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Thepluralityofcognitiveformatsandengagements:movingbetweenthefamiliarand

thepublic
LaurentThvenoti
EuropeanJournalofSocialTheory,10(3),2007,p.413427.
EmileDurkheimandMarcelMausssthinkingoncategoriesofthought,acognitivesociology
beforethetermexisted,appearstodaybothafruitfulandlimitedheritage.Clearlyitwasan
essential resource for the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu and the anthropology of Mary
Douglas, which have impacted on broad areas of both continental European and Anglo
American research. In contrast to the tradition derived from economics, which posits a
rationalindividualacquiringavailableinformation,thissociologicaltraditionmakesclearthe
importanceofcognitivecategoriesintheconstitutingofsociety. ii Itslimitationshavetodo
withtheextremelystrongrelationitestablishesbetweencollectivecognitivecategoriesand
thecollectivestowhichpeopleareassumedtobelong. iiiCategoriesareunderstoodtoderive
from people's membership in social groups and to strengthen that membership, thus
maintainingagivenorderandensuringitsreproduction.Inthisunderstanding,thedifficulties
ofcoordinatingactions,difficultiesthatgreatlypreoccupyhumanbeingsintheirsociallife,
areexcessivelysimplified:theycomedowntothedistinctionbetweencollectivesduetothe
disparate representations they are informed by. Bourdieu could thus inscribe the
understandinginheritedfromDurkheimandMaussinanagonisticrelationinspiredbyMarx,
withtheideathattheclassstrugglewasprolongedatacognitivelevelbytheclassification
strugglebetweenagentsdisposedtoandselfinterestedindifferentcategories.
WhileoriginallytrainedinBourdieus school,LucBoltanskiandIdevelopedanentirely
differentsociologicalapproach inthelate1980s.Overandagainstasociologyofagents
understoodtobemarkedbymembershipinparticularsocialgroupsandperennial,structurally
reproduceddispositions(namely habitus and ethos),wechosetoexploreaperpendicular
hypothesisaboutlifeinsociety:thesamepersonsareinducedtochangeinaccordancewith
thewaysituationsaredisposedandthewayconductisjudged.Thismovebringswithitnot
somuchachangeinroles,socialnorms,orsocialworldsasadramaticshiftinwaysof
experiencingtheworld.Thisshiftinturnsubjectsboththepersonandthecommunityatlarge
tocriticaltensions.
Ourapproachcontributedtothepragmaticturn,asithasbeencalled,whereinastructural
theoryofreproductionwasrejectedinfavorofasocialtheoryattentivetothedynamicsof
action.Inthewayweanalyzedthepluralityofwayspeoplesubmittheiractiontocritical
judgmentswhicharelegitimate,wemovedawaynotonlyfromtheDurkheimiantraditionbut
also the American pragmatism understanding. Instead of understanding the collective via
membershipinasocialgroup(Durkheimism)ortheconsequencesofaction(pragmatism),we
envisageditintermsofformsofgeneralizationthatarebothcognitiveandevaluativeandthat
confer legitimacy on persons and thingswhat we have called their qualification in
accordancewithordersofworth(BoltanskiandThvenot2006[1991]).Theseordersareas
follows:domesticworth,evaluatedfromtheperspectiveofanchoredtradition;theworthof
fame,understoodasvisibilityinpublicopinion;marketworth,determinedbycompetition;
industrialworth,understoodastechnicalefficiency;civicworth,pertainingtothegeneral
interestandegalitariansolidarity;theworthofinspiration,asfiguredbythecreativebreak

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ordifference.Thismodelofpluralordersofworthdoesnotrefertoanindividualchoosing
framesorothercognitivetoolstobeusedopportunelygiventhecircumstances.Ratherit
linksupwiththeissuesoffairnessandproceduralrequirementsforthepublicspacethathave
fueledJohnRawlstheoryofjusticeandJrgenHabermastheoryofcommunicativeaction
(Boltanski and Thvenot 2000). And because it deals with plural orders of worth, our
undertakingisinlinewithauthorswhoidentifydifferentordersofsystematiccoherencein
sociallife(Weber,Parsons,Luhmann,Walzer).Incontrasttothoseauthors,however,we
identifiedtheunderlyinggrammaroftheordersendowedwiththegreatestlegitimacy,and
therebythedemandsthatweighonhumanbeingsinsocietywhentheyarecalleduponto
"commonize"onthebasisofaformofequivalencyandcommongood iv.IncontrasttoNiklas
Luhmannssystemstheory,attentivetosystematiccodedformsandthe autopoiesisofsuch
forms, we are interested not only in the encounter between coded worlds and their
environmentbutthedifficultiesthathumanbeingsrunupagainstintheprocessofcoding
events and behaviora question that is not relevant for biological coding. In
contradistinctiontoHabermassocialtheory,concernedwiththepragmaticsofdiscursive
communicationinpublicspace,weanalyzeakindofpragmatictestingwhichisonlypartly
discursiveandimpliesadulyqualifiedreality.Whilefullymeetingcommongrammatical
demandsthatexpressasenseofwhatisfair,ourpluralordersofworthattesttoanumberof
historicalandsocialconstructionsthathavespecifiedthecommongoodbyintegratingthe
materialenvironmentinvariousways,eachdevelopinganew,legitimatecapacitythatworks
toempowerhumanbeingsinsociety.
