ANTH 21411

Introduction to Pierre Bourdieu
Fall 2005

Instructor: Sébastien Chauvin (Ecole Normale Supérieure) – Format : Mon-Wed-Fri 11:30am -12:20pm Room: SS 401

This course is an introductory seminar to the thought and work of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). Undergraduate students are recommended to complete the social science core before taking this class. It has been designed for anthropology and sociology students but is of course open to students of history, political science and philosophy, and all those interested in French contemporary culture and theory. Although it is listed as an undergraduate course, MAPSS students are welcome in it. “No one would describe Bourdieu’s writings as ‘easily accessible’, yet few social scientists in our era have had a stronger and broader impact in the academic world as well as on modern culture and society” (Thesis Eleven, n°70, 2002). Our

main purpose is to put together pieces of Bourdieu usually studied separately in the United States (Bourdieu as a sociologist, an anthropologist, a philosopher etc.). Indeed one fundamental aspect of Bourdieu’s scientific life is the attempt to and the relative success at dissolving the boundary between anthropology and sociology, and more generally at promoting the idea of an epistemological unity of social science (claiming for example that sociology is a “social history of the present” and history an “historical sociology of the past”). Ten weeks is of course too short to grasp in its entirety a complex work simultaneously inserted in multiple scientific and intellectual subfields. We will show how Bourdieu, meshing the French Durkheimian (from Durkheim to Mauss Simiand, Halbwachs…) and structuralist (Lévi-Strauss) schools of social science with Marxian critical theory, German Weberian scientific tradition (from Max Weber up to Norbert Elias), Merleau-Ponty’s and Husserl’s breeds of phenomenology, and the French current of “rationalist historicism” in epistemology (Koyré, Bachelard, Canguilhem), in a work deeply entrenched in empirical research, proposes a workable toolkit as well as a general theoretical framework to break the dualisms commonly sterilizing what Bourdieu calls “scholastic thought”, including: materialism and idealism, objectivism and subjectivism, the individual and society, structure and agency, interests and passions, freedom and determinism, theory and empirical research, practices and representations, domination and resistance, universalism and relativism, science and critique. We will stress Bourdieu’s insistence on the imperative of epistemic reflexivity for empirical work to avoid replicating common sense under scientific rhetorics. In this new edition of the class, texts of pure commentary will mostly be avoided and, everywhere possible, “theory” will not be studied for its own sake but as a practice carried out to increase the efficiency of the actual anthropological, sociological and historical research it aims to serve. Though epistemological reflection will never be far, we will start with concrete studies and then gradually mount in abstraction, focusing on the core works (for example, Distinction) not as external commentators but as active practitioners of a genuine social-scientific “craft”.

A recommendation to the students: to read Bourdieu, you do not want to be in a rush. Start reading slowly and cautiously (for the first 5 pages of an article or chapter, you should not spend less than 2 minutes per page) so as to get acquainted with his particular, nay peculiar, style of writing. Only at this condition will we be collectively able to penetrate deep into a powerful thought and avoid various misunderstandings or dangerous simplifications.

1) Close reading and active, aware participation in class discussion. (15% of grade) 2) In addition, once a week, starting week 2, and before the session of your choice, you will have to post on the course Chalk discussion board a oneparagraph question raising a theoretical or empirical point concerning the session’s readings or a one-paragraph objection to the ideas and analyses put forward in the readings. Arguments should be articulate and must be sent before 10am on the day of class. Students are encouraged to browse through each other’s comments before the class. (15% of grade) 3) A 4 to 6-page midterm paper due Monday, October 31st. Topics will be distributed by Friday, October 21st and will draw selectively on course readings, class discussion and lectures. (30% grade) 4) A 10 to 12-page final paper due Wednesday, December 7th. Proposed paper topics will be distributed but you will also have the possibility to devise your own research paper (theoretical reflection, case study of a particular object, confrontation of Bourdieu with other thinkers or other empirical work, transposition of a particular framework to new terrains etc.) after consultation with the instructor (40% of grade).

