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	At the Heart of the State

At the Heart of the State

The Moral World of Institutions

Sébastien Roux , Jean-Sébastien Eideliman , Fabrice Fernandez , Nicolas Fischer , Carolina Kobelinsky , Isabelle Coutant , Sarah Mazouz , Chowra Makaremi , Yasmine Bouagga , Didier Fassin
Trad. Patrick Brown, Didier Fassin
Chicago,  Pluto Press, Anthropology, Culture and Society ,   [2015],  312 p.
Prix : $40.00

The state is often regarded as an abstract and neutral bureaucratic entity. Against this common sense idea, At the Heart of the State argues that it is also 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 analyses the police, the court system, the prison apparatus, the social services, and 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 mobilise values and affects, judgements and emotions. In other words, they reflect the morality of the state.

Of immense interest to both social scientists and political theorists, this work will make an important contribution to the ever expanding literature on the contemporary state.


  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface, by Didier Fassin
  • Introduction: Governing Precariousness, by Didier Fassin

First Part: JUDGING

  • 1. The Right to Punish: Assessing Sentences in Immediate Appearance Trials, by Chowra Makaremi
  • 2. Justice for Immigrants: The Work of Magistrates in Deportation Proceedings, by Nicolas Fischer
  • 3. In Search of Truth: How Asylum Applications Are Adjudicated, by Carolina Kobelinsky


  • 4. Maintaining Order: The Moral Justifications for Police Practices, by Didier Fassin
  • 5. Sanctioning behind Bars: The Humanization of Retribution in Prison, by Fabrice Fernandez
  • 6. Assisting or Controlling? When Social Workers Become Probation Officers, by Yasmine Bouagga


  • 7. Discipline and Educate: Contradictions within the Juvenile Justice System, by Sébastien Roux
  • 8. The Listening to Suffering: Dealing with Mental Fragility in a Home for Adolescents, by Isabelle Coutant and Jean-Sébastien Eideliman
  • 9. The Profiling of Job Seekers: Counseling Youths at an Employment Center, by Sarah Mazouz
  • Conclusion: Raisons d’État, by Didier Fassin

Glossary – Notes – Bibliography – Index


Pluto Press, series Anthropology, Culture and Society, july 2015, 312 pages. ISBN: 9780745335599. Paper $40.00

At the Heart of the State

The Moral World of Institutions

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