The new spirit of capitalism (Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello, 2005)

Why is the critique of capitalism so ineffective today? In this major work, the sociologists Eve Chiapello and Luc Boltanski suggest that we should be addressing the crisis of anticapitalist critique by exploring its very roots.

Via an unprecedented analysis of management texts which influenced the thinking of employers and contributed to reorganization of companies over the last decades, the authors trace the contours of a new spirit of capitalism. From the middle of the 1970s onwards, capitalism abandoned the hierarchical Fordist work structure and developed a new network-based form of organization which was founded on employee initiative and relative work autonomy, but at the cost of material and psychological security.

This new spirit of capitalism triumphed thanks to a remarkable recuperation of the “artistic critique”–that which, after May 1968, attacked the alienation of everyday life by capitalism and bureaucracy. At the same time, the “social critique” was disarmed by the appearance of neocapitalism and remained fixated on the old schemas of hierarchical production.

This book, remarkable for its scope and ambition, seeks to lay the basis for a revival of these two complementary critiques.

and an article version of the book (pdf):



Luc Boltanski (born 1940) is the leading figure in the new “pragmatic” school of French sociology. He is a professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris, and the founder of the Groupe de Sociologie Politique et Morale. His work has significantly influenced sociology, political economy and social and economic history. He is the brother of artist Christian Boltanski.

He contributed to the start of the “political and moral sociology” framework. Political and moral sociology has gradually developed as a research programme — in the sense proposed by Imre Lakatos — around a conceptual nucleus looking to construct a theory of action based on Émile Durkheim’s theory of moral fact, revising the inheritance of ‘methodological structuralism’ from the point of view of dynamics and processes. The research program stresses how, in many conflicts, the characteristics of the disputants change during the course of the conflict.