or a homosexual.
the web of constructed reality. It aims at designing a larger scheme that would make it possible to integrate elements drawn. in the continuous flow of events. against social reality. One would not be able to understand how. one can say that reality is far from incorporating all that is happening. The experiences of persons are. to propose other kinds of social arrangements. In consequence. Subscriber: New York University. If the project of building a representation of reality. the world. a theoretical frame (sketched in my last book. twenty years ago. Boltanski. by some of its aspects. on this basis. relying upon their experiences. does not seem absurd. namely. regarded—in Wittgenstein’s terms—as ‘all that is happening’. reveal themselves capable of drawing from the world arguments and examples that do not fit in with the qualifications. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. They would. rooted in reality and in the world. I oppose the world. Actors. in On Justification. It represents. The construction of social reality—a process that involves symbolic operations of qualification and agency—makes it necessary to select. Thus. but not contradictory.oxfordscholarship. published in France in 2009 and in English in 2011. But these border situations become understandable if one acknowledges that the field of experience is also rooted in the world. This frame is rather different from the one presented. then. which no one can conceivably totalize. I will outline now. thus. as it unfolds in a certain historical context. On Critique. at the same time.50) reality that denies the satisfaction of these desires if the experience of actors were entirely restricted within the shackles of reality. consider them seriously.com/page/privacy-policy). All Rights Reserved.a place within. very schematically. finally. definitions. and. to expose its arbitrary nature. in certain situations. Under the terms of the licence agreement. on one hand.oxfordscholarship. on the other. in which these two Page 9 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. date: 12 February 2014 . an attempt at giving a theoretical basis to the analysis of the recent change of capitalism presented in The New Spirit of Capitalism.com). actors manage to access desires which seem the least realizable. and. some elements treated as if they were the only relevant ones. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. 2013. launch a radical critique of a (p. from the more recently developed sociology of critical practices. all attempts to delineate the contents of the world are doomed. and test formats on which current social reality is based. be able to question its necessity. from the critical sociology of the 1970s and. 2011). which can be mapped in a quasicartographic way. The model proposed in On Critique In order to develop this idea. I think that this distinction between reality and world can be used in order to get a better understanding of the role played by critical activity in the processes of social change.
on the other side. in any specific context. My argument will be that the pre-eminence given. Second. transforms it. institutions are two-sided. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. have been largely ignored by the sociology of critical practices. In the frame that I will outline now. questions this socially constructed reality and. we recognize their positive functions. particularly. 2013. Such a statement challenges numerous positions that take as granted that social life relies on a kind of tacit agreement which could be seen as original. drawing new resources from the world. and. the approaches that consider meaning as relying on the presupposition of a common sense (borrowed from phenomenology and/or from analytical philosophy). to either negative or positive aspects of institutions will depend on the place given to critical practices in the social setting. that human beings enjoy semantic security when their social identity.kinds of perspectives were implemented but loosely integrated on theoretical grounds (Boltanski and Chiapello.oxfordscholarship. namely. Institutions have the task of maintaining in working order the current formats and rules and. It puts into brackets. which are to provide beings. The aim of such a strategy is to compel us to problematize the making of arrangements that must be built in order to create a common social world. date: 12 February 2014 . The frame outlined in On Critique starts from a statement. All Rights Reserved. as sources of symbolic violence. and the social properties attached to it. hence. are maintained whatever the context in which they are plunged. But critique. But. even as quasi-natural. the task of confirmation of the reality of the reality. Their negative aspects.com/page/privacy-policy). and consubstantial to sociality.oxfordscholarship. This postulate of uncertainty must be seen as a thought experiment (rather like the state of nature in contractualist political philosophy). Under the terms of the licence agreement. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. on the incapability of human beings to reach spontaneously an agreement on a determinate way of fixing a relationship Page 10 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. 2005). when it succeeds in gaining a listening. Subscriber: New York University. which has the status of a postulate. are maintained. Institutions. with semantic security. instead. This statement lays stress on a radical uncertainty concerning ‘the what is it of what is’.com). This uncertainty is seen as continuously besieging the course of social life. This framework starts from the question of institutions. first. The research would then be centred on the relations between institutions and critique. One can say. briefly. persons. (p. it puts aside the approaches that focus on the certainty of group membership (as developed in social anthropology). seen mainly from the point of view of critical sociology as a source of symbolic violence.51) This postulate of uncertainty does not lay stress on the competition of interests but.
