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The Critique of Critique: An interview with Luc Boltanski

Michael Bacal24 February 2012

With two new books coming out, Luc Boltanski, author of the sweeping New Spirit of Capitalism, recently sat down for an interview with Books & Ideas to discuss the intellectual trajectory of his career and the possibilities of critique in contemporary society. Placing a particular emphasis on the two major preoccupations of his oeuvre, the sociology of critique and critical sociology, the interview goes on at length about his research with Bourdieu, social class as a viable theoretical concept, and the various presuppositions of his earlier writings.

Pointedly, he highlights the importance of understanding the past political horizon for a cogent re-formulation of critical sociology in the present. Referring to the recent republication of an article he co-wrote with Bourdieu a few years after May 68, he notes that:

it also struck me as useful to shed light on the political era in which we presently find ourselves. The texts that it analyzes-those of Giscard, Poniatowski, or of contemporary economists-lie at the frontier of two outlooks: between, on the one hand, what at the time was called "technocracy," which was still deeply statist, still deeply tied to the idea of economic planning, rationality, and industrialization; and, on the other, neoliberal forms of governance. It is very illuminating to return to the middle of the seventies if one wants to undertake the archaeology of the Sarkozian political universe, which has considerably expanded neoliberal policies while dressing them up, at times, in so-called "republican" rhetoric. 

To say nothing of the larger trends dominating the rest of the Eurozone and the United States! To read the rest of the interview in full, please visit Books & Ideas.

Filed under: interviews