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Ontological Extension or Corporeal
Josep Maria Bech
Universitat de Barcelona
erlea!"#ont$ resisted vie%ing &is o%n t&o!g&t as Grundphilosophie' t&at is' a %a$ o(
t&in)ing t&at %o!ld re(er realit$' )no%ledge and meaning to an !ltimate principle' a*le to
gro!nd ever$t&ing %&ile also gro!nding itsel(. +e %as also rel!ctant to appeal to a mere
empirical (o!ndation' inescapa*l$ compromised %it& contingenc$ and (acticit$. +e arg!ed
t&at all possi*ilities o( meaning in &istor$ are t&e o!tcome o( speci(ic' immanent inter"&!man
practices' and in conse,!ence t&e (!t!re is neit&er a rec!rrence o( t&e present nor an empt$
possi*ilit$ t&at a s!*-ective pro-ect mig&t (!l(ill. .it& t&e notion o( /instit!tion0 erlea!"#ont$
see)s to acco!nt (or t&ese (!ndamental convictions' %&ile avoiding t&e danger o(
/conscientialism0' t&at is' t&e vie% t&at not onl$ is conscio!sness t&e !ni,!e p!rve$or o(
meaning' capa*le o( !ni($ing in a closed' &omogeneo!s s$stem t&e m!ltiplicit$ o( social
artic!lations' *!t also t&at' as a res!lt' &istor$ emerges (rom t&e reciprocal ac)no%ledgment
o( all constit!tive conscio!sness. 1n t&is regard t&e *asic premise is t&at t&e meaning o(
events in &istor$ neit&er is imposed /(rom t&e inside0 *$ t&e spontaneit$ o( a pro-ective or
/constit!ting0 conscio!sness' nor is granted /(rom t&e o!tside0 *$ an all"encompassing
destin$ t&at %o!ld *e ca!sall$ gro!nded' (or instance' in t&e development o( economic
(orces. Besides' t&is notion reveals an !nderl$ing logic t&at em*races t&e entire c!lt!ral
order2 as %e %ill see *elo%' in an experience or in an arti(act are lodged certain dimensions
3!nderstood in t&e Cartesian manner as s$stems o( re(erence4 in relation to %&ic& a %&ole
s!ccession o( (!t!re experiences %ill possess meaning and t&!s %ill (orm a se,!el or a
Events that lay down a meaning
as a demand of things to come
5&e doctrine o( /instit!tion0 %as developed alongside t&e earl$ evol!tion o( erlea!"
#ont$6s t&o!g&t. 7ome incipient re(erences to iss!es t&at latel$ %ere *ro!g&t toget&er *$ t&is
concept appear alread$ in The Structure of Behavior. 8mong t&em stand o!t2 t&e pro*lem o(
&istorical time 3/in p&$sical as %ell as in mental li(e t&ere is no past t&at is a*sol!tel$ past'
since 9t&e spirit &olds in its act!al dept& t&e moments t&at it seems to &ave le(t *e&ind6
04' t&e
enigma o( emergent meaning 3/t&e &ig&er level o( *e&avior em*races all ancillar$ dialectics
in t&e real dept& o( its existence04' or t&e di((ic!lties o( *ot& &olism and transcendentalism
3/t&e pres!med 9existence conditions6 cannot *e disting!is&ed (rom t&e %&ole to %&ic& t&e$
contri*!te' and conversely the essence of the whole cannot be thought in its concreteness if
we disregard them and its constitutive history).
5&e next step too) place in henomenology
5&e nested ,!ote is (rom +egel6s !ectures on hilosophy of "istory. 5&e present essa$ is *ased on a text
read at t&e Con(erence organi:ed in Octo*er 2;;6 *$ t&e 1nternational erlea!"#ont$ Circle in .as&ington <C.
+eart(elt t&an)s to pro(essors a!ro Car*one and .a$ne =roman (or t&eir )indness and &ospitalit$.
5&e t&ree ,!otes are (rom erlea!"#ont$ >?422 224. erlea!"#ont$6s emp&asis.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page & of '(
of erception) %&ere t&e still em*r$onic meaning o( /instit!tion0 appears related to t&e term
Stiftung* act or process 3not onl$ relation' t&ere(ore4 o( gro!nding a concrete relations&ip
3t&at is2 not a ca!sal' *!t an /essence0 relations&ip4 *et%een (orm and content' t&o!g&t and
perception. 8nd in t&e essa$ +round Mar,ism -#+utour du mar,isme)) %ritten in >?45 and
incl!ded in Sens et non.sens) erlea!"#ont$ stated &is pro-ect o( !nderstanding t&e
am*ig!it$ o( &istor$ *e$ond t&e !s!al polarit$ o( ca!sal mecanicism and (inalism r!led *$ a
rational or transcendent gro!nd. .&ile ac)no%ledging t&e noticea*le meaninglessness o(
t&e present time' &e endeavored to identi($ t&e cl!sters o( em*r$onic meaning t&at !ni($
events in t&eir ma)ing and %&ic& (ace t&e ris) o( (alling *ac) into insigni(icance. 1n s&ort' &e
strived to decip&er t&e process o( &istorical *ecoming *$ t&e sole means o( discerning its
(ragile' immanent trends.
+o%ever' t&e term /instit!tion0 did not receive its de(initive meaning !ntil t&e erlea!"
#ont$an %ritings contemporar$ %it& +dventures of the /ialectic. 1n t&is stage o( &is t&o!g&t'
erlea!"#ont$ too) !p /instit!tion0 as t&e pre(erred translation o( t&e +!sserlian term o(
Stiftung) t&ere*$ signaling &is gro%ing re-ection o( a p&ilosop&$ o( conscio!sness in %&ic&
Stiftung %as c!rrentl$ rendered as /constit!tion0. /5o overcome t&e di((ic!lties o(
and to de(eat /t&e idealism o( 9constit!tion6 3nat!re constit!tes &istor$ %&en
&istor$ is accidentall$ !na*le to constit!te nat!re' so t&at in t&is reversi*ilit$ teleolog$ ta)es
precedence !pon 9arc&eolog$640' and in conse,!ence /to conceive t&e &istorical %orld as
rat&er t&an constit!ted' %ere indeed t&e main motives t&at led erlea!"#ont$ to
partic!lari:e t&is notion. 8t (irst glance' t&ere(ore' /instit!tion0 is a concept imposed *$ t&e
necessit$ o( a non"conscientialist interpretation o( &istor$.
On a %ider scope' &o%ever' t&e *asic idea a*o!t erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0 is t&e
possi*ilit$ o( reactivation' re"enactment' or rea%a)ening o( experience' in spite o( its
!navoida*le sedimentation and t&e ens!ing clotting' &ardening' and encr!sting process.
8*ove all it matters to see t&at erlea!"#ont$6s notion o( /re"activation0 does not matc&
+!sserl6s' (or %&om /t&e lived experience itsel(' and t&e o*-ective moment constit!ted in it0'
as &e a((irms in 0,perience and Judgment) /ma$ *ecome 9(orgotten6@ *!t (or all t&is it in no
%a$ disappears %it&o!t a trace@ it &as merel$ *ecome latent. .it& regard to %&at &as
*ecome constit!ted in it' it is a possession in t&e (orm o( a &a*it!s) read$ at an$ time to *e
a%a)ened ane% *$ an active association.0
8s a commentator &as p!t it' /still conditioned *$
t&e egological p&antasm' +!sserl (alls into t&e naAvetB o( t&e 9reactivation6 o( t&e instit!ted
signi(icationsCas i( t&e$ co!ld *e t&e prod!ct o( a (e% signed and dated acts o(
Conversel$' erlea!"#ont$ sees in t&e concept o( 9instit!tion6' p!t in a
n!ts&ell' a non"s!*-ective
version o( %&at t&e earl$ +!sserl called 9constit!tion6' an alteration
erlea!"#ont$ >?682 5?.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 76.
+!sserl D>?32E >?722 >4>. Engl. tr.2 >22.
Castoriadis >??32 27.
5&e notion o( /instit!tion0 s!ggests a rat&er intricate ontolog$. 8*ove all it appears related to t&e pro*lematic
realit$ t&at Fincent <escom*es names /o*-ective spirit0 and %&ose c&ie( instances are )ins&ip s$stems'
religions' and especiall$ lang!ages' (or /it is t&e possession o( %&at +!m*oldt called die innere Sprachform) o(
an internal (orm 3as opposed to t&e mere 9external (orm6 %&ic& is t&e sole o*-ect o( st!d$ o( *e&avio!rist
ling!istics4' t&at con(ers a 9spirit6 !pon a lang!age0. 5&ere(ore' /an o*-ective spirit o( t&is )ind is made !p o(
r!les and esta*lis&ed !ses' %&ic& transcend t&e (ree agenc$ o( individ!als and t&eir m!t!al conventions.0
<escom*es ac)no%ledges &ere an ontological ,!andar$ t&at parallels a similar pro*lem posed *$ /instit!tion0'
since it is imperative /to de(ine an ontological stat!s (or t&ese r!les and conventions. 5&e$ are neit&er material
o*-ects nor mental acts. 1n ot&er %ords' t&e$ are neit&er 9t&ings6 nor 9representations6. =rom a p&ilosop&ical
point o( vie%' t&e importance o( t&e ,!estion o( o*-ective or collective spirit is to (orce !s to recogni:e t&e limits
o( classical p&ilosop&$ o( mind' %&ic& can onl$ ac)no%ledge t%o positions2 t&e neo"Cartesian mentalism o(
mental acts and t&e materialism o( brain.states.0 -%fr. <escom*es >??42 ??4
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ' of '(
t&at' in Go-i +irose6s %ords' sprang (rom t&e (ollo%ing circ!mstance2 /5orn *et%een
+!sserlian radicalism and t&e di((ic!lties posed *$ t&e p&ilosop&$ o( conscio!sness'
erlea!"#ont$ a*stains (rom converting in a gro!nding principle t&e total 9reactiva*ilit$6 o(
t&e originar$ evidence.0
8cco!nting (or t&is radical c&ange o( perspective is not an eas$
!nderta)ing' as proved *$ man$ a!t&ors %&en attempting to o!tline t&e m!lti(ario!s meaning
o( erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0. 1n Heonard Ha%lor6s p&rasing' (or instance' #institution
means that there is a past that precedes and generates every sub1ective present
e,perience. 5&ere is a tradition t&at &as al%a$s alread$ *een *e(ore t&ere is an$ individ!al

B!t t&e +!sserlian Stiftung is not t&e onl$ precedent (or erlea!"#ont$6s doctrine. 5o
appreciate t&e (!ll importance o( &is innovative !nderstanding o( /instit!tion0 %e m!st loo)
*ac) into *ot& t&e =renc& spirit!alist legac$ and t&e 3also primordiall$ =renc&4 sociological
!nderstanding o( t&is term. 1n t&e mainstream =renc& tradition' t&e catal$tic in(l!ence o(
Bergson6s t&o!g&t on erlea!"#ont$ deserves to *e &ig&lig&ted. 5o appreciate it (!ll$ %e
m!st pa$ attention to &is revealing all!sion to C&arles #eg!$6s %or) and t&e ill!minating
contrast t&is a!t&or em*odies. /Bergson did not t&in) &istor$ from the inside) &e did not loo)
(or t&e simple and indivisible actions t&at' (or ever$ stage or event' set !p t&e isolated (acts.
+e seems to disregard t&is deep &istor$ %&en &e a((irms t&at eac& epoc& is ever$t&ing it can
ever *e -cha2ue p3riode est tout ce 2u4elle peut 5tre)) t&at is' a %&ole event and a complete
#eg!$' on t&e contrar$' /so!g&t to descri*e t&e coming o!t o( t&e event'
t&e -!nct!re in %&ic& some people *egin and some ot&er people respond.0 D...E /in t&eir
simplicit$' t&e action' t&e %or)' t&e past are inaccessi*le to t&ose t&at see t&em (rom t&e
o!tside0 D...E /o( t&is page t&at %as %ritten in an &o!r' even an endless commentar$ cannot
grasp t&e %&ole meaning0 D...E /meaning is al%a$s (ic)le and %&en it re"esta*lis&es itsel(
(aces t&e ris) o( not coming into *eing at all -le sens se refait au ris2ue de se defaire) D...E /in
t&is net%or) o( re,!ests and re-oinders' %&ere t&e *eginning attains *ot& its accomplis&ment
and its metamorp&ose' d%ells a pec!liar 9p!*lic timing -dur3e publi2ue)4 t&at' according to
#eg!$' %o!ld *e t&e s!*-ect"matter o( a tr!e sociolog$0 D...E /t&e 9&istorical inscription6
possesses its own val!e -valeur propre40
8t t&e same time' t&e erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0 stands o!t some%&at against t&e
mainstream sociological tradition' %&ere t&is term descri*es' in arcel a!ss6 %ords' /a set
o( actions and ideas alread$ in place' %&ic& individ!als enco!nter' and %&ic& more or less
imposes itsel( on t&em0.
5&is accredited conception see)s to appre&end t&e normative and
reg!lative aspect o( instit!tions' in opposition to t&e more open"ended interpretive context in
%&ic& t&e$ are em*edded and %&ic& implies a (ig!rative artic!lation o( meaning. 5&e
erlea!"#ont$an !nderstanding o( /instit!tion0' on t&e contrar$' stresses its &ermene!tic
conse,!ences. =or &e clearl$ noticed t&at' in Io&ann 8rnason6s %ords' /t&e (ig!rative
constit!tion o( meaning' (irst and most extensivel$ anal$:ed on t&e level o( perception *!t
later also %it& re(erence to t&e imagination and its prod!cts' is not red!ci*le to an$ ot&er
so!rces or operations. 5&e pattern o( 9&aving a (ig!re on a gro!nd6 3erlea!"#ont$ claims
t&at one 9cannot go an$ (!rt&er6' and t&at 9t&ere is no ot&er meaning64 represents t&e most
elementar$ level o( interpretation' and it can *e contrasted %it& t&e ideali:ing models and
+irose 2;;42 227.
Ha%lor 2;;32 >57. Ha%lor6s emp&asis.
erlea!"#ont$ >?6;2 235. erlea!"#ont$6s emp&ases.
erlea!"#ont$ >?6;2 235"236. erlea!"#ont$6s emp&asis.
a!ss >?6?2 >5;.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ( of '(
criteria t&at are s!perimposed on experience 3erlea!"#ont$ !ses t&e Jerman expression
6ormierung to !nderline t&eir prescriptive (!nction4.0
8lt&o!g& t&ose precedents aid to el!cidate erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0' to assess its
p&ilosop&ical %eig&t demands t&at %e t!rn to erlea!"#ont$ &imsel(. 5&e (irst c&apter o(
+dventures of the /ialectic -!es aventures de la dialecti2ue)) p!*lis&ed *$ erlea!"#ont$ in
>?55 and titled /5&e Crisis o( Understanding0' is at (irst sig&t an extended commentar$ on
ax .e*er6s contri*!tion to t&e p&ilosop&$ o( t&e social sciences. 8 closer reading'
&o%ever' detects in t&is text a s!*tle de(ence o( erlea!"#ont$6s o%n doctrine o( /instit!tion02
/5&ere is t&!s a religio!s e((icac$ and an economic e((icac$. ax .e*er descri*es t&em as
inter%oven' exc&anging positions so t&at no% one' no% t&e ot&er' pla$s t&e role o( t!tor. 5&e e((ect
t!rns *ac) on its ca!se' carr$ing and trans(orming it in its t!rn. =!rt&ermore' .e*er does not simpl$
integrate spirit!al motives and material ca!ses@ &e rene%s t&e concept o( &istorical matter itsel(. 8n
economic s$stem is' as &e sa$s' a cosmos' a &!man c&oice *ecome a sit!ation@ and t&at is %&at
allo%s it to raise (rom %orldl$ asceticism to religio!s motives' as %ell as to descend to%ard its
capitalistic deca$2 ever$t&ing is %oven into t&e same (a*ric.0
+o%ever' t&e most clear"sig&ted de(ense o( erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0 occ!rs in
t%o texts strictl$ contemporar$ to +dventures of the /ialectic. 1n t&e (irst o( t&emCt&e locus
classicus (or t&e doctrine' set !p as a rBs!mB (or a co!rse in t&e %oll7ge de =ranceC
erlea!"#ont$ states t&at /%e !nderstand *$ t&e concept o( 9instit!tion6 t&ose events in
experience t&at endo% it %it& d!ra*le dimensions' in relation to %&ic& a %&ole series o( ot&er
experiences %ill ac,!ire meaning' %ill (orm an intelligi*le series or a &istor$Cor again t&ose
events %&ic& la$ do%n in me a meaning' not -!st as s!rvival or resid!es' *!t as t&e invitation
to a se,!el -appel 8 une suite)) t&e demand o( t&ings to come0.
5&e second text *elongs to
&is private notes (or t&e same co!rse
and delivers some %elcome precisions2 /61nstit!tion6
DmeansE t&at in an experience 3or in an arti(act4 are esta*lis&ed certain dimensions
3!nderstood in t&e Cartesian %a$ as s$stems o( re(erence4 in relation to %&ic& a %&ole
series o( experiences %ill possess meaning and %ill (orm a se,!el' a &istor$. 5&e meaning is
placed -d3pos3) 3it is no longer onl$ in me as a conscience' it is not re"created or constit!ted
in t&e reprise4. B!t it is not placed as %o!ld *e an o*-ect le(t in t&e cloa)room' a simple
le(tover or a remainder2 it is placed as somet&ing to *e contin!ed' to *e completed' and $et
t&is se,!el is not determined. .&at &as *een instit!ted %ill c&ange and $et t&is ver$ c&ange
is demanded *$ its instit!tion.0
Institution uncovers a subjacent logic
that embraces the whole cultural order
8s a conse,!ence' erlea!"#ont$6s aims in devising t&is innovative' man$"(acetted
notion appear no% (airl$ plain. 5&e$ &ave *een *rilliantl$ s!mmari:ed *$ Io&ann 8rnason2
/erlea!"#ont$ !sed t&e concept o( instit!tion to trans(orm t&e traditional pro*lematic o(
constit!tion2 it re(ers' in a ver$ *road sense' to t&e patterns o( determinac$' sta*ilit$ and
idealit$ t&at are imposed on experience' and t&e$ can onl$ (!nction in and t&ro!g& a state o(
8rnason >??32 ?6.
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 25. Engl. tr.2 >6.
erlea!"#ont$ >?682 6>.
8rc&ived as 7.1+## and p!*lis&ed in erlea!"#ont$ 2;;3.
erlea!"#ont$ 2;;32 38.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page 9 of '(
constant tension %it& t&e !nderl$ing indeterminac$ o( t&e %orld.0
1n erlea!"#ont$6s /line o(
,!estioning0' contends 8rnason' /t&e traditional pro*lematic o( constit!tion is s!*ordinated to
t&at o( %orld"disclos!re' %orld"appropriation and %orld"interpretation. #&enomenological
re(lection does not c!lminate in a (!ll sel("conscio!sness o( t&e constit!ting s!*-ect.0
5&is is
a cr!cial vie% t&at appears s!mmari:ed in erlea!"#ont$6s o%n %ords2 /1( t&e s!*-ect is
ta)en not as a constit!ting s!*-ect *!t as an instit!ting s!*-ect' it mig&t *e !nderstood t&at
t&e s!*-ect does not exist instantaneo!sl$ and t&at t&e ot&er person does not exist simpl$ as
a negative o( me.0
5&is means' in s&ort' t%o momento!s t&ings2 t&at /1 am also tradition0
and t&at /1 am also ot&ers0.
