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Towards a Reflexive Sociology: A Workshop with Pierre Bourdieu

Author(s): Loic J. D. Wacquant


Source: Sociological Theory, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring, 1989), pp. 26-63
Published by: American Sociological Association
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TOWARDS A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY
A WORKSHOP WITH PIERRE BOURDIEU*
Loic J. D. WACQUANT
Department of Sociology, The University of Chicago

SOME NOTES ON THE RECEPTION analysis of classes, religion, kinship, sports,


OF BOURDIEU'S WORK IN AMERICA politics, law, and intellectuals), Bourdieu's
voluminous oeuvre2presents a multi-faceted
Over the last two decades, the work of
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has challenge to the present divisions and
accepted modes of thinking of sociology.
emerged as one of the most innovative, Chief among the cleavages it is striving to
wide-ranging, and influential bodies of straddle are those which separate theory
theories and research in contemporary
from research, sever the analysis of the
social science.1 Cutting deeply across the
symbolic from that of materiality, and
disciplinary boundaries that delimit socio-
oppose subjectivist and objectivist modes
logy, anthropology, education, cultural of knowledge (Bourdieu 1973c, 1977a,
history, linguistics, and philosophy, as well
as across a broad spectrum of areas of 1980a). Thus Bourdieu has for some time
forsaken the two antinomies which have
specialized sociological inquiry (from the
recently come to the forefront of theoretical
study of peasants, art, unemployment, discussions, those of structure and action
schools, fertility, and literature to the on the one hand, and of micro- versus
* The interview
part of this text is based on a series
macro-analysis on the other.3
of discussions with, and transcripts of talks by, Pierre In circumventing or dissolving these and
Bourdieu, held alternately in French and in English other dichotomies (see Bourdieu 1987e,
over a period of several months in Chicago and Paris. 1988c, 1988e; also Brubaker 1985, pp.
The initial core of the article comes from remarks
made by Professor Bourdieu in debate with the 749-753), Bourdieu has been insistently
participants to the Graduate Workshop on Pierre pointing to the possibility of a unified
Bourdieu, a group of doctoral students at the political economy of practice, and especially
University of Chicago who studied his work intensively of symbolic power, that fuses structural
during the Winter Quarter of 1987. These conversa- and phenomenologically-inspired ap-
tions and "oral publications"were later complemented
by written exchanges and subsequently edited (and in
proaches into a coherent, epistemologically
part rewritten) by Loic J.D. Wacquant, who also grounded, mode of social inquiry of uni-
added the notes and references. We are grateful to versal applicability-an Anthropologie in
the Social Sciences Division of the University of the Kantian sense of the term, but one that
Chicago for a small grant that made this Workshop is highly distinctive in that it explicitly
possible and to Professor Bourdieu for kindly agreeing
to submit himself to a full day of intense questioning. encompasses the activity of the social
Finally, I would like to thank Daniel Breslau, W. analyst who sets out to offer theoretical
Rogers Brubaker, and Craig J. Calhoun for their
helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of the intro- 2 Bourdieu is the author of some 25 books and
ductory notes (for which I alone bear responsibility)
and Norbert Wiley for his friendly support of the approximately 250 articles (not including translations)
whole project. and it is impossible to even mention them all in this
essay. The References include a selection of his
'See the bibliographical references in fine for a major publications, with a special emphasis on those
sample of recent discussions of Bourdieu's sociology. available in English.
3 For reasons that will become obvious below, it is
By far the best overview is Brubaker (1985). Several
books in English devoted to Bourdieu's work are in fundamentally mistaken to include Bourdieu among
the making. The Center for Psychosocial Studies in the proponents of "structuration theory," as Miinch
Chicago recently organized a conference on "The (1989, p. 101) does, if only because his theory of
Social Theory of Pierre Bourdieu" which drew practice predates Giddens' scheme (1979, 1984) by a
together anthropologists, philosophers, sociologists, decade and more. For a condensed statement of the
and linguists from the United States, France, Great dialectic of habitus and field, or position and dis-
Britain, and Germany; a volume is planned under the positions, by which the French sociologist dissolves
editorship of Craig Calhoun, Edward LiPuma, and the micro/macro opposition, see Bourdieu (1980d
Moishe Postone. and 1981c).

