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Spirit of Luc Boltanski

Spirit of Luc Boltanski

Essays on the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’

Edited by Simon Susen & Bryan S. Turner

This volume – which brings together essays by prominent scholars in the field of sociology – provides a range of perspectives on the increasing influence of Luc Boltanski’s writings on both theoretical and empirical problems of contemporary social and political analysis.

Hardback, 884 Pages


January 2014

£175.00, $295.00

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  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents

About This Book

The fact that Luc Boltanski is widely regarded as one of the most influential French sociologists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries should be reason enough for putting together a collection of essays concerned with the major intellectual contributions that he has made to the humanities and social sciences. Boltanski has emerged as the most prominent, and also most innovative, French sociologist since the death of Pierre Bourdieu in 2002. It is ironic that, despite both the magnitude and the originality of Boltanski’s oeuvre, one finds only few systematic commentaries, let alone edited books, on his work in the vast industry of contemporary sociological enquiry. The purpose of this volume is to fill this gap in the literature by creating opportunities for debate capable of representing the wide range of discussions that Boltanski’s writings have sparked amongst researchers in the humanities and social sciences over the past decades.


‘This superb volume offers a complete critical appraisal of Luc Boltanski’s major works. The range and depth of analysis in impressive. The individual chapters, authored by established scholars, are most insightful and the introductory and concluding chapters by the editors are exceptional.’ —Gerard Delanty, University of Sussex

‘Among the explorers of social life and its dynamics, Luc Boltanski is one of the greatest path-finders and path-blazers alive. The ideas he forms in successive reports of his findings are invariably as novel as the realities he investigates and indefatigably attempts, with great success, to catch in flight.’ —Zygmunt Bauman, Emeritus Professor, University of Leeds

‘Luc Boltanski has been among the most wide-ranging, creative, and influential of recent social scientists. His work has shaped and indeed helped to revive the tradition of pragmatist enquiry in sociology. This collection is the first comprehensive assessment of his work; it is exceptionally good, and it should be of interest to all social theorists and cultural sociologists.’ —Craig Calhoun, Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science

‘This is a book that is needed to understand the ideas and research dynamics of one of the greatest contemporary sociologists. This impressive collection of essays provides not only an introduction to his work, but also insightful analyses of its reception, critical discussions on its wider significance, and reflexive comments by Luc Boltanski himself, all of which will make this volume a classic.’ —Ève Chiapello, Research Director, School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), Paris

‘In his rich theoretical and empirical work, Boltanski has given new meaning to the notion of “critique” – away from the pretensions of academic radicals, toward actual human beings and their moral judgements. This impressively wide-ranging collection gives an excellent overview of the controversies about one of the most prominent French sociologists.’ —Hans Joas, Humboldt University of Berlin and University of Chicago

‘Luc Boltanski’s intellectual contribution stands out due to its impressive originality and multidimensionality. This insightful book succeeds in locating Boltanski’s work in an international and interdisciplinary terrain. It is a mustread for anyone who is interested in the far-reaching significance of Boltanski’s oeuvre.’ —Michèle Lamont, Acting Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, Harvard University

‘This rich volume will help introduce Luc Boltanski’s sociology to unfamiliar readers, while at the same time advancing discussion of its potential and limitations.’ —Neil Gross, University of British Columbia

‘Simon Susen and Bryan S. Turner’s superb edited collection offers an exhaustive appraisal of Luc Boltanski’s contributions to sociology and social theory. Including several interviews and materials that were previously unavailable in English, no aspect of Boltanski’s work has been left untouched.’ —Daniel Chernilo, Loughborough University

‘This monumental book is destined to increase awareness and appreciation of Luc Boltanski’s impressive scholarship and the urgent relevance of his ideas to making sense of the inextricable moral and political dilemmas of local and global society.’ —Michele Dillon, University of New Hampshire

Author Information

Simon Susen is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at City University London.