<etermined to s&ed lig&t on &is idea o( /instit!tion0' erlea!"#ont$ approac&es it *$
%a$ o( di((erent narratives' some o( t&em /*earing !pon personal or s!*-ective &istor$0 and
t&e rest *eing /related to p!*lic &istor$0.
=or instance' &e int!itivel$ expo!nds &is idea o(
/instit!tion0 %it& t&e (ollo%ing %ords2 /+istor$ itsel( scatters 3imaginatively' as it %ere4 t&e
elements t&at some da$ %ill correspond to eac& ot&er. Then t&e s$stem %ill ma)e sense' in
t&e same %a$ t&e incipient pict!re commands t&e painter6s gest!res' or t&e meaning o( a
spo)en sentence s!mmons a cl!ster o( !n)no%ingl$ converging %ords.0
1n anot&er
passage &e ill!strates Kinstit!tionK %it& a re(erence to a!to*iograp&ical re(lection and
personal reminiscence2 /.e o!g&t to !nderstand t&at t&e s!*-ect is not instantaneo!s %&en
it instit!tes instead o( constit!ting. D...E .&at 1 &ave *eg!n in certain decisive moments o( m$
li(e does not lie (ar a%a$ in t&e past as an o*-ective memor$' nor is it at &and in t&e (orm o( a
remem*rance t&at 1 ac)no%ledge as m$ o%n. 1t lies in"*et%een' as t&e (ield o( m$ o%n
*ecoming in t&e time elapsed since t&en.0
Let t&e all!sive manner in %&ic& erlea!"#ont$ o(ten re(ers to /instit!tion0' in
&armon$ %it& &is metap&orical or /lateral0 approac& to t&e ma-or concepts o( &is p&ilosop&$'
does not promote a t&oro!g& !nderstanding o( t&is notion. 5o ma)e it more intelligi*le' it
seems %ort&%&ile to point o!t t&at &istor$ at large is a magni(icent instance o( consec!tive
/instit!tions0 at %or)' as expressed *$ t&e %ell")no%n retort o( 8lexander +er:en to Garl
arx2 /+istor$ &as no c!lmination. There is no libretto. .e need %it and co!rage to ma)e
o!r %a$ %&ile o!r %a$ is ma)ing !s.0
8ccording to ot&er a!t&ors' &o%ever' it is art &istor$
t&e discipline t&at (!rnis&es a s!ita*l$ int!itive approac& to t&is erlea!"#ont$an doctrine. 1n
Mic) Crossle$6s vie%' (or instance' /individ!al artists learn to in&a*it an instit!tion *$ letting
t&e instit!tion in&a*it t&em' *!t t&at instit!tion is at t&e same time a tra-ector$ %&ic& re,!ires
o( t&em t&at t&e$ contin!e it and modi($ it. 7imilarl$' %it&in t&e *iograp&$ o( t&e individ!al
artist eac& %or) appears to *!ild !pon t&e next' ans%ering t&e 9p!::le6 or 9pro*lem6 set *$ its
predecessor and setting a p!::le or pro*lem (or t&e one %&ic& %ill s!cceed it. 5&ere is *ot&
contin!it$ and c&ange.0
Be$ond &istor$ and art' &o%ever' t&e %&ole c!lt!ral !niverse
*ecomes t&oro!g&l$ el!cidated *$ t&e concept o( /instit!tion0. 8s contended *$ $riam
Reva!lt' /t&e d$namics o( t&e instit!tion amo!nts to a s!*-acent logic (or t&e %&ole c!lt!ral
8rnason >??32 ?6.
8rnason >??32 ?4.
erlea!"#ont$ >?682 6;.
erlea!"#ont$ >?682 6>.
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 26"27.
erlea!"#ont$ >?682 6;.
N!oted *$ 1saia& Berlin in Berlin 2;;3. +er:en6s emp&asis.
Crossle$ 2;;42 ??.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page : of '(
order' (or it (orms a progression t&at starts at t&e personal and a((ective &istor$ and' across
*ot& t&e aest&etic imp!lse and t&e gro%t& o( )no%ledge' c!lminates in t&e 9p!*lic6 sp&ere0.
.e &ave pointed o!t t&at' in erlea!"#ont$6s vie%' t&e d$namics o( t&e /instit!tion0
ta)es place *ot& in t&e personal or interpersonal &istor$ 3as a sentiment' an art%or)' or a
partic!lar )no%ledge4 and in &istor$ at large as %ell. 7till' no ot&er (ield exempli(ies
/instit!tion0 %it& more clarit$ t&an t&e &istorical development o( t&o!g&t. 8(ter all' t&e idea o(
9instit!tion6 seems tailor"made (or a net%or) o( meaning %&ere logic coexists %it&
contingenc$. 5&e s!ccessive events t&at (orm t&e &istor$ o( p&ilosop&$' moreover' &ave
esta*lis&ed t&eir meaning /as a claim to a (ollo%ing' as t&e demand o( t&ings to come0
a (orce not matc&ed *$ an$ ot&er &!man endeavor. Mevert&eless' also societ$ at large
delivers exempla t&at instr!ct a*o!t t&e %or)ings o( /instit!tion0. =or social instit!tions not
onl$ are interconnected' and t&!s /remind o!rselves o( some o( t&e &olistic (eat!res o( t&e
social0' according to artin G!sc&' *!t also t&e$ #do not run on trac;s that are laid out in
advance* t&eir mem*ers and ot&er interested parties m!st constantl$ decide &o% to *e&ave
properl$ %it&in t&em and &o% to appl$ t&em0.
8ll in all' per&aps t&e most a((orda*le approac& to erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0 is
em*edded in &is commentaries to ax .e*er6s &istorical and sociological ideas. 8s stated
a*ove' t&e$ ma)e o!t t&e c&apter titled #The %risis of <nderstanding in The +dventures of
/ialectic. 5&e .e*erian inspiration' &o%ever' %as not restricted to t&is essa$ and is act!all$
mani(ested in several aspects o( erlea!"#ont$an t&o!g&t. .e &ave seen t&at &istor$' in &is
vie%' cannot *e !nderstood neit&er appealing to a compre&ensive' exterior so!rce o(
meaning' nor in re(erence to t&e ar*itrar$ decisions o( a constit!tive conscio!sness. 1( %e
cling to t&e ideal o( a rigoro!s' empiricall$ contrasted discipline' t&o!g&' %e are *o!nd to
ta)e on t&e /t&ird %a$0 s!ggested *$ t&e erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0' noticea*l$ inspired *$
t&e .e*erian precedent2 /ax .e*er see)s a mid%a$ *et%een &istor$ !nderstood as
se,!ence o( !ni,!e (acts and t&e arrogant p&ilosop&$ t&at incarcerates t&e past *$ %a$ o( its
categories' as i( it &ad *een no more t&at %&at %e t&in) o( it.0
8lso in .e*er6s %a)e t&e
idea o( /instit!tion0 re-ects *ot& t&e teleolog$ o( an &istorical meaning t&at exists on its o%n
reso!rces 3t&e advent o( meaning does not come *$ itsel(' since ever$ conse,!ential
initiative m!st al%a$s rene% a (ormer meaning4 and t&e decisionism o( a %illed /constit!tion0
o( meaning as claimed *$ t&e old doctrine o( t&e Sinngebung. oreover' %&ile granting t&at
t&e &istorian can access t&is ever"rene%ed meaning %it&o!t partic!lar pro*lems' erlea!"
#ont$ ec&oes .e*er6s conviction t&at t&is openness does not ens!re &istorical intelligi*ilit$2
/5&e complete 9possi*ilit$ o( re"living6 -6acherlebbar;eit) is important as proo( o(
!nderstanding' *!t it is not an a*sol!te condition (or t&e appre&ension o( meaning. 9One
does not need to *e Caesar in order to !nderstand Caesar.6 1n ever$ event' t&e ingredients
t&at can *e !nderstood are o(ten mixed !p and com*ined %it& t&ose t&at cannot.0
8s a rBs!mB o( %&at &as *een claimed so (ar' t&e notion o( /instit!tion0' as erlea!"
#ont$ !nderstands it' appears to &ave *een alread$ o!tlined *$ ax .e*er. 5&is a!t&or
re-ected *ot& strictl$ d!alist and monist vie%s' and &ig&lig&ted t&e reciprocal intert%ining 3t&e
inextrica*le coming toget&er' t&e concrete %eave4 or even t&e =ahlverwandtschaft 3t&e
/elective a((init$04 o( ver$ contrasting social and c!lt!ral orders' o( %&ic& Calvinism and
capitalism are t&e most reno%ned instances. 1ndeed' t&e /instit!tion0 %as implicitl$ conceived
Reva!lt d68llonnes 2;;62 247.
erlea!"#ont$ >?682 6>.
G!sc& 2;;;2 34. G!sc&6s emp&asis.
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 2?.
.e*er D>?22E >?762 >; and D>?22E >?722 2.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page > of '(
*$ ax .e*er as t&e setting !p o( rationalit$ amidst t&e !niversal contingenc$2 /a closed
segment -endlicher +usschnitt) is a*stracted (rom t&e meaningless in(init$ o( events0 and
*ecomes /endo%ed %it& meaning and signi(icance0.
38n alternative %a$ o( rendering t&is
important passage %o!ld emp&asi:e t&e /c!tting o!t0C%&ic& is %&at +usschnitt connotesC
o( ever$ c!lt!ral item (rom /t&e in(inite events o( t&e %orld0 to %&ic&' t&erea(ter' /t&e &!man
point o( vie% *e,!eat&s t&e meaning t&at t&e$ nat!rall$ do not possess0.4
7till' ax .e*er discarded t&e idea o( an o*-ective meaning o( &istor$ as %ell2 /Even
i( o!r &istorical scr!tin$ is (la%less' its res!lts %on6t tell t&e meaning o( &istor$6s *ecoming'
and t&!s %e m!st *e capa*le o( creating it o!rselves.0
5&e inspirational in(l!ence o( ax
.e*er on erlea!"#ont$6s t&o!g&t' t&ere(ore' does not need an$ (!rt&er commentar$.
37ince t&e lin)s o( /instit!tion0 %it& ax .e*er6s ideas &elp !s to el!cidate some aspects o(
erlea!"#ont$6s doctrine' no% it %on6t *e inappropriate to point o!t t&at' some attempts to
relate t&ese concepts not%it&standing' erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0 and Miet:sc&ean"
=o!ca!ldian /genealog$0 are !ncom(orta*le *ed(ello%s. Jenealog$ arg!es t&at %&en /old
r!les are applied to ne% conditions0 occ!r /!n"perceived trans(ormations o( meaning0 t&at
give rise to /!n"apparent innovations0.
ore precisel$' as =o!ca!lt claims' /a s$stem o(
r!les in itself devoid of essential meaning is trans(ormed /*$ violence or *$ deception0 in
line %it& a re"interpretation t&at places it /in a totall$ di((erent game0 and s!*s!mes it !nder
/second"order r!les0.
erlea!"#ont$ s!*mits li)e%ise t&e instit!tional imp!lse to ever$
mod!lation imposed *$ t&e ens!ing generations' *!t' in contrast to genealog$' &e stresses
t&e centralit$ o( initiation and origin.4
The deciphering of meaning that nowhere pre-existed,
the understanding of tradition, the elucidation of historical time
.&at &as *een stated so (ar s!ggests t&at t&e notion o( /instit!tion0 descri*es a
t%o(old leaning in all &!man practices2 to%ard innovation and creation on t&e one &and' and
&eaded (or &a*it!ation on t&e ot&er. 8 propensit$ to%ardCand a*ilit$ (orCincorporation and
&a*it!ation' in a %ord' coexist %it& t&e capacit$ (or innovative and creative practices t&at
res!lt in %a$s o( acting %&ic& *ecome preserved t&ro!g& &a*it. 1n t&eir t!rn' innovation and
creativit$ strive to modi($ or trans(orm existing &a*its' or at an$ rate to *!ild !pon t&em. 5&is
iss!e &as *een speci(ied *$ $riam Reva!lt2 /5&e instit!tion is al%a$s !ndermined *$ a
(!ndamental am*ivalence. On t&e one &and it is t&e capacit$' t&e instit!ting (orce' t&e
possi*ilit$ o( a *eginning@ on t&e ot&er it is t&e condition t&at res!lts (rom t&is d$namics' t&e
sit!ation it prod!ces. erlea!"#ont$ is rel!ctant to dissociate t&ese t%o aspects' and &e
contends t&at t&e prod!ct involves t&e perpet!ation o( t&e prod!ctive action and' conversel$'
t&at t&e gro!nd incl!des an opening to t&e (!t!re. 5&e apparent 9encr!sting6 o( t&e
sedimented res!lt cannot *e separated (rom t&e apert!re o( a *o!ndless &ori:on o(
possi*ilities' %&ic& can *e re"activated at an$ time.0
.e ma$ concl!de' t&ere(ore' t&at in
erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0 t%o separate aspects overlap2 ?) t&e *lend o( necessit$ %it&
contingenc$ t&at explains t&e genesis o( meaning and %&ic& s!pports t&e doctrine o(
/a!toc&t&ono!s organi:ation0 or /endogeno!s arc&itect!re0@ &) t&is com*ination' t&o!g&'
cannot (orsa)e t&e prestige o( all origins or t&e sa(et$ s!ggested *$ ever$ invariance. Unit$
.e*er >?5>2 >8;.
.e*er D>?22E >?762 >54.
Colliot"5&BlOne 2;;>2 >5.
=o!ca!lt >??42 >36">37.
Reva!lt d68llonnes 2;;62 246.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page @ of '(
and contin!it$'
in conse,!ence' are deep"seated (eat!res o( all /instit!tions0. 1ncidentall$'
t&e &!* o( t&e %ell")no%n Bo!rdie!an concept o( /&a*it!s0 amo!nts to a sort o( em*odied
/instit!tion0' as %e %ill contend in d!e time.
8n even closer scr!tin$ o( erlea!"#ont$6s /instit!tion0' &o%ever' locates in t&is notion
t&ree strands (irml$ related to eac& ot&er. 1ndeed it can *e s!ccinctl$ stated t&at ever$
/instit!tion0 manages2 a) to conceive a meaning t&at pre"existed no%&ere@ b) to !nderstand
tradition as sedimentation o( meaning@ c) to t&in) temporalit$ and &istoricit$ in t&e a*sence o(
an$ privileged gro!nd.
a) Meaning. 1t is a (act t&at /instit!tion0 and meaning are indivisi*le. 5&e !nit$ o( sorts
t&at /instit!tion0 reali:es does not res!lt (rom a c!m!lative process nor stems (rom a given
determinism' *!t ma$ *e attained t&ro!g& t&e permanent reprise o( meaning t&at ens!res its
sta*ilit$. =or erlea!"#ont$ /instit!tion0 designates t&e advent o( an /operant meaning0 t&at
not onl$ renovates or reass!mes (ormer meanings *!t also s!rmo!nts or overcomes t&em
and %&ic& at t&e same time re,!ests s!*se,!ent rene%als or res!mptions t&at %ill create
ne% meanings. 5&!s it does acco!nt (or /rationalit$ in contingenc$' a species o( sel("
1t is pla!si*le' t&ere(ore' to ass!me t&at /instit!tion0 delivers t&e de(initive and
!niversal sol!tion to t&e pro*lem o( meaning. 1n a sit!ation t&at m!st *e termed /&istorical0
*eca!se it cannot *e read (rom t&e point o( vie% o( s!*-ectPo*-ect dic&otom$' comes a*o!t
lig&t"&andedl$ t&e s!dden *elonging"toget&er or closing"!p t&at all meaning contrives. 1t &as
to *e *orne in mind' t&o!g&' t&at t&is /&istorical0 meaning is neit&er t&e end o( a ca!sal c&ain
nor t&e *eginning o( a teleological progression. Besides' one o( t&e gro!nd*rea)ing
paradoxes o( erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0 is t&at t&e c&ie( p!rve$or o( meaning' as *e(its an
anti"d!alist ontolog$' is di((erence 3strangel$' contingentl$' *!t persistentl$ !ni(ied4 and not
5&is state o( a((airs &as *een concl!sivel$ descri*ed *$ 8lexander +!*en$2 /.&at
interests erlea!"#ont$ is t&e immanence o( meaning. Ever$ p&ilosop&$ attempting to
!nderstand &istor$ as a totalit$ (aces t&e ris) o( conceiving meaning as transcendence' t&!s
seeing in &istor$ onl$ %&at &as *een set in it. D...E 5&is explains %&$ t&e notion o( Gestalt is
so important D(or erlea!"#ont$E2 it permits to s!rmise t&e presence o( (!t!re times in t&e
present moment2 t&e (ec!ndit$ o( &istor$.0
1n t&is respect %e s&o!ld also mention t&e
possi*ilit$ o( a cognitive' anti"ontological interpretation o( t&e present doctrine. 1t is gro!nded
on t&e spontaneo!s a((init$ %it& eac& ot&er o( &istorical (oc!ses o( meaning t&at %ere
previo!sl$ !nrelated and on t&e speci(ic demands o( intelligi*ilit$ posed *$ t&is !nexpected
association. erlea!"#ont$ s!ggests in realit$ an &istoriograp&ical approac& centered on
t&ese /n!clei o( intelligi*ilit$0' spr!ng /o!t o( t&e nat!ral or &istorical given' in %&ic& eac&
element con(irms t&e ot&ers in s!c& a %a$ t&at t&e$ organi:e t&emselves into a s$stem0' and
%&ic& /leave t&eir mar) in t&e co!rse o( t&ings and t&en disappear %it&o!t &aving *een
1n (act' /instit!tion0 s!ggestivel$ amalgamates contin!it$ and discontin!it$. 1n regard to contin!it$' erlea!"
#ont$ reminds !s t&at /instit!tions0 start an order since t&e$ ens!re /t&e (ec!ndit$ o( c!lt!ral agenc$2 t&e$ open
a tradition' t&e$ contin!e to *e relevant past t&eir &istorical appearance' and t&e$ demand *e$ond t&emselves
*ot& t&e same and ot&er (orms o( agenc$0. 3erlea!"#ont$ >?6?2 ?64 5&e element o( discontin!it$' in its t!rn'
ma$ *e glossed at t%o levels2 ?) as remar)ed *$ erlea!"#ont$' t&e opacit$ o( t&e pict!re (or its painter' o( t&e
*oo) (or its %riter' o( t&e t&o!g&t (or its &istorical time are (airl$ s!ggestive instances@ &) .e s&o!ld )eep in
mind t&at /tradition is t&e (orgetting o( t&e origins' %&ic& signals t&e d!t$ to *egin ane% ot&er%ise
-recommencer autrement)' DQE to give t&e past t&e e((icac$ o( a reprise0. -$bid.) .e s&o!ld pa$ attention to t&e
(act t&at one o( t&e concept!al ancestors o( /instit!tion0' t&e t&eor$ o( t&e Jestalt' involved also an ingredient o(
discontin!it$' interr!ption and r!pt!re' expressed *$ its )aleidoscope"li)e %a$ o( s&i(ting and *ecoming a
complete /ot&er0' *$ its anomalo!sness and *$ t&e contingent scope o( its normativit$.
erlea!"#ont$ >?532 56.