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 27

accounts of the practices of others (Bour- more structuralargument to the conception


dieu 1980b, 1982a, 1987a, 1988a). Bour- of action expounded in Outline of a Theory
dieu's writings are also unique in that they of Practice (Bourdieu 1972, 1977a) that
comprise and blend the full range of underlies it, or even to his prolific research
sociological styles, from painstaking ethno- on the genesis and social efficacy of
graphic accounts to sophisticated mathe- systems of classification and meaning in
matical modelling to highly abstract meta- educational institutions (e.g., Bourdieu,
theoretical and philosophical arguments.4 Passeron, and de Saint Martin 1965; Bour-
Yet, curiously, this work which is so dieu and de Saint Martin 1974; Bourdieu
catholic and systematic in both intent and 1967a, 1974b, 1981b). As a result, under-
scope has typically been apprehended in standing of Bourdieu's so-called "repro-
"bits and pieces" and incorporated piece- duction theory," a staple in the sociology
meal. Garnham and Williams's (1980, p. of education, has been substantially ham-
209) warning that such "fragmentary and pered. Jay MacLeod's (1987) otherwise
partial absorption of what is a rich and excellent ethnographic study of leveled
unified body of theory and related empirical aspirations among working-class youth in
work across a range of fields. . .can lead to an American public housing project pro-
a danger of seriously misreadingthe theory" vides us with an exemplary instance of such
has proved premonitory. If a selected systematic misconstrual.
number of his theories and concepts have Because he relies nearly exclusively on
been used extensively, and sometimes the theoretical expose sketched in the first
quite effectively, by American social scien- part of Reproduction and, even more so,
tists working in specific areas of research on secondary interpretations of Bourdieu
or theorizing,5 by and large, Bourdieu's by American commentators,8 MacLeod
work in globo remains widely misunder-
stood and misinterpreted, as the mutually Classic" by the International Scientific Institute which
exclusive critiques frequently addressed to puts out the Social Science Citation Index. Bourdieu
it testify. The encyclopedic reach of his (1989c) reflects upon this. His piece on "Social
Reproduction and Cultural Reproduction" (Bourdieu
particular investigations has tended to hide 1973b) is also frequently referred to as representative
the underlying unity of Bourdieu's over- of his sociology of education, if not of his whole
arching purpose and reasoning. sociology.
s For
Perhaps more than in any other country, instance, MacLeod (1987, p. 11, my empha-
the reception of Bourdieu's work in sis), refers to Bourdieu as "a prominent French
America, and to a comparable degree in reproduction theorist." Ignorance of Bourdieu's em-
pirical research is so total that MacLeod (1987, p. 14)
Great Britain,6 has been characterized by is able to quote approvingly Swartz's (1977, p. 553)
fragmentation and piecemeal appropriations statement that "many of [Bourdieu's] most interesting
that have obfuscated the systematic nature insights and theoretical formulations are presented
and novelty of his enterprise. Thus, to take without empirical backing." When discussing the
substance of Bourdieu's concepts or propositions,
but a few instances of such partial and MacLeod repeatedly quotes not from Bourdieu's
splintered readings, specialists of education own writings but from positions attributed to him by
quote profusely Reproduction in Educa- Giroux (on school legitimation, p. 12; on the definition
tion, Society and Culture (Bourdieu and of habitus, p. 138) and Swartz (on determinism in the
circular relationship between structure and practice,
Passeron 1977),7 but seldom relate its
p. 14). This leads MacLeod to present as assessment
of Bourdieu that features as omissions and short-
4
E.g., Bourdieu (1973d, 1979d); Bourdieu et al. comings what have been the very core and strengths
(1966, pp. 115-128), Bourdieu and Darbel (1966), of the latter's sociology: "Bourdieu underestimates
Bourdieu and de Saint Martin (1987); and Bourdieu the achievement ideology's capacity to mystify struc-
(1979b, 1982a) and Bourdieu and Passeron (1977, tural constraints and encourage high aspirations" (p.
Book I) respectively. 126; compare with the critique of the meritocratic
See Lamont and Larreau (1988) for a survey of ideology set out in Bourdieu and Passeron's [1979]
the diverse uses of Bourdieu's concept of "cultural The Inheritors, a book considered by many to have
capital" in American research and the bibliography been the Bible of the student movement in May 1968,
they cite. or with Bourdieu's development of the concepts of
' See Robbins (1988) for a recapitulation of the
misrecognition and symbolic power [e.g., Bourdieu
early English reception of Bourdieu.
7 This 1979b]), and ignores "the cultural level of analysis"
book was recently pronounced a "Citation (p. 153)!