In the first development of this political and moral sociological approach v, we thus
deliberately limited ourselves to those forms of commonizing that enjoy the greatest
legitimacy,formsthatchanneluncertaintyintocoordinationframes appropriateforpublic
judgmentandthatimplyadynamicofcritiqueandjustification.Later,Iextendedtheanalysis
to action conceived as plural, seeking to handle the variety of cognitive and evaluative
formatsformatswhichcannotcommonizecognitiontoequaldegreesbyrelatingthemtoa
setofregimesofengagementwiththeworldthatIidentifyintermsofdependencybetween
the human being and his or her environment (Thvenot 2006a). Approaches in terms of
systemiccognition,cognitionnetworks,distributedcognitionandsituatedcognitionhavethe
greatvalueofdrawingattentiontointerdependencies,whethertheybebetweenapersonand
othersorapersonandtheenvironment,interdependenciesthatwerenottakenintoaccountby
strictlymentalanalysisorthefirstrepresentationalmodelsofartificialintelligence.Butthey
presentthedisadvantageofflatteningoutthedifferentlevelsatwhichpeoplecommonizethat
are presupposedbycommunitylife,andoflevelingthedifficultiesthatsuchacommunity
architectureraisesforitsmembers,nottomentionforresearchersseekingtoaccountforthose
difficultiesvi.Itseemscrucialtotakeintoaccounttheeffortdeployedbythehumananimal
unremittinglycalledupontocommonizeonthebasisofhighlypersonal,localexperienceof
theworld.Thefactisthatcognitiveformsvaryconsiderablyasthehumanbeingdetaches
herselffromwhatisclosestandmostpersonalandmovestocommunicateacrossincreasing
relationaldistances.Iusetheverbcommunicateherewithitsoriginalmeaningoftakingpart
inacommonmatter.Today,unfortunately,thesenseofthewordhasbeenlimitedtotheidea
oftransmittinginformationor,atmost,adiscursiveexchange.ThemoveImeantomakein
thisarticleisfrominformationbacktoparticipationincommonmatters.Thetwoquestions
seemthoroughlyseparateinourday.Currentresearchoncognitionhasrarelytodowith
researchintothepoliticalandmoralgoodsimpliedinlifetogetherandwhatisexpectedfrom
coordinationvii.Andyettherelationbetweenthetwoquestionsisattheheartandeventhe

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originofourpragmaticsociologyprogramanditsconcernwithhowpoliticsandmoralityare
relatedtocoordinationofhumanactions.
Themovetoconsiderapluralityofcognitiveandevaluativeformatshasimplicationsofa
morethanmerelytheoreticalorder.Itisaconditionforhandlingthemanynewgoverningor
coordinationarrangementsthatarebeingdevisedtomakeitpossibletoconsultandmake
decisionsonmattersaffectingthecommongood,arrangementsthatintegrateawidervariety
ofvoicesthanthoseofofficiallyrecognizedrepresentatives.Someofthesearrangementsare
associatedwiththeideaofdecentralized,diversifiedparticipatorydemocracyofasortthat
cannot be reduced to parliamentary representation, democracy that encompasses multiple
voiceswithincivilsociety.ButIalsoincludearrangementsoftenconsideredtechnicalor
economic,lessvisiblethantheprecedingones(standardizationandregulationbodies,for
example),astheytooarecomponentsofcommonmattersandshouldbeidentifiedasmajor
loci of the political. After presenting how cognitive forms are handled in our research
program, I will indicate the new insight this can offer into the metamorphoses of
contemporarysocieties,pulledbackandforthastheyarebythecurrentpositivevaluingof
boththeglobalandthemostintimatelypersonal.
Forming,informing,investinginforms:informationformatsinthemaking
Myresearchtookofffromcriticalquestioningofthenotionofinformationasitiswidely
used in the cognitive sciences. When the term is used to designate data collection and
transmission of data through appropriate channels, the general suggestion is that the
informationisinastandardizedenoughstatetobewidelydiffusedandtoserveasaresource
for anyone who might wish to use it. Information is called private to indicate that its
diffusion is to be restricted, notto signify some difference between a personal cognitive
formatandastandardone.Becauseitinvolvestransformingtheresultsofvariouscognitive
operationsintoaflowofbasicunitsandevenrefers,instandardeconomicstheory,toacostly
commodity,thenotionofinformationpresupposesformsofrepresentationandcodingaimed
atproducing common knowledge.Thusused,thisnotionflattensalldifferencesbetweena
generalcognitiveformatandonethatispersonalandfamiliar.Theonlydifferencerecognized
inthisusageisdegreeofdiffusion;thatis,numberofindividualswhohaveacquiredthe
informationinquestion.