+!*en$ 2;;>2 >63 and >7>.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page A of '(
destro$ed' eit&er (rontall$ or internall$0.
8ll &istorical (ormations' in s&ort' ens!re t&e
spontaneit$ o( practices and t&ere(ore g!arantee t&eir instit!ting capacit$. =or t&at motive t&e
past is al%a$s more t&an a sort o( /past"%are&o!se0 and t&!s it can never *e red!ced to a
tradition. B!t t&is %ealt& o( signi(icance' in its t!rn' implies an !ncertain (!t!re *eca!se no
(eat o( instit!ted meaning is ass!red (or ever.
8s a res!lt' t&e erlea!"#ont$an concept o( instit!tion not onl$ /is integral to
!nderstanding &istor$ at t&e personal and p!*lic levels0' in Mic) Crossle$6s %ords' *!t can
also acco!nt (or it /at t&e point o( t&eir interc&ange0
. 5&e /n!clei o( intelligi*ilit$0 %it& %&ic&
&istor$ is interspersed and aro!nd %&ic&' so erlea!"#ont$ contends' /settles t&e in(inite
detail o( t&e (acts0'
are also t&e /s$m*olic matrixes0 t&at &e descri*es as /t$pical %a$s o(
dealing %it& nat!ral realit$' o( responding to ot&ers and to deat&0
and %&ic& noticea*l$
(ores&ado% t&e concept o( /instit!tion02 /1n t&e point %&ere people and nat!ral or &istorical
data meet' appear a sort o( s$m*olic matrixes t&at pre"existed no%&ere and %&ic& are in
condition to leave t&eir mar)' temporaril$ or (or a long time' in t&e co!rse o( events. 5&e$
disappear a(ter%ards' not destro$ed *$ an external agent *!t merel$ as a res!lt o( internal
disintegration' or *eca!se some internal development *ecomes predominant and manages
to denat!re t&em.0
7!c& /s$m*olic matrixes0 are prod!ced *$ t&e spontaneo!s enco!nter
o( elements endo%ed %it& an a((init$ (or eac& ot&er t&at assem*les t&em in a s$stem. 5&is
com*ination is neit&er an ar*itrar$ collection nor t&e teleological reprod!ction o( a pre"
existing model. 5&!s &istor$ emerges as an am*ig!o!s %eave /torn *$ ever$ contingenc$0
and at t&e same time /invol!ntar$ mended *$ t&e people trapped inside it0.
1n t&is %eave
eac& event is' as it %ere' loaded %it& all t&e ot&ers' and com*ined %it& t&em (orms a
/n!cle!s o( intelligi*ilit$0 provided %it& man$ centers and accessi*le in di((erent %a$s.
b) Tradition and sedimentation. 8s %e &ave explained' ever$ Stiftung pres!pposes a
dimension o( meaning 3a tradition4 t&at *ot& precedes and -!sti(ies it' *!t %&ic& in its t!rn is
res&aped or de(ormed *$ t&e Stiftung. 8ccording to erlea!"#ont$' /traditionalit$
-traditionalit3) is not explicitation0. 1nstead &e regards t&is notion as /t&e appearance
-apparition) o( ideas t&at impose a step a&ead -font faire un pas) and %&ic& t&e past did not
contain0. 5&is important insig&t is t&en made explicit in t&e (ollo%ing %a$2 /5&ere is at t&e
same time ta)ing"over o( meaning and a*andonment o( meaning' reali:ation t&at is also
destr!ction. 8ll instit!tions involve t&is t%o(old aspect' end and *eginning' 0ndstiftung and at
t&e same time <rstiftung. 97edimentation6 is -!st t&is2 a vestige o( %&at &as *een (orgotten
and' as a conse,!ence' an appeal to a t&in)ing t&at co!nts !pon it and t&at goes (art&er.0

5&e *asic idea' t&ere(ore' is t&at &istorical (acts t&r!st o!t prod!ctivit$ and t&!s irradiate a
latenc$ t&at impinges !pon ever$ present and sets o!t a dimension (or ever$t&ing t&at %ill *e
said and done in (!t!re times. 7till' t&is (ec!ndit$ is not !nlimited and t&e sedimented
meaning ma$ degrade and r!n o!t as reservoir and *ac)gro!nd (or t&e revisionist initiatives
o( (!t!re generations. 5&e present vie% re(!r*is&es t&e +egelian notion o( /o*-ective spirit0'
%&ic& in t&is ne%er context' and no longer teleologicall$ governed *$ an$ necessit$' explains
&o% t&e sedimented ac&ievements o( a c!lt!re develop into a tradition. 5&e totalit$ o( this
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 25.
Crossle$ 2;;42 ??.
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 5>.
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 25.
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 25.
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 88.
erlea!"#ont$ 2;;32 ??.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ?B of '(
&istorical *ecoming' t&o!g&' is never e((ectivel$ reali:ed and at ever$ moment ma$ relapse
into contingenc$.
5o ill!strate t&is point o( vie% %e ma$ rec!r eit&er to 5. 7. Eliot6s legendar$ acco!nt o(
artistic tradition or to erlea!"#ont$6s o%n exempli(ication' inspired *$ t&e E!clidean
(o!ndation o( geometr$. /.&at &appens %&en a ne% %or) o( art is created0' sa$s Eliot' /is
somet&ing t&at &appens sim!ltaneo!sl$ to all t&e %or)s o( art %&ic& preceded it. 5&e existing
mon!ments (orm an ideal order among t&emselves' %&ic& is modi(ied *$ t&e introd!ction o(
t&e ne% 3t&e reall$ ne%4 %or) o( art among t&em.0
8s (or erlea!"#ont$6s geometrical
instantiation' &e contends t&at /t&e individ!al instit!tion o( %&at is tr!e -du vrai) is lin)ed to an
instit!tion %&ic& is more t&an individ!al2 it reass!mes a (ormer intention 3t&e originar$
Stiftung o( geometr$4 and it creates one t&at %ill s!rvive it' t&at %ill go (art&er 3t&e act!al
Stiftung o( a ne% meaning4' and t&an)s to %&ic& t&ere is t&e o*livion o( t&e origins.0 35&is
last re(erence' o( co!rse' all!des to t&e circ!mstance t&at alread$ in +!sserl6s t&o!g&t t&e
/o*livion o( t&e origins0 %as t&e prere,!isite (or ever$ a!t&entic tradition.4 erlea!"#ont$'
t&ere(ore' ass!mes t&e existence o( a /t%o"(aced traditionalit$0' t&o!g& &e speci(ies t&at /t&e
traditionalit$ %&ic& prod!ces sedimentation and s!pplies t&e pres!med 9tr!t& in itsel(6 is
precisel$ t&e tr!e center o( &istoricit$.0
5&e doctrine o( instit!tion' in s&ort' sees t&e so!rce o( &istorical meaning in t&e
latenc$ or in(inite prod!ctivit$ o( all events o( &istor$ inso(ar as t&e$ appear to *ene(it (rom an
/!nlimited (ec!ndit$0. 5&e$ are s!rro!nded' in ot&er %ords' *$ a &alo o( /o*-ective0 possi*ilit$
%&ic&' on t&e one &and' is less t&an a positive s!*stantialit$' *!t on t&e ot&er is more t&an a
simple' !nattac&ed virt!alit$. !ess than a positive substantiality) indeed2 since t&e am*ig!it$
o( &istorical occ!rrences cannot *e overcome' t&e meaning o( all events' (ar (rom *eing /t&e
p!re development o( an idea0' comes a*o!t contingentl$ /%&en t&e &!man initiative
reassem*les scattered data and in so doing gro!nds a living s$stem0.
5&is -!sti(ies
erlea!"#ont$6s de(inition o( p&ilosop&$ as /conscio!sness o( rationalit$ in contingenc$0.
s&o!ld *e noted' &o%ever' t&at erlea!"#ont$6s approac& is as anti"(o!ndationalist as it is
anti"(ormalist. 1n Io&ann 8rnasson6s %ords' /t&e rationalit$ in ,!estion is al%a$s relative in
t&at it is gro!nded in a partic!lar sit!ation and a locali:ed comm!nit$ o( disco!rse and its
aspiration to !niversalit$ is *ased on a s&ared &ori:on rat&er t&an on proced!ral r!les0.
also more than a simple) unattached virtuality* t&e /o*-ective0 possi*ilit$ %e &ave mentioned
a*ove s&o!ld no *e mista)en (or a s!ccessor o(' sa$' Gant6s a priori or 5&omas G!&n6s
paradigm. 1n G!&n6s vie%' precisel$' *ot& /are constit!tive o( t&e in(inite range o( possi*le
experiences t&at mig&t conceiva*le occ!r in t&e act!al %orld to %&ic& t&e$ give access.
.&ic& o( t&ese conceiva*le experiences occ!rs in t&at act!al %orld is somet&ing t&at m!st
*e learned. 5&e$ are *ot& stern teac&ers' (irml$ resisting t&e prom!lgation o( *elie(s !ns!ited
to t&e (orm o( li(e t&e lexicon permits.0
c) "istory and temporality. 8lread$ in henomenology of erception erlea!"#ont$
s)etc&ed an /existential t&eor$ o( &istor$0 t&at assigned to &!man /*eing"in"t&e"%orld0 t&e
capacit$ to escape (rom nat!ralness *$ means o( reass!ming t&e act!al sit!ation and giving
it !nprecedented s$m*olic meaning. 1n &is s!*se,!ent %ritings' t&e t&r!st to overcome t&e
d!alit$ o( s!*-ect and o*-ectCt&e antagonism o( conscio!sness and t&ingsCrein(orced &is
Eliot D>?32E >?722 >5.
erlea!"#ont$ 2;;32 ?;.
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 25.
erlea!"#ont$ >?6;2 ?3. Engl. tr.2 >>>.
8rnason >??32 87.
G!&n >??32 33>.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ?? of '(
attempts to re"sit!ate t&e &istorical events in a &ori:on o( openness and indetermination. On
t&e one &and' t&e pl!ralit$ o( &istorical dimensions is not &ierarc&icall$ str!ct!red aro!nd a
(o!nding center' (or t&ere is not an$ privileged gro!nd (or &istorical *ecoming' nor an$ tr!t&
lies &idden *e&ind t&e appearances o( empirical &istor$. /5&e meaning o( &istor$ arises in
contact %it& contingenc$' at t&e moment %&en &!man initiative (o!nds a s$stem o( li(e ta)ing
!p ane% scattered givens. 8n &istorical !nderstanding %&ic& reveals an interior to &istor$ still
leaves !s in t&e presence o( empirical &istor$' %it& its densit$ and &ap&a:ardness' and does
not s!*ordinate it to an$ &idden reason.0
On t&e ot&er &and' t&e political' economical'
religio!s' and c!lt!ral %orlds appear lin)ed among t&em and contrive an enigmatic
sim!ltaneit$. 1n erlea!"#ont$6s vie%' ever$ social dimension is correlated to all t&e ot&ers.
/+istor$ renders interc&angea*le all orders o( activit$' and none o( t&em can *e singled o!t
as an excl!sive ca!se. 1t matters to )no% %&et&er t&is co&esion &eralds t&e -oint sol!tion o(
all pro*lems' or %&et&er t&is concordance is onl$ a (eat!re o( o!r ,!estioning.0
erlea!"#ont$ arg!es' in s&ort' t&at ?) t&e perplexities %&ic& arise %&en %e (ace
&istor$' a)in to t&ose *ro!g&t a*o!t *$ conscio!sness and mind' gro!nd t&e concept o(
/instit!tion0@ as Go-i +irose p!ts it' /t&e p&ilosop&$ o( t&e instit!tion attempts to s&ed lig&t on
t&e emergence o( &istorical time0@
&) in its t!rn' /instit!tion0 contrives t&e emergence o(
&istor$ as a p&ilosop&icall$ deceptive and concept!all$ erratic realit$' precisel$ t&e %eird
entit$ t&at ma$ *e descri*ed as /a Cmilieu louche4.
an$ erlea!"#ont$an sc&olars &ave
tried to (orm!late t&is evasive condition' and a small sample o( t&ese attempts co!ld *egin
%it& t&is instance2 /5&e notion o( instit!tion de"centers t&e s!*-ect' explaining t&e process *$
%&ic& experience is a((orded meaning and 9o*-ects6 in terms o( r!les and reso!rces %&ic&
are trans"individ!al and &istorical. 1t t&ere*$ connects t&e s!*-ect to ot&ers and to &istor$
and societ$ at a level %&ic& is *ot& deeper t&an and prior to t&eir individ!al conscio!sness.0
=rom t&e vie%point o( anot&er o*server' /&istor$ provides t&e ver$ s!*stance o( o!r concrete
existence' %&ere t&e inertia o( o*-ective conditions and a %orld"ma)ing a!tonom$ meet' and
%&ic& (or t&is reason m!st *ecome t&e centre o( all p&ilosop&ical concerns0.
oreover' and
according to anot&er sc&olar2 /5&e notion o( Stiftung implies a*ove all a p&ilosop&$ o(
&istor$. 8ll Stiftung is &istorical' %&et&er o( perception' o( artistic signi(icance' o( idealit$' or o(
&istor$ proper.0

+istor$ as instit!tion' t&ere(ore' *lends process!alit$ %it& permanence' d$namicism
%it& sedimentation' trans(ormation and conservatism' since it descri*es &o% a more or less
sta*ili:ed (orm comes !p in t&e middle o( &istorical *ecoming. 5&e s!ccession o( *ro)en
e,!ili*ri!ms and t&e ens!ing re"organi:ations are governed *$ an inner logic %&ic& is neit&er
constit!ted *$ conscio!sness nor res!lts (rom an extraneo!s' overarc&ing (orce. 5&is central
contention &as *een %orded *$ Mic) Crossle$ in t&e (ollo%ing manner2 /+istor$ does not
start a(res& %it& ever$ da$' generation or even epoc&. 5&ere is al%a$s c&ange *!t t&ere is
e,!all$ al%a$s contin!it$ *eca!se &istor$ is em*odied' 9instit!ted6 in t&e 9corporeal sc&emas6
o( t&e agents %&o ma)e it and' in ot&er respects' c&ange it.0
8ll t&ose statements' *$ t&e
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 25.
erlea!"#ont$ >?682 44.
+irose 2;;42 257.
J!c&et 2;;>2 >;5.
Crossle$ 2;;42 ??.
J!c&et 2;;>2 >;5.
Ro*ert 2;;;2 356.
Crossle$ 2;;42 >;;.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ?& of '(
%a$' give %eig&t to t&e impression t&at /instit!tion0 and /sedimentation0 go &and in &and.
Ever$ instit!tion opens !p a process o( *ecoming' *!t it also persists in a tradition as t&e
concealed sedimentation t&at amo!nts to a gro!nded possi*ilit$. Conse,!entl$'
sedimentation &ides or covers !p &istorical meaning' %&ile preserving and maintaining it at
t&e same time. 7edimented &istorical meaning 3%&ic& incl!des *ot& its partial loss and its
paradoxical preservation4' in a %ord' pres!pposes its event!al' i( de(ormed' reactivation.
5&!s sedimentation *ecomes t&e concept!al *ac)*one o( t&e approac& to &istor$ t&at
erlea!"#ont$ names /operant0 or /vertical0.
erlea!"#ont$an stresses t&is /vertical0' /operant0 or /intentional0 approac& to past
times (ollo%ing a conviction associated to &is idea o( /instit!tion0. 1n a (e% %ords' &e *elieves
t&at &istor$ is more sim!ltaneo!s t&an s!ccessive' or according to &is o%n (orm!lation' t&at
/&istor$ is made o( Stiftungen Dinstit!tionsE' o*livion converted in tradition' reprises' interiorit$
%it&in exteriorit$' $neinander Dintert%iningE o( present and past0' rat&er t&an o( /process'
c&ains o( visi*le events0.
=ormall$ expressed' t&e erlea!"#ont$an doctrine o( /&istor$ as
instit!tion0 a((irms principall$ t&at /gro!nding0 and /gro!nded0 are reversi*le notions. 35&is
disc!ssion o( reversi*ilit$ in relation to &istor$
(ores&ado%s t&e descriptions' (oc!sing on
reciprocal action' perpet!al genesis' and intert%ining o( /inside0 and /o!tside0' t&at proli(erate
in erlea!"#ont$6s late t&o!g&t.4 #ast and (!t!re' (or instance' /ec&o eac& ot&er0'
li)e%ise %&at &as *een /given0' in a sense' cannot *e discerned (rom %&at &as *een
/created0. 1n (act t&ere is onl$ /giveness0 t&an)s to t&e rene%al o( a tradition t&at amo!nts to
/o*livion o( t&e origin0' and conversel$ %&at is /created0 %ill *ecome /t&e originar$ past0 o( all
s!*se,!ent rene%als. 5&e doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0' in a n!ts&ell' re-ects t&e o*-ectivistic
conception o( time. 8n /instit!tion0 is al%a$s an <rstiftung t&at anticipates or pre"possesses
t&e 6achstiftung %&ic& repeats and re"activates t&e <rstiftung. 5&e time o( t&e instit!tion is
t&!s properl$ t&e t&ic)ness o( t&e present time' %&ic& o%es its !nit$ to t&e /instit!tion0 itsel(.
.e ma$ concl!de *$ signaling t&at several claims o( erlea!"#ont$6s later' anti"
Cartesian ontolog$ s&ed lig&t on &is doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0. 5&e notions o( /dimension0
and /(les&0' partic!larl$' allo% a deeper !nderstanding o( t&e iss!es involved. 1n erlea!"
#ont$6s terminolog$' indeed' &istor$ ma$ *e considered t&e /(les&0 o( social realit$ in t&e
sense t&at &istorical (acts ma$ /sediment0 and t&!s *ecome a /dimension0 t&at later %ill *e a
re,!ired (!lcr!m (or ever$ move aspiring to *e meaning(!l. =or &istor$ is not an acc!m!lation
o( (acts positivel$ loc)ed in t&eir present and t&at %o!ld additivel$ com*ine at t&eir o%n
initiative. 8s to t&e o!tlandis& notion o( /dimension0' erlea!"#ont$ is ,!ite explicit2
/8longside %it& t&e (irst glance' t&e (irst exc&ange' t&e (irst en-o$ment' t&ere is initiation' t&at
is' not t&e positing o( a s!*-ect matter *!t t&e opening o( a dimension t&at never %ill close
again' t&e setting !p o( a plane t&at %ill *e t&e *enc&mar) (or all ot&er experiences (rom no%
1n &is acco!nt o( /instit!tion0' precisel$' erlea!"#ont$ perceives a /dimension0 in
virt!e o( %&ic& experiences relate to eac& ot&er and t&ere(ore con(orm a meaning. 1n ot&er
%ords' t&e$ o*e$ to a sim!ltaneo!s interc&ange o( anticipation and rene%al. 5&ese
/dimensions0 esta*lis& a level to %&ic&' in erlea!"#ont$6s %ords' /all experiences %ill *e
related to (rom no% on. D...E 5&is level' t&is dimension' is not an invisi*le o( (act' as is t&e
case o( an o*-ect concealed *e&ind anot&er' it is not an a*sol!te invisi*le totall$ independent
(rom t&e visi*le' *!t it is t&e invisi*le of t&is %orld' %&ic& in&a*its and s!pports it' and
renders it visi*le.0
7till' more int!itive %a$s o( !nderstanding t&is acco!nt o( /dimension0 are
erlea!"#ont$ >?682 83.
