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Course, academic year 2023/2024
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Sociology of Critique - JSM477
Title: Sociology of Critique
Czech title: Sociologie kritiky
Guaranteed by: Department of Sociology (23-KS)
Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences
Actual: from 2021
Semester: winter
E-Credits: 8
Examination process: winter s.:
Hours per week, examination: winter s.:2/0, Ex [HT]
Capacity: unlimited / unknown (20)
Min. number of students: unlimited
4EU+: no
Virtual mobility / capacity: no
State of the course: taught
Language: English
Teaching methods: full-time
Teaching methods: full-time
Note: course can be enrolled in outside the study plan
enabled for web enrollment
priority enrollment if the course is part of the study plan
Guarantor: Simon Smith, M.A., Ph.D.
Teacher(s): Simon Smith, M.A., Ph.D.
Class: Courses for incoming students
The course introduces students to the sociology of critique and the sociology of justification, developed in France by Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot and their followers around the world. It explores the main concepts of the approach - justification, orders of worth, regimes of engagement, institutions, truth, reality and existential tests, perception and intuition. The sociology of critique will be situated in the context of sociology and social theory and its analytical power will be illustrated using case studies taken from recent empirical research about topics such as journalism, knowledge translation and health communication.
The course is particularly suited to those with an interest in discourse studies and socio-linguistics.
Last update: Smith Simon, M.A., Ph.D. (20.09.2022)


Boltanski, Luc (2011 [2009]) On Critique: A Sociology of Emancipation, trans. Gregory Elliott, Cambridge: Polity.

Boltanski, Luc and Laurent Thévenot (2006 [1991]) On Justification: Economies of Worth, trans. Catherine Porter, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.



Basaure, Mauro (2011) An Interview with Luc Boltanski: Criticism and the Expansion of Knowledge, European Journal of Social Theory 14(3): 361–381.

Bessy, Christian & Francis Chateauraynaud (2015) Being attentive to things: Pragmatic approaches to authenticity. Postscript to the second edition of Experts et Faussures: pour une sociologie de la perception. Paris: Pétra.

Blokker, Paul (2011) ‘Pragmatic Sociology: Theoretical Evolvement and Empirical Application’, European Journal of Social Theory 14(3): 251–261.

Blokker, Paul and Andrea Brighenti (2011) An interview with Laurent Thévenot: On engagement, critique, commonality, and power, European Journal of Social Theory 14(3): 383-400.

Boltanski L (1984) La dénonciation. Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 51: 3–46.

Boltanski L (1990) L'amour et la justice comme compétences. Trois essais de sociologie de l'action. Paris: Métailie.

Boltanski, Luc (1993) La souffrance à distance, Paris: Métailié.

Boltanski, Luc (1999 [1993]) Distant Suffering: Morality, Media and Politics, trans. Graham Burchell, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Boltanski, Luc (2004) La condition foetale : Une sociologie de l’engendrement et de l’avortement, Paris: Gallimard.

Boltanski, Luc (2009) De la critique : Précis de sociologie de l’émancipation, Paris: Gallimard.

Boltanski, Luc (2012) Énigmes et complots : Une enquête à propos d’enquêtes, Paris: Gallimard.

Boltanski, Luc (2013 [2004]) The Foetal Condition: A Sociology of Engendering and Abortion, trans. Catherine Porter, Cambridge: Polity.

Boltanski, Luc (2014 [2012]) Mysteries and Conspiracies: Detective Stories, Spy Novels and the Making of Modern Societies, trans. Catherine Porter, Cambridge: Polity.

Boltanski, Luc and Axel Honneth (2009) ‘Soziologie der Kritik oder Kritische Theorie? EinGespräch mit Robin Celikates’, in Rahel Jaeggi and Tilo Wesche (eds.) Was ist Kritik?,Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, pp. 81–114.

Boltanski, Luc and Ève Chiapello (1999) Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris: Gallimard.

Boltanski, Luc and Ève Chiapello (2005 [1999]) The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott, London: Verso.

Boltanski, Luc and Laurent Thévenot (1991) De la justification : Les économies de la grandeur, Paris: Gallimard.

Boltanski, Luc and Laurent Thévenot (1999) ‘The Sociology of Critical Capacity’, European Journal of Social Theory 2(3): 359–377.

Callinicos, Alex (2006) The Resources of Critique, Cambridge: Polity.

Celikates, Robin (2009) Kritik als soziale Praxis. Gesellschaftliche Selbstverständigung und kritische Theorie, Frankfurt am Main: Campus.

Honneth, Axel (2010) ‘Dissolutions of the Social: On the Social Theory of Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’, Constellations 17(3): 376–389.

Jagd, Søren (2011) ‘Pragmatic Sociology and Competing Orders of Worth in Organizations’, European Journal of Social Theory 14(3): 343–359.

Sharon, Tamar (2018) When digital health meets digital capitalism, how many common goods are at stake? Big Data & Society

Sharon, Tamar (2021) From hostile worlds to multiple spheres: towards a normative pragmatics of justice for the Googlization of health. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 24, pp.315–327.

Siffels, Lotje, Sharon, Tamar, & Hoffman, Andrew (2021) The participatory turn in health and medicine: The rise of the civic and the need to ‘give back' in data-intensive medical research. Humanities & Social Sciences Communications, 8:306, 

Silber, Ilana F. (2011) ‘Emotions as Regime of Justification? The Case of Civic Anger’, European Journal of Social Theory 14(3): 301–320.

Thévenot, Laurent (1990) ‘L’action qui convient’, in Patrick Pharo and Louis Quéré (eds.) Les formes de l’action, Paris: Éditions de l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, pp. 39–69.

Thévenot, Laurent (2006) L’action au pluriel : Sociologie des régimes d’engagement, Paris: La Découverte.


Last update: Smith Simon, M.A., Ph.D. (20.09.2022)
Teaching methods

This course is taught entirely online mainly via Moodle (

In odd weeks there is a pre-recorded double lecture.

In even weeks there is a reading group (on Zoom) in which we will study and discuss a book chapter or journal article. 

All students are expected to prepare for each reading group by reading the set text and are encouraged to actively participate in the discussions.

Last update: Smith Simon, M.A., Ph.D. (20.09.2022)
Requirements to the exam

Students will be evaluated through:
a/ three short written assignments during the semester (1 x 10 points, 2 x 20 points)
b/ a longer written essay to be completed during the exam period at the end of the course (50 points)

Grading system
91 - 100 points: A - excellent (outstanding performance with only minor mistakes)
81 -  90 points: B - very good (above average performance with some mistakes)
71 - 80 points: C - good (overall good performance with a number of notable mistakes)
61 - 70 points: D - satisfactory (acceptable performance with significant mistakes)
51 - 60 points: E - sufficient (performance fulfils only minimum criteria)
less than 51 points: F - insufficient/failed (more effort needs to be made)

Last update: Smith Simon, M.A., Ph.D. (20.09.2022)

Weekly schedule:

1. - 2. Introduction: From critical sociology to a sociology of critique

3. - 4.. Confirmation and critique: the concept of test (épreuve)

5. - 6. Judgement, qualification and evaluation as routine practices

7. - 8. Perception and intuition

9. - 10. Orders of worth as specifications of the common good

11. - 12. Existential tests and familiar regimes of engagement: the role of emotion and passion in critique


Last update: Smith Simon, M.A., Ph.D. (20.09.2022)
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