Justification, Evaluation and Critique in the Study of Organizations: Volume 52

Cover of Justification, Evaluation and Critique in the Study of Organizations

Contributions from French Pragmatist Sociology

Subject:

Table of contents

(19 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xii
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Abstract

This volume presents state-of-the-art research and thinking on the analysis of justification, evaluation and critique in organizations, as inspired by the foundational ideas of French Pragmatist Sociology’s economies of worth (EW) framework. In this introduction, we begin by underlining the EW framework’s importance in sociology and social theory more generally and discuss its relative neglect within organizational theory, at least until now. We then present an overview of the framework’s intellectual roots, and for those who are new to this particular theoretical domain, offer a brief introduction to the theory’s main concepts and core assumptions. This we follow with an overview of the contributions included in this volume. We conclude by highlighting the EW framework’s important yet largely untapped potential for advancing our understanding of organizations more broadly. Collectively, the contributions in this volume help demonstrate the potential of the EW framework to (1) advance current understanding of organizational processes by unpacking justification dynamics at the individual level of analysis, (2) refresh critical perspectives in organization theory by providing them with pragmatic foundations, (3) expand and develop the study of valuation and evaluation in organizations by reconsidering the notion of worth, and finally (4) push the boundaries of the framework itself by questioning and fine tuning some of its core assumptions. Taken as a whole, this volume not only carves a path for a deeper embedding of the EW approach into contemporary thinking about organizations, it also invites readers to refine and expand it by confronting it with a wider range of diverse empirical contexts of interest to organizational scholars.

Abstract

How is moral legitimacy established in pluralist contexts where multiple moral frameworks co-exist and compete? Situations of moral multiplexity complicate not only whether an organization or practice is legitimate but also which criteria should be used to establish moral legitimacy. We argue that moral legitimacy can be thought of as the property of a dynamic dialogical process in which relations between moral schemes are constantly (re-)negotiated through dynamic exchange with audiences. Drawing on Boltanski and Thévenot’s ‘orders of worth’ framework, we propose a process model of how three types of truces may be negotiated: transcendence, compromise, antagonism. While each can create moral legitimacy in pluralistic contexts, legitimacy is not a binary variable but varying in degrees of scope and certainty.

Abstract

The purpose of our article is to contribute to the further understanding of individual responses to pluralism, by studying in particular the role played by critiques and compromises in the formulation of such responses. Drawing on theoretical insights from the sociology of conventions, we look at the various modes of justification publicly advanced by French co-operators when engaging with co-operative principles. Our analysis allows us to identify three main instantiations, that is situated and flexible enactments, of these principles: pragmatic, reformist, and political. Our contribution to the understanding of pluralism and its instantiations by organizational members is threefold. First, in contrast with studies drawing on an institutional-logics perspective, our study shows that individual instantiations of pluralism rely not only on positive affirmations of logics but also on critical mobilizations of competing logics. Second, our study shows that pluralism can be understood not only as co-existing multiple logics, but also as different possible instantiations of the same logic, the ambiguity of which allows compromises to be settled with other logics. Third, we suggest that organizational members’ responses to pluralism often involve more than two logics, which are combined into a complex set of interdependent judgments. In addition, in relation to co-operative studies, our proposed typology provides a mapping that usefully extends the range of possibilities found in co-operators’ instantiations of co-operative principles, thus furthering our understanding of the diversity of the co-operative movement.

Abstract

In this article, we make the point that managerial domination as described by pragmatic sociology is an appropriate notion to make sense of complex forms of domination in contemporary organizations. Based on Lemieux’s work on ‘grammars’, we complement approaches of complex domination put forward by pragmatic sociologists such as Boltanski and Thévenot. We illustrate these ideas by means of an ethnographic study of the financial intermediation industry. Our analysis sketches out an alternative conceptualization of power in such environments, and by so doing, helps us delineate the features that characterize complex financial domination. We conclude by arguing that this type of domination is the result of specific contradictions inherent to the grammars of financial intermediation.