1t (irst occ!rs in erlea!"#ont$ >?552 2?7"2?8.
erlea!"#ont$ >?682 62.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >?8.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >?8.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ?' of '(
not scarce. 8lexis de 5oc,!eville' (or instance' o*served t&at /in ever$ cent!r$ t&ere is a
sing!lar (act to %&ic& all ot&ers are related0. +e also pointed o!t' moreover' t&at t&is
&istorical (oc!s /!s!all$ gives *irt& to a (!ndamental t&o!g&t %&ic& in its t!rn exerts a p!ll in
all sentiments and all ideas t&at drags t&em along its o%n %a$0.
.e are rel!ctant to end t&is overvie% %it&o!t mentioning a c!rrent appraisal o( t&e
concept o( /instit!tion0 a!t&ored *$ 5&eodore 7c&at:)i. 1n &is vie% ever$ /instit!tion0 opens
!p %&at &e calls a /(ield o( possi*ilit$0' essentiall$ related to agenc$ and closel$ associated
to erlea!"#ont$an /dimension0. Besides' &e contends t&at /instit!tion0 s!ggests t&e
prevalence o( model"*ased or case"*ased t&in)ing' sensing and (eeling over strictl$ logical
proced!res. 7een in t&is %a$' /instit!tions0 can *e normative *eca!se t&e$ open !p a space
or (ield o( possi*ilities %&ere excl!sion and constrain are constr!ed in s!c& a %a$ t&at' as
7c&at:)i sa$s' /to excl!de %a$s o( proceeding is not to render t&em a*sol!tel$ impossi*le0'
(or it onl$ means t&at t&e$ /cannot *e p!rs!ed at t&is moment in t&is partic!lar con(ig!ration
o( p&enomena0.
7c&at:)i6s speci(ication is inval!a*le2 /t&e int!ition *e&ind t&e notion o(
9(ield o( possi*ilit$6 2ua aspect o( pre"(ig!ration is t&at %&at people can do is limited0. 5&is
statement re(ers to t&e evidence t&at /somet&ing can contingentl$' in con-!nction %it& ot&er
p&enomena' and (or as long as it exists' occl!de certain %a$s o( proceeding0.
O( co!rse t&e
/dimensions0 implied *$ s!c& constrain possess /po%er to excl!de0' t&o!g& it is not /imm!ne
to t&e progress o( events0.
On t&e contrar$' it compels !s /to constr!e constrain less
indomita*l$0' (or it /also entails re"interpreting t&e meaning o( 9excl!sion60. 8s a
conse,!ence' /to occl!de certain %a$s o( proceeding0 means t&at /even somet&ing t&at
mig&t' at an$ moment' c&ange or disappear can determine t&!sCand pre(ig!re more
generall$Cso long as it &as not c&anged or vanis&ed.0
The debate over the inade!uacies of institution
Its alleged unrealism and cognitive opacity
On t&e one &and it can *e arg!ed t&at t&e doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0 is an
advancement over henomenology of erception and t&e t&eor$ o( t&e /p&enomenal *od$0.
8*ove all it &istorici:es or /traditionali:es0 t&e notion o( incarnate intentionalit$ (ollo%ing t&e
/dis"em*od$ing0 impact o( t&e Gestalttheorie and speciall$ o( 7a!ss!re6s ideas. 8t t&e same
time it el!cidates t&is distinctive intentionalit$ and t&e correlative process o( em*odiment
(rom a socio"&istorical perspective. On t&e ot&er &and' &o%ever' not onl$ erlea!"#ont$6s
earlier t&eories displa$ evident s&ortcomings i( seen (rom t&e vie%point o( t&e /instit!tion0'
*!t even &is late ontolog$ ma$ *e deemed' !nder t&is point o( vie%' a leap in t&e dar). Be
t&at as it ma$' it is o*vio!s t&at erlea!"#ont$6s doctrine occ!pies an !ncom(orta*le position
in midpoint o( &is p&ilosop&ical evol!tion.
5&e reproac&es o( !nrealism directed to t&e concept o( /instit!tion0 &ave come (rom all
sides. =or instance' it &as *een contended t&at /t&e strengt&s o( erlea!"#ont$6s approac&
remain ver$ m!c& p&ilosop&ical and a*stract' D(orE &e did not see) to explore &is ideas at a
more concrete and empirical level'0
since /erlea!"#ont$ deals onl$ %it& t&e general
5oc,!eville D>835E >?852 >2;.
7c&at:)i 2;;22 2>5.
7c&at:)i 2;;22 2>> and 2>5.
7c&at:)i 2;;22 2>4.
7c&at:)i 2;;22 2>5.
Crossle$ 2;;42 >>7.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ?( of '(
str!ct!re o( perception and action.0
8part (rom !nrealism' t&is doctrine &as also *een
acc!sed o( epistemic opacit$. 8(ter all' no /instit!tion0 a!tomaticall$ provides !nderstanding
a*o!t itsel(. 7ince all its (eat!res possess a pre"ling!istic' em*odied c&aracter' t&e so!g&t"
a(ter )no%ledge can onl$ *e s!pplied *$ t&e c!lt!re on %&ic& it is em*edded. 1n t&is respect'
<re$(!s and Ra*ino%6s criticism is implaca*le2 /1( %e are st!c) in o!r em*odied &a*it!s' as
erlea!"#ont$ &olds' t&en t&ere is no position (rom %&ic& to do an o*-ective' detac&ed st!d$
o( one6s o%n sense o( realit$.0
On a %ider scope' moreover' it ma$ *e pointed o!t t&at
/instit!tion0 cannot explain' in simple %ords' %&$ people per(orm one appropriate action
rat&er t&an anot&er in a given sit!ation. 1n (act it can *e ,!estioned %&et&er an !nderl$ing
/instit!tion0 can acco!nt (or t&e contin!it$' (l!idit$' and spontaneit$ o( &!man action. Hi)e%ise
%e ma$ %onder %&et&er ascriptions o( /instit!tion0 add an$t&ing to simple recordings o( t&e
occ!rrence o( appropriate actions.
Co!ntering t&ese strict!res' &o%ever' it ma$ *e conceded t&at at (irst sig&t /instit!tion0
assists t&e !nderstanding o( lived experience *eca!se it *rings to lig&t a sort o( totali:ing
!nit$ in t&e s!*-ect. 1nstead o( an intentional directedness' it !ncovers a cl!ster o(
dispositions %&ic& oversteps t&e c!stomar$ slicing !p in privac$' (amil$' pro(ession' c!lt!re'
etc. 8ll &!man practices' in (act' can onl$ *e !nderstood at t&e crossroads o( an em*odied
past 3!s!all$ identi(ied as a set o( dispositions or simpl$ as a c!lt!re4 and t&e act!al social
context in %&ic& a given per(ormance ta)es place. 8ccording to erlea!"#ont$' t&o!g&' t&is
social context is itsel( a res!lt o( instit!tional action. /+o% are %e to conceive t&at t&e s!*-ect
enco!nters an$ o*stacle in &er pat&R 5&e$ aren6t properl$ o*stacles i( t&e s!*-ect &ersel(
&as set t&em. 8nd i( t&e$ act!all$ o((er resistance' %e &ave to cope %it& t&e di((ic!lties o( a
p&ilosop&$ t&at incl!des t&e s!*-ect in a cosmic order and sees t&e (!nctioning o( t&e mind
as a case o( nat!ral (inalit$.0
5&e pro*lem o( acco!nting (or t&e resistances t&at t&e s!*-ect enco!nters in &er pat&
remains nevert&eless !nsolved' an o*sc!rit$ %&ic& t&e doctrine o( instit!tion s&ares %it&
ot&er *rands o( p&enomenolog$. Even /a p&enomenolog$ immediatel$ installed in a
transcendental sociolog$ o( explicit +!sserlian pers!asion0' in t&e vie% o( =ranSois +Bran'
cannot (ace t&is dra%*ac) s!ccess(!ll$' (or /t&e great categories o( p&enomenolog$ ris) to
remain empt$ and altoget&er (ormal i( t&e$ do not enco!nter resistance in t&e iss!es to
%&ic& t&e$ appl$ t&emselves0.
8nd in accordance %it& erlea!"#ont$' %e s&o!ld )eep in
mind t&at i( /instit!tion0 is' so to spea)' never alone' neit&er is t&e macro"c!lt!ral order.
Ot&er%ise p!t2 granting t&at ever$ context opens onto a meta"context' t&e latter is never
red!ci*le to a de(inite set o( principles and pres!ppositions. 1n Io&ann 8rnasson6s %ords'
/t&e social context is al%a$s part o( a meta"social one' t&at o( c!lt!rall$ diversi(ied
coexistence in t&e %orld' and t&e potentialities %&ic& reveal t&emselves on t&is level cannot
*e s!*s!med !nder a code o( str!ct!res. ore speci(icall$' t&e &!man order o( c!lt!re is an
inex&a!sti*le so!rce o( meaning' and t&e constr!ction o( (ormal invariants is onl$ one o(
several )e$s to t&e !niversal implications o( its patterns.0
5&is disconcerting state o( a((airs
&as *een de(tl$ s!mmari:ed in recent times2 /erlea!"#ont$ does not &ave a clear concept
to identi($ t&e point o( interc&ange *et%een agenc$ and str!ct!re. +is is a dispositional
conception o( agenc$. D8nd &isE concept o( 9instit!tion6 pla$s a ver$ similar role Dsince itE is
<re$(!s and Ra*ino% >??32 38.
<re$(!s and Ra*ino% >??32 43.
erlea!"#ont$ 2;;32 267.
+Bran >?872 4;?.
8rnason >??32 88"8?.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ?9 of '(
integral to !nderstanding &istor$ at t&e personal and p!*lic levels' and at t&e point o( t&eir
On t&e ot&er &and' t&e so!ndness o( t&e doctrine &as *een de(ended on acco!nt o(
t&e /important praxiological considerations t&at erlea!"#ont$ see)s to in-ect into t&e
concept o( instit!tion0.
1n s!pport o( t&is optimistic appraisal it &as *een arg!ed t&at t&e
resistances to t&is notion' alert to t&e circ!mstances %&ic& oppose it and t&at give %eig&t to
t&e acc!sations o( !nrealism' act!all$ are all an o!tcome o( t&e instit!tion itsel( and can *e
made mani(est to t&e !npre-!diced o*server *$ means o( an opport!ne /gestalt s&i(t0.
8mong ot&er sc&olars' Mic) Crossle$ &as *een a prominent advocate o( t&is vie%point2
/erlea!"#ont$6s exploration o( &!man *eing"in"t&e"%orld' %&ilst it ill!minates t&e mani(old
%a$s in %&ic& t&e %orld exists (or t&e s!*-ect' e,!all$ s&i(ts t&e gestalt so as to (acilitate an
exploration o( t&e o*-ectivit$ o( t&e %orld and t&e interpla$ o( o*-ective and s!*-ective
+e even adds' o*serving t&is pro*lem (rom a %ider scope2 /p&enomenolog$
s%itc&es its gestalt (rom a (oc!s !pon t&e sit!ated and instit!ting s!*-ect to a (oc!s !pon t&e
3&istorical4 sit!ations and instit!tions lived *$ a m!ltiplicit$ o( interacting and inter%oven
s!*-ects. Bac)gro!nd *ecomes (oregro!nd@ (oregro!nd *ecomes *ac)gro!nd.0
erlea!"#ont$ o*tains /a progressive re(lexive de"centering o( t&e s!*-ect' an 9o*-ecti(ication
o( s!*-ectivit$6' to !se Bo!rdie!6s p&rase'
and a move to%ards an anal$sis o( societ$ as a
d$namic %&ole.0
#!tting t&is iss!e in a n!ts&ell' t&en' it can *e said t&at /erlea!"#ont$ is not t&e
limited 9s!*-ectivist6 t&at some o( &is critics ta)e &im to *e and it is important (or !s to
recogni:e t&is. D...E 8s &is notion o( instit!tion s!ggests' &e is concerned *ot& %it& agent and
str!ct!re' pla$er and game' and more partic!larl$ %it& t&eir interpenetration. D...E +is
approac& is concerned to explore t&e relations&ips *et%een s!*-ectivit$ and t&e *roader
social %orld' and to trace t&e !n(olding o( &istor$ as a sui generis process.0
5&is optimistic
vie% &as *een s&ared' !p to a point' *$ Corneli!s Castoriadis. 1n &is opinion t&e creativit$
t&at is insepara*le (rom social"&istorical instit!tions ampl$ compensates (or its !n"
gro!ndedness' an insig&t t&at ma$ *e applied to erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0 as %ell2 /5&e
social"&istorical instit!tion as s!c&' and eac& instit!tion o( a societ$' al%a$s %ill *eP%ill
appear arbitrary and unmotivated in its essential elements. 1t is creation' %&ic& co!ld never
(ind necessar$ and s!((icient conditions o!tside it.0
The insufficiencies of institution lead to a dilemma"
ontology of the flesh v. pre-reflexive embodiment
1n (act' a n!m*er o( clear"sig&ted criticisms &ave contri*!ted to speci($ t&e limitations
o( erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0. erlea!"#ont$6s con(idence in gro!nding all traditions !pon
Crossle$ 2;;42 ?8"??.
Crossle$ 2;;42 ?>.
Crossle$ 2;;42 ?;"?>.
Crossle$ 2;;42 >;?.
D1n Bo!rdie! >?8;a.E
Crossle$ 2;;42 >>6">>7.
Crossle$ 2;;42 ?; and >>6.
Castoriadis >??32 22. Original =renc&2 >78.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ?: of '(
instit!ted meaning &as enco!ntered t&e s)epticism so %ell expressed *$ <iana Coole %&en
s&e reminds !s t&at /experience is str!ct!red *$ acc!m!lated meanings t&at *ecome rei(ied'
sat!rated %it& &a*it and inertia and' in collective li(e' inter%oven %it& po%er and
1n more precise lang!age' a devastating arg!ment against t&e concept o(
/instit!tion0 ma$ r!n as (ollo%s. 1nstead o( merel$ prolonging a (ormerl$ instit!ted line o(
progression' t&e instit!ting agent occ!pies t&e empt$ slot in t&e space o( possi*ilities set !p
*$ t&e several instit!ted lines o( progression %&ic& act!all$ con(ig!re &er lived &ori:on.
1ndeed a set o( normativities con(ig!re t&e space in %&ic& an !nengaged place %ill
event!all$ emerge. B!t t&e onl$ normativit$ t&at %or)s !pon /instit!tion0 is a negative one (or
it determines t&e limits t&at cannot *e trespassed *$ t&e instit!ting agenc$ t&at act!all$
occ!pies a given slot. 5&is line o( criticism &as *een expo!nded *$ Bernard Ha&ire in
po%er(!l lang!age2 /5&e a*sence o( events or contexts acting as triggers %ields t&e
negative power o( de"activating or in&i*iting dispositions' attit!des' &a*its' sc&emes o(
1n &is opinion' t&is negativit$ res!lts (rom t&e (act t&at /t&e extant sit!ation pla$s an
active role as selective instance or as (ilter0 %&ic& /gives to certain dispositions t&e possi*ilit$
to *ecome activated0 %&ereas closes to ot&ers /all c&ances o( act!ali:ation0.
<e(ending a more restrained vie%point' Io&ann 8rnasson &as pointed o!t in t&is
respect t&at /an anal$sis %&ic& relates t&e di((erent orders or dimensions o( t&e social %orld
to eac& ot&er opens !p an interpretive space %&ere a pl!ralit$ o( more or less
instit!tionali:ed and more or less openl$ con(licting patterns Do( meaningE can coexist0.
a &ermene!tic ,!andar$ doesn6t (ail to come into vie% inso(ar as /patterns o( meaning0 are
/gro!nded in interpretive perspectives and eval!ative orientations0 and so t&e$ are com*ined
%it& /principles o( c&oice0. 5&e constit!tion o( t&is /closed' a*stracted segment0 o( meaning'
a(ter all' res!lts (rom ar*itrar$ intentions and attit!des' so t&at t&e implicit' merel$
programmatic t&eor$ t&at %o!ld acco!nt (or it /seems to *e an emp&aticall$ s!*-ectivistic
one that would reduce networ;s of meaning to pro1ections and t&e trans"s!*-ective context to
an external and intrinsicall$ meaningless s!*strat!m0.

5&e %eig&t o( t&e (oregoing criticisms (orces !s to admit t&e inade,!acies o( t&e
erlea!"#ont$an doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0. 1t is !ndenia*l$ relevant' as %e &ave s&o%n'
%&en acco!nting (or t&e emergence o( meaning' t&e !nderstanding o( tradition' and t&e
el!cidation o( &istorical time. B!t no%' in vie% o( t&e preceding s&ortcomings' %e m!st
decide on t&e proced!res t&at can extend' re(ine' and complete t&e doctrine.
1n conse,!ence %e contend t&at t&e concept o( /instit!tion0 is placed at a crossroads
%&ere t&e relevant signposts point at t%o directions. .e also arg!e t&at erlea!"#ont$
&imsel( decided to ta)e one o( t&em %&en &e developed &is later' anti"Cartesian ontolog$.
8nd event!all$ %e %ill claim t&at t&e alternative co!rse involves a s$nt&esis o( t&is
ontological vie%point and t&e doctrine o( perception and em*odiment t&at %as t&e )e$ to &is
earl$ t&o!g&t. 1n ot&er %ords' %e maintain t&at erlea!"#ont$6s ideas on /instit!tion0 onl$
t!rn o!t to *e a conse,!ential doctrine i( t&e$2 a) are prolonged into a description o( t&e
/(les&l$0 str!ct!re o( &istor$ and transposed into t&e voca*!lar$ o( &is later ontolog$@ or b)
*ecome re"interpreted in t&e lig&t o( &is earl$ standpoint' %&ere t&e arc&eological *ent o( &is
t&o!g&t re-ected all (orms o( o*-ectivit$ and stressed t&e pre"o*-ective or practical insertion o(
t&e *od$ in its social environment.
Coole 2;;>2 2;.
Ha&ire >??82 65. Ha&ire6s emp&asis.
Ha&ire >??82 6?.
8rnason >??32 88"8?.
8rnason >??32 ?2.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ?> of '(
5&e erlea!"#ont$an doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0' as %e &ave seen' &as *een acc!sed
o( *eing !nrealistic' exceedingl$ a*stract' opa,!e to cognition' and in need o( a &ermene!tic
approac&. 1t is apparent' t&ere(ore' t&at to ma)e &is t&eor$ more concrete and cognitivel$
(irmer 3to flesh it o!t' in a %ord4' erlea!"#ont$ &ad either to proceed along t&e pat& leading
to non"Cartesian ontolog$ 3t&is %as t&e option he did ta)e4 or to regress to%ards t&e
/intentional arc0
and li)e%ise to t&e /p&enomenological *od$0 3%&ic& is t&e co!rse ta)en *$
#ierre Bo!rdie! in &is doctrine o( t&e habitus) as %ill *e explained at t&e end o( t&is essa$4.
