Management Research in a Capitalist Society from a Justification Theory Perspective


Bérubé, J. & Gauthier, J.-B. EURAM 2021 Conference. «Management Research in a Capitalist Society from a Justification Theory Perspective». (Montréal, juin 2021).


The framework presented in Boltanski and Thévenot (1991, 2006) On Justification: Economies of Worth (EW) celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in 2021. This theoretical framework is relevant for studying situations where different value systems meet, creating a tension that can be resolved through compromise. The framework is used in various fields including management. We reviewed empirical publications in the field of management that have used this framework in order to obtain a response to this question: How have researchers integrated the sociohistorical context (hypermodernity/new spirit of capitalism) as a background for their analyses mobilizing the EW framework? Our conclusion is that the authors generally do not take into account the context of the sociohistorical era in which the research took place when analyzing tensions and compromises with the EW framework. We were therefore interested in exploring the influence of capitalism as a sociohistorical era on the management of the tensions between Boltanski and Thévenot’s worlds. To achieve this research objective, we chose a sector characterized by value tensions: the cultural industries, and specifically the visual arts sector. In 2017, we conducted a qualitative study of professional visual artists to understand how they manage the tension between the artistic and monetary imperatives. We conducted a total of 50 semi-structured interviews with professional visual artists. Our results show that artists are in fact dealing with a tension between the artistic and monetary imperatives, or between the inspired and the market worlds, in Boltanski and Thévenot’s terms. To manage this tension, artists either reach a compromise between these two worlds or reject the market world in favor of the inspired world. In both situations, our analyses reveal a domination of the market world induced by the principles of the capitalist sociohistorical era. This conclusion invites researchers to include this reflection when focusing on the theme of the 21st EURAM Conference: Reshaping capitalism for a sustainable world.