‘The Promise of Pragmatic Sociology: Human Rights and the State’

Nash, Kate. 2014. ‘The Promise of Pragmatic Sociology: Human Rights and the State’. In: Simon Susen and Bryan Turner, eds. The Spirit of Luc Boltanski: essays on the pragmatic sociology of critique. London: Anthem. ISBN 9781783082964 [Book Section]

[img] Text
promise of pragmatic sociology.docx - Accepted Version

Download (64kB)

Abstract or Description

How do we study what difference human rights make to existing social forms – for good or for ill? Pragmatic sociology, with its emphasis on the importance of principles of justice as intrinsic to social life, is an attractive starting point for exploring such questions. Breaking with perspectives in which social life is seen as structured by violence, self-interest or habit, which all too easily and automatically position human rights as nothing but neo-liberal imperialist ideology, pragmatic sociology opens up the study of disputes, uncertainty and socially embedded moral argument in ways that can only be promising. Boltanski’s ground-breaking book, Distant Suffering (1990 [1993]), is itself a landmark contribution to the field - although it is on humanitarianism and responses to suffering rather than on principles of justice and human rights. It was Distant Suffering that first led me to Boltanski’s work (Nash, 2008). Reading further, however, it is striking that Boltanski has written nothing explicitly on human rights, despite the concerns of pragmatic sociology with contemporary questions of justice.

Item Type:

Book Section

Departments, Centres and Research Units:




Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Dec 2014 08:40

Last Modified:

07 Jul 2017 11:56



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)