InformationcomesfrominformwhichoriginallymeantgiveformtoenformerinOld
French, enforme in Middle English. Our program was first developed in a national
institutionthat'enforme'inordertoinform.Itproducespublicstatistics, viiii.e.,informationin
itsmostpublicform,fullypreparedtobemadecommonuseof.Thoughmostactorsinthis
institutionworkalmostexclusivelyfromscientificandpolicydatainthisformalizedstate,a
morereflexiveattitudeandspecificinvestigationsmadeitpossibletobeattentivetotheentire
lineofinformationproduction,fromrespondentallthewaytothestatisticcommentedonin
print and including the interpretive work done by interviewer, data encoder, and the
statisticianwhoforgedthenomenclature.Thisremarkableobservatorymadeitpossibleto
look at the information production line as a line that transforms information from one
cognitiveformatintoanother.Ourexplorationledusawayfromthestandardviewofhow
dataiscollectedandtransmitted,aswellasofflawedormissinginformationandthebiases
involvedininformationuseallquestionsthatpresupposeinformationalreadyindueform.I
lookedintothemeansthatpeopleusewiththepurposeofconstituting cognitiveformsthat
can be abstracted from situated things and people, generalized and circulated. Instead of

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takingforgrantedthesolidityofcollectiveformsofsocialobjectivityor,inversely,calling
thatsolidityintoquestioninthenameofsituatednegotiationorindexicality,Ilinkedthe
diversity of ways of forming information to different possibilities of coordination.
Informationhererefersbacktoneitherobjectivizingcollectivesorcognizantindividuals,but
to coordination, with the understanding that coordination is always problematic. This
approachmeansweareattentivetoinformationconcretionsandmaterialsupportsinvolvedin
theformingofinformation.Thiswayofstudyinginformationinthemakingworksinfavorof
realism,aqualityoftenlackinginthewaytheterminformationisused.
With respect to the pioneering ethnomethodological research on coding practices and to
Aaron Cicourels cognitive sociology, concerned with the way the actor perceives and
interpretshisorherenvironmentbyrecognizingwhatisfamiliarandacceptable(Cicourel
1974),Ishiftedresearchintwonewdirections.First,Ianalyzedthepluralismofcognitive
formsbroughttolightbystudyofhowcategoriesareelaboratedandused.Byobserving
personsinactionontheinformationproductionline,Iwasabletoidentifycognitiveforms
thatdonotdisplaythecharacteristicsofthecodedformpreparedforbothscientificstudyand
statepolicyimplementationandevaluation.Whatbecameclearfromthisperspectivewasthe
benefitsofferedtoactorsbyeachcognitivemode,aswellasthecostlylaboroftransformation
involved in moving from one to another. Second, Iwas attentive to the role ofmaterial
arrangementsinequivalencymakingsincethesearrangementsarewhatspareactorsthework
ofcraftingequivalenciesineachsituation;attentivealsototheequipmentusedtosupport
generalizations, to the role of objects in procedures of constructing similarities between
humanbeings,ix andtotheinvestmentsofformsthatpreparetheenvironmenttofacilitate
actioncoordination.
TheseorientationsgaverisetoaresearchprogramthatIfirstdevelopedatINSEEcalledthe
economicsofconventionalforms,focusedonthemethodsandinstrumentsusedtoforge
resemblancesandcraftequivalencies.Investinginformsmakesitpossibletoincreasethe
scopeofcoordinationbyfacilitatinggeneraltreatmentofpersonsandthings(Thvenot1984).
Suchinvestmentsimplycostlyconstructionoperationsthatinreturnyieldcoordinationoutput
thatvariesbythreecharacteristics:timespan,spatialextensionandthesolidityoftherelated
materialequipment.Theideawastoshowthattherequiredenformingofinformationis
linkedtoactors'coordinationmodes.
Therelationbetweencognitionandcoordinationwasfirstexploredintermsoftherelation
betweenstatisticsandpolicy.Thisrelationbecameevenmoreimportantwiththeconstruction
oftheEuropeanUnion,namelythroughtheOpenMethodofCoordination(Affichardand
LyonCaen2004).Inthesocialsciences,codeddataandstatisticsareconstantlycolliding
withothertypesofknowledgedesignatedmonographicandreferringtostudiesofexemplary
cases;insomeinstancesthelatterkindsofknowledgearemistakenlycalledqualitative.We
showed that these two knowledge modes involve not a relation of general to particular
(statisticsareassumedtobemoregeneralthanmonographicstudies),butrathertwodistinct
cognitive formats, both of which readily allow for generalization. We were examining a
pluralityofwaysofgeneralizingasways thatactorsinvolvedinacommunizingprocess
attributesignificance.Thisledustorelatecognitiverepresentationwhich,inacognitive
economy,isameansofreplacingmanywithonemorecloselytopoliticalrepresentation,
whichproceedsfromacomparableoperationandislikewisecharacterizedbyavarietyof
representingmodes.Weshowedthattherelationbetweenthepoliticalandthecognitiveisa

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closerandmorefundamentalonethanthatofpoliticalforcesinfluencingtheproductionof
knowledge.Sociologistsoftentreatthis influenceinterms ofsubjectionofknowledgeto
interestsandmanipulation.Itisofcoursebeneficialtopublicdebatetodenouncethosekinds
ofdirectinfluences.Butifweunderstandtheprobleminthoseterms,weleaveasidethemore
profound relationship between political and epistemological representation, a relation that
cannotbereducedtomanipulationstrategies.Tothisinquiryintothepoliticsofstatistics
(Thvenot 1983, 1990, 1994), Alain Desrosires made a considerable contribution
(DesrosiresandThvenot1988;Desrosires1998[1993]),andLucBoltanskisreference
study of the category cadres (1987 [1982]) was particularly helpful in the project of
relatingcognitiveandpoliticalrepresentations.