Abstract

While the use of the pragmatic sociology of critique has enjoyed increasing academic popularity, the relationship between justification and broader power relations remains unclear. Recent attention to the concept of ‘domination’ suggests the need for a greater focus on how employed public goods reinforce prevailing social arrangements. In this article we explore the public debate over the expansion of hydraulic fracturing of shale gas (so-called ‘fracking’) in the United Kingdom (UK). This technology has generated significant debate and controversy. Through a detailed examination of public inquiries into the technology we explore how different actors employ discursive strategies to justify their claims for the expansion or rejection of fracking. Through this analysis, the article identifies how some of these justifications enjoy precedence over others within the prevailing neoliberal political regime. By explaining how such a political regime is constituted, our study contributes to better understanding how different justifications support hegemonic political ideologies.

Abstract

This article traces the regimes of worth that defined energy for centuries as a productive force of human and animal labor, an understanding that transformed in the 18th century to an “industrial-energy” regime of worth supporting an economy of mass production, consumption, and profit and more recently one centered on market forces and price. Industrial and market energy and the conventions and institutions that support them are currently in a period of discursive and material ferment; they are being challenged by different higher order principles of worth. We discuss eight emergent energy justifications that argue what kind of energy is – and is not – in the best interests of society.

Abstract

This article will consider the various ways in which accounting can be conceptualized within Boltanski and Thévenot’s economies of worth theoretic. Drawing on two case illustrations, a not-for-profit welfare agency and a government-owned water utility, we follow the unfolding of disputes and the variety of outcomes in which accounting is implicated. We illustrate the role of accounting in justificatory actions and the ways in which it “holds things together” in compromise arrangements. We also illustrate the situations which challenge the “test” of worth and the innovative accounting responses that either facilitate coordination and agreement or become controversial and be the object of organizational and institutional dispute.

Abstract

This article draws on the literature on valuation and evaluation and the orders of worth framework to consider the process of knowledge commercialization from academia to practice. Based on the study of two knowledge commercialization projects in a business school, the study contributes by showing how the orders of worth framework may assist in understanding the assignment of worth to knowledge-based objects in the context of multiple and potentially competing systems of valuation. The study also adds to the literature on the orders of worth framework by showing how “composite objects” or “assemblages” that achieve compromise or synergy (i.e., mutual reinforcement) between different value systems may be constructed and potentially sustained.

Abstract

There are a number of conflicts today involving groups and individuals as regards nature in its various forms. The aim of this article is to examine how these give rise to changes in the forms of critique and justification that underpin them. Based on various points of disagreement as to how nature should be developed, three possibilities of change have been put forward for examination according to the importance of the transformations required: (a) integration of the model into existing orders of justification, (b) development of a new order based on the same model, (c) serious adjustment of the underlying common matrix of orders and the basis it offers for appreciating injustice.

Abstract

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.

Abstract

The main purpose of this essay is to reflect on the nature of justification. To this end, the analysis draws on Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’s De la justification. Les économies de la grandeur 1 [On Justification: Economies of Worth 2 ]. More specifically, the article aims to examine the extent to which Boltanski and Thévenot’s conceptual framework, widely known as ‘the sociology of critical capacity’, 3 permits us to demonstrate that processes of justification 4 are vital to the symbolically mediated construction – that is, to both the conceptual and the empirical organization 5 – of social life. In order to prove the validity of this contention, the inquiry explores the meaning of ‘justification’ in relation to the following dimensions: (1) existence, (2) ethics, (3) justice, (4) perspective, (5) presuppositions, (6) agreement, (7) common worlds, (8) critique, (9) practice and (10) justification itself. By way of conclusion, the article maintains that processes of justification constitute an essential ingredient of human reality.

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Abstract

This article takes its point of departure from the intellectual milieu in the mid-1980s that gave rise to Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’s book, On Justification: Economies of Worth. It shows how exposure to ideas and concepts in that book came to take varied forms as they were elaborated and modified in the work of an American sociologist across several decades of research in diverse empirical settings.

Index

Pages 399-403
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Cover of Justification, Evaluation and Critique in the Study of Organizations
DOI
10.1108/S0733-558X201752
Publication date
2017-06-01
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Organizations
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78714-379-1
eISBN
978-1-78714-379-1
Book series ISSN
0733-558X