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28 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

assigns to Bourdieu exactly the kind of assign to a revised theory of habitus-


objectivist, structuralist position that the mediating between structure and practice
latter has discarded and self-consciously -is that which has, from the outset, been
set himself the task of overcoming since one of the French sociologist's foremost
the mid-sixties (e.g., Bourdieu, Boltanski motives behind his reactivation of this old
et al. 1965, pp. 17-23; Bourdieu 1968b and philosophical notion (Bourdieu 1967b,
1973c; Bourdieu 1972, pp. 155-200). Un- 1984a, 1985c, 1987a). The final irony,
apprised of the extensive and varied then, is that far from refuting Bourdieu's
empirical work in which the French socio- "theory" as he maintains,'2 MacLeod's
logist has addressed the very issues he ethnography strongly supports it and
grapples with (namely, why and how undercuts the very distortions popularized
agents who occupy similar objective posi- by critics like Swartz and Giroux on which
tions in social space come to develop this author bases his contentions.
different, even opposite, systems of ex- If sociologists of education rarely extend
pectations and aspirations; under what themselves beyond surface interpretations
conditions such aspirations turn out to be of Reproduction to include Bourdieu's
the internalization of objective chances; empirical and anthropologicalundertakings,
how misrecognition and ideological dis- conversely, anthropologists refer liberally
tortion induce the dominated to accept to Outline of A Theory of Practice (Bour-
their exclusion as legitimate),9 MacLeod dieu 1972, 1977a), which has acquired the
presents a truncated snapshot of Bourdieu status of a classic in their field, or to
that entrenches the deterministicmisreading Bourdieu's rich and penetrating ethno-
of his work. ' Having thoroughly mis- graphies of Algerian peasants and urban
rendered it, the author of Ain't Making It workers (Bourdieu 1962a, 1964, 1965,
then finds it necessary to "reinvent" Bour- 1973a, 1973d, 1979c; Bourdieu and Sayad
dieu's theory of habitus in an attempt to 1964), but typically overlook his more
overcome the duality of structure and sociological forays on school processes,
agency and the dead-end of structural intellectuals, class relations, and on the
causation: the "theoretical deepening" of economy of cultural goods in advanced
the concept he claims to effect (MacLeod societies, forays that are directly germane
1987, pp. 139-48) retraces, in a very to, buttress, and amplify his anthropological
rudimentary fashion, some of the very arguments. The effect in this case has been
steps taken before him by Bourdieu" and to truncate both the empirical under-
the new theoretical function he pretends to pinnings of Bourdieu's rethinking of the
nature and limits of anthropological knowl-
9
edge and to obscure the rationale that
See, on French students, Bourdieu (1973b, underlies his importation of materialist
1974b), Bourdieu and Passeron (1979); on this same
dialectic of objective chances and subjective hopes
12
among Algerian proletarians, Bourdieu et al. (1963), "The circular relationship Bourdieu posits be-
Bourdieu (1973a, 1979c); on class strategies, Bourdieu tween objective opportunities and subjective hopes is
(1978b), Bourdieu and Boltanski (1977), and the incompatible with the findingsof this book" (MacLeod
detailed discussion in "Class Future and the Causality 1987, p. 138). See Bourdieu (1974a, 1980d, 1988c)
of the Probable" (Bourdieu 1974a). and Harker (1984) for an effective refutation of the
"' "His is a radical critique of a situation that is "circularity" thesis. Thus the French sociologist
essentially immutable" (McLeod 1987, p. 14). This (Bourdieu 1974a, p. 5) warns that we "must avoid
interpretation resonates with those of Jenkins (1982) unconsciously universalizing the model of the quasi-
and Collins (1981), among others. circular relationship of quasi-perfect reproduction
11 McLeod which is adequate only in those [particular] cases
(1987, p. 138 and 128) argues, for
instance, that the system of dispositions acquired by where the conditions of production of habitus and the
agents is shaped by gender, family, educational and conditions of its functioning are identical or homo-
occupational history as well as residence and that the thetical." In fact, it is hard to think of anyone who
limited social mobility allowed by liberal democracies would agree more with the chief conclusion of Ain't
serves to legitimate inequality. Both of these pro- No Makin' It that "social reproduction is a complex
positions are elaborated by Bourdieu at great length process" than Bourdieu, who has devoted a quarter
throughout his work (see in particular Bourdieu and of a century of intense research to documenting and
Passeron 1977 and 1979; Bourdieu 1974a and 1984a, penetrating this complexity (e.g., Bourdieu 1987f and
especially pp. 101-114, 167-175). 1989a, Bourdieu and de Saint Martin 1987).