* *


The following books have been placed on reserve for you at Regenstein library and ordered at the Seminary Co-op bookstore:
Pierre Bourdieu, 1977, Outline of a Theory of Practice, Mass: Cambridge University Press. Pierre Bourdieu 1984 [1979], Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Pierre Bourdieu 1991, Language and Symbolic Power, Mass: Harvard University Press. Pierre Bourdieu 1998 [1994], Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Pierre Bourdieu 2000 [1997], Pascalian Meditations, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

NB: In addition to the texts placed on e-reserve, some important extra course material can also be found on the CHALK website for this class (and exclusively on Chalk when so indicated).

Schedule of Class Sessions
(Final version)

Week 1: Introductory Lectures
Session 1a (September 26th) - Thinking Power, Knowledge and Practice Together
This introductory session will insist on some of the main aspects of Bourdieu’s contribution to social theory and social-scientific practice: the epistemological arbitrariness (and historical causes) of the division between sociology and anthropology; the criticism of the autonomization of “theory” from actual empirical work. the necessity of object construction and “epistemological rupture” (Bachelard) in social science as in any other science; the need for a conceptual apparatus able to seize the embeddedness of cognitive, pragmatic and political logics (social metaphysics, practice and domination); Selection of additional introductory texts, commentaries and interviews you can consult on your own (for example during the summer): “Pierre Bourdieu” by Loïc Wacquant in Rob Stones (ed.), Key Sociological Thinkers (London and New York: Macmillan, 1998), p.215-229. [a.k.a. “Pierre Bourdieu for Children”, available on Chalk] Pierre Bourdieu, “Landmarks”, in In Other Words (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), p.34-55. Pierre Bourdieu, Postscript 1, “Impersonal Confessions”, in Pascalian Meditations, p.33-42 [A sociologically-aware account of the formative years which imperceptibly encapsulates in just a few pages four decades of empirical research] Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), parts I & II.

Session 1b (September 28th) – Principles of a Materialist Analysis of the Economy of Symbolic Exchanges: Relationalism, Constructivism, Agonisticism
Through a few applied examples, the two following sessions offer an overview of three guiding principles of Bourdieu’s socio-historical anthropology: (1) the focus on social relations rather than individual entities, breaking away from the metaphysical quest for the ultimate inner essence of people and things; (2) the concern for the historical genesis of social relations and the dialectical relationship between cognitive categories and social structures; (3) the intrinsically agonistic nature of processes of social change and reproduction.

• • •

“Social Space and Symbolic Space”, in Practical Reason, p.1-14 “Programme for a Sociology of Sport”, in In Other Words, p.156-167 “Identity and Representation. Elements for a Critical Reflection on the Idea of Region”, in Language and Symbolic Power, p.220-228.

Session 1c (September 30th) – The Dialectic of Social Classes and Social Classifications: First Glimpse and First Overview
• • “Family Spirit” in Practical Reason p.64-74 (also “On the Family as a Realized Category”, Theory, Culture, and Society, 1996, p.9-26). “Classes and Classifications”, conclusion in Distinction, p.466-484

Week 2: The Ethnographic Genesis of Pierre Bourdieu
This week aims at qualifying the reputation of Bourdieu as a “theorist” by going back to his early ethnographic work in Kabylia and Béarn, where he started to develop his research apparatus. In addition to confronting the intrinsic value of these texts, you will get firmly equipped for deciphering more elliptic or implicit references to them in later, apparently more abstract, philosophical or epistemological works. To go further: Pierre Bourdieu, “Fieldwork in Philosophy”, in In Other Words, p.3-33. Loïc Wacquant, “Following Pierre Bourdieu into the Field”, Ethnography, 5(4), 2004, p.387-414.