Informationandevaluationformatsofthreeregimesofengagementunequallyreadytobe
commonized
Inthenextphaseoftheprogram,BoltanskiandImovedontoanexperimentalstudyoflay
andexpertsocialcategorizations(BoltanskiandThvenot1983).Thishelpedbringintorelief
thedifferencebetween,andmovefrom,merecategoryrapprochementontheonehand,and
orderingcategoriesinsuchawaythattherankingisinscribedinavaluationsystem.This
brings to light the broader issue of what makes a valuation legitimate; namely, its
compatibilitywithacertainsenseoffairness.Ourstudyofthisquestionopenedthewayfor
analysisoftherelationbetweencognitionandevaluation,whichinturnledustolinkformsof
cognitivegeneralizationtogrammarsofthecommongoodunderlyingapluralityofordersof
worth.Thepoliticalapparatusstrictlyspeakingisnottheonlyplacewherethequestionarises
ofwhatqualitiesshouldbeattributedtopersonstomakethemgoodrepresentativeswhoare
capableofgeneralizingissues,orwhereinequalityintherepresentativenessofpersonswho
arenonethelessequaltoeachotherinhumandignityraisesthequestionofwhatisjustand
goodforthecommunity.Ordinarydisputesraisethesamekindofissueswhenthelevelof
generalityinthecognitivetreatmentofpeoplerises.Atsuchmoments,publicqualifications
areusedtocriticizeandjustify,andthosequalificationsfitintoconstructionsofthecommon
good.Inourworkonlegitimateordersofworth,weproposedananalysisofthelegitimacyof
theseordersasbasedonagrammarofthesenseoffairnesscommontothemall(Boltanski
andThvenot2006[1991]).Afterconsideringtheinvestmentsrequiredbycognitiveformats
aimedatthebroadestscopegeneralizations,andthebenefitsanticipatedfromthoseformats,
wethusmovedontoexaminetherelationbetweencognitionandevaluationthathadappeared
whencognitionwasconsideredintermsofitsroleincoordinatedaction.Whencognitive
generalizationseekstobevalidforakindofcoordinationthatmaypotentiallyextendto
humanityatlarge,evaluationtakesontheformatofthecommongood.Clearly,however,this
extremelybroadscopelevelofcoordination,whileitmayaccountfortherelationbetween
cognitiveandpoliticaldemandsdoesnotexhaustinquiryintothecognitiveandevaluative
formatsusedinsociallife.Ithereforepursuedthisinvestigationbydistinguishingformatsof
smallerscope.
Butwhatexactlywastobedistinguished?Cognitiveformatscharacterizetheactorsaccessto
reality,andthewayhegraspsitsoastocoordinatehisbehaviorwithinacertainapprehension
frame. These formats are thus an integral part of a human beings active relation to her
environment,inengagementsbetweenthemwhicharenotequallyreadytobecommonized.I
choseengagementratherthanavocabularyofactionorpractice,asthesefocusattention
exclusivelyonthehumanagent.Myreasonsweretwofold.First,engagementemphasizes

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thepersonsdependenceontheenvironmenthereliesonwhilegraspingitbymeansofa
certaincognitiveformat.Second,thetermreferstoaquestforaguaranteedgood(asinthe
engagementsofmarriageoracontract)thatmakesitpossibletoassesswhatisrelevantto
know.Relevantthingsaretheequivalentofpledgesthatguaranteethegoodthatfuelseach
regimeasitfollowsitsowndynamic.Characterizingengagementsenablesusinturntoshed
lightonthefigureoftheagent,insteadofpositingit.Theguaranteeparticulartoeachregime
specifiesakindofmasteryorpowerthatcharacterizestheagentthusengaged.Itisnow
possibletosummarizethecomponentsofaregimeofengagementwithinitsowndynamic.