Institution extends to #erleau-$onty%s later ontological issues"
flesh, invisible, active essences, and dimensionality

8dmittedl$' t&e idea o( /instit!tion0 solves man$ ,!andaries. 1t explains t&e coming o!t
o( meaning' t&e po%er o( traditions' and t&e la*$rint& o( time and &istoricit$ in a %a$ t&at
deserves !nconditional praise. 8nd a*ove all it descri*es t&e internal correlation *et%een
past and (!t!re t&at is t&e *ac)*one o( &istoricit$. B!t /instit!tion0 neit&er speci(ies t&e
gro!nding reasons o( t&is *lend o( !nit$ and di((erence *et%een past and (!t!re' nor does it
acco!nt (or its mani(old varieties. Let t&ese missing /gro!nding reasons0 %ere re,!ested *$
erlea!"#ont$ &imsel( in an eval!ative *ac)%ard glance2 /#&enomenological descriptions
are al%a$s some%&at disappointing D...E and to attain t&eir (!ll p&ilosop&ical range t&e$ m!st
disclose t&e gro!nding reasons -raisons de principe) t&at govern t&e apparent relations&ip
*et%een t&e negative and t&e positive.0
Go-i +irose &as p!t t&e !nderl$ing iss!e plainl$2
/.&$ erlea!"#ont$ does not declare &imsel( satis(ied %it& t&e notion o( 9instit!tion6' and
%&$ &e t&en proposes t&e notion o( 9(les&6 in &is last' !n(inis&ed textR0
5&is line o( distr!st enco!rages a series o( !nsettling ,!estions. .&at role did t&e
concept o( /instit!tion0 pla$ in erlea!"#ont$6s decision to a*andon t&e notion t&at a
sovereign' constit!ting conscio!sness' since a p&ilosop&$ concerned %it& &istor$' according
to &is later vie%s' cannot *e a p&ilosop&$ o( conscio!snessR +o% does t&is notion cope %it&
t&e am*ig!ities o( &istor$ at large and a*ove all %it& t&e di((ic!lties posed *$ t&e
&istoriograp&$ o( t&o!g&tR 1s *eca!se it cannot reall$ solve t&em t&at t&e concept o(
/instit!tion0 opens a direct pat&%a$ to t&e anti"Cartesian ontolog$ let !n(inis&ed *$ erlea!"
#ont$R +o% does it (ace t&e &istor$ o( c!lt!re' %&ere idealit$ and c&ange' norm and
contingenc$' conscience and %orld intermingleR 1n an$ case' it seems to *e *e$ond do!*t
t&at to em*race /instit!tion0 o*liges to a*andon Cartesianism' as Corneli!s Castoriadis &as
contended2 /8cross diverse sim!ltaneo!s and s!ccessive instit!tions is deplo$ed and
activel$ expressed a pol$morp&ism t&at co!ld not' save *$ a (allacio!s ta!tolog$' *e made
into t&e materiali:ation o( possi*ilities (!ll$ pre"constit!ted 9else%&ere6 and (rom a timeless
9al%a$s6Ct&en it m!st *e !nderstood t&at it is t&e entire o!tloo) o( t&e in&erited ontolog$ t&at
is *eing a*andoned' along %it& t&e implicit *!t al%a$s sovereign signi(ication o( Being.0

8not&er remar) (rom Castoriadis2 /1( some nontrivial components o( perceiving are instit!ted'
D...E t&at alread$ leads to a radical condemnation o( t&e entire egological (rame o( re(erence
%it&in %&ic&' and %it&in %&ic& alone' perception &as al%a$s *een considered.0
7ee <re$(!s and Ra*ino% >??32 38.
erlea!"#ont$ >?552 73 and 2;;32 27;.
+irose >???2 >7.
Castoriadis >??32 22. Original =renc&2 >7?.
Castoriadis >??32 24. Original =renc&2 >8>">82.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ?@ of '(
1t &as *een arg!ed' as %ell' t&at t&e doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0 %as not *ro!g&t
(or%ard properl$. One o( its dra%*ac)s' allegedl$' is t&at it %as not ade,!atel$ *lended %it&
t&e ontological iss!es %&ic& appeared t&erea(ter and %&ose ela*oration %as interr!pted *$
erlea!"#ont$6s earl$ deat&. 1n t&is respect 8rnasson contends t&at /%e can onl$ spec!late
a*o!t t&e res!lts o( a more s$stematic integration o( t&e perspective on 9instit!tion60 3%&ic&
erlea!"#ont$ /onl$ s)etc&ed in *road o!tlines alt&o!g& it is noticea*l$ lin)ed to &is
variation on .e*erian iss!es04 %it& /t&e t&emes o( t&e Disible0.
1n contrast' %e maintain
t&at t&e later ontological iss!es' centered on t&e notions o( /(les&0' /active essences0'
/invisi*le0' and /intert%ining0' in a large meas!re prolong and complete t&e doctrine o( t&e
/instit!tion0 3and even s!persede it' (or t&e$ e((ect %&at a +egelian %o!ld call aufheben). 1ts
e((icienc$ %&en attempting to explain &istoricit$ %as *o!nd to *e s!rpassed *$ an ontological
setting t&at' among ot&er reasons' mig&t &ave *een en(orced *$ erlea!"#ont$ in vie% o(
t&e pro*lems posed *$ &is earlier doctrine. 1n %&at (ollo%s %e %ill relate t&e concept o(
/instit!tion0 to t&ese ontological notions.
a) $nstitution and the #flesh. /1nstit!tion0' according to Rena!d Bar*aras' /(la%lessl$
designates t&e originar$ implication o( t&e derived in t&e originar$ -cette implication originaire
du d3riv3 dans l4originaire)

t&at ma)es o!t t&e speci(icit$ o( 9(les&6. 1ndeed t&e 9(les&6 is
neit&er (act nor ,!idditas. 1t is t&e Event' t&e originar$ 1nstit!tion t&at opens !p a dimension
o( reprise' demands an !pcoming time' and onl$ manages to *e tr!l$ itsel( in virt!e o( t&is
reactivation and t&is development.0
1n ot&er %ords' t&e /(les&0 is %&at ma)es possi*le t&e
/instit!tion0 as t&e insertion o( a di((erence. 5&is di((erence does not conve$ an ontological
vac!!m *eca!se /it is t&e place %&ere a vision appears -le lieu d43mergence d4une vision)
and &ence it is (illed !p *$ t&e (les&0.
.e s&o!ld )eep in mind t&at t&e (les& is principall$
/not"presenta*le as s!c&0' %&ic& means t&at it onl$ presents itsel( in an originar$ %a$
t&ro!g& t&e *o!nded di((erence implied *$ ever$ instit!tion. 8s pointed o!t *$ Go-i +irose'
/t&e p&enomenolog$ o( t&e di((erence -3cart)) *ent on discerning t&e sing!lar event' and t&e
ontolog$ o( t&e (les&' aspiring to gro!nd t&e same t$pe o( event' not onl$ are complementar$
*!t also artic!late eac& ot&er.0
On t&e one &and' t&e %orld is not merel$ restricted to its
act!al positivit$' (or its ver$ /(les&0' according to erlea!"#ont$' is /pregnanc$ o(
On t&e ot&er &and' all possi*le %orlds are potential variations o( t&is %orld.
5&is means t&at t&e$ are not /ot&er %orlds0 in t&e sense o( *eing a*sol!tel$ (oreign to m$
o%n %orld 3all t&eir possi*le meanings m!st *e related to it' one %a$ or anot&er4. 5&e$ co!ld
rat&er *e li)ened to t&e /invisi*le0 o( t&is %orld' on t&e contrar$' inso(ar as t&e$ anno!nce its
imminent visi*ilit$. 1n more int!itive terms' it s&o!ld *e pointed o!t t&at &istor$ exempli(ies
t&is prominent connection *et%een /instit!tion0 and /(les&0. 8s Tavier J!c&et &as p!t it' /to
t&in) &istor$ t&oro!g&l$ does not consist in an endless oscillation *et%een ra% events and
ideal meanings. 1t rat&er means to occ!p$ t&e interval *et%een t&e latent operations t&at
ma)e !p t&e 9(les& o( &istor$6' %&ere 9meanings are constantl$ )notted' t&en !n")notted' and
t&erea(ter )notted again *!t di((erentl$' %it&in a (res& net%or) o( )no%ledge and
5o (ind o!t t&e act!al connection *et%een /instit!tion0 and /(les&0' &o%ever' an
explication o( t&is latter notion is in order. B$ means o( /(les&0 erlea!"#ont$ see)s a (inal
de(eat o( modern s!*-ectivism and solipsism and t&e de(initive demise o( t&e transcendental
8rnason >??32 ?6.
Bar*aras >??82 3;2.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 326.
+irose 2;;42 343.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 284 and 2>2.
J!c&et 2;;>2 >;5">;6.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page ?A of '(
s%amp' (or /(les&0 is a*ove all /t&e (ormative medi!m o( t&e o*-ect and t&e s!*-ect0
t&ere(ore t&e a*sol!te so!rce o( *ot&. 1n s&ort' /(les&0 stands (or t&e inscription o( /t&e ot&er0
in t&e sel(&ood o( ever$t&ing' /it its ver$ (les&0' as it %ere. erlea!"#ont$ presents t&e /(les&0
as /a protot$pe o( Being0 in t&e last c&apter o( The Disible and the $nvisible' *!t &e considers
also t&at t&o!g&t itsel( is a /s!*limation o( (les&0.
5&e importance assigned to /reversi*ilit$0
in The Disible is an appropriate steeping"stone to erlea!"#ont$6s novel terminolog$. 8(ter
all' t&e pro*lems t&at gro% o!t o( d!alistic conceptions o( mind and *od$' immanence and
transcendence as) (or /t&e revision o( o!r ontolog$' t&e re"examination o( t&e notions o(
9s!*-ect6 and 9o*-ect60.
5&e rec!rrent ,!andaries posed *$ ontological d!alism demand t&at
%e see t&e %orld as pre"eminentl$ p&enomenon' as an /a!toc&t&ono!s organi:ation0 in
%&ic& t&e inter%ovenness o( ever$t&ing is primordial and irred!ci*le. 1n t&is respect' t&e last
sentence o( The Disible) %&ic& states t&at reversi*ilit$' t&o!g& /al%a$s imminent and never
reali:ed in (act0
' constit!tes t&e /!ltimate tr!t&0'
concords %it& erlea!"#ont$6s earlier
description o( t&e /(les&0 as an /!ltimate notion0
in %&ose lig&t ever$t&ing m!st *e
!nderstood ane%.
5&e /(les&0 is at *ottom t&e !niversal matrix o( all conceiva*le
reciprocities. 1t consists' in ot&er %ords' /o( m!ltiple encroac&ments o( imminent
5&!s it can *e said' in a n!ts&ell' t&at t&e erlea!"#ont$an /ontolog$ o( t&e (les&0
p!rs!es t&ree main goals2 ?) to excl!de all ant&ropocentric and s!*-ectivist connotations@ &)
to deconstr!ct t&e metap&$sical s!*-ect and t&e re(lexive conscio!sness@ ') to set !p an
arc&aeolog$ o( o*-ectivit$ and o( idealit$. /=les&0 connotes an all"pervading reciprocit$ and
intert%ining' con(ronts t&e danger in&erent to t&e notion o( *eing"in"itsel(' and overcomes t&e
l!re o( an immanentism t&at de(ines Being as *eing"(or"!s *$ *rac)eting *eing"in"itsel(.
Mot&ing m!st *e ta)en (or granted2 /neit&er t&e naAve idea o( *eing in itsel(' nor t&e
correlative idea o( a *eing o( representation' o( a *eing (or conscio!sness0.
8t *ottom'
accordingl$' t&ere is no antinom$ *et%een a p&ilosop&$ o( transcendental constit!tion and a
p&ilosop&$ o( material ca!salit$.
/O!r p!rpose is D...E to s&o% t&at t&e *eing"o*-ect' and t&e *eing"s!*-ect conceived *$
opposition to it and relative to it' do not (orm t&e alternative' t&at t&e perceived %orld is
*eneat& or *e$ond t&is antinom$' t&at t&e (ail!re o( 9o*-ective6 ps$c&olog$ isCcon-ointl$ %it&
t&e (ail!re o( 9o*-ectivist6 p&$sicsCto *e !nderstood not as a 9victor$6 o( t&e 9interior6 over t&e
9exterior6 and o( t&e 9mental6 over t&e 9material6' *!t as a call (or t&e revision o( o!r ontolog$'
(or t&e re"examination o( t&e notions o( 9s!*-ect6 and 9o*-ect6.0
5&is ontolog$' according to
erlea!"#ont$' /%o!ld *e t&e ela*oration o( t&e notions t&at &ave to replace t&ose o( o*-ect'
s!*-ect' meaning0.

erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >?3. Engl. tr. >47.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >?>.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 4>.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >?4.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 2;4.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >85.
%f. Bresla! 2;;;2 3;;' n. 3.
G&an 2;;52 247.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 2>. Engl. tr. 6.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 4>. Engl. tr. 22"23.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 22>. Engl. tr. >67.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page &B of '(
1n (e%er %ords' /(les&0 is t&e /single st!((0 o!t o( %&ic& *od$ and t&ings are made' (or
*odil$ s!*-ect and %orld are rigoro!sl$ /sim!ltaneo!s0.
1t s&o!ld *e *orne in mind t&at
erlea!"#ont$ is a(ter a /de(inition o( *eing t&at is neit&er *eing"(or"itsel( nor *eing"in"itsel('
D...E t&at m!st rediscover %&at lies *e(ore t&e cleavage operated *$ re(lection0.
gro!nd"*rea)ing /*eing0' t&ere(ore' %ill ma)e possi*le (or p&ilosop&$ /to appre&end t&e
(ertile moments %&ere a meaning comes in possession o( itsel(0' since in t&at case %e %ill *e
in position to detect /t&e same ontological str!ct!re !nderneat& all relations&ips0.
b) $nstitution and the invisible. .e s&o!ld )eep in mind t&at /invisi*le0 means t&e
*ac)gro!nd p&enomena or context!al (eat!res t&at &old an in&erent normative role. 1ts lin)
%it& /instit!tion0 s&o!ld not *e overloo)ed2 (rom a cl!ster o( ca!sal relations&ips
!nexpectedl$ emerges a micro"*!**le o( meaning' %&ic& in no %a$ pre"existed' and %&ic&
acts independentl$ o( all claims (or o*-ectivit$ and o( ever$ pres!med la%. 38s %e %ill see
*elo%' t&e notion o( /practice0' prominent in contemporar$ t&o!g&t and cr!cial in t&e %or) o(
#ierre Bo!rdie!' connotes t&is anomalo!s *!t ca!sall$ e((icacio!s /invisi*le0.4 1n ot&er
%ords2 t&e relation 3on %&ic& t&e notion o( /instit!tion0 (eeds4 *et%een t&e sedimented
presence o( t&e instit!ted element and t&e latenc$ o( possi*ilities o( t&e instit!ting element'
now appears as t&e c&iasmic relation *et%een /visi*le0 and /invisi*le0. 7ome o( t&e
s&ortcomings o( /instit!tion0' in conse,!ence' seem no% s!perseded' an accomplis&ment
t&at &as *een neatl$ p!t *$ =ran) Ro*ert2 /5&e concept o( instit!tion is !nsatis(actor$
*eca!se it remains attac&ed to +!sserlian eidetic and to static p&enomenolog$. 5&!s a ne%
concept!alit$ *ecomes necessar$' in &armon$ %it& t&e criti,!e o( positive essences and o(
t&e constit!ting s!*-ect. The Disible and the $nvisible %ill *ring !p t&is ne% concept!alit$' D...E
s!ita*le to descri*e a relations&ip %&ose non"positive terms' intert%ined %it& eac& ot&er'
emerge non"positivel$ in a &istor$. 5&eir intert%ining does not *elong to an$ o( t&e related
terms' (or it is t&e non"positive Cinvisible %&ic& s!pports t&e visible4.0
5o eval!ate t&e prominence o( t&e /invisi*le0 in erlea!"#ont$6s later t&o!g&t'
&o%ever' demands to ac)no%ledge t&at an ontolog$ o( reversi*ilit$ %ill remain an act o(
p&ilosop&ical *oldness i( it is not do!*led *$ a doctrine t&at explains /%&$ t&e &inge *et%een
activit$ and passivit$ remains !navoida*l$ concealed0 and &ence el!cidates /t&e most
di((ic!lt iss!e' t&at is to sa$' t&e relations&ip *et%een (les& and idea' *et%een t&e visi*le and
t&e inner armat!re t&at it mani(ests and also &ides0.
1n s&ort' a non"d!alist ontolog$ &as to
clari($ %&$ t&e reversi*ilit$ t&at lin)s t&e sentient %it& t&e sensi*le sta$s incomplete' since it
/is al%a$s imminent and never reali:ed in (act0
. 5&e doctrine o( t&e /invisi*le0' precisel$'
tries to explain %&$ in spite o( t&is (la% t&e experience o( t&e sentient $et develops into a
close and co&erent (rame%or). =acing t&ese perplexities' %&ic& a reversi*ilist ontolog$
inevita*l$ *rings a*o!t' erlea!"#ont$ arg!es t&at /t&e visi*le0 is diacriticall$ str!ct!red *$
(orms' armat!res' and invariants %&ic& perception in(alli*l$ recogni:es' in t&e same %a$ %e
recogni:e a (ace %it&o!t *eing a*le to descri*e it anal$ticall$. /1nso(ar as 1 see somet&ing' 1
do not )no% what 1 see 3a (amiliar person is not de(inite40.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 3;4. Engl. tr. 25;.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >3;. Engl. tr. ?5.
erlea!"#ont$ >?532 58.
Ro*ert 2;;;2 364"365.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >?5.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >?4.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 3;;. erlea!"#ont$6s emp&asis.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page &? of '(
5&ese invariants are act!all$ invisi*le to perception. 5&e$ are concealed in t&e visi*le
and melt into its ver$ mani(estation 3c!lt!re ac&ieves its expression *$ giving t&em a plastic'
m!sical or ling!istic (ig!ration4. 5&is means t&at in t&e originar$ presentation *ot& t&e
/visi*le0 and t&e /invisi*le0 are presented. Let t&is does not impl$ t&at in t&is presentation t&e
invisi*le *ecomes visi*le. erlea!"#ont$ cannot accept a dimension o( invisi*ilit$ severed
(rom t&e p&enomenic aspect o( mani(estation. 5&e invisi*le is act!all$ presented as !n"
presenta*le' and in (act its presentation ex&i*its t&e ingredient o( a*sence t&at ever$
presence contains. 5&is originar$ presentation o( %&at is originar$ !n"presenta*le 3t&e
presence o( a*sence as a*sence' as it %ere4 s!ggests t&at p&enomena come a*o!t as
originar$ dimension o( Being and %arrants erlea!"#ont$6s vie%s on t&e !niversalit$ o( t&e
sensi*le. /1t is visi*ilit$ itsel( %&at involves a non"visi*ilit$. D...E 5&e perceived %orld is t&e
collection o( pat&%a$s t&at m$ *od$ opens !p 3t&e same &appens in painting4 and not a
m!ltit!de o( spatial"temporal individ!als0.
