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24 - Sociology of Critique or Critical Theory? Luc Boltanski and Axel Honneth in Conversation with Robin Celikates

from Part VIII - Luc Boltanski in Conversation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2014

Luc Boltanski
Affiliation:
University of Paris
Axel Honneth
Affiliation:
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University
Robin Celikates
Affiliation:
Social Philosophy at the University
Simon Susen
Affiliation:
City University London
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Summary

The ‘sociology of critique’ and ‘critical theory’ offer different perspectives on the phenomenon of critique. The former approach has been developed by Luc Boltanski, as well as by other members of the Groupe de Sociologie Politique et Morale (GSPM), with the aim of providing an alternative to Pierre Bourdieu's ‘critical sociology’. The latter approach has been developed further by Axel Honneth, who proposes a ‘theory of recognition’, and whose work descends from the tradition of the Frankfurt School. Is critique, first and foremost, an achievement of ‘ordinary’ actors or a task of theory? What is the relationship between theory and practice? How can theory be critical and, at the same time, draw upon actors’ experiences and interpretations? These questions, as well as the – partly complementary and partly conflicting – answers given by the aforementioned approaches, both of which are crucial to contemporary debates in social philosophy, play a pivotal role in the following conversation.

I

Robin Celikates: Let us begin by reflecting upon the genesis of the two approaches. How have the sociology of critique and the theory of recognition developed as distinct paradigms? What role have diverging currents of thought, empirical issues, and specific intellectual constellations played in this respect? On the one hand, we have the tradition of critical theory and particularly its recent reorientation, proposed by Jürgen Habermas, as well as a certain dissatisfaction with the formal-pragmatic strategy, which suffers from a significant degree of ‘de-substantialization’ and ‘de-sociologization’. On the other hand, we find Pierre Bourdieu's critical sociology and the confrontation with empirical problems, which have led to the development of a new theoretical vocabulary aimed at making the description of certain social phenomena possible in the first place.

Luc Boltanski: I struggle with grand theoretical lines of development, especially at the moment, because – to borrow an expression used by Albert Hirschman – I am immersed in a phase characterized by a ‘propensity to self-subversion’.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Spirit of Luc Boltanski
Essays on the 'Pragmatic Sociology of Critique'
, pp. 561 - 590
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2014

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