The good thatengagementwiththeworldaimsto guarantee orientshowrealityisgrasped
and specifies the format of what constitutes information. An engagement lends itself to
communicationtovaryingscopedependingontheformat;theplaceanduseoflanguagealso
varybyformat.Itisfromhisdependenceonanengagedenvironmentthattheagentderives
hiscapacity,understoodasthepowertomaintainthatengagement.
Myfirstobjectiveindistinguishingbetweenengagementswastoescapetheconfusionthat
resultsfromaseriesoftwotermoppositions:collectiveandindividual,publicandprivate,
social norms and the lifeworld. These oppositions, often used to understand change in
contemporarysocieties,sufferfromtwomajordefects.Thesciencesofsocietytendeither
explicitlyorimplicitlytofavorthefirsttermoverthesecond.Meanwhilethesecondterm
workstoperpetuateaconfusionthatimpedesunderstandingsocialtransformationsandthe
tensions they create, particularly their cognitive aspects. The unifying but ultimately
confusing vocabulary of the secondterm variationsindividual, individualization,
individualismencompasseswaysofbeinganagentthatareinfactverydifferentfromeach
other. That vocabulary works to characterize an individual valued for her project, plan,
interests,decisionmaking,will,autonomy,responsibilityallpropertiesthatareofconcern
tootherswhentheyseektotaketheindividualsactionintoaccount.Butthevocabularyof
theindividualisalsousedtocharacterizeapersonsauthenticityinhismostpersonallife,his
fundamental attachments, his particular ways of doing in a familiar environmentall
propertiesthatotherscanhardlytakeintoaccountiftheyarenotclosetotheperson.Having
identifiedthisconfusion,Iwasledtomakeminimaldistinctionsbetweenthreeregimesof
engagement,thepointbeingtodistinguishtwoothersmallerscopeformats,inadditiontothe
convention format aimed at grasping common things and goods by commonizing them
publicly.
Theregimeoffamiliarengagementmaintainsapersonalized,localizedgood:feelingatease.
Thewellbeingexperiencedincomfortablebecausefamiliarhumanandmaterialsurroundings
is heavily dependent on the person who has come to accommodate himself in and feel
comfortableinthem,andonthepathbywhichhefamiliarizedhimselfwithamilieushaped
bycontinueduse.Thisgoodismorethanafixedhabitbecauseitinvolvesadynamicrelation
withanimmediatemilieuthatisexperienced.Thistypeofengagementislinkedtolocal,
personalcluesintheimmediatesurroundings.Thetouchstonesbymeansofwhichrealityis
apprehendedinthe informationformatspecifictofamiliarengagementarefragmentaryand
specifictoacustomizedthinganddonotidentifystandardobjectsintheirentirety.Theydo
notallowforgraspingobjectsintegratedbyafunctionbutonlyspecifycertainaccesskeys,
particularpointsofattachmentwhosebeneficialeffectsturntheminto attachments.Onthe
pathofgradualfamiliarization,inthedynamicsoftrialanderrorlearning,thewaymybody

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accommodatestothefamiliarenvironmentisitselfaresponsetopriorunease.Itleadsmeto
mark out my immediate surroundings to guarantee from then on the comfort of my
movementsandgestures.Thiskindofrelianceexplainswhyinformationherehardlylends
itselftoextendedcommunication,eventhroughdiscursivelanguage,whichhasinfactbeen
replacedbythelanguageofthebody.Thespokenworditself,incommunicatingtheintimacy
of the familiar, is considerably inflected. These markers serve as a kind of engagement
guarantee.Thisregimeconfiguresthepersoninakindofpersonalitythatisdistributedacross
hisimmediatesurroundingsinaccordancewithapersonaldispositionthatinclineshimtoact
byturningtoandmakinguseoffamiliar,appropriatedthingsandinhabitedplaces.Familiar
attachmentstomaterialsurroundings areinseparablefromthe personather mostdeeply
personal;theyaffectwhetherthatpersoniswellorilldisposedandensure(orfailtoensure)
thatheorshehasagoodseatinthesaddle,asitwere.Norcantheybeseparatedfromthe
milieutowhichtheyadhere.Interlacedattachmentsofthissortspecifyanextremelydifferent
typeofengagementfromprivatepropertyofanalienablegood.
Theregimeofengagementinaplancorrespondstoalevelofengagementsofrequentlyused
thatthespecificityofthismeansofapprehendingtherelationbetweenthehumanbeingand
surroundingrealitymaywellremaininvisible.Thisiswhywecanalsospeakhereofnormal
action,orthenormalformatofaction.Thegoodinthisengagementalsotendstogetlost
intheordinaryideaofanaccomplishedaction,especiallysincethewidelyusedvocabularyof
needs and utility neutralizes the form of evaluation specific to this engagement. The
satisfactiongeneratedbyanaccomplishedactionshouldbeassessedintermsofacrucially
important good for human social life: it refers to felicitous exercise of the will by an
individual endowedwith autonomy andcapableof projecting herself successfullyintothe
future.Suchsatisfactionisverydifferentfromthefeelingofeaseprocuredbythefamiliar
engagement,anengagementthatoffersnosuchfootholdforindividual,autonomousprojects.
