Symmetry and composition: on the pragmatic sociology of critique
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Bruno Latour has argued that “critique has run out of steam”, and proposes a new mode of critique as “compositionism:” bringing different practices, worlds and values to bear on each other. ...
Bruno Latour has argued that “critique has run out of steam”, and proposes a new mode of critique as “compositionism:” bringing different practices, worlds and values to bear on each other. This paper argues that the research programme that Luc Boltanski calls the “pragmatic sociology of critique” answers both the specific problem posed by Latour and more general concerns about the relationship between practices of critique and the institutions they encounter. The paper is based upon an analysis of On Justification (Boltanski and Thévenot, 2006) and The New Spirit of Capitalism (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2005), as well as the field of inquiry that informs them. In these works, the authors present both a study of critique and a methodology for further study in that mode: both a pluralistic description of the “economies of justification” in everyday life, and a guide for effecting change. In particular, their research programme modifies critique in three ways: it acknowledges that everyday life is filled with critical moments; it draws analytical categories from the field itself; and it poses critique in a way that can be understood by those it addresses. This paper charts important methodological considerations for any study of culture that might desire to be “critical”.
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