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Love and Justice as Competences

Luc Boltanski | July 2012


People care a great deal about justice. They protest and engage in confrontations with others when their sense of justice is affronted or disturbed. When they do this, they don’t generally act in a strategic or calculating way but use arguments that claim a general validity. Disputes are commonly regulated by these ‘regimes of justice’ implicit in everyday social life. But justice is not the only regime that governs action. There are some actions that are selfless and gratuitous, and that belong to what might be called a regime of ‘peace’ or ‘love’. In the course of their everyday lives, people constantly move back and forth between these two regimes, that of justice and that of love. And everyone also has the capacity for violence, which arises when the regulation of action within either of these regimes breaks down. 

In Love and Justice as Competences, Boltanski lays out this highly original framework for analysing the action of individuals as they pursue their day-to-day lives. The framework outlined in this important book is the basis for the path-breaking work that he has developed over the last twenty years – work that has examined the moral foundations of society in and through the forms of everyday conflict. For anyone who wants to understand what a critical sociology might mean today, this book is an essential text.

Luc Boltanski is Professor of Sociology at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris

Polity Books