Thegoodofthisengagementgivesrisetoamodeofassessmentfocusedonplanexecution
whatisoftencalledverysimplytheactorsrealismthoughthisdesignationfailstotakeinto
account the specific format for apprehending reality that produces information in this
engagement. Reality is grasped with respect to successful realization of the plan, which
impliesthatittakesshapeasafunctioninstrumentallyappropriatetotheplanofaction.The
ordinarynotionof object oftenpresupposesthisfunctionaltreatmentofmeans,thoughit
remains implicit unless it is the object of an action verb. The plan intention cannot be
experiencedwithoutrecognitionthatenvironmentalcomponentshaveafunctionalcapacity
thisiswhatensuresthetypeofguaranteeparticulartothisregime.Theobjectthusgrasped
confersitssolidityontheplanintentionwhilefacilitatingagentscontrolofplanexecution.
Analysisofthisregimeofengagementbringsoutthecomplementaritybetweenagentspower
asanindividualengagedinrealizinghisprojectandagraspoftheobjectinfunctionalterms.
Thiscomplementaritybringsintoviewaformofdependencethatdoesnotatallfigurein
mostideasofindividualautonomy.Incontrasttoapproachescenteredontheactorandher
mentalstates,herwill,herintentionandherdesire,analysisofthisengagementshowshow
recognitionofthepersonasanindividualendowedwiththeaforementionedcapacitieswill
notholdupwithoutthepledgesthatsupporttheplanengagement,withouttheguarantorin
theformofanenvironmentshapedintomeansorinstrumentsobjects utilized intermsof
functions.

Thejustifiableactionengagementregimeisorientedbydemandsofapublicorder,sincethe
evaluationmustbevalidforathirdpartyandcharacterizedbygeneralityandlegitimacy.This
is the level which is most demanding with regard to the equivalency required by
commonizing. Luc Boltanski and I (Boltanski and Thvenot 1991) brought to light the
demandsmadebythesenseofjusticecommontoallordersoflegitimate worth involving
specification of a common good (these are, as mentioned, market competition, industrial
efficiency,publicrenown,civicsolidarity,domestictrust,inspiration).Injustifiableaction
engagement,therelevantrealityisgraspedaccordingtoacognitiveformatgroundedonthe
conventionalqualificationsofpersonsandthings.Assuggested,informationdiffersfromone
levelofworthtoanotherbyqualification:marketvalue,statisticalmeasuringofperformance,
fame,etc.Andcommunicationiseffectedbymeansoftheseconventionalindicators.When
discursivelanguageisusedinthisregime,itissharplydistinctfromtheordinarylanguage
used to communicate planned action. It implies controlled use of reference terms that
constitutesomany conventionalbenchmarks andapprehendobjects interms notoftheir
functions but their legitimate qualities. Language here links together conventional beings
only, in texts that are more like a systematic table than a narrative; it thereby becomes
conventionalitself,notunlikethelanguageoflaw,whichistobeusedtotheletter.Theuseof
conventionaltermsgivesthelanguageofthisengagementitsrigid,officialquality.Theagent
capacityrecognizedinthisengagementisnotthatofanindividualborneforwardbyawilled,
autonomousplan,butofapersonofqualifiedworthwhoselegitimatepowerderivesfromthe
factthatthisqualificationpartakesofspecificationofthecommongood.Thispower,derived
fromsocialesteemforauthority,doesnotlieinthepersonoranykindofcapitalheorshe
mightuse.Ratheritinheresinthepersonsengagementwithasurroundingworldthathas
been duly qualified by a good. Just as the personality takes support from his familiar
attachmentsandtheindividualachievesautonomybyusingfunctionalsupportstoproject
herselfintothefuture,sothehumanbeingcanonlybeworthywithinthecommunityby
engagingwithanarrangementofdulyqualifiedthings,asthisiswhatallowshimorherto
guaranteethisengagement.
Thedoublepluralityofrecognitionformatsthatcomposepersonsandcommunities
Whilethepluralityofordersofworthdistinguishescognitiveandevaluativeformatswhich
areinvolvedinjustifiableactionengagements,thethreeregimesjustoutlinedbringintothe
picture a second kind of plurality that I would qualify as 'vertical' and differentiates the
engagementwhichreliesonthemostfamiliarclosenessfromtheonethatreliesonthemost
publicguarantees.Theseformatsspecifythecapacityofthepersonassheisengagedwithher
environment.Moreover,theysustainthekindofrecognitionofthepersonwhichisinvolved
inmutualengagements:intheintimacyofloveorfriendship,injointplansorcontracts,in
coordinationthatrequirespublicqualifications.This'doubleplurality'ofrecognitionformats
allowsustotacklethedynamiccompositionofboththepersonandthecommunity,bringing
tolightthetensionsthatarisefromthepluralityofengagementsthathavetobeintegrated.Let
us consider two domains that we have been investigating collectively from this dual
perspectiveofthecompositionofthepersonandthecompositionofthecommunity.Inthe
firstdomain,whatisatstakeistheeconomicorganizationofworkwhereas,inthesecond,the
focusisonwelfarepoliciesandpoliticalarrangementsfordemocraticparticipation.Yetdue
tothecurrenttransformationofcapitalismandgovernancestructures,thesetwoquestionsare
intertwined.