Bryan S. Turner is the Presidential Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York. Concurrently, he is the Director of the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society at the Australian Catholic University, Melbourne.


Key Issues in Modern Sociology

Table of Contents

Preface (Simon Susen and Bryan S. Turner); Luc Boltanski: His Life and Work – An Overview (Simon Susen); Three Theories of Justice: Preliminary Reflections (Bryan S. Turner); The Spirit of Luc Boltanski: Chapter Outline (Simon Susen); 1. Figures of Descent from Classical Sociological Theory: Luc Boltanski (Bridget Fowler); 2. Did You Say ‘Pragmatic’? Luc Boltanski’s Sociology from a Pragmatist Perspective (Louis Quéré and Cédric Terzi); 3. Why (Not) Pragmatism? (Tanja Bogusz); 4. The Moral Idealism of Ordinary People as a Sociological Challenge: Reflections on the French Reception of Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’s ‘On Justification’ (Cyril Lemieux); 5. Is There Such a Thing as a ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’? Reflections on Luc Boltanski’s ‘On Critique’ (Simon Susen); 6. Strengths and Limitations of Luc Boltanski’s ‘On Critique’ (Rob Stones); 7. A Renewal of Social Theory That Remains Necessary: The Sociology of Critical Capacity Twenty Years After (Peter Wagner); 8. Enlarging Conceptions of Testing Moments and Critical Theory: ‘Economies of Worth’, ‘On Critique’, and ‘Sociology of Engagements’ (Laurent Thévenot; Translated by Amy Jacobs); 9. Pierre Bourdieu and the Early Luc Boltanski (1960–1975): Collective Ethos and Individual Difference (Derek Robbins); 10. Beyond Pragmatic Sociology: A Theoretical Compromise between ‘Critical Sociology’ and the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’ (Mohamed Nachi); 11. Towards a Dialogue Between Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘Critical Sociology’ and Luc Boltanski’s ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’ (Simon Susen); 12. The Promise of Pragmatic Sociology, Human Rights, and the State (Kate Nash); 13. ‘The Political’ in the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’: Reading Boltanski with Lefort and Castoriadis (Paul Blokker); 14. Axel Honneth and Luc Boltanski at the Epicentre of Politics (Mauro Basaure); 15. ‘The Civil Sphere’ and ‘On Justification’: Two Models of Public Culture (Irène Eulriet); 16. Luc Boltanski in Euroland (William Outhwaite and David Spence); 17. Reflections on the Indignation of the Disprivileged and the Underprivileged (Bryan S. Turner); 18. Arranging the Irreversible: The Female Condition and Contradiction (Bruno Karsenti; Translated by Peter Hamilton); 19. Luc Boltanski and the Gift: Beyond Love, beyond Suspicion...? (Ilana F. Silber); 20. The World of Worth in the Transhuman Condition: Prolegomena to a Proactionary Sociology (Steve Fuller); 21. Luc Boltanski and the Problem of Time: Notes towards a Pragmatic Sociology of the Future (Lisa Adkins); 22. An Introduction to ‘“Whatever Works”: Political Philosophy and Sociology – Luc Boltanski in Conversation with Craig Browne’ (Craig Browne); 23. ‘Whatever Works’: Political Philosophy and Sociology – Luc Boltanski in Conversation With Craig Browne (Luc Boltanski and Craig Browne); 24. Sociology of Critique or Critical Theory? Luc Boltanski and Axel Honneth in Conversation with Robin Celikates (Luc Boltanski, Axel Honneth, and Robin Celikates; Translated by Simon Susen); 25. The Fragility of Reality: Luc Boltanski in Conversation with Juliette Rennes and Simon Susen (Luc Boltanski, Juliette Rennes, and Simon Susen; Translated by Simon Susen); 26. Luc Boltanski and His Critics – An Afterword (Simon Susen); Index of Names; Index of Subjects

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