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 29

critique into the realm of culture (Bourdieu as was hinted above, commentators often
1986a, 1988c). Even recent discussions of pidgeon-hole him in some empirical sub-
Distinction (Bourdieu 1984a), a summa of specialty and limit their exegesis to that
research-cum-theorizing where the French portion of his research that falls within its
sociologist brings together many of the purview, ignoring the extensions, revisions
topics and themes that exercised him and and corrections Bourdieu may have made
his research team over the preceding when studying similar processes in a differ-
fifteen years, rarely break out of this ent social setting. By seeking thus to
narrow vision: none of the major extended "retranslate" Bourdieu's work into home-
reviews of the book (Douglas 1981, Hoff- grown, or at least more familiar, theoretical
man 1986, Berger 1986, Garnham 1986, idioms (for instance, as a combination of
Zolberg 1986) mentions either Outline or Blau and Giddens, with a touch of Goffman
its companion volume Le sens pratique and Collins)16or to apportion or assimilate
(Bourdieu 1980a),13 in which Bourdieu him into standard empirical subfields (as a
draws out the more general anthropological sociologist of education, analyst of taste,
conclusions of his research on class, cul- class theorist, student of sports, critic of
ture, and politics in contemporary France, linguistics, etc.), rather than to try to
and links them to his earlier investigations understand his work in its own terms (as is
of Kabyle rituals and peasant social the case with other major European social
strategies. 14 theorists),17 they have created a largely
The reasons for such a limited and
fractured understanding of a uniquely strategy of theoretical reductio is Elster's (1984a)
unified scientific corpus that so forthrightly effort to fit Bourdieu's analysis of distinction into the
Procrustean bed of fuctional, causal, and intentional
questions premature specialization and
explanations. This allows him to declare it irretriev-
empirical balkanization are several, as ably flawed on "methodological" grounds-but at the
Bourdieu's own theory would lead us to cost of so total an initial distortion of Bourdieu's
predict. First, there are the divisions, at thesis that its distinctive structure and content have
once objective (into disciplinary niches, by then entirely disappeared anyway. This is pointed
out by a fellow "analytical Marxist" who recognizes
institutional specialties, and academic net- that "even a quick look at [Bourdieu's] main theo-
works and turfs) and subjective (in the retical essay, and at concrete sociological explanations
corresponding categories of perception he offers elsewhere, reveals a picture very different
and appreciation), that structure the field from the strawmen erected here and there in Boudon's
of U.S. social science and in turn shape the and Elster's footnotes" (Van Parijs 1981, p. 309).
16
There are no doubt large areas of overlap and
reception of foreign intellectual products. convergence between the concerns of Bourdieu and
Thus American scholars typically seek to those of social theorists such as Giddens or Habermas.
force Bourdieu's sociology into the very One immediate and critical difference between them,
dualistic alternatives (micro/macro, agency though, is that Bourdieu's theoretical advances are
/structure, normative/rational, function/ fully grounded in, and geared to return to, empirical
research. See infra for Bourdieu's views on
conflict, synchrony/diachrony, etc.) that it this.
aims at transcending.15 In the same way, 17 It is
interesting to speculate why the works of
Habermas and Foucault, for instance, which, on face
value, are just as alien as Bourdieu's to American
13
Again, the critical exception is Brubaker's categories of sociological understanding, have not
(1985) comprehensive discussion of Bourdieu's soci- suffered from the same urge to read them into
ology that very explicitly and extensively links the national traditions and preconstructions. Arguably,
two works. the fact that they advertise themselves as philosophers
14 In
point of fact, these two volumes, Distinction (or philosopher-cum-sociologist in one case and
and Le sens pratique, are so intimately interwoven in philosopher-cum-historian in the other), whereas
Bourdieu's mind that, shortly before they went to Bourdieu forthrightly takes up the mantle of soci-
print almost simultaneously, he inverted their con- ology, has given them a warrant for legitimate
cluding chapters so that each cannot be read in full "otherness" and helped shield them from such
without tackling at least part of the other. extreme ethnocentric reduction (see Merquior [1985]
15
Brubaker (1985, p. 771) aptly notes that "the for an analysis of the academic success of Foucault
reception of Bourdieu's work has largely been deter- along those lines, i.e., as a product of his affiliation to
mined by the same 'false frontiers' and 'artificial the mixed genre of "litero-philosophy"). Another
divisions' (Bourdieu 1980b, p. 30, 35) that his work reason for such differences in treatment may also
has repeatedly challenged." Paradigmatic of this have to do with the fact that, in contradistinction to