it cannot be sustained when there is too great a divergence in the interpretations given by actors of what is really happening and the way they make use of the common surroundings. of course. 1958). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. 2013. Given such uncertainty. All Rights Reserved. persons cooperate actively in order to reduce the anxiety about the what is it of what is.52) actions or to describe the current course of action. shut their eyes on the misbehaviours that might increase uncertainty. It implies. Subscriber: New York University. which is one of the main characteristics of this register. is made use of. Finally. of usages always involve the risk of dispute. by a change in the way language is used and its metaproperties are activated.com). or.oxfordscholarship. therefore. This way of averting the possibility of a dispute and of maintaining the appearance of an agreement is rather efficient.com/page/privacy-policy). The discourse includes few reports from a general point of view. its public expression. a shift towards other registers. physical proximity and is particularly activated in the course of interactions and encounters. Tolerance. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. the relation between symbolic forms and states of affairs is not explicitly addressed. which I call metapragmatic (a term borrowed from linguistic anthropology). still more. to evoke future plans of action. A consequence of this postulate is that different registers framing action—which I will examine now —will be regarded as tools aimed at reducing the effects of this uncertainty. A dispute. the objects and.g. Practical and metapragmatical registers of action The first register considered is practice. on one hand.oxfordscholarship. consequently. language. One can say that. that is. In this register. in particular. the level of Page 11 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. when one speaks of ‘a poet in the full sense of the term’). enforces. the possibility of referring. on the other. which can lead to violence. to an object and to language itself (e. at the same time. or the threat of one. either to recall past (p. more or less. but rather in an indexical way combining naming and pointing towards what is referred to. During these practical moments. date: 12 February 2014 . during such moments. the terms used to qualify them. above all. However.between symbolic forms and state of affairs—to use a distinction borrowed— once again—from Wittgenstein (Wittgenstein. at least. Interacting persons actively strive to ignore possible differences of interpretation about what is really happening and. which constantly jeopardizes interaction. is linked to a low level of reflexivity. During these metapragmatic moments. these differences of interpretations and. Under the terms of the licence agreement. These moments can be characterized. so as to avoid questioning the connection between. actors collaborate tacitly so as to reduce the level of reflexivity or.
according to Aristotelian Poetics. and to make it acceptable. must be considered in their dialogic relationship. which relies on the mere power of discussion as a device capable of selecting among different views. Under the terms of the licence agreement. namely confirmation and critique. it would lose its orientation and turn into a kind of nihilism if it cannot target confirmed statements. relative to his or her own interiority. The main task of confirmation is to prevent critique.53) authority.com). The second are forms that enhance factors of uncertainty present in the setting in order to contest the reality of what is given as really being. and perhaps even the power. 2013.oxfordscholarship. each person is necessarily situated in external time and space. 1969. desires. tastes. But. serve to announce publicly statements that everybody already knows. They have to establish and constantly confirm the relationship between symbolic forms and states of affairs. especially when a dispute is becoming explicit and threatens to lead to violence. then. in a way. to state on behalf of others the what is it of what is.reflexivity tends to increase and to take public forms. is too strong and hardly realistic. or of reaching a synthesis. In our framework.oxfordscholarship. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. etc. 1971). institutions are thus considered. No individual has the (p. These forms make a great use of quasitautologies.com/page/privacy-policy). All Rights Reserved. The first ones are forms devoted to the establishing of what is. and this for a very simple reason: because he/she has a body. thus. Why are institutions necessary to social life? The argument developed in this frame starts from the question of the body. Confirming and maintaining reality can be seen as constituting the main task of institutions. Epidictic discourses. above all—as in John Searle’s work—from the point of view of their semantic functions (Searle. As for critique. I will speak of forms oriented towards critique. are interdependent and. In ordinary situations of interaction. the only thing that an individual can do is to present his or her ‘point of view’. and to the maintaining of what has been established as really being. Subscriber: New York University. Two opposite modalities of metapragmatic interventions are proposed. I will call these forms confirmative agencies because they reduce uncertainty by continuously confirming what is. dislikes. Page 12 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. One witnesses. These two opposite modalities. date: 12 February 2014 . I think that the rationalist hypothesis. through time. but also. a reshuffling of the dispute which amounts to questioning the way in which the relation between symbolic forms and states of affairs must be recalibrated to be judged acceptable. confronting views are not sufficient to reach an agreement. In these cases. which. Having a body. are typical instances of this form. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press.
