International Symposium “Social Ontology meets Critical Theory: Social Transformation”, April 17-18, Paris Ouest


Our proposal is to coordinate, along four sessions and during two days, an international encounter between two research paradigms of influence in social theory: social ontology and critical theory. Our main concern here is the fact that those two fields of research tend to ignore each other, whether for reasons of differing methodologies or, sometimes, for a matter of difference in terms of political determination. By “social ontology”, one should understand a set of elaborations of mainly analytic ascent which, from a high level of generality, undertake the task of describing the emergence and nature of entities spontaneously categorized as “social”: groups, institutions, rules, norms, practices, habits, powers, artefacts, tendencies, structures, systems. By “critical theory” now, is designated a set of research programs which, notwithstanding their privileged domain of intervention (Marxism, feminism, subaltern studies, post-structuralism, ecology) share a common interest for the apparatuses of alienation structuring large parts of the social world and the ways in which to emancipate oneself from them. If one thus can say that, on the one hand, critical theories tend to mobilize a social ontology in an implicit way on the occasion of their piecemeal diagnoses on the present, one can also affirm that, on the other hand, social ontology as such could gain in accuracy by interrogating the social world through the scope of its transformability.

This is for us an opportunity to revive the motif of theory as practice, which in current parlance is sometimes translated as the step from an ontologization of the social question to a socialization of ontological (and broadly philosophical) problems. To do so, we want to explore under a common heading and among others the contemporary themes of: the social embeddedness of critique; the pertinence of identifying social mechanisms; the nature of normative schemes and their undermining; the status of performativity; the scope of the politics of recognition; the critical dimension of naturalism. From there, one can ask, how is social transformation to be conceptualized? As the actualization of immanent tendencies or as event? As suspension of belief in the validity of social rules or as organized collective action? As subversion of social norms or as historical rupture? Asking these questions is, we argue, a critical way of thinking the main (although quite neglected by contemporary social ontology) dimension of social being: its historicity. Our bet is indeed that the question of “social transformation” could pave the way between the poles of social ontology and critical theory in a more cogent manner than has been attempted before.

Thursday, April 17; Friday, April 18.

Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense
Bâtiment A, salle Conférences
How to get there by train and RER
Map of campus.

Organized by:
Frédéric Monferrand (Université Paris Ouest),
Emmanuel Renault (Université Paris Ouest),
Titus Stahl (Frankfurt University),
Olivier Surel (Université Paris Ouest).

With the support of ANR-DFG Cactus, ED 139, Sophiapol.
Design by the great Žiga Testen.


Click here for PDF version of the program or see below.



Thursday, April 17

9.30 – 9.45: Frédéric Monferrand (Université Paris Ouest) & Olivier Surel (Université Paris Ouest) – Opening comments.

Chair: R. Frega
9.45 – 10.25: Titus Stahl (Frankfurt University), “Traditional and Critical Social Ontology”.
10.20 – 11.15: Italo Testa (Università degli studi di Parma), “Statuses and Habituations. Searlian vs. Deweyan Models of Social Ontology”.


11.30 – 12.20: Robin Celikates (Universiteit van Amsterdam), “Structural Obstacles to Social Transformation. Critical Theory and the Incapacitation Trap”.


Chair: K. Genel
14.00 – 14.50: Vincent Chanson (Université Paris Ouest), “Adorno’s “Metacritique” of Social Ontology”.
14.50 – 15.40: Isabelle Aubert (Université Paul Valéry-Montpellier III), “On The Notion of a Social System”.


Chair: A. Boetto
16.00 – 16.50: Félix Boggio Ewanjé-Epée (Université Paris Nord), “Tensions in Political Economy as Social Ontology Controversies”.
16.50 – 17.40: Daphné Le Roux (Université Paris Ouest), “How Can an Analysis of Ritual Contribute to Social Ontology?”.

Friday, April 18

Chair: S. Berlioz
09.30 – 10.20: Daniel James (Humboldt University of Berlin), “Social Kinds, Social Domination, and the Mechanics of Social Change”.
10.20 – 11.10: Olivier Surel (Université Paris Ouest), “Alternative Spinozist Models for Social Ontology”.


Chair: J.-P. Deranty
11.25 – 12.15: Heikki Ikäheimo (University of New South Wales), “Hegel, Marx and Humanist Social Ontology”.
12.15 – 13.05: Frédéric Monferrand (Université Paris Ouest), “Marx’s Ontological Critique of Capitalism in the Paris Manuscripts”.


Chair: Ch. T. Wolfe
14.30 – 15.20: Emmanuel Renault (Université Paris Ouest), “Substantial, Relational and Processual Social Ontologies”.
15.20 – 16.10: Alexis Cukier (Université Paris Ouest), “Social Ontology, Critique and Transformative Power”.


Chair: T. Stahl
16.30 – 17.20: Hubert Tardy-Joubert (Université Paris Ouest), “Sartre on Collective Intentionality”.
17.20 – 18.10: Arto Laitinen (University of Tampere), “Institutions, Critique and Ontology”.



Citer ce billet
Olivier S. (2014, 8 avril). International Symposium “Social Ontology meets Critical Theory: Social Transformation”, April 17-18, Paris Ouest. Le Carnet du Sophiapol. Consulté le 1 mars 2024, à l’adresse

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