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30 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY
fictitious Bourdieu made up of a congeries "circle" (popularized by Terry Clark [1973]
of seemingly unrelated and incomprehen- and Lemert [1981, 1982, 1986]) constitutes
sibly dispersed inquiries with little apparent yet another obstacle. To an extent, such
connection beyond that of the identity of quasi-concepts born from the uncontrolled
their author. projection, onto the French intellectual
This intellectual ethnocentrism-the in- universe, of the foreign observer's relation
clination to refract Bourdieu through the to it, as in Lemert's hydra-like tout Paris,
prism of native sociological lenses--1 has have obscured the real functioning of the
been strongly fortified by the erratic, in- French sociological field from view and,
complete, and lagged flow of translations, most notably, the striking parallels, both
which has not only disrupted the sequence institutional and intellectual-some of
in which his investigations were conducted them crescive, many others arrived at by
and articulated, but has also kept a number design-between Bourdieu's research team
of key writings out of the reach of his and the Durkheimian school. Consequently,
American audience. The exigencies of the sprawling mass of empirical studies
translation have led to a confusing com- published in the journal founded in 1975
pression of the chronology of Bourdieu's by Bourdieu, Actes de la recherche en
work (reinforced by the author's own sciences sociales, by himself and others, is
tendency to rework his materials endlessly almost never consulted by American
and to publish with years of delay) or even readers, just as the ongoing work by his
to a reversal for English-speakingreaders.19 colleagues and current or former associates
The fact that the genuinely open and at the Center for European Sociology in
collective nature of Bourdieu's enterprise Paris are regularly overlooked.20
clashes with the deeply entrenched Ameri- The Anglophone reception of Bourdieu
can stereotype of the French "patron" and has also been considerably affected by the
general unfamiliarity of American social
Habermas's for instance, Bourdieu's work is rich and scientists with the Continental traditions of
precise in empirical content and can thus fall prey to social theory and philosophy which form
both theoretical and empirical retranslation. Finally,
there is the content of their respective theories:
the backdrop of his endeavor, most of
Bourdieu's sociology contains a radicallydisenchanting which do not partake of the "horizon of
questioning of the symbolic power of intellectuals expectations" (Jauss 1982) of mainstream
that sits uneasily with Habermas' and Foucault's American sociology. This, of course, is
comparatively more prophetic stances. partly true of other major European strands
'l All academic fields tend to be ethnocentric. In
the case of the United States, however, this is of social-cultural theory, including Haber-
aggravated by the "blindness of the dominant" due to mas, Foucault, phenomenology, and struc-
the hegemonic status of American social science turalism, as Wuthnow et al. (1984, p. 7)
worldwide. American intellectual myopia functions out. However, a grasp of the nexus
as the opposite of that of smaller sociologies, such as
point
of antagonistic and competing positions
Dutch sociology (cf. Heilbron 1988): while the latter
cannot see themselves, the former does not see within and against which the French socio-
others and tends to see itself everywhere. logist developed his own stance21 is par-
19
Only 7 of Bourdieu's books are presently
available in English (compared to 11 in German). At
least 5 more are currently being translated. Two 2" Among those and other writings closely influ-
examples: the English version of the 1964 monograph enced by Bourdieu, one should site at minimum
The Inheritors came out in English in 1979, two years Boltanski (1987, 1984a), Boltanski and Thevenot
after the 1970 book Reproduction which was based (1983), Verdes-Leroux (1978, 1983), Grignon (1971),
upon it. The pivotal volume Le metier de sociologue Maresca (1983), Viala (1985), Castel (1988), Muel-
(Bourdieu, Chamboredon, and Passeron 1968) in Dreyfus (1983), Charles (1987), de Saint Martin
which Bourdieu and his associates lay out the tenets (1971), Suaud (1978), Moulin (1987), Boschetti
of the revised "applied rationalism" that supplies the (1988), Bozon (1984), Isambert (1984), Pinqon (1987),
epistemological foundations of his entire project, Pinto (1984), Viala (1985), Zarca (1987), Caro
remains untranslated to this day. As a result, readers (1982), and Chamboredon et Prevot (1975). See also
who are not conversant with the work of Bachelard the bibliographic references for a selection of articles
and of the French school of the history of science from Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales that
(notably Koyre and Canguilhem) are left in the dark draw upon, apply, or extend Bourdieu's scheme.
21
about the critical-historicist theory of knowledge that Among others, the opposition between Sartrian
underlays Bourdieu's sociology. phenomenology and Levi-Straussian structuralism,