the phenomenological approach to institutions attaches to them the capacity of settled.com/page/privacy-policy). above all. Institutional delegation is supposed to invest their earthly frame with the properties of a bodiless being (according to the twin bodies logic made famous by the work of Ernst Kantorowicz. to escape from the corruption of time. etc. the appearance of these spokespersons cannot be thoroughly transformed. etc. frequently. It is for this reason that they generally assume specific symbolic marks (such as uniforms. professors. administrations. And it is because institutions are bodiless beings that mere human beings—that is all of us—delegate to them the task of stipulating the what is it of what is. when they set references or control qualifications. doomed to express nothing more than a point of view.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. Being bodiless. 1957). at least ideally. nevertheless. date: 12 February 2014 . tastes. deputies.54) speak on behalf of the institution. All Rights Reserved. long-lasting. and always prone to abuse. situated and equipped with a libido. We will add that institutions. are the only ones capable of making real those non-existing beings that sociology cannot afford to ignore. as operators implementing semantic functions. seen as such. Kantorowicz. for example. useful.oxfordscholarship. nothing but ordinary bodily people and.The main characteristic of an institution. Allocating this role to institutions prevents us from confusing them with two other types of entities with which they are often associated but from which they must be analytically differentiated: first. The hermeneutical contradiction The problem with institutions is that they are simultaneously both necessary and fragile. etc. priests. except through their spokespersons—persons made of flesh and blood like you and me—such as judges.oxfordscholarship. No sign can possibly give direct access to their interiority and intentionality and. hence. assure Page 13 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. etc. is to be a bodiless being. organizations. These persons. Under the terms of the licence agreement. interests. Institutions give to these beings (much contested by the approaches stemming from positivist logic) an opportunity to reach modes of existence far from being purely illusory. second. Unlike the individual bodies of those who speak on their behalf—their spokespersons—institutions are supposed. institutions cannot speak. Nonetheless. It is because institutions are bodiless beings that. which carry out police functions. and even eternal entities. They are. for this very reason. ethnic groups. hence. namely nations.) so as to make manifest the case that they do not speak personally but instead on behalf of an institution. turns of phrase. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. Subscriber: New York University. It follows that institutions must be seen. being bodiless beings. even when delegated and legally authorized are. which carry out functions of coordination and. tones of voice. 2013. social classes. at least when they are not supposed to (p.
