Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-66d7dfc8f5-cvn66 Total loading time: 0.461 Render date: 2023-02-09T07:21:47.344Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

15 - The Civil Sphere and On Justification: Two Models of Public Culture

from Part VI - Luc Boltanski and Political Sociology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2014

Irène Eulriet
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
Get access

Summary

Introduction

Jeffrey Alexander's The Civil Sphere and Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot's On Justification, both first published in English in 2006, represent each in their own genre major sociological contributions. This chapter is concerned with appraising their respective input towards a renewal of our understanding of public culture in liberal democracies as well as of the sociological tools for analysing it.

Indeed, these works have many affinities. Both draw on Durkheimian thought or concepts. Both display a common lexis from ‘justice’ to ‘pragmatics’ and ‘compromise’, as well as a common inclination to connect philosophical and sociological issues. Both endeavours have been bestowed auspicious labels: while the setting up of a ‘new American cultural sociology’ (see Smith, 1998) has long been the purpose of the research program of Alexander, the ‘theory of justification’ elaborated by Boltanski and Thévenot has been seen to form part of the ‘new French social sciences’ (Wagner, 1994: 272). Crucially here, both endeavours seek to elucidate how a certain aspiration to justice, solidarity, and universalism produces differentiating social-political effects – a distinctive trait of liberal democracies.

On the basis of a presentation of the key tenets of each approach, a comparison of their use of the notion of ‘public culture’ is attempted here. It is argued that, while Alexander's comprehensive endeavour is impressive and well adapted to the analysis of state-regulated social relations, the proposal made by the two French theorists, although lacking a formal ‘grand-theoretical’ dimension, is more able to capture emerging socio-cultural and socio-political trends.

The Civil Sphere and On Justification: What Makes Them Comparable

A major point of convergence between the approach developed by Boltanski and Thévenot, on the one hand, and the one proposed by Alexander, on the other, is this: both are wary of differentiating their main analytical object from other social structures, forces, or institutions. In The Civil Sphere, Alexander writes, ‘We need a theory […] that is less myopically centred on social structure and power distribution, and more responsive to the ideas that people have in their heads and to what Tocqueville called the habits of their hearts’ (2008: 43).

Type
Chapter
Information
The Spirit of Luc Boltanski
Essays on the 'Pragmatic Sociology of Critique'
, pp. 413 - 424
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2014

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×