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 reality with a morality, embodied in the work of its agents and inscribed in the issues of its time.
A political and moral anthropology, this book is the result of a five-year investigation conducted by ten scholars, based in France. It analyses, amongst other topics, the police, the court system, the prison apparatus, the social services and mental health facilities. 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.