Accepted Paper:

Habitus and prospectus: a socio-technical history of business futures in the Dupont de Nemours family (1797-1802)  


Martin Giraudeau (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the social origins of futures, and more specifically of so-called rational business plans. It focuses on the relations between personal habitus structures and prospectus production practices, through the conjoint study of the Dupont de Nemours family’s social trajectory and plans.

Paper long abstract:

This article articulates two usually separate notions: the Bourdieusian concept of habitus and the Latourian concept of script. It does so through the conjoint and detailed study of both: 1) the business plans written by the Dupont de Nemours family between 1797 and 1802 when, in their flight from post-Revolutionary France, which eventually led to the foundation of the DuPont company; 2) the personal biographies of the authors of these plans, Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, a French statesman and economist, and his son Eleuthere Irenee Dupont de Nemours, trained as a chemical engineer by chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. The article shows that the differences between the plans of the father and those of the son, the latter being typical utopian plans of an early modern projector and the latter being the typical calculated plans of a modern entrepreneur can in great parts be explained by the respective temporal dispositions, and more specifically the respective attitudes towards the future that the two men acquired through their respective social trajectories. The article draws the theoretical consequences of this observation on our understanding of the concepts of habitus and of script. Further, it provides a novel explanation for the rise of "rational planning," often considered as consubstantial to modern capitalism.

Panel T028
Futures in the making and re-making