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The Passion of Luc Boltanski: The Destiny of Love, Violence, and Institution

Justification, Evaluation and Critique in the Study of Organizations

ISBN: 978-1-78714-380-7, eISBN: 978-1-78714-379-1

Publication date: 1 June 2017


On Justification: Economies of Worth (Boltanski & Thévenot, 1991/2006) was a synthetic and comprehensive parsing of common goods, goods that could and had to be justified in public. In response to Bourdieu’s critical sociology, they rather provided a robust and disciplined sociology of critique, the situated requirements of justification. They refused power and violence as integral to the operability of justification. They emphasized the ways in which conventions of worth afforded coordination, not their constitution of or by domination. They refused to make either capitalism, or the state, into primary motors of social order. Indeed, they refused social sphere, structure, or group as the ground of the good. They emphasized the cognitive capacities of agents. There was no passion, no desire, no bodily affect in these justified worlds. There wasn’t even any account of production of value, of children, or of money. And while they recognized the metaphysical aspect of the good and even used Christianity as a template for one of their cités, they rigorously excluded religion. The theory was designed to analyze moments of controversy, not quiescence or quietude. In his subsequent work, Boltanski aimed to address these absences. In this essay, we examine how Boltanski sought to restore love, violence, religion, production, and institution across five texts: Love and Justice as Competences (1990/2012), The New Spirit of Capitalism, co-authored with Eve Chiapello (1999/2007), The Foetal Condition: A Sociology of Engendering and Abortion (2004/2013), On Critique: A Sociology of Emancipation (2009/2011), and La «Collection», Une Forme Neuve du Capitalisme – La Mise en Valeur Economique du Passé et ses Effets (2014) co-authored with Arnaud Esquerre.




We thank Eve Chiapello, Thibault Daudigeos, Damon Golsorki, John Levi Martin, Laurent Thévenot, and David Stark, for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. We also thank Editors Charlotte Cloutier, Jean-Pascal Gond, Bernard Leca and two anonymous reviewers for their extremely helpful and supportive feedback throughout the review process.


Friedland, R. and Arjaliès, D.-L. (2017), "The Passion of Luc Boltanski: The Destiny of Love, Violence, and Institution", Justification, Evaluation and Critique in the Study of Organizations (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 52), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 301-347.



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