Session 2a (October 3rd) - Bourdieu in Algeria (I): Introduction to Symbolic Materialism
• “The Sentiment of Honour in Kabyle Society”, in J. Peristiany (ed.), Honour and Shame, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1966, p. 193-241. “Case Study 1: The Two-Fold Truth of the Gift” in Pascalian Meditations, p.191-202.
To go further: “The Economy of Symbolic Goods”, in Practical Reason, p.92-126.

Session 2b (October 5th) – Bourdieu in Algeria (II): Ethnography between Structuralism and Phenomenology
• • “Appendix: The Berber House or the World Reversed,” in The Logic of Practice, p.271-283. “The Attitude of the Algerian Peasant toward Time”, in J. Pitt-Rivers (ed.), Mediterranean Countrymen (1964), p.55-72.

Session 2c (October 7th) – Habitus and the Body
This session offers a first presentation of the uses of “habitus” as a scientific tool for overcoming the opposition between objectivism and subjectivism, replacing “bodily” logics at the center of the broader phenomena they at once incarnate and activate.

• •

“The Peasant and his Body” in Ethnography, Vol.5, Issue 4, December 2004, p.579-599. “Bodily Knowledge”, chapter 4 in Pascalian Meditations, p.128-163.

Week 3: Beyond Structuralism – Outline of a Theory of Practice
This week will show how, by raising the question of practice and practical sense, Bourdieu endeavors to surpass classical anthropological structuralism on the two quite distinct terrains where Lévi-Strauss elaborated it: (a) the study of kinship systems (by raising the question of their relation to actual kinship practices and strategies); (b) the study of mythical systems (by raising the question of their relation to actual rituals). One of the challenges here is to account for the possibility of invention without falling into what Lévi-Strauss dubbed “spontaneist” sloppiness.

Session 3a (October 10th) – Overcoming “Objectivism”
• “The Objective Limits of Objectivism”, Ch.1 in Outline of a Theory of Practice, p.1-71.

Session 3b (October 12th) - From Rules to Strategies
• • “Structures and the Habitus”, Ch.2 in Outline of a Theory of Practice, p.7295. “Codification”, in In Other Words, p.76-86.
To go further: “From Rules to Strategies”, in In Other Words, p.59-75.

Session 3c (October 14th) – Rituals and the Uses of Analogy
• “Generative Schemes and Practical Logic: Invention within Limits”, Ch.3 in Outline of a Theory of Practice, p.96-143.

Week 4: Distinction (1) - Mapping out Social Space and Historicizing Transcendental Categories
The coming two weeks may be the most intense because of both the amount of readings and the analytical skills required to grasp them. We will focus on Bourdieu’s twofold intention: (a) achieving the structuralist ambition of grasping society as a total system of meaningful relations (a theory of generalized social relativity, if you will, transcending common relativism) while (b)

succeeding in implementing the Dukheimian injunction to sociologize and historicize Kant’s Critique of Judgment.

Session 4a (October 17th) – Legitimate Culture and Social Domination
• Distinction, Introduction and Part I, “A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste”, p.9-96.
To go further: “Academic Forms of Classification”, Part I in The State Nobility, p.7-53

Session 4b (October 19th) – A Generalized Political Economy of Practices
• • “Is a Disinterested Act Possible?” in Practical Reasons, p.75-92. “The Forms of Capital” in John G. Richardson (Hg.): Handbook of Theory and Research in the Sociology of Education, New York/N.Y. & London 1986: Greenwood Press, p.241-258. “The New Capital”, in Practical Reasons, p.19-30.

Session 4c (October 21st) – Social Space and Its Transformations
• “The Social Space and Its Transformations”, Ch.2 in Distinction, p.99-168.

Week 5: Distinction (2) – Scrutinizing Social Tastes and Lifestyles in 1970s France
In this second week we will gauge the heuristic benefits of (a) grasping lifestyles with the notion of habitus and of (b) considering social tastes as embodied and embedded social classifications.

Session 5a (October 24th) – The Space of Lifestyles
• • “The Habitus and The Space of Lifestyles”, ch.3 in Distinction, p.169-225. “Price Formation and the Anticipation of Profits”, Ch.2 in Language and Symbolic Power, p.66-89.