5o condense erlea!"#ont$6s contention' t&e
arrangement o( relations de(ined as direct' empirical and visible lin)s *et%een entities
3t&o!g&ts and t&ings4 in reversi*le interaction is s!pplemented *$ a *ac)gro!nd
arrangement o( invisible relations o( str!ct!ral e,!ivalencePdi((erence t&at span time and
space. 8ll entities' in s&ort' ac,!ire t&eir constit!tion onl$ t&ro!g& t&eir location in t&is
topological setting. 1n a note %ritten in a$' >?6;' erlea!"#ont$ pitted t&e /invisi*le0'
*anall$ !nderstood as /%&at is not act!all$ visi*le' *!t co!ld *e 3&idden or inact!al aspects
o( t&e t&ingC&idden t&ings' sit!ated 9else%&ere6C9&ere6 and 9else%&ere640' against an
/invisi*le0 de(ined as /%&at' relative to t&e visi*le' co!ld nevert&eless not *e seen as a t&ing
3t&e existentials o( t&e visi*le' its dimensions' its non"(ig!rative inner (rame%or)40.
c) $nstitution and #active essences. .it& t&e notion o( /active essence0 erlea!"#ont$
ans%ers t&e ,!estion2 .&at is act!all$ instit!ted *$ /instit!tion0R ost importantl$' /active
essences0 are %&at t&e *od$ internali:es and in so (ar t&e$ constit!te t&e habitus' as %e %ill
prove' since t&e$ acco!nt (or all /*ac)gro!nd !nderstanding0. 5&e %orld o( /active
essences0' in a %ord' amo!nts to %&at erlea!"#ont$ calls /invisi*le0. 8s &e p!ts t&is iss!e'
/it matters to )no% &o% t&e 9intellect!al ideas6 esta*lis& t&emselves Don top o( t&e 9active
essences6E' &o% t&e 9idealit$ o( &ori:on6 gives %a$ to 9p!re6 idealit$' and in virt!e o( %&at
miracle t&e nat!ral generalit$ o( m$ *od$ and o( t&e %orld at large is enlarged *$ a created
generalit$' is reass!med and recti(ied *$ a c!lt!re and a )no%ledge.0
O( co!rse' t&e term
/active essence0 is onl$ one specimen in t&e m!ltit!de o( names t&at erlea!"#ont$ !ses to
designate t&is inde(ina*le entit$. 5&e most %idespread o( t&em is o( co!rse /sensi*le idea0'
t&o!g& /alogic0' /operative0 or /non"intellect!al0 essences are also !s!al names' as attested
*$ t&e erlea!"#ont$an contention t&at /t&e lin) %it& t&e past o( t&e perception in its ver$
(les& ta)es place *$ means o( str!ct!ral generalit$ or alogic essence.0
5&e el!siveness o( t&ese notions' o*vio!sl$' calls (or a t&oro!g& explanation. 8s %e
&ave seen' t&e /visi*le0 contains t&e /invisi*le0 as its o%n speci(ic dept&' as a )ind o( inner
(rame t&at it sim!ltaneo!sl$ &ides and displa$s. 1n opposition to (!ll$ intelligi*le ideas' t&e
/invisi*le0 amo!nts to an expanded /active essence0 *eca!se it /cannot *e detac&ed (rom
sensi*le appearances and converted into a second positivit$0.
5&is resistance is act!all$
t&e main strengt& o( s!c& /active essences0' &o%ever' (or t&e$ are not simpl$ concealed
tr!t&s' as %o!ld *e /an act!al invisi*le t&at $et some da$ %e s&all *e a*le to *e&old0.

erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 3;;.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 3>>.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 2;;.
erlea!"#ont$ 2;;32 255.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >?6.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >?6.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page && of '(
1nstead' t&eir tr!t& d%ells in t&eir veiled c&aracter' paradoxicall$ *ro!g&t a*o!t *$ t&e
alliance %it& t&e sensi*le element o( %&ic& t&e$ are t&e str!ct!re. 1n s&ort' since t&e$ are t&e
originar$ (rame%or) o( t&e /visi*le0' t&e$ prod!ce t&e ort&odox' intelligi*le ideas and &ence
t&e$ are t&e ca!se o( all admitted tr!t&s. 8s erlea!"#ont$ %rites' /*eneat& ever$
intellect!al idea' read$ to *e entered and sei:ed *$ t&e intuitus mentis) t&ere is one o( t&ose
entities %&ic& instead o( *eing positive are di((erences or are even 9di((erentiated60.
agenc$ o( an /invisi*le0 t&at some&o% is inscri*ed in t&e /visi*le0' t&ere(ore' explains %&$
meaning comes to presence in t&e sensi*le %orld. 8ll events are in%ardl$ str!ct!red or
(ramed *$ an /active essence0 %&ic& is t&e invisi*le r!le t&at commands *ot& its visi*ilit$ and
its generalit$' and as a conse,!ence determines its meaning. .e ma$ t&en concl!de t&at
erlea!"#ont$ names /invisi*le0 t&e arrangement o( relations disclosed *$ t&e scr!tin$ o( t&e
all"em*racing ontological intert%ining' %&ere &omogeneit$ coexists %it& di((erence. 5&is
pec!liar term is t&!s a s&ort&and expression (or t&e *ac)gro!nd p&enomena t&at &old an
in&erent normative role. 1t merel$ stresses t&at t&ese (eat!res are context!al and &idden at
t&e same time.
d) $nstitution and dimensionality. .e &ave pointed o!t a*ove t&e role pla$ed *$ t&e
concept o( /dimension0 in esta*lis&ing t&e canonical meaning o( /instit!tion0. 1n t&is ne%
ontological setting' erlea!"#ont$ names /dimensionalit$0 t&e logic o( classi(ication t&at t&e
/invisi*le0 *rings a*o!t. E,!ivalence and di((erentiation' in ot&er %ords' entail t&e notion o( a
/!ni,!e0 dimensionalit$ t&at $et encompasses a diversit$ o( /dimensions0. 5&is means t&at a
t&ing or an event *ecome /dimension0 i( it radiates' *e$ond its spatio"temporal individ!alit$' a
/%a$ o( *eing0 3t&at is2 an /active essence0' as speci(ied a*ove4 or a /st$le0 3t&at is2 /t&e
manner according to %&ic& a given visi*le appears04 t&at' in its t!rn' give to t&e speci(ic t&ing
or event t&e !nit$ o( a c&aracteristic experience or o( a single /ra$ o( t&e %orld -rayon du
monde). 1t s&o!ld not come as a s!rprise' t&en' t&at according to erlea!"#ont$ /active
essences0 *ecome /dimensions0 or /s$stems o( e,!ivalences0. 1n t&e voca*!lar$ %e %ill !se
*elo%' t&is amo!nts to sa$ing t&at practical reason %or)s via dimensionali:ation 3to
/dimensionali:e0 and to /de(orm co&erentl$0 are s$non$ms (or erlea!"#ont$4' or else t&at
Bo!rdie!an habitus *ecomes explica*le t&an)s to /active essences0 and
/dimensionalisation0. 8 given experience' in ot&er %ords' *ecomes t&e re(erence (or ot&er
experiences occ!rring t&erea(ter' and neit&er r!les' nor norms' nor principles govern t&is
8 (orce(!l %a$ o( el!cidating t&is ontological /dimensionalit$0 s&o!ld *egin *$
reminding !s t&at' according to erlea!"#ont$' t&ings are neit&er identical to t&emselves nor
are t&e$ s!*stantial entities. 5&e$ are variants or modi(ications o( ot&er t&ings' o( ot&er
spatial"temporal positions and o( ot&er ,!alities 3t&e$ /correspond0 to t&em' as it %ere4' (or
di((erentiation also entails mod!lation. 1n conse,!ence' and precisel$ because t&e$ di((er'
t&ings /a*sol!tel$ strange to eac& ot&er are nevert&eless a*sol!tel$ together -sont pourtant
absolument ensem*le).
5&ere is a )ind o( co&esion *et%een t&em t&at t!rns t&em into
/extreme di((erences' extreme divergences o( one sing!lar somet&ing -3carts e,tr5mes d4un
m5me 2uel2ue chose)0.
5&e notion o( /dimension0' t&ere(ore' appears related to t&e
circ!mstance t&at di((erentiated /%a$s o( *eing0 or' as erlea!"#ont$ sa$s' /active
erlea!"#ont$ >??62 >?4.
Regarding /dimensionalisation0 it is %ort&%&ile to note t&at in t&eir *oo) on =o!ca!lt' <re$(!s and Ra*ino%
ascri*e &im a *elie( t&at in a sense can also *e attri*!ted to .e*er' .ittgenstein' 8dorno' t&e later +eidegger'
G!&n' and 7earle. D%f. <re$(!s and Ra*ino% >?82E 1n t&eir opinion' t&ese t&in)ers s&are t&e vie% t&at essential
pro*lems in an$ area o( &!man activit$ are at root identi(ied *$ re(erence to partic!lar or &istorical exemplars o(
erlea!"#ont$ >?64*2 84. erlea!"#ont$6s emp&asis.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >>7.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page &' of '(
essences0 possess /t&e possi*ilit$ o( *ecoming ne!tral0 since t&is (eat!re allo%s !s /to
!nderstand t&at t&e sensi*le %orld is t&is perceptive logic' t&is s$stem o( e,!ivalences' and
not a cl!ster o( spatio"temporal individ!als0.
1n t&is respect &e points o!t again t&at
e,!ivalences and similarities' on t&e one &and' and di((erences and divergences or 3carts on
t&e ot&er' ma)e !p t&e /invisi*le0.
+is most (!ndamental contentions on t&is matter are t&at Being is non"coincidence' or
in s&ort2 di((erentiation' and t&at presence is originar$ divergence -3cart)) %&ic& in a still
Cartesian voca*!lar$ means t&at a /strange distance0 separates t&e s!*-ect (rom itsel( and
t&e t&ing (rom its o%n identit$. 3Related to s!c& pec!liar Being and t&!s acco!nting (or t&e
ontological end!rance o( /instit!tion0' t&e (ollo%ing s!mming"!p (rom Castoriadis is
inval!a*le2 /.&at erlea!"#ont$ calls Being can no longer *e t&o!g&t as Being"given'
Being"ac&ieved' Being"determined' *!t as contin!ed creation' perpet!al origination' %&ic&
concerns not onl$ 9concrete existents6' and is not reprod!ction o( ot&er exemplars o( t&e
4 8ccording to erlea!"#ont$' t&e individ!al is not s!*stance and accidents' and
even less it is t&e incarnation o( canonical essences. 5&e individ!al is *asicall$ divergence
-3cart) (rom itsel( *eca!se it is constit!ted *$ a /constellation0 o( e,!ivalences and
di((erentiations. 8 t&ing is /not m!c& -peu de chose) i( compared to t&ose participations0'

(or t&e$ c&ange it to a mere /tic) -punctuation) in a (ield o( t&ings t&at' in t&eir t!rn' are no
more t&an variations o( t&e /visi*le0.
8t t&is point %e are in a position to admit t&at t&e el!sive notion o( /(les&0 designates
in (act t&e /invisi*le0 contin!o!sl$ *eing *orn in t&e midst o( t&e /visi*le0. Being /!n(olds0 or
/radiates0 in t&e di((erentiations %&ic& contri*!te to t&e !nremitting re"constit!tion o( its ver$
identit$. Contrar$ to t&e impression t&at t&e all"em*racing reversi*ilit$ enco!rages' t&e
/(les&0 is not an !n"di((erentiated %&ole %&ere all dimensions are *l!rred. One o( t&e
di((ic!lties raised *$ erlea!"#ont$6s ontolog$' precisel$' springs (rom t&is circ!mstance2 t&e
notion o( /(les&0 is set as an arc&et$pical unum) $et its !nit$ involves an in&erent diacritical
implosion. 5&e individ!al /prod!ces0 its o%n sing!lar !niversalit$ *eca!se it /irradiates
%orldliness0. 8longside a str!ct!re o( o*-ective relations' in ot&er %ords' t&ings possess a
(rame%or) o( virt!alit$ t&at /do!*les' s!pports' and (eeds t&em' and %&ic& is not in itsel( a
t&ing *!t possi*ilit$' latenc$' and (les& o( t&ings0.
5&!s /ever$ perceived *eing ma$ *e
de(ined *$ means o( a str!ct!re or a s$stem o( e,!ivalences aro!nd %&ic& it is set0.
general terms' erlea!"#ont$ contends t&at instead o( separate (acts' spatio"temporall$
individ!ated *$ t&e respective essences 3%&ic& are no more t&an ill!sions contrived *$ an
overestimated conscio!sness4' and also instead o( a*stracted generali:ations or ideali:ed
gro!nds' t&ere is onl$ /a %&ole arc&itect!re' a %&ole 9strati(ication6 o( p&enomena' a %&ole
series o( 9levels o( *eing60
%&ic& di((erentiate t&emselves t&an)s to t&e encroac&ment o(
t&e /invisi*le0 !pon a speci(ic /visi*le0.
Institution is restated in the wor& of $ierre 'ourdieu
as the pre-reflexive insertion of the body in its social environment
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 3;>.
Castoriadis >??32 24. Original =renc&2 >8>.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >74.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >75.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 26>.
erlea!"#ont$ >?64a2 >53.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page &( of '(
.&ile erlea!"#ont$6s later ontolog$ implicitl$ contained *ot& an extension and a
re(inement o( t&e doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0 3t&is %as t&e %a$ o( ma)ing it more concrete
t&at %as act!all$ c&osen *$ &im4' it exists a virt!al' alternate ro!te to%ards its completion
t&at merges t&e anti"Cartesian ontolog$ adopted *$ t&e later erlea!"#ont$ %it& a ret!rn to
t&e *asic aspects o( &is earlier p&ilosop&$' t&at is' t&e t&eories o( perception' em*odiment
and inters!*-ectivit$ developed in henomenology of erception 3t&is %as t&e s!*stit!te
trac) not ta)en *$ erlea!"#ont$4. .e contend t&at precisel$ t&e %or) o( #ierre Bo!rdie!
accomplis&es t&is second' s$nt&etic option' as t&e (ollo%ing paragrap&s %ill ma)e evident.
5&e &!* o( t&is matter is t&at t&e erlea!"#ont$an doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0 can also
*e interpreted as a t&eor$ o( incarnate dispositions. 5&e &!man em*odiment' a(ter all'
t&ro!g& its empo%ering and !npredicta*le c&aracteristics' al%a$s compo!nded *$ t&e
compliance %it& t&e demands o( pre"given instit!tional (ields' is *ot& t&e (orm and t&e
medi!m o( &istorical traditions. 8s erlea!"#ont$ sa$s' /t&ere is %&at mig&t *e called a
9nat!ral 16 a*ove t&e 1 t&at is a t&in)ing s!*-ect. 5&is 9nat!ral 16 does not leave its eart&$
sit!ation and endlessl$ expresses a*sol!te valori:ations.0
B!t t&is /eart&$0 or /nat!ral0 1
*rings (or%ard /a*sol!te valori:ations0 not *$ means o( spontaneo!s' constit!tive acts *!t
t&ro!g& t&e s!ccession o( instit!tions t&at act!all$ s&ape an em*odied &a*it. Mic) Crossle$
&as clearl$ seen t&is state o( a((airs2 /=or erlea!"#ont$ t&e actions o( t&e mat!re social
agent are rooted in &a*it. 8nd $et some actions mani(est a degree o( creativit$ and
innovation t&at e((ectivel$ de(orms or trans(orms t&e &a*it!al so!rce. 5&e relation o( &a*it to
action is concept!ali:ed as a t%o"%a$ street2 &a*its generate actions and actions vario!sl$
modi($ and create ne% &a*its.0
+ence it co!ld *e said' in t&e terms o( an o*server' t&at
/%e experience corporeall$ a pre"cognitive domain o( *r!te Being0 %&ere /an 9operative
rationalit$6 is alread$ at %or)' (or perception alread$ introd!ces patterns' dimensions' a
mod!lation or st$le into t&e %orld' t&ere*$ insin!ating signi(icance at t&e level o(
5&is intimate connection *et%een instit!tion and em*odiment %as s!per*l$
descri*ed *$ t&e late artin <illon %&en &e pointed o!t t&at one c&ie( concern r!nning
t&ro!g& all t&ree o( erlea!"#ont$6s ma-or %or)s is /t&e central idea o( an interested'
,!estioning att!nement to t&e %orld *$ %&ic& t&e *od$ learns to come to terms %it& its
environmentCand t&en ret!rns to t&e %orld t&ro!g& its ac,!isition' no% a sedimented (orm
t&at str!ct!res t&e %orld %it& a habitus derived (rom it.0
5&!s t&e concept &as emerged t&at pla$s t&e leading role in t&is ret!rn to t&e so!rces
o( erlea!"#ont$6s t&o!g&t and %&ic& %ill assist !s in overcoming some o( t&e di((ic!lties
posed *$ t&e concept o( /instit!tion0. 1ndeed t&e %or) o( #ierre Bo!rdie!' and especiall$ t&e
preeminence &e gives to t&e notion o( habitus) complete in o!r vie% t&e erlea!"#ont$an
doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0 t&ro!g& a ret!rn to 3and a re"consideration o(4 t&e main t&emes o(
henomenology of erception. 8s Bernard Ha&ire &as expressed it' /p!tting !p roots in
erlea!"#ont$' t&reading t&e metap&or o( m!te &and"to"&and dealings' DandE adopting a
scienti(ic' stern' anti"intellect!alist and anti"str!ct!ralist attit!de' Bo!rdie! c&ooses
straig&t(or%ardl$ t&e lang!age o( t&e *od$' o( pre"re(lexivit$ and o( speec&lessness -du
5&is approac& to t&e /&a*it!s0' at t&e same time' predisposes to conc!r %it&
1ordanis arco!latos %&en &e a((irms t&at /erlea!"#ont$6s 9p&enomenal *od$6 can *e seen
as e,!ivalent to habitus as presented in Bo!rdie!6s %or). 1 %o!ld arg!e t&at t&e &a*it!s is
t&e overall act!alit$ o( a living &!man as immediatel$ experiencedCit ma$ not *e red!ced to
erlea!"#ont$ >?452 5;2.
Crossle$ 2;;>2 >>6.
Coole 2;;>2 2;.
<illon >??>2 xvi.