Former Taylorist and Fordist ways of organizing work mostly relied on two formats:
engagementinaplanandthe'industrial'worthengagement.Theimplementationofboththese
formats requires heavy investment in functional and even standardized forms(Thvenot
1984). They do not allow any recognition of the familiar format which is so crucial in
supporting the personality. Moreover, in Taylorist plan engagements, the only individual
agentsthatarefullyrecognizedareengineers;thesubordinateshopfloorworkeris'reified'
andreducedtoakindoffunctionalequipment. xThecrisisandcritiqueofTaylorismledtoa
newkindofmanagementwhichwassupposedtoalleviatethehierarchicalconstraintinfavor
ofhorizontal interactions andindividual responsibility. The network vocabulary has been
extensivelyusedtoaccountforthisnewwayoforganizingwork,andthenotionofanew
'connectionist'orderofworthwasproposedtodesignatethisunifyingevaluationmodebased
onmultipleconnections(BoltanskietChiapello1999).Althoughtheideaofnetworkisquite
helpful becauseitemphasizes the intertwiningofdependencies betweenpeopleandeven
between people and things, it does not say much in itself about the formats of network
relationships, which vary considerably from one use of the notion to another. Analyzing
networkcomponentsintermsofcognitiveformatshelpsustoclarifythevarietyofthese
relationships and the unequal degrees they are recognized within the organization. The
cognitiveformatofmarketpriceinformation(marketworth)isdeeplyimplicatedinmost
justifiableactionengagementsnowadays,attheexpenseofotherjustifiableactionformats
formerlyusedtoevaluatework,suchasthe'domestic'worthqualification,whichplacesvalue
on experience and seniority, or even the industrial worth qualification which values
occupational expertise as operative in efficient execution of a task. Project management
explicitlypointstojointplannedactions,butitpushesworkerstoengageinuncertainand
openexplorationinthedesigningofeachnewproject.Suchexplorationconstantlyreopens
the dynamics of familiarization and deprives the person of the ease of already familiar
attachmentstothesurroundings.Familiaraccommodationisalsoimpliedbythekindofclose
mutual relationships involved in being in contact and keeping in touch with multiple
connections.However,noneofthefamiliarengagementsgeneratedbytheneworganization
ofworkareeitheracknowledgedorpaidforbythefirm,andthisleadstoasituationof
exploitation.Thecharacterizationofthissituationasanoverlappingofandconfusionbetween
privateandoccupationallife(Hochschild1997)canbefurtherdevelopedifweconsiderthe
pluralityofformatsandthedifferentdegreestowhichtheyareacknowledgedbythefirm.
Frenchwelfarepoliciesconcernedwithsocialintegrationandhousingpartakeofasenseof
solidaritythataimstoreducethemostextremeinequalities,andtheyimplytreatingpersons
andtheenvironmentinaformatthatisjustifiableintermsofcivicworth.Thiscivilstate
presupposesgraspingpeopleandthingsinacategoricalgeneralitythatguaranteesequalityof
treatment for all. Can the individualization of social services, which in turn gives these
policies the character of supplying services to clients, be reduced to slippage toward a
cognitive format appropriate to 'market' worth? As in the earlier case of the economic
organizationofwork,analyzingthesearrangementsintermsofvariousregimesallowsusto
seethemorecomplexarchitectureofthesepolicies.Asinthecaseofworkorganization,the
criticism that led to welfare policy reform targeted a hierarchy'domestic' worthand
denounceditaspaternalistbecauseitprovidedakindofassistancethatrenderedtherecipient
passive. The increasingly strong injunction to be an autonomous individual is based on
engagement in a plan, which is in turn the basis for possible responsibilitytaking and
engaginginacontract.Butthewelfarepolicysystemintegratesmorethanthecivicworth

10
engagementformatandtheengagementformatofanindividualresponsibleforherplanor
project.Inthepolicyextensionsaimedto'accompany'welfarerecipients,thesocialworkeror
youth guidance coach is expected to be extremely attentive to the persons familiar
attachments, including to his home, and personal convictions, as these constitute the
groundingofapersonality(Beviglieri,StavoDebaugeandPattaroni2003).Analysisofplural
formatsshowsthedelicatecompositionofpoliciesandlegalimperativesastheymovecloser
topersonswhenimplemented.Thisanalysisallowsfor apprehendingthemovementinthe
oppositedirectionthatisrequiredbyparticipatorydemocracy,i.e.,advancingalongapath
thatleadsfromoneengagementtoanotherandenablesthepersontomakehisvoiceheardin
public. The opening up of public debating spaces, which developed particularly during
disputes about the environment (Moody and Thvenot 2000), calls for more than
compromisingwithstakeholdersorevenwithpersonsseekingtopromoteapluralityoforders
ofworthsoastoqualifythequestiontobedebated.Whatisnowrequiredinthoserecently
openedspacesistestimonyoffamiliarexperiencesoftheworld,testimonythatdoesnotlend
itselfimmediatelytoapublicformat.Becausetheparticipationprocedurescharacteristicof
conventionalpublicspacesarenotreceptivetothefamiliarformat,theymayproveoppressive
andhumiliatingforpersons.