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 31

ticularly crucial because Bourdieu is an perience of the constraints and ambiguities


unusually self-conscious writer who reflects of the role of the intellectual in the
incessantly and intensely upon the intellec- dramatic circumstances of the Algerian
tual and social determinants that bear on war).
his enterprise.22 Furthermore, much of his This has been compounded by the fact
thinking was shaped by a definite reaction that what recent French social theory
both against the positivist model of social American sociologists have paid attention
science imported into France by the first to-Derrida's "deconstruction," Lyotard's
generation of America-trained social scien- "post-modernism," and Barthes' or Bau-
tists in the fifties and sixties (Stoetzel, drillard's semiology-stands poles apart
Boudon, and Crozier among others),23 from Bourdieu, in spite of superficial
and against the "literaro-philosophical" similarities. The recent fad of "post-" or
tradition (Merquior 1985) that reigned "super-structuralism" (Harland 1987)24
over the French intellectual universe of the has tended to divert attention from Bour-
1950s. A good many aspects of his sociology dieu's less glamourous and media-conscious
remain largely unscrutable unless one has claims or, worse, to enshroud him in the
a definite idea of the streams of thought halo of theoretical currents he has un-
that influenced him, whether positively or ceasinly combatted since their emer-
a contrario, and of the images of the gence. Last but not least, there is the
intellectual that formed the "regulative extreme difficulty of Bourdieu's style and
idea" of his Beruf-balancing uneasily prose. The idiolect he has created in order
between the ambivalent rejection of the to break with the common-sense under-
"total intellectual," as he put it in a tribute standings embedded in common language,
to Sartre who symbolized it (Bourdieu the nested and convoluted configuration of
1980e), and a deeply political opposition his sentences designed to convey the
both to the "soft humanism" of Christian essentially relational and recursive charac-
phenomenologists and to the epistemo- ter of social processes, the density of his
logical haughtiness implied in the structur- argumentation have not facilated his intro-
alist conception of practice and knowledge duction into the discourse of Anglo-
(a twin set of attitudes that was no doubt American social science.26 All of these
exacerbated by Bourdieu's first-hand ex-
24
A label, it should be noted in passing, which is
which Bourdieu (1980a: Preface) regarded, very used strictly by English-speaking exegetes and has no
early on, as the embodiment of fundamental scientific currency in France, even among those it presumably
options; the subtle influence of Merleau-Ponty, Hus- designates, cf. Descamps (1986), Montefiore (1983).
serl and Heidegger; the desire to undercut the claims 25 In this respect, while it shares with all
(post-)
of structural Marxism; the mediation of Mauss; or structuralisms a rejection of the Cartesian cogito,
Bourdieu's early appropriation of Cassirer, Saussure, Bourdieu's project differs from them in that it
Schutz, and Wittgenstein, etc. It is also important to represents an attempt to make possible, through a
note what germane traditions of thought Bourdieu reflexive application of social-scientific knowledge,
drew relatively little upon (for example the Frankfurt the historical emergence of something like a rational
school) or ignored almost entirely (most promimently (or a reasonable) subject. It is highly doubtful,
Gramsci, whom he admits to having read very late, therefore, that "Bourdieu would gladly participate in
cf. Bourdieu 1987a, p. 39). For an account by splashing the corrosive acid of deconstruction on the
Bourdieu of the transformation of the French in- traditional subject" as Rabinow (1982, p. 175) claims.
tellectual field in the post-War era, and of his See Bourdieu (1984a, pp. 569, 494-5()00, 1987d) on
situation and trajectory within it, see Bourdieu and Baudrillard and Derrida respectively. Bourdieu and
Passeron (1968), Bourdieu (1979b, 1986a, 1987a) and Passeron's (1963) critique of the "sociologists of
Honneth, Kocyba and Schwibs (1986). mutations" and "massmediology" in the early sixties
22
Witness the mix of fiery passion and cold (mainly Edgar Morin and Pierre Fougeyrollas) would
analytic persistence he puts into neutralizing a whole seem to apply mutatis mutandis to much of the
array of potential misreadings of Homo Academicus Baudrillardian writings of today.
(1988a, chapter 1, "A 'Book for Burning'?"). Also 26 Although it has not prevented it altogether. See
Bourdieu (1980a, 1980b, 1987a). Light et al. (1989) for an example of distillation of
23 Bourdieu was alone
among the notable French Bourdieu into introductory textbook material. The
sociologists of his generation conspicuously not to two volumes by Accardo (1983) and Accardo and
attend Lazarsfeld's famed seminars at the Sorbonne Corcuff (1986) have attempted to do much the same
in the sixties. thing in French in a more systematic fashion. Again,

