Reality and its twin: The thematic of conspiracy in political metaphysics

Luc Boltanski (2019)

Working Paper Series 7 – Universität Siegen: SFB 1187 Medien der Kooperation

Abstract. This paper will focus on the thematics of mystery, conspiracy and inquiry, a subject area explored in one of my more recent books, where I sought to understand the prominent place these thematics have occupied in the representation of reality since around the turn of the 20th century. It has also long been my aim to analyse the role that these thematics may have played in the formation of political metaphysics. Although not necessarily one of the canonical forms of political philosophy, political metaphysics left its mark on the last century and, in all probability, continues to haunt the present one. It can be seen as a kind of mythology that is equipped with a formidable practical effectiveness, which gives it the power to shape the contours of reality. The thematics of mystery, conspiracy and inquiry have constantly flipped back and forth between the representation of reality in literature, particularly in so-called ‘popular’ literature, and the most disturbing and sometimes most dramatic aspects of reality itself.

Excerpt. “Conversely, reality is stabilised by preestablished formats that are supported by institutions, which are often legal or paralegal in nature, at least in Western societies. These formats compose a semantics that is tasked with stating the whatness of what is. They establish qualifications, define entities and tests (in the sense that the term is used in On Justification,4 the book I co-wrote with Laurent Thévenot) and determine the relationships that entities and tests must maintain to be acceptable. Reality thus presents itself as a network of causal relationships that bind together the events with which experience is confronted. Referencing these relationships allows us to give meaning to events by determining which entities they should be attributed to (the term ‘attribution’ is used here in the sense of the theory of attribution, which was initially formulated in the field of social psychology and then incorporated into cognitive research).”

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