Ha&ire >??82 >?>.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page &9 of '(
a cl!ster o( dispositions as s!per(iciall$ ass!med *$ certain commentators. erlea!"#ont$6s
9intentional arc6 3an ela*oration o( t&e concept o( p&enomenal *od$4 also parallels t&e
habitus2 t&e$ are *ot& attempts to grasp &o% t&e relativel$ o*-ective aspects o( one6s
existential manner are s!*-ectivel$ experienced as %ell as 9o*-ectivel$6 sensed.0
1n s&ort'
/t&e habitus is eit&er t&e !n"t&o!g&t corporeal str!ct!ring itsel(' or t&e impet!sCt&e active
em*odied potentialC(or t&e prod!ctionPperpet!ation o( t&at str!ct!re.0
=irst o( all %e s&o!ld )eep in mind t&at t&e habitus see)s to transcend t&e opposition
*et%een t&eories t&at conceive practice as constituting 3p&enomenolog$' o( co!rse' *!t also
all *rands o( individ!alism' *e t&em met&odological or ontological4 and t&eories t&at vie%
practice as constituted 3a*ove all' str!ct!ralism and str!ct!ral (!nctionalism4. Bo!rdie!
considers social li(e as a m!t!all$ constit!ting interaction o( em*odied patterns and
dispositions *$ means o( %&ic& social str!ct!res and t&e em*odied /)no%ledge0 o( t&ese
str!ct!res prod!ce end!ring orientations to action t&at' in t!rn' are constit!tive o( social
str!ct!res. 8t t&is moment t&e classical de(inition o( habitus *$ Bo!rdie! ma$ *e o( some
&elp2 /5&e conditionings associated %it& a partic!lar class o( conditions o( existence prod!ce
t&e habitus' s$stems o( lasting' transposa*le dispositions' str!ct!red str!ct!res predisposed
to (!nction as str!ct!ring str!ct!res' t&at is' as principles %&ic& generate and organi:e
practices and representations and t&at can *e o*-ectivel$ adapted to t&eir o!tcomes %it&o!t
pres!pposing a conscio!s aiming at ends or an express master$ o( t&e operations necessar$
in order to attain t&em. O*-ectivel$ 9reg!lated6 and 9reg!lar6 %it&o!t *eing in an$ %a$ t&e
prod!ct o( o*edience to r!les' t&e$ can *e collectivel$ orc&estrated %it&o!t *eing t&e prod!ct
o( an organi:ing action o( a cond!ctor.0
Or else can t&e habitus *e !nderstood as a
/s$stem o( d!ra*le' transposa*le dispositions %&ic&' integrating past experiences' (!nctions
at ever$ moment as a matrix o( perceptions' appreciations' and actions0.
1n a (e% %ords' t&e habitus comprises percept!al (eat!res and em*odied dispositions
t&at organi:e t&e %a$ individ!als see t&e %orld and act in it. 5&e cognitive str!ct!res %&ic&
social agents implement in t&eir practical dealing %it& t&e social %orld are in (act internali:ed'
em*odied social str!ct!res. <ra%ing on t&e ontological voca*!lar$ o( erlea!"#ont$' it can
*e said t&at t&e habitus is a mediator *et%een t&e invisible and t&e visible. 1n t&e %ords o( a
discerning commentator' indeed' /t&e &a*it!s' *$ giving a (ormal co&erence to actions t&at
are materiall$ extremel$ di((erent' mediates *et%een t&e invisible s$stem o( str!ct!red
relations 3*$ %&ic& actions are s&aped4 and t&e visible actions o( t&e actors 3%&ic& str!ct!re
relations4. D...E 5&e &a*it!s itsel( cannot *e o*served' *!t it can *e o*served in its
act!ali:ations' %&en a 9permissive condition6 (!rnis&es t&e appropriate occasion (or t&e
virt!al disposition to mani(est itsel( in its act!alit$ in relation %it& a partic!lar sit!ation.0
a conse,!ence' %&en t&e /em*odied0 dispositions o( t&e social agents t&at *ecome
displa$ed in t&eir concrete settings 3t&e habitus) merge %it& t&e a!tonomo!s instit!tion t&at
*ecomes o*-ecti(ied in &istor$ 3t&e Bo!rdie!an /(ield04' t&en springs !p t&e doxic experience
t&at t&e agents readil$ accept. 7!c& an /ontological complicit$0 *et%een t&e habitus and t&e
/(ield0' Bo!rdie! arg!es' explains %&$ social agents regard social realit$ as a nat!rall$ given
entit$ rat&er t&an a social constr!ction.
arco!latos 2;;>2 2.
arco!latos 2;;>2 3"4. 7ince t&e &a*it!s activates a (ormer passivit$' it m!st act!ali:e somet&ing t&at
*elongs to t&e past *!t at t&e same time 3&ence t&e cr!cial connection %it& /instit!tion04 m!st provide
somet&ing else in vie% o( t&e (!t!re.
Bo!rdie! >?8;a2 53. Bo!rdie! pres!pposes a &ig& degree o( commonalit$ in t&e experience o( di((erent
individ!als %&o are mem*ers o( t&e same social class.
Bo!rdie! 2;;32 83.
Fanden*erg&e >???2 48"4?.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page &: of '(
Firt!all$ all commentators conc!r in perceiving t&e doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0 as t&e
(inest introd!ction to Bo!rdie!6s t&o!g&t2 /5&ere is m!c& erlea!"#ont$ co!ld learn (rom
Bo!rdie!' &is 9sociological &eir6.0
Or else2 /5&e ending point (or erlea!"#ont$ is t&e
starting point (or Bo!rdie!.0
1n even star)er accents2 /Reading erlea!"#ont$ is li)e
reading a p&ilosop&ical commentar$ on Bo!rdie!.0
ore precisel$ p!t2 /5&e Bo!rdie!an
de(inition o( 9practical sense6 and o( habitus as %ell' ma$ *e read as an acc!rate sociological
exempli(ication o( erlea!"#ont$an p&enomenolog$ o( perception.0
8nd stressing
Bo!rdie!6s main point2 /erlea!"#ont$ deals onl$ %it& t&e general str!ct!re o( perception
and action. 1t is Bo!rdie!6s notion o( habitus t&at (inall$ ma)es t&ese ideas concrete. +is !se
o( p&enomenological ontolog$ allo%s !s to see in %&at %a$ t&e *odil$ &a*it!s anc&ors t&e
&omologies and analogies o( t&e social (ield' to %&at degree t&e a*ilit$ to respond
appropriatel$ to events in t&e %orld arises (rom s)ills %it&o!t reco!rse to r!les and
representations' and in %&at manner t&e (act o( *eing somet&ing in t&e social %orld is
determined *$ and reciprocall$ determines practice.0
1t m!st *e conceded' in an$ case' t&at Bo!rdie!6s t&o!g&t lengt&ens t&e doctrine o(
t&e /instit!tion0' as &is o%n %ords ma)e plain2 /+istorical sciences mig&t tr$ to !nderstand
D...E t&e genesis o( t&e dispositions Ei. e.) t&e habitusF t&at &ave invented t&emselves -2ui se
sont invent3s) as t&e (ields constit!ted t&emselves -8 mesure 2ue les champs se
constituaient)) and %&ic& t&ro!g& t&e learning process slo%l$ engrave t&emselves
-s4inscrivent peu 8 peu) on t&e *odies.0
1n t&e %a)e o( erlea!"#ont$6s p&ilosop&$'
indeed' t&e Bo!rdie!an habitus came o!t as a manner o( promoting a (orm o( integration o(
experience and !nderstanding t&at con(ronted t&e possi*ilit$ o( /openness to t&ings %it&o!t
concept0 and %&ic& in a sense prevails over t&e simpler post"Cartesian !rge to%ards
intellect!al possession and over(l$ing evidence. 5&e habitus is indeed an extremel$
am*itio!s notion' (or it p!rports to designate t&e s$stem o( d!ra*le and transposa*le
dispositions *$ means o( %&ic& %e perceive' -!dge' and act in t&e %orld. 5&ese !nconscio!s
sc&emata are ac,!ired %&en external constraints and possi*ilities *ecome internali:ed
t&ro!g& lasting expos!re to partic!lar social conditions and conditionings.
1t is also all!ring to consider t&at' i( (ormerl$ /instit!tion0 acco!nted (or &istor$'
tradition' and time' as intimated a*ove' no% it appears to *e t&e t!rn o( t&e habitus to
el!cidate t&ese t&orn$ iss!es. 1n Bo!rdie!6s o%n %ords' /t&e habitus' t&e prod!ct o( &istor$'
prod!ces individ!al and collective practices' and &ence &istor$' in accordance %it& t&e
sc&emas engendered *$ &istor$.0
Ot&er%ise stated' /t&e habitus as em*odied ac,!isition
is presence o( t&e pastCor presence in t&e past tenseCand not remem*rance o( t&e past0
5&is circ!mstance is decisive' since according to Bo!rdie! t&e interpretive apparat!s is
lodged %it&in t&e habitus and not %it&in t&e agent. 8(ter all' &e regards t&e habitus"driven
1t s&o!ld *e pointed o!t t&at t&e &a*it!s is almost never an explicit o*-ect o( intentional a%areness2 /5&e (act
o( collective practice ta)es t&e place o( intention and can &ave t&e e((ect o( prod!cing a s!*-ective experience
and a sense o( instit!tion.0 -%fr. Bo!rdie! >?8;a2 2584
Crossle$ 2;;42 ?>.
Crossle$ 2;;42 >>8.
arco!latos 2;;>2 >.
Bim*enet 2;;62 58.
<re$(!s and Ra*ino% >??32 38.
Bo!rdie! >??72 >54.
Bo!rdie! >?722 ??. Engl. tr.2 82.
Bo!rdie! 2;;32 252.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page &> of '(
social practices as em*odied and pre"cognitive2 /5&e sc&emes o( t&e &a*it!s' t&e primar$
(orms o( classi(ication' o%e t&eir speci(ic e((icac$ to t&e (act t&at t&e$ (!nction *elo% t&e level
o( conscio!sness and lang!age' *e$ond t&e reac& o( introspective scr!tin$ or control *$ t&e

5&e re*!)e (ormerl$ directed to t&e cognitive opacit$ o( /instit!tion0' t&ere(ore' at t&is
time res!r(aces in regard to t&e habitus' to %&ic& a signi(icant /po%er o( o*(!scation0 is no%
attri*!ted. 1t s&o!ld not *e (orgotten t&at t&e pre"conscio!s dispositions o( t&e habitus rest on
a process o( misrecognition and elimination o( possi*ilities. Bo!rdie! is ,!ite clear over t&is
iss!e2 /1( t&e (!t!re is not post!lated as a (ield o( in(inite possi*ilities' it is *eca!se t&e order
(o!nded and de(ended *$ tradition is via*le onl$ %&en it is seen' not as t&e *est possi*le' *!t
t&e onl$ possi*ilit$.0
Examined (rom t&is point o( vie%' t&e ver$ doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0
is an o*vio!s ancestor o( t&e habitus (or it s!pplies a pla!si*le acco!nt o( all &istorical
rigiditiesCt&e gro!nd o( all illusio. I!st t&is notion o( /ill!sio0 3a speci(ic interest t&at res!lts
(rom t&e agents6 investment and commitment to a speci(ic (ield4 is essential to Bo!rdie!6s
criti,!e o( t&e alleged /incorrigi*ilit$ o( conscio!sness0. Onl$ its existence' a(ter all' can
explain t&e so"called /do,ic experience0 o( t&e agents. 8s Ha&ire expresses t&is iss!e'
/according to a p&enomenologicall$ inspired expression o( Bo!rdie!' t&ere is a deep
ontological complicit$ *et%een mental str!ct!res and t&e o*-ective str!ct!res o( t&e social
sit!ation' and t&is complicit$ gro!nds t&e illusio) i. e.) a s!*-ect &as an enc&anted *ond to a
sit!ation' in %&ic& &e (eels li)e a (is& in %ater0.
5&!s t&e cognitive ,!andaries posed *$ t&e notion o( habitus call (ort& t&e di((ic!lties
o( t&e same order t&at' as explained a*ove' appear associated to /instit!tion0. B!t t&ese
s!pposed inade,!acies' paradoxicall$' no% %arrant t&e act!al e((icac$ o( t&e habitus' a
circ!mstance t&at &as *een elo,!entl$ &ig&lig&ted *$ Utienne Bim*enet2 /5&e habitus
amo!nts to a (orce o( o*livion and misrecognition2 social str!ct!res disappear (rom sig&t
%&en t&e$ *ecome in%ardl$ em*odied as 9a lasting and transposa*le s$stem o( dispositions6.
D...E 5&e *od$ nat!rali:es master$' replaces t&e ar*itrariness o( &istoricall$ constit!ted
domination %it& nat!ral legitimac$ Dand t&!s gives raise toE a social traged$ t&at act!all$
red!ces individ!als to 9c!lt!ral dopes6 !ns!ited to a l!cid a%areness o( t&eir o%n social li(e'
*eca!se it s&apes t&eir deepest dispositions and delivers t&em' !n)no%ing and de(enseless'
to t&e constraints o( t&e social (ield0.
1( t&e concept o( /instit!tion0' as stated a*ove' made possi*le to !nderstand agenc$ in
novel anti"intellect!alist %a$s' t&is gro!nd"*rea)ing ac&ievement o( erlea!"#ont$ also
pre(ig!red t&e deeper meaning o( t&e Bo!rdie!an habitus. 1t co!ld even *e said' in &armon$
%it& t&e contentions %&ic& %ill close t&is essa$' t&at erlea!"#ont$6s t&o!g&t !nexpectedl$
provides an incisive !nderstanding o( Bo!rdie!6s. 8n insig&t o( Crossle$ acc!ratel$ o!tlines
t&is !n(oreseen possi*ilit$2 /5&ere is somet&ing more to agenc$ t&an t&e concept o( &a*it
can (!ll$ capt!re. 8nd %e t&ere(ore need to locate o!r concept o( t&e habitus %it&in t&is
*roader conception o( agenc$.0
7een (rom t&e vantage point o((ered *$ Bo!rdie!6s
doctrine' t&en' in retrospect it co!ld even *e said t&at erlea!"#ont$ &ints at a %ide"ranging
Bo!rdie! >?82a2 4>6. Engl. tr. 422. Bo!rdie!6s concept o( &a*it!s parallels erlea!"#ont$6s doctrine o( lived
em*odiment inso(ar as &e intends to replace t&e transcendental s!*-ect %it& t&e sit!ated *od$' conceived as a
so!rce o( practical intentionalit$ and provided %it& t&e capacit$ to constit!te social realit$. Bo!rdie!6s innovation
is t&at t&e &a*it!s poses t&e ,!estion o( t&e origin o( t&e structures o( practical intentionalit$ 3incorporated in t&e
*od$4 (rom a socio"&istorical perspective. +e &istorici:es erlea!"#ont$6s /incarnate intentionalit$0' %&ic&
allo%s &im to in,!ire a*o!t t&e social determinants o( t&e incorporated /str!ct!res or sc&emes t&at t&e agent
p!ts to %or) in order to constr!ct t&e %orld0. 3Bo!rdie! 2;;32 >754
Bo!rdie! >?632 4;.
Ha&ire >??82 54.
Bim*enet 2;;62 65"66. 5&e nested ,!ote2 Bo!rdie! >?722 26>.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page &@ of '(
acco!nt o( &!man practice. 8(ter all' erlea!"#ont$an /meaning(!lness o( &istorical agenc$0
does not di((er m!c& (rom t&e /reason immanent in practices0 identi(ied *$ Bo!rdie!' since
t&is approac& some&o% amo!nts to a parap&rase o( t&e doctrine o( /instit!tion0. 1n
Bo!rdie!6s o%n %ords' patentl$ evocative o( t&e erlea!"#ont$an acco!nt' /t&ere is an
econom$ o( practices' a reason immanent in practices' %&ose 9origin6 resides neit&er in t&e
9decisions6 o( reason !nderstood as rational calc!lation nor in determining mec&anisms t&at
are *ot& external and s!perior to t&e agents0.
5o end t&is section it ma)es sense to disc!ss t&e Bo!rdie!an notion most closel$
associated %it& habitus and %&ic& li)e%ise enlarges t&e doctrine o( t&e /instit!tion0. 1( t&e
habitus in(orms practice (rom %it&in' t&e Bo!rdie!an /(ield0 str!ct!res action and
representation (rom %it&o!t. 1t o((ers t&e individ!al a range o( possi*le stances and moves
t&at s&e can accept and ta)e !p' eac& %it& its associated pro(its' costs' and ens!ing
potentialities. 5&is centralit$ o( t&e Bo!rdie!an /(ield0 &as *een s)ill(!ll$ s!mmari:ed *$
5&eodore 7c&at:)i2 /8 given (ield is governed *$ a &a*it!s 3*atter$ o( practical senses4 t&at
?) is ac,!ired *$ people in gro%ing !p !nder t&e o*-ective conditions c&aracteristic o( t&e
(ield@ &) generates actions t&at perpet!ate t&e practices and conditions (o!nd in t&e (ield@ and
') *esto%s meanings on actions' events' and arrangements t&at people enco!nter t&ere.
.&at is more' t&e actions t&at &a*it!s prod!ces' li)e t&e meanings it (as&ions' are t&ose and
onl$ t&ose t&at are possi*le given' or compati*le %it&' t&e (ield6s o*-ective conditions.0
8s a
perceptive commentator &as p!t it' /Bo!rdie!6s notion o( 9(ield6 seemingl$ capt!res t&e
essence o( erlea!"#ont$6s arg!ments a*o!t instit!tions and str!ct!res0'
%&ic& in
essence means t&at t&is notion competes %it& t&e habitus in *ringing (ort& t&e ,!estioning
drive t&at erlea!"#ont$ placed in t&e /instit!tion0. 1n (act t&e main ac&ievement o( Bo!rdie!
is to &ave replaced t&e !nscienti(ic' naAvel$ pres!med lin) *et%een t&e individ!al and societ$
(or t&e constr!cted relations&ip *et%een habitus and /(ield0. 5&is relations&ip' in ot&er %ords'
connects /&istories incarnate in *odies0 as /dispositions0 %it& /&istor$ o*-ecti(ied in t&ings0
and (orming' in Bo!rdie!6s parlance' t&e corresponding /s$stem o( positions0. Bo!rdie! can
a((irm' t&ere(ore' t&at t&e habitus /contri*!tes to constit!te t&e (ield as a meaning(!l %orld' a
%orld endo%ed %it& sense and val!e' in %&ic& it is %ort& investing one6s energ$.0
Crossle$ 2;;>2 ?6. Crossle$6s paper is signi(icant inso(ar as it appears to impl$ t&at t&e erlea!"#ont$an
/instit!tion0 is t&e missing cog in Bo!rdie!6s concept!al mac&iner$. 8cco!nting (or t&e /generative role o(
agenc$0 in Bo!rdie!6s t&o!g&t' indeed' in Crossle$6s vie% demands /a more ela*orate conception o( t&e agent
%&ose action generates &a*its0. +e stresses t&e (act' a*ove all' t&at /actions and interactions give rise to ne%
c!lt!ral (orms and repertories' often to the surprise of their Ccreator4. -$bid.* ?6' o!r emp&asis4. Crossle$6s
insistence on /t&e s!*-ective side o( t&e social %orld0 -$bid.* ?84 also intimates t&at t&e concept o( /instit!tion0'
as erlea!"#ont$ !nderstands it' %o!ld c&ec) t&e Bo!rdie!an propensit$ /to s!ggest' (or example' t&at
conditions o( material scarcit$ prod!ce &a*its o( t&is or t&at )ind automatically0' %&ic& in its t!rn %o!ld &elp to
explain /&o% &a*its are generated' modi(ied' or indeed (itted to t&e exigencies o( material li(e circ!mstances0
3$bid.* ?6' o!r emp&asis4. 1n o!r vie% it is startling t&at t&e o*-ections addressed *$ Crossle$ to t&e doctrine o(
t&e &a*it!s are *etter overcome' in (act' *$ appealing to t&e latter ontological notions o( erlea!"#ont$6s
t&o!g&t t&an *$ calling !pon &is earlier *odil$"percept!al contentions. 5&is proced!re is endorsed *$ Crossle$'
t&o!g&' %&en &e asserts (or instance t&at /&a*it involves a modi(ication and enlargement o( t&e corporeal
sc&ema' an incorporation o( ne% 9principles6 o( action and )no%"&o% t&at permit ne% %a$s o( acting and
!nderstanding0 3$bid.* >;44. Extending t&e erlea!"#ont$an doctrine o( t&e instit!tion %it& &is o%n' later
ontological approac& 3t&!s (ollo%ing t&e main dri(t o( &is t&o!g&t4 explains &o% &a*it is act!all$ generated and
in its t!rn gives (inall$ its (!ll' satis(actor$ sense to t&e concept o( /instit!tion0.