Session 5b (October 26th) – “Distinction” and “Cultural Goodwill”
Read one of the following chapters (preferably both): • “The Sense of Distinction” Ch.5 in Distinction, p.257-317 (about French upper classes). • “Cultural Goodwill”, Ch.6 in Distinction, p.318-371 (about French middle classes).

Session 5c (October 28th) – “Popular Classes” and “Popular Culture”
• • “Did you Say ‘Popular?’”, in Language and Symbolic Power, p.90-102. “The Choice of Necessity”, Ch.7 in Distinction, p.372-396 (about French working-class).

Week 6: The Logic of Fields (1)
This week will offer a first introduction to the concept of “field”, by which Bourdieu refers to relatively autonomous social and symbolic arenas, conceived both as fields of forces and fields of struggle. We will see how together these two conceptual “moments” (a) specify Bourdieu’s relationalist guideline of theoretical action, (b) contribute to overcoming the scholarly opposition between materialism and idealism by grasping dynamically an “economy of symbolic goods” which extends to domains as “anti-economic” as art, religion or science, while at the same time (c) allowing for an historicist account of agonistic world-making and remaking, cleared of the main naiveties of “idealistic constructivism”.

Session 6a (October 31st) – A Few Properties of the Fields
• • • “How Can One Be A Sportsman?” in Sociology in Question, p.117-132. “The Force of Law: Towards a Sociology of the Juridical Field”, Hastings Law Journal, 38, n.5, July 1987, p.814-853. “The Specificity of the Scientific Field and the Social Conditions of the Progress of Reason”, in Social Science Information, XIV-6, 1975, p.19-47
To go further: “Genesis and Structure of the Religious Field”, Comparative Social Research, n.13, 1991, p.1-44

*Monday, October 31st – Midterm Paper due by 5pm *

Session 6b (November 2nd) – The Field of Power and the State Concentration of Symbolic Capital
• • “Social Space and the Field of Power”, in Practical Reason, p.31-34. “Rethinking the State: On the Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field”, in Practical Reason, p.35-74.
To go further: The State Nobility, Part IV, “The Field of Power and its Transformations” p.261-339, and part V, “State Power and Power over the State”, p.371-389.

Session 6c (November 4th) – Structure, Crisis and the Dynamics of History
• “The Dynamics of the Fields”, ch.4 in Distinction, p.226-256

“The Critical Moment”, ch.5 in Homo Academicus, p.159-193.

Week 7: The Logic of Fields (2): the Autonomization of Social Spaces in Differentiated Societies
With the help of two examples, we will show how using “field analysis” to understand the historical emergence of relatively autonomous and functionally specialized sub-spaces (a) provides a powerful tool to analyze fields of cultural production and of the genesis of the specific gaze they require of their public and (b) permits to re-theorize the relationship between political specialists and political subjects in contemporary society.

Week 7a (November 7th) – The Fields of Cultural Production
• • “Readings, Readers, the Literate, Literature” in In Other Words, p.94-105. [On Chalk] “The Author’s Point of View: Some General Properties of Fields of Cultural Production”, in The Rules of Art, p.214-284. [On e-reserve]
To go further: The Rules of Art, entire.

Session 7b (November 9th) – Political Representation and the Political Field
• • “Political Representation. Elements for a Theory of the Political Field”, in Language and Symbolic Power, p.171-202. “Delegation and Political Fetishism”, in Language and Symbolic Power, p.203-219

Session 7c (November 11th) – Public Opinion
• • “Public Opinion Does not Exist”, in Sociology in Question, p.149-157. “Culture and Politics”, Ch.8 in Distinction p.397-465.

Week 8: Symbolic Domination and Political Struggles
This week purports to explore the performative power of the symbolic order while measuring on the one hand the objective social conditions (and limitations) of performativity and on the other hand recalling the agonistic functioning of the symbolic arena, its effects and implications. Bourdieu’s ambition is thus once again to construct a theory of the “sense of existence” refuting “vulgar” materialism while trying to avoid a regressive return to mystical subjectivism.

