The Scandal as Test: Elements of Pragmatic Sociology
Research on scandals published over the last twenty years in sociology, anthropology, history, and political science has forged a path that considers scandal to be a test through which collective attachment to norms is reevaluated. This paper argues that envisioning scandals in this perspective leads to particular attention being paid to their institutionalizing power and to the fact that their real meaning and impact—depending on the collective reaction they incite—are never fixed in advance or entirely foreseeable. This type of approach, which takes the reasons for being indignant about the actors seriously, has important implications, which we discuss here, for the researcher’s conception of the roles that strategic calculations, euphemisms of violence, separation between spheres of activity, and the mass media play in scandals. We also explain why this approach forces the researcher to engage in deeper reflection on the issue under study.