running the risk of another kind of anxiety no less disturbing. desires. above all. I will call it the hermeneutical contradiction. date: 12 February 2014 . I mean. Moreover.com/page/privacy-policy). as impassable. impulses. hence. we trust the institutions. posing the following dilemma: On one side. Subscriber: New York University. the outcome of which could be the use of violence to impose an interpretation. All Rights Reserved. this ambivalence increases when the size of the settings considered is larger. with the risk of never reaching closure. Instead. a problem inherent to the interpretation process. to institutions. Under the terms of the licence agreement. whose effect would be to trigger an anxiety of fragmentation.com). an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.55) Page 14 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. rather. but. institutional operations. given that without their intervention our concern about what is could only increase. do not have any robust property that would allow us to trust them. 2013. on the other hand. than manifesting their proper will so as to satisfy their selfish desires. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. This anxiety regards the question of not knowing whether the spokespersons are really expressing the will of the bodiless being or whether they are doing nothing more. which becomes evident in the course of disputes. The way people grasp qualifications in the course of action has (p. then. so that anxiety can no longer be soothed by local arrangement as in the case of an interactive context.the absence of deception. having bodies. I propose to see in this tension a kind of contradiction which lies at the very core of common social life and which we must tackle. we can renounce the task of saying the what is it of what is in favour of a mere exchange of points of views.oxfordscholarship. when involved in the circumstances of ordinary life. which is inherent to all social life. etc. the awakening of uncertainty. Here the danger is. namely. come into tension—given their basically semantic nature—with the pragmatic dimensions of interpretation and action. How could we do otherwise. I do not merely mean the divergence between different interpretations. We must also note that the hermeneutical contradiction is not extraneous to the relation between semantic and pragmatic dimensions of meaning. The alternative side is—as we have seen—to delegate the task of saying the what it is of what is to disincarnated beings. even a temporary one. actually. with all the risks of discord or dissipation into private language that this would entail? But. who speak for them and who. at this moment of our analysis. By this term. we ‘believe’ in them. On the one hand. How can we know if the one who is speaking is an incarnation of the bodiless institution or if he is nothing more than a ‘nobody’ like you and me carrying on in a perishable body? From this follows a profound ambivalence with regard to institutions. we know all too well that they are fictions and that the only real beings are the humans they are made of.oxfordscholarship.
date: 12 February 2014 . If a conception of social activity completely based upon pragmatics is. probably because it is not limited (p. there is a risk of constant distortion of semantic marks. offers the possibility of outlining forms of life that are not yet encapsulated in the web of reality. definitions. In more radical forms. etc. through the mediation of intersubjectivity. In the absence of the hermeneutical contradiction. in the form of uneven distribution and recognition and. It follows that the maintenance of reality. Under the terms of the licence agreement.oxfordscholarship. thus. unrealistic. Qualifications. personal experiences are shared and associated with principles Page 15 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. have an individual character and. or of opening the stream of interpretation. particularly when it is jeopardized by critique. generated by the institutions are not. Critique is thus the main weapon that can be used by exploited or scorned people. This process can.com/page/privacy-policy). in its absence.56) by argumentative constraints. The implementation of these formats has. for example. in many cases. critical practices draw from experiences of the world heterodox elements that do not conform to the existing formats. Subscriber: New York University. rules. Their implementation requires a process of interpretation that relies upon context. entails the dilemma of having determinate but easily criticized formats. Critique can then be seen as the only defence against the kind of domination that institutions would. it remains that it is impossible to conceive a social world in which the manufacture of meaning could be thoroughly stabilized by semantic devices. asymmetrical outcomes. consequently. Critique and emancipation This tension embedded in institutions opens a breach within which critique can develop. It would be impossible for them to consider these formats from an exteriority.a pragmatic character. to make them relative and call the social reality into question. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www.oxfordscholarship. as we have seen.com). completely immersed in a social reality taken as granted. be triggered by works of art. or by groups. as such. It follows that the tension between semantic qualifications and situated usages plays an important role in the uncertainties of social life. strengthens exploitation. persons would continuously be under the regime of formats generated by institutions and. necessarily exert. 2013. But this process takes a political expression when. test formats. But given the interminable character of the latter. Emancipation—in the sense given in our work—ensues from the defence and extension of the critical practices that contest and unsettle those formats on which reality relies. susceptible of being processed in real situations. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. in the beginning. Art. for the most part. so as to change the outlines of reality. All Rights Reserved. that is.
