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At the Heart of the State: The Moral World of Institutions

By Didier Fassin Published 2015

Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science, Yasmine Bouagga, Isabelle Coutant, Jean-Sébastien Eideliman, Fabrice Fernandez, Nicolas Fischer, Carolina Kobelinsky, Chowra Makaremi, Sarah Mazouz, and Sébastien Roux have authored At the Heart of the State: The Moral World of Institutions (Pluto Press, 2015), translated by Patrick Brown and Fassin. The book argues that the state is not an abstract and neutral bureaucratic entity, but a concrete and situated reality, embodied in the work of its agents and inscribed in the issues of its time. The result of a five-year investigation conducted by ten scholars, this book describes and analyzes the police, the court system, the prison apparatus, the social services, and the mental health facilities in France. Combining genealogy and ethnography, its authors show that these state institutions do not simply implement laws, rules, and procedures: they mobilize values and affects, judgments and emotions. In other words, they reflect the morality of the state.