Session 8a (November 14th) – Symbolic Power as a Social Power to Make the Social
• • • “The Production and Reproduction of Legitimate Language”, Ch.1 in Language and Symbolic Power, p.43-65. “Site Effects”, in Weight of the World, p.123-129. “Symbolic Violence and Political Struggles”, ch.5 in Pascalian Meditations, p.164-191.

Session 8b (November 16th) – The Objective Conditions of Performative Utterances
• • • “Authorized Language: the Social Conditions for the Effectiveness of Ritual Discourse”, ch.3 in Language and Symbolic Power, p.107-116. “Rites of Institution”, ch.4 in Language and Symbolic Power, p.117-126 “Description and Prescription. The Conditions of Possibility and the Limits of Political Effectiveness”, ch.5 in Language and Symbolic Power, p.127136.
To go further: “The Ordination”, Part II in The State Nobility, p.71-127

Session 8c (November 18th) - A Sociological Theory of the “Sense of Existence”
• “Social Being, Time and the Sense of Existence”, Chapter 6 in Pascalian Meditations, p.206-245.

Week 9: The Scholastic Fallacy, Reason and the Intellectuals
This week will confront the scientific and political risks (but also the benefits) of the scholastic condition; the mission assigned to intellectuals – and the pitfalls of intellectualism; “epistemic Reflexivity” not as an esoteric navel-gazing but as a secular, non-mysterious, scientific technique: the application by the social scientist to the social scientist herself (and to scientific fields) of the tools developed by social science, in order not to arbitrarily dismiss any possibility of knowledge but, quite simply, to better practice one’s scientific craft.

Session 9a (November 21st) – Scholastic Bias Debunked
• • • • “The Racism of Intelligence”, in Sociology in Question, p.177-180. Introduction and Ch.1, “Critique of Scholastic Reason”, in Pascalian Meditations, p.1-32. Postscript 1, “Impersonal Confessions”, in Pascalian Meditations, p.33-42 Ch.2, “The Three Forms of Scholastic Fallacy”, in Pascalian Meditations, p.49-92.

Session 9b (November 23rd) – Intellectuals and the “Universal”
• • • Ch.3, “The Historicity of Reason”, in Pascalian Meditations, p.93-127. “The Corporatism of the Universal: The Role of Intellectuals in the Modern World.” Telos 81 (Fall 1989): 99-110. “The Uses of ‘the People’, in In Other words, p.150-155. [On Chalk]

Session 9c (November 25th) – Thanksgiving Week-End: No Class.

Week 10: Guidelines for Social Research and Ethnographic Interview
Bourdieu’s guidelines for the practice of reflexive social science, among other things a theory of “understanding” that endeavors to avoid both the objectivist epistemological de-authorization of the natives and the unreflexive “epistemological populism” that in the last decades has polluted some (though not all) trends in cultural studies.

Session 10a (November 28th) – Reflexive Sociology in Practice
• Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, part III: “The Paris Workshop - The Practice of Reflexive Sociology”, p.217-260 (available on e-reserve).

Monday, November 28th, 7pm:: Screening of documentary film on the Late Bourdieu by Pierre Carles, “Sociology is a Martial Art” (France, 2000).

Session 10b (November 30th) – Understanding the Meaning of “Understanding”
• • “The Space of the Points of View”, in Bourdieu et al., The Weight of the World, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999, p.3-5. Pierre Bourdieu, “Understanding”, Theory, Culture and Society, 13-2, May 1996, p.13-37 (also in The Weight of the World).

A good recapitulative (abstract) presentation of Bourdieu’s intellectual project can be found in his inaugural lecture at the Collège de France: “A Lecture on the Lecture”, in In Other Words, p.177-198 [available on Chalk], which you may read on your own towards the end of the quarter.

* Wednesday, December 7th – Final Paper due by 5pm *

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