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October 4: Seminar

Tuesday, October 4, 2016, 12:00 p.m.

Contesting the Liberal State:
Grammars of Commonality and Institutional Logics as Modes of Political Understanding

Laurent Thévenot and Roger Friedland

Centre Simmel, EHESS and Media, Culture and Communication, NYU

October 4, noon to 3 p.m.

Dean's Conference Room, CIRHUS, 2nd Floor, 4 Washington Square North.

Sponsored by CIRHUS, NYU and Department of Media, Culture and Communication, NYU

Laurent Thévenot is a founder of the French conventions of worth school and co-author, with Luc Boltanski, of De La Justification (Gallimard, 1991). That approach to the multiple grammars of justification offered a morally engaged sociology of critique as opposed to the domination-centered critical sociology of their mentor, Pierre Bourdieu. Thévenot has since moved beyond the ordering of common goods to other grammars of engagement, from the plan to the common place and the familiar.  He has been particularly interested in unpacking the liberal and neo-liberal projects, particularly the rise of a non-statist form of power: governing by standards.

Roger Friedland is a founder of the American institutional logics approach, and co-author, with Robert Alford, of “Bringing Society Back In:  Symbols, Practices and Institutional Contradictions,” which was published in the same year as On Justification.  The institutional logical approach points to forms of meaningful material practice grounded in non-phenomenal institutional substances. Friedland has sought to apply the institutional logics approach to politicized religion, to the organization of American university students’ intimate lives and to the history of accounting.

Their two approaches are often considered uncanny, warring twins.  Their work is increasingly an occasion for comparison and mutual critique.  For the past three years, the two authors have been publicly exploring the commonalities and differences between their approaches.

This will be a seminar, not a public lecture. In the seminar we will use the two approaches to analyze two kinds of challenge to the liberal state: often authoritarian populisms that have reorganized the political landscapes in France, Hungary, Russia and the United States, among others, and politicized religions that have been dominant forces in the United States, Turkey, Israel, Palestine, Egypt and India.  How do we think about new manifestations of collective solidarity?  What difference does God make?  And how adequate are these two approaches to thinking comparatively about these constructions of commonality or collectivity?

Seminar participants will be expected to read two essays by the authors.  The first, by Thévenot, “Voicing concern and difference: from public spaces to commonplaces,” which appeared in The European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 2014.  The second by Friedland, “The Institutional Logic of Religious Nationalism: Sex, Violence and the Ends of History,” in Politics, Religion and Ideology, 2011.

This seminar, hosted by the Center for International Research in the Humanities, NYU, requires pre-registration at which point the papers will be distributed.  Other co-sponsors include the Departments of Sociology and the Institute for Public Knowledge.

Please contact Valérie Dubois to register for the seminar.