Reconciling Two Principal Meanings of the Notion of Ideology: The Example of the Concept of 'Spirit of Capitalism'


European Journal of Social Theory

2003, vol. 6, n°2, pp.155-171

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

The study of the notion of ideology shows that this corpus lends itself to a wide variety of different definitions. A certain opposition runs all the way through this set of definitions. Ideology would appear to be torn between a conception that emphasises its distortion and dissimulation dimensions and another conception which views as a set of social representations. After rapidly presenting the main characteristics of these two polar extremes, Paul Ricoeur's suggestion that these two conceptions can be united is discussed and illustrated by the concept of the 'spirit of capitalism', as defined in the book by Boltanski and Chiapello (1999). It is shown that this constitutes an ideology which is in fact an attempt to encompass both these conceptions. It is also shown that the concept of 'trial' as proposed in that book helps greatly to understand how this reconciliation is actually possible