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Description - The Foetal Condition by Luc Boltanski

Abortion is a contentious issue in social life but it has rarely
been subjected to careful scrutiny in the social sciences. While
the legalization of abortion has brought it into the public domain,
it still remains a sensitive topic in many cultures, often hidden
from view and rarely spoken about, consigned to a shadowy

Drawing on reports gathered from hospital settings and in-depth
interviews with women who have had abortions, Luc Boltanski sets
out to explain the ambiguous status of this social practice.
Abortion, he argues, has to remain in the shadows, for it reveals a
contradiction at the heart of the social contract: the principle of
the uniqueness of beings conflicts with the postulate of their
replaceable nature, a postulate without which no society would
achieve demographic renewal.

This leads Boltanski to explore the way human beings are
engendered and to analyze the symbolic constraints that preside
over their entry into society. What makes a human being is not the
foetus as such, ensconced within the body, but rather the process
by which it is taken up symbolically in speech - that is, its
symbolic adoption. But this symbolic adoption presupposes the
possibility of discriminating among embryos that are
indistinguishable. For society, and sometimes for individuals, the
arbitrary character of this discrimination is hard to tolerate. The
contradiction is made bearable, Boltanski shows, by a grammatical
categorization: the ?project? foetus - adopted by its
parents, who use speech to welcome the new being and give it a name
- is juxtaposed to the ?tumoral? foetus, an accidental
embryo that will not be the object of a life-forming project.

Bringing together grammar, narrations of life experience and an
historical perspective, this highly original book sheds fresh light
on a social phenomenon that is widely practised but poorly

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780745647319
ISBN-10: 0745647316
Format: Paperback / softback
(225mm x 149mm x 26mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Polity Press
Publisher: Polity Press
Publish Date: 31-May-2013
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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Author Biography - Luc Boltanski

Luc Boltanski is professor of sociology at the Ecoledes hautes etudes en sciences sociales, Paris. His many booksin English include, The New Spirit of Capitalism, OnCritique and Love and Justice as Competences.

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