where important asymmetries towards rules can be observed.. they frequently disclose information that they could not publicly reveal during the (p. This state of affairs.) are linked to a more general one regarding institutions considered as the main sources of qualifications. Subscriber: New York University. and rules. is particularly thorny in the formally egalitarian and. But. date: 12 February 2014 . Such tacit asymmetries rely.57) course of action. e.oxfordscholarship. It is not unusual that actors who have occupied dominant positions come to confide in private encounters (or. are supposed to be framed by rules. In these societies. involve the question of interpretation. etc.) consists of examining the practical relations persons have with rules. ethnic groups. democratic societies. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. the net of the regulatory frame is loose enough to tolerate a very large range of actions. But the asymmetry regarding rules. Emancipation and hermeneutical contradiction We will argue now that different kinds of asymmetries (between social classes. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. even threatening thereby the idea of a common humanity (e. A way of giving sense to the notion of ‘domination’ and of clarifying a label such as ‘dominant classes’ (or dominant gender or dominant ethnic group. even more. test formats. The basic assumption is that the relationship people have with institutional rules is utterly unequal according to the position they occupy in power relationships.oxfordscholarship. Inequality in terms of rules is something evident in societies in which a different and unequal status is attached to different categories of agents. the activities of actors occupying a dominant position.g. gender. shed light on the rather obscure notion of ‘symbolic violence’. upon the distinction between the letter of the rules and the spirit of the rules and. with regard to those in a dominant position. particularly. implemented according to diverse modalities. One of the outcomes is that the success or failure of a series of moves depends.g. in memoirs written at the end of one’s life) the way in which they managed to perform great things. for example. All Rights Reserved. how they Page 16 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. on a global appraisal effected at the game’s end. is generally justified by arguing that actors in a position of power must be evaluated according to their ability to attain large objectives in uncertain situations. perhaps. as in a caste system). for this reason. They describe. as well as the actions of the dominated actors. Under the terms of the licence agreement.com). 2013. when criticized. The analysis of that asymmetry could.com/page/privacy-policy). allowing different degrees of autonomy. largely.of equivalence which inform them and make possible their circulation in the public sphere. By doing so. etc. supposedly common to all.
therefore. we have to face a very different situation. or to overstep them. the network of rules surrounding actions is tighter and the control to which they are subjected is operated on a narrower scale. instrumental. transformed. be masked so as to escape sanction. This contradiction is not altogether abolished nor even disclosed. which is very convenient in order to cope with the tension between uncertainty and rules. Under the terms of the licence agreement. The mere fact of enjoying the Page 17 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. pursue actions and remain in strict conformity with the rules. and devoid of any sacred aura—that the dominant ones frequently adopt towards institutions—at least when they are not within sight of the dominated. It is. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. They do not ignore that institutions are human devices which can be built. This fuzzy appreciation of the rules echoes the relation—not cynical but just. If we turn now towards the dominated. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. it endows them with a kind of moral plasticity. Subscriber: New York University. These asymmetries regarding rules and institutions must be connected with the capabilities of intervening upon reality. In this case.com/page/privacy-policy). in order to reach their objectives. which means to respect the letter of the rules imposed from above. of course. no more than the dominating. and they are also supposed to believe that the institutions supporting these rules are something similar to real beings. And. rather easily. consisting in producing and imposing rules and in manufacturing institutions. But frequently. they also seem eager to mark the difference between these mere ‘arrangements’ and what could be seen as clear transgressions. or abolished.oxfordscholarship. above all. Nevertheless. for the common good—if they had remained trapped in the cage of rules. And this disillusioned knowledge comes out from one of their very specific experiences. in this case. if they want truly to act. but—so to speak—tamed. and must.oxfordscholarship. something well described by the anthropology of resistance or by the sociology of Taylorism. They are supposed to ‘obey’. But. evident that the dominated can. the distance they must necessarily take with rules. All Rights Reserved. date: 12 February 2014 . 2013. not only for themselves but.com). immutable and inviolable. Their mode of relation to reality places them in connivance with the hermeneutical contradiction. is socially labelled as transgressing. as to the distinction between the letter of the rule and the spirit of the rule. arguing that they had to withdraw from the ‘letter of the rule’ but did so with the intention of remaining as close as possible to the ‘spirit of the rule’. they can justify afterwards these infringements of the rules by arguing that they would never have succeeded in realizing such efficient actions—so useful. recognize that institutions are nothing more than artefacts.were compelled to circumvent some rules. They can then.