Bo!rdie! >?8;a2 57. Engl. tr.2 5;.
7c&at:)i 2;;22 >43.
Crossle$ 2;;42 >>8.
Bo!rdie! >??2*2 38.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page &A of '(
The doctrine of the habitus may overcome its failings
if finally corrected according to #erleau-$onty%s thought
Mevert&eless' Bo!rdie!6s e((orts to present t&e &a*it!s as an eminentl$ conciliator$
notion are open to criticism. 8s it is %ell )no%n' &is com*ined treatments o( &a*it!s and
(ields propose a *lend o( social str!ct!re and str!ct!redPstr!ct!ring dispositions t&at' in
Bo!rdie!6s vie%' delivers a sp!rning ans%er to traditional d!alisms. 1ndeed t&e &a*it!s is
s!pposed to mediate *et%een internalism and externalism' micro and macro approac&es'
str!ct!ralism and constr!ctivism' materialism and idealism' intellect!alism and realism'
o*-ectivism and s!*-ectivism. 5&ese d!alist approac&es' occasionall$ expanded into t&e
traditional antagonism o( (reedom versus determinism' allegedl$ are le(t *e&ind *$ t&e
habitus' in virt!e o( its capacit$ to preserve t&e ac&ievements sec!red *$ eac& point o( vie%.
Being a sociall$ constit!ted s$stem o( cognitive and motivating str!ct!res' t&e &a*it!s seems
to *e Bo!rdie!6s main instr!ment in &is e((ort to explain &o% it is possi*le t&at agents
reprod!ce o*-ective conditions t&ro!g& t&eir cognition and practices.
5&ese e((orts to see in t&e habitus a mediator or re(eree *et%een time"%orn d!alisms
not%it&standing' it is act!all$ an eminentl$ str!ct!ral (eat!re in spite o( its *eing
s$stematicall$ attri*!ted to speci(ic &!man *eings. 1ndeed t&e habitus is presented'
according to t&e esta*lis&ed description' as /a s!*-ective *!t non"individ!al s$stem o(
internali:ed str!ct!res' common sc&emes o( perception' conception and action0' %&ic&
clearl$ amo!nts to a str!ct!ral variation or deviation 3a /co&erent de(ormation0' erlea!"
#ont$ %o!ld &ave said4 %it&in t&e arra$ o( a class or gro!p &a*it!s' o( %&ic& t&e individ!al
appears to *e merel$ a s!pporter or carrier. $ndividuals) in a word) are not thought of by
Bourdieu as the ;ey unit of analysis. 1n (act t&e &a*it!s emerges as t&e social device *$
%&ic& /macro0 p&enomena str!ct!re *ot& t&e cognitive and practical demeanors o( agents'
%&ic& in t!rn reprod!ce t&e conditions t&at &ave conditioned t&em. Bot& cognition and
practice' indeed' o*-ectivel$ reconstit!te all macrostr!ct!res *eca!se t&e$ mediate *et%een
t&eir o*-ective conditions and t&e contingencies %&ic& arise in an$ given sit!ation. 1t is
important to notice t&at Bo!rdie! does not present t&e habitus as i( it %ere a po%er %it& t&e
same standing as t&e o*-ective str!ct!res %it& %&ic& it interacts. On t&e contrar$' t&e
habitus is t&o!g&t to *e distinctl$ derivative' conditioned *$ an o*-ective"str!ct!ral position
and destined to reprod!ce o*-ective"str!ct!ral conditions. 8dmittedl$' t&e habitus cannot *e
red!ced to a mere transmitter o( o*-ective conditions 3o*-ective str!ct!res engender
dispositions' %&ic& in t!rn generate practices4' *!t it &ardl$ %ields t&e explanator$
dominance t&at Bo!rdie! assigns to o*-ective conditions.
Bo!rdie!6s doctrine o( t&e habitus' in a %ord' even i( set apart *$ t&e grace o( &aving
a*sor*ed s!*-ectivit$ as a central *!t distinctl$ s!*altern dimension o( t&e social %orld'
appears to *e a re%or)ing o( %ell"%orn o*-ectivist approac&es. Bo!rdie! considers t&at
str!ct!res operate /*e&ind t&e *ac)s0 o( agents or at most *$ means o( t&eir !nconscio!s
involvement. +e treats o*-ective str!ct!res as prior to t&e &a*it!s and' *$ extension' to
practices' %&ic& t&e$ t&oro!g&l$ condition %it&o!t *eing conditioned *$ t&em in t&e (irst
instance. 1n conse,!ence' and despite &is repeated denials 3&e persistentl$ ac)no%ledges
t&e s!*-ective experience o( t&e individ!als' %&ose practices are allegedl$ cr!cial in (orming
o*-ective str!ct!res4' Bo!rdie! tends *ot& to rei($ str!ct!res and to ironici:e
experience o( t&e agents. 5&e determinist t&r!st o( &is doctrine cannot *e overseen' and its
(ail!re to explain re(lexivit$ is apparent. #artic!larl$' Bo!rdie!6s acco!nt o( &o% inc!lcated
dispositions reprod!ce str!ct!ral determinations disregards all occasions o( reinterpreting
c!lt!ral meanings. +is social agents are /c!lt!ral d!pes0 or /s$m*olic (ools0 since t&e$
cannot re(lect !pon 3and t&ere(ore trans(orm4 t&e dispositions t&e$ &ave *een sociali:ed into.
+ere t&e term /ironici:e0 intends to condense t&e mani(old dismissal' %&ic& veers (rom damaged or c!rtailed
to !nrelia*le and d!ped' t&at Bo!rdie! in(licts to t&e individ!als6 acco!nt o( str!ct!ral o*-ectivit$.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page 'B of '(
5&e re"application o( erlea!"#ont$6s doctrine o( t&e instit!tion on t&e Bo!rdie!an
legac$' so %e contend' ma$ overcome t&ese (ailings. 7een in its lig&t' t&e act!al habituses
appear to *e m!c& more t&an a simple internali:ation o( social norms' a non"intellect!al
re(lection over t&emselves %&ic&' paradoxicall$' ma$ &ave sociall$ reprod!ctive
Hi)e%ise' t&e position o( eac& individ!al in a Bo!rdie!an /(ield0' seen (rom
t&e vantage point o( t&e /instit!tion0' transcends t&e straig&t(or%ard topological sit!ation t&at
%as assigned to &er *$ t&e speci(ic distri*!tion o( capitals t&at (orm t&e (ield' and is act!all$
/attained0 or /ac,!ired0 3in a process not !nli)e t&at %&ic& ens!res perception4 in virt!e o(
t&e (ield6s o*-ective arrangement. 31n t&is respect come immediatel$ to mind t&e erlea!"
#ont$an description o( &o% an artist /con,!ers0 &er st$le over &er (ello% artists' over &er
%orldl$ circ!mstances' and most signi(icantl$ over &er o%n initial' cl!ms$ attempts. 8lso &is
acco!nt ma$ *e called (ort& o( &o% t&is st$le' once (o!nd' *ecomes sta*ili:ed t&ro!g& a )ind
o( social ac)no%ledgment %&ic& *asicall$ amo!nts to t&e imperative t&at it s&o!ld not *e
identical to an$ ot&er' since ever$ &int at coincidence %o!ld mean repetition o( a st$le t&at
alread$ exists' t&!s excl!ding t&e trans(ormation or trans(ig!ration t&at (or ever$ st$le is t&e
onl$ compelling sign o( li(e.4 1n s&ort2 (or an individ!al to ac,!ire even a tacit and p!rel$
practical !nderstanding o( &er &a*it!s 3or conversel$' to gain an operant grip on &er position
in a given (ield4' s&e m!st &ave reco!rse to an /expressive0 practice' as erlea!"#ont$
%o!ld p!t it. Using &is voca*!lar$ %e ma$ contend' precisel$' t&at onl$ an ade,!ate
/dimensionali:ation0 o( t&e partic!larities t&at con(ig!re an individ!al6s position in a (ield' or
else t&eir /co&erent de(ormation0' is apt to provide t&e pre"o*-ective' lived *!t tacit
signi(icance t&at a (!nctioning habitus demands. 5&is re,!est o( initiative and improvisation
entails t&at a strict repetition can never ta)e place. 1n (act Bo!rdie! cannot %arrant &is
intimation t&at an ingredient o( inventiveness c&ec)s t&e a*sol!te determinism imposed *$
t&e str!ct!res.
5&ese erlea!"#ont$an' second"degree improvements seem to c&allenge %it& a
si:ea*le prospect o( s!ccess t&e antagonism *et%een /macro0 and /micro0 approac&es' t&!s
e((ectivel$ ending t&e de*ate *et%een str!ct!ralism and constr!ctivism' or intellect!alism
and realism. 8*ove all' t&e act!all$ operant habitus' altoget&er !n"o*-ectiva*le and
intellect!all$ opa,!e to its o%ner'
at once appears to *e a sort o( /inner sc&eme0 %&ic&
res!lts (rom a perception"li)e operation o( transcendence. 8ccording to erlea!"#ont$' /t&e
same given t&at at (irst %as end!red' no% *ecomes a signi($ing s$stem0.
5&e constraints
o( t&e /(ield0' in ot&er %ords'

m!st *e activel$ (aced *$ a Jestalt"li)e' co&erent de(ormation
3t&at is' an active' instit!ting gest!re' amo!nting to t&e imposition o( a st$le or an inner
7ee =orster 2;;5.
5&e iss!e a*o!t meaning' Jestalt' or st$le 3/pre"o*-ective and pre"concept!al generalit$0 Derlea!"#ont$
>?6?2 63E4 not pre"existing to t&eir enactment s&o!ld *e di((erentiated (rom t&e (act t&at t&e$ cannot *e
recogni:ed *$ t&e individ!al or t&e gro!p t&at &as (irst so!g&t and t&en (o!nd t&em 3erlea!"#ont$ gives t&e
examples o( t&e painter' t&e %riter' or even a p&ilosop&$ in relation to its o%n time4. 5&e pro*lem o( &istorical
incommens!ra*ilit$ and o( c!lt!ral relativism in general appears t&!s overcome. 8 given c!lt!re onl$ &as
meaning (or ot&er c!lt!res and &ence does not generate *$ itsel( its speci(ic signi(icance.
erlea!"#ont$ >?6?2 >;5. Emp&asis in t&e original. 1t s&o!ld *e pointed o!t t&at t&is m!tation is not to *e
s!*s!med !nder an$ (orm o( covering la%. 7!c& anomalo!sness involves t&e elements o( a %&ole in spite o(
t&e immanent necessit$ t&at *inds t&em' and t&!s does not coincide %it& t&e anomalo!sness c!rrentl$
disc!ssed in p&ilosop&$ o( mind or in sociolog$ o( p&ilosop&ical )no%ledge. 35&e instit!tion' st$le' Jestalt'
co&erent de(ormation' or in s&ort2 t&e /elective a((init$0 concerning Calvinism and Capitalism' onl$ to re(er a
notorio!s example' is not exporta*le to ot&er &istorical correspondences o( religio!s"economical variet$.4 5&ese
disciplines' *$ t&e %a$' operate also %it& t&e concept o( /m!ltiple reali:a*ilit$0 %&ic& in order to dispel
mis!nderstandings it is %ort&%&ile to oppose to t&e (ig!re o( t&o!g&t t&at s!r(aces in o!r context %&en erlea!"
#ont$ points o!t to /t&ose st$les t&at el!de t&e sig&t o( t&eir creator and t&at onl$ *ecome visi*le %&en t&e
!se!m assem*les t&e %or)s dispersed across t&e eart&0 3erlea!"#ont$ >?6?2 ?64. 5&is -!sti(ies t&at
at&eistic t&o!g&t ma$ con(ront sacred %or)s' or even o!r reprise o( exotic and remote artistic (orms' (or t&e$
secretl$ started a &istor$ t&at is also o!rs.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page '? of '(
sc&eme4 %&ic& %ill prod!ce t&e *!ndle o( /proposals o( signi(icance0 called /motivation0 *$
8(ter all' t&e tr!t& o( reall$ /motivated0 agenc$ is not /o*-ectivated0 agenc$.
1t is not agenc$ cooled do%n. 1t is agenc$ *ecoming itsel(' act!all$ &appening' %it& t&e
contin!o!s invention and improvisation t&at it demands. 5&is contention condenses t&e
erlea!"#ont$an antidote against t&e o*-ectivating' determinist t&r!st o( t&e &a*it!s.
5&is revisionist point o( vie% also &elps to dispel a n!m*er o( !ncertainties. 1(
according to Bo!rdie!6s speci(ication t&e &a*it!s comprises sc&emes o( perception'
cognition' and action' it is *eca!se it demands t&e instit!tion 3or else t&e reprise o( %&at &as
*een alread$ instit!ted4 o( tacit perceptive signi(icance' o( tacit cognitive signi(icance' and o(
tacit comportmental signi(icance. /5o !nderstand t&e origin o( signi(icance DQE demands to
(ace t&e pro*lem o( &o% and !nder %&at conditions a given o*-ect or a given circ!mstance
start signi($ing -se mettent 8 signifier).0
1n t&is respect' t&e s&ared arc&et$pe t&at
el!cidates t&e instit!tion o( t&ese /signi(icances0 is no ot&er t&an t&e #sens perceptif as
speci(ied *$ erlea!"#ont$2 /a perceptive signi(icance' imprisoned in t&e visi*le
con(ig!ration' *!t nevert&eless a*le to collect in itsel(' in a sort o( eternit$ to *e contin!all$
re"made' a complete series o( (ormerl$ sedimented expressions0.
5&is re(erence to
/sedimentation0' o( co!rse' places t&e possi*ilit$ o( /re"ass!ming t&e %&ole past in o!r lived
present0 !nder t&e condition t&at /t&is s$nt&esis' in parallel to %&at &appens in t&e perceived
%orld' remains attac&ed to pre"o*-ective order and is ,!estioned *$ eac& element involved0'
raising in conse,!ence /an exc&ange o( anticipations and o( metamorp&oses0.
post!late o( a /second &istoricit$0' la*eled *$ erlea!"#ont$ #historicit3 de vie
noticea*le in painting and in lang!age 3al*eit onl$ in /operant0 lang!age4' condenses all t&e
possi*le developments o( an anomalo!s' immanent and eminentl$ non"o*-ectiva*le
.e *elieve to &ave proved' t&ere(ore' t&at Bo!rdie!6s t&o!g&t' (ormerl$ spr!ng (rom
erlea!"#ont$6s earl$ doctrine' ma$ overcome all its aporiae i( d!l$ re"erlea!"#ont$ni:ed.
.e concede t&at Bo!rdie!6s habitus s!rmo!nted some o( t&e s&ortcomings o( erlea!"
#ont$6s doctrine o( instit!tion. B!t %e also contend t&at t&e erlea!"#ont$an !nderstanding
o( &o% motivation arises and o( &o% anomalo!s and non"o*-ectiva*le normativit$ develops'
is needed to c&ec) t&e noticea*le tendenc$ to%ards determinism and red!ctionism t&at mars
t&e t&eor$ o( t&e habitus. 35&e vicissit!des !nder%ent *$ t&e concept o( /instit!tion0'
incidentall$' are in (act a &app$ and enlig&tening instance o( &o% act!al instit!tions %or).4
ace Bo!rdie!' onl$ t&e erlea!"#ont$an correction o( &is doctrine ac&ieves t&e satis(actor$
compromise *et%een internalism and externalism' str!ct!ralism and constr!ctivism'
intellect!alism and realism' o*-ectivism and s!*-ectivism %&ic& &e longed (or all &is li(e. 5&e
reprise o( erlea!"#ont$an /instit!tion0 *$ Bo!rdie!' as %e *elieve to &ave s&o%n' demands
7ee .rat&all 2;;5. O( co!rse t&e res!ltant o( s!c& constraints cannot *e s&ared *$ an$*od$ else. 1( t&ere is
reprise' t&ere m!st *e trans(ormation as %ell' since repetition %o!ld *e t&e deat& o( reprise.
erlea!"#ont$ %ields t&e el!cidating (orce o( instit!tion' st$le' signi(icance or Jestalt' %&ic& operates *$ %a$
o( motivations' against t&e alleged primac$ o( externalism' *ent on explaining *$ means o( ca!ses. +e tacitl$
proposes a variet$ o( internalism (orever co!pled to exteriorit$' %&ere t&e determining iss!e is t&e Jestalt
(ormed *$ t&e relevant items on t&e t%o sides' and %&ere t&e e((ect o( a /good0 Jestalt ta)es t&e place o( t&e
%illed action. +e goes so (ar' in a re(erence to 7tend&al' as to amalgamate /t&e r&$t&ms o( &is %rat&0 %it& /&is
sensi*ilit$ to%ards ot&er people0 -%fr. erlea!"#ont$ >?6?2 >244.
erlea!"#ont$ >?6?2 82.
erlea!"#ont$ >?6?2 >23. 5&is claim to perceptive signi(icance %ill &elp !s to )eep in mind t&at instit!tion'
meaning or st$le' even t&o!g& t&e$ displa$ a concrete and &ence anomalo!s necessit$' are ever so !n(inis&ed
and !nattaina*le as is perception' its eminent prime example.
erlea!"#ont$ >?6?2 >54.
erlea!"#ont$ >?6?2 >;> and >;3.
#$nstitution at the %rossroads page '& of '(
its necessar$ i( anac&ronistic ac&ievement in terms o( earlier erlea!"#ont$an contentions.
.&ile %e grant t&at Bo!rdie! oriented &is t&o!g&t in erlea!"#ont$6s %a)e' it mig&t *e
added in concl!sion t&at &e %as not erlea!"#ont$an eno!g&.
8rnason' Io&ann 3>??34. /erlea!"#ont$ and ax .e*er2 8n Un(inis&ed <ialog!e0. Thesis
0leven ':* 82"?8.
Bar*aras' Rena!d 3>??84. /He dBdo!*lement de l6originaire0 in R. Bar*aras 3ed.4'
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