At the very time that the globalization imperative is intensifying, economic and political
organizationsarecomingclosertopersons,inthesensethattheyaremobilizingincreasingly
moreengagementsinthelocalandfamiliar.Thusconjoiningthemoststronglyglobalandthe
closestandmostfamiliarincreasesthetensionsthataffectthecompositionofcommunitiesas
wellaspersonsxi.Governancestructuresareopeninguptothiskindofheterogeneity.Ihave
mentioned participatory deliberation bodies, but standardization bodies may be said
themselvestobeopeninguptoapluralityofcognitiveformatswhen,forsafetypurposes,
they take into account normal functionalities and personalized uses in addition to
conventional features ofthings that havebeen justified bypublic qualification(Thvenot
1997).Thesearrangementscannotbereducedtonegotiationbetweenbearersofdivergent
interests or a hybridizing of intressements(Callon 1986). They extend to actors and
experiencesoftheworldthatarelessimmediatelyconnectedwiththepublicsphere,less
preparedforit.Theyrequireintegratingapluralityofcognitiveandevaluativeformats,soas
tointegratethemoralcomplexityofanequippedhumanity(Thvenot2002).Asforpersons,
theyareinducedtoslipbackandforthbetweenthatwhichismostpersonalandthatwhichis
most public. Communication techniques facilitate this slipping from one engagement to
anotherbyfacilitatingarrangementsfavorabletoexposingthatwhichismostpersonalin
publicandcommonizingcustomizedusesinusergroups.Thevocabularyofindividualization
andautonomythatisoftenconsideredtocapturetheessenceofmodernitydoesnotfully
graspthis complexity,thesetensions anddemandsforcoping.Thiscanonlybedoneby
situatingtheindividualagentofplanactioninrelationnotonlytothepublicregimebutalso
thefamiliarone,amovethatleavesasidethemonolithoftheindividualandbringstothefore
theimageofapersonquiteotherwiseengagedandengaging.
(trans.AmyJacobs)
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iGroupedeSociologiePolitiqueetMorale(EcoledesHautesEtudesenSciencesSociales,Paris,
andCentreNationaldelaRechercheScientifique);DpartementdelaRecherche(InstitutNational
delaStatistiqueetdesEtudesEconomiques,Paris).
ii Foraviewofhowtheprojectsandconceptualinstrumentsoftheseeconomicandsociological
traditionsarerelated,seeThvenot2006,chap.2,Economieetsociologiedelactioncoordonne:
rationalitetnormessociales.
iiiForacriticalappraisalofthisheritage,seeConein(2005).Forapragmaticorientationtowards
cognition,seeConeinandThvenot(1997).
ivTheverb'commonize,'modeledon'publicize,'isusedtorefertotheoperationofmakingthings
common,shared.
vOursocialscienceprogramwasdevelopedwithintheGroupedeSociologiePolitiqueetMorale
(Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and the Centre National de la Recherche
Scientifique,Paris).ItwascreatedbyLucBoltanskiin1984,andIdirecteditfrom1992to2001.
The many articles and books generated by the program are listed on the GPSM site:
http://www.ehess.fr/centres/gspm.Sinceourpurposewastohandletheeconomicaswellasthe
socialorder,theprogramwasalsoinvolvedindevelopingthecurrentofinstitutionalisteconomics
knownaseconomicsofconventions;forabriefintroductionseeThvenot2006b.
viForacomparisonoftheseapproachestocognition,seeThvenot2006a,ch.7Laconnaissance
danslaction.
viiAmongremarkableexceptions,seeLaw(1986),LawandMol(2002).
viii ReferenceistotheInstitutNationaldelaStatistiqueetdesEtudesEconomiques(INSEE).
Comparedtomostnationalstatisticsbureaus,thisinstitutionhasalwaysattributedgreatimportance
tosurveyanalysisandresearch;itwasthelocusofsignificantsociologicalandhistoricalresearch
onstatisticaltoolsandsocialcategorizationduringthe1980s.SeeinparticularAffichard1987and
Desrosires1998[1993].
ixSeeBrunoLatoursgroundbreakingresearchintotheplaceofobjectsinhumanrelations(1987).
xFormoredetailsonthecharacterizationof'reification'thatourframeworkimplies,seeThvenot
(2006:244249).
xi OnthesetensionsviewedinanbiographicalperspectiverelatingtoMay68generation,see
Thvenot(2005).