it is because they take liberties with the rules that they can effectively intervene (p. all at once. marked by moral indignation. when one demands a strengthening of the power of the state in order to compel the persons in charge to respect the common rules and to give more transparency to their actions. at least verbally. even more. A move towards emancipation would consist in establishing a political context in which the dominated could demand and acquire the same kind of freedom with regard to rules that characterizes the freedom enjoyed by the dominants. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. very frequent. Such a conception of emancipation does not however imply a radical contestation of institutions.58) upon reality. Such a decrease of asymmetry regarding the hermeneutic contradiction would not suppress. for example. Under the terms of the licence agreement. without being abolished. in principle. all the different kinds of asymmetries. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. to interpret and to adjust them. It does not call for an appeal against the dominants requiring them to respect. a sort of Page 18 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship. Emancipation in a pragmatic meaning These brief remarks help us to see how emancipation must be understood in this frame. date: 12 February 2014 . the necessity of which we stressed. considered at least since the Enlightenment as a path towards equality. Subscriber: New York University. particularly the ones that derive from a very unequal distribution of property rights.com). But the process of emancipation. But. as the dominants actually do. Second. modifying not only the course of their own life but also the lives of a more or less important number of other persons. institutions.com/page/privacy-policy). of interpretation.oxfordscholarship. supposes that everyone equally can establish the same kind of relationship with the hermeneutic contradiction and its outcomes. at least partly. These proclamations are doomed either to remain wishful thinking or to lead to authoritarianism. In other words.possibility of modifying rules and institutions is the basis of the subjective and objective autonomy characterizing the dominants. which currently constitute the privilege of the dominants. The direction we suggest is the opposite. All Rights Reserved. would be deprived of their intangible and quasi-sacred aura so that everyone could regard them from the same distance and with the same flexibility already assumed by those who have control and power. in fact. A move in this direction requires two things: first. nowadays. thus. it means that those who are now dominated would be recognized as having the same capacities of action and. But one can surmise that it would constitute. the rules they recognize as valid. It is the case. everyone would be entitled to criticize the rules and. Such exigencies. are. vice versa. 2013.
NJ: Princeton University Press.com/page/privacy-policy). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Princeton. Latour. (2006) On Justification: Economies of Worth. (2005) The New Spirit of Capitalism. J. This last form is still conceived as the institution of institutions or. J. contribute to a weakening of state violence. Boltanski. —— Chiapello. Kantorowicz. and at establishing a dialogical relationship between institutional forms of confirmation and devices devoted to critique. —— Thévenot. probably. (2005) Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-NetworkTheory. C. expressed in these terms would be. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. perhaps. (p. (c) Copyright Oxford University Press. All Rights Reserved. Page 19 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. (2004) The Philosopher and his Poor. H. A policy aimed at equalizing the relation towards rules. Durham.59) References Bibliography references: Alexander. L. B. as the legitimate foundation of the administrative and organizing powers which ensure. date: 12 February 2014 . L.pre-condition in this direction. to modify the outlines of the sovereign nation state. New York: Verso. E. would. Rancière. NJ: Princeton University Press.oxfordscholarship. (2011) On Critique: A Sociology of Emancipation.oxfordscholarship.com). If one admits that the relation to rules and institutions is closely linked to the power of acting. the maintenance of reality and the perpetuation of social asymmetries. Princeton. one must recognize that the development of the capabilities of action of ordinary people would be both the condition and the result of such a turn. by releasing capacities of acting that could serve the struggles aimed at decreasing such inequalities. if one prefers. E. (1957) The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology. (1995) Fin de Siècle Social Theory. 2013. thereby maintaining the peacemaking and unifying functions fulfilled by institutions—functions that only institutions can ensure. Subscriber: New York University. One of the consequences of the process of emancipation. Cambridge: Polity Press. NC: Duke University Press. de facto. London and New York: Verso. Under the terms of the licence agreement.
(c) Copyright Oxford University Press. (1969) Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. L. date: 12 February 2014 . P.com). Oxford: Blackwell. (1958) Philosophical Investigations (2nd edn.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).). London: Continuum.oxfordscholarship. Wittgenstein. Subscriber: New York University. J. R. —— (1971) The Philosophy of Language. All Rights Reserved. II. London: Oxford University Press. Page 20 of 20 A Journey Through French-Style Critique PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www. Under the terms of the licence agreement. 2013. an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see http://www. (2008) From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Ricoeur. Searle.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.