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32 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY
factors have combined and reinforced one connections that unify his empirical and
another to prevent American social scien- theoretical work. In so doing, it should
tists from fully graspingthe originality,scope, help clear out some of the obdurate
and systemacity of Bourdieu's sociology. obstacles that stand in the way of a more
The recent publication in English of adequate and more fruitful appropriation
Homo Academicus (Bourdieu 1988a) and of his sociology in America.
of Language and Symbolic Power (Bour-
dieu 1989a), as well as a string of other
papers in American journals (Bourdieu FROM THE SOCIOLOGY OF
1987b, 1987c, 1987d, 1987g, 1988c, 1988d, ACADEMICS TO THE SOCIOLOGY
1988e, 1988f, forthcoming),27 offers an OF THE SOCIOLOGICAL EYE
opportunity to begin to redress this situ-
ation. With these books, two nodes of Loic J.D. Wacquant: In Homo Academicus
issues that have preoccupied Bourdieu (Bourdieu 1988a), you offer a sociology of
over a number of years become accessible your own universe, that of French intellec-
to an English-speaking audience: the tuals. But clearly your aim is not simply to
analysis of intellectuals and of the objecti- write a monograph on the French university
fying gaze of sociology; the study of and its faculty, but to make a much more
language and linguistic practices as an fundamental point about the "sociological
instrument and an arena of social power. method." Can one speak of a "surface
Both imply very directly, and in turn rest object" and a "true object" in this investi-
upon, a self-analysis of the sociologist as a gation?
cultural producer and a reflection on the Pierre Bourdieu: My intention in doing
social-historical conditions of possibility of this study-which I began in earnest in the
a science of society. Both of these themes mid-sixties, at a time when the crisis of the
are also at the center of Bourdieu's meticu- academic institution which was to climax
lous study of Heidegger's Political Ontology with the student movement of '68 was
(1988b) and of the recent collection of rampant but not yet so acute that the
essays entitled Choses dites (1987a) in contestation of academic "power" had
which the French thinker turns his method become open-was to conduct a sort of
of analysis of symbolic producers upon sociological experiment about sociological
himself. Exploring the intent and impli- practice itself. The idea was to demonstate
cations of these books provides a route for in actu that, contrary to the claims of those
sketching out the larger contours of Bour- who pretend to undermine sociological
dieu's intellectual landscape and for clari- knowledge or seek to disqualify sociology
fying key features of his thought. Beyond as a science on the grounds that (as
illustrating the open-ended, diverse, and Mannheim insisted, and before him Weber
fluid nature of his scientific project better and Marx) the sociologist is socially situ-
than would a long exegesis, the following ated, included in the very object he or she
dialogue, loosely organized around a series wishes to objectivize, sociology can escape
of epistemic displacements effected by to a degree from this historicist circle, by
Bourdieu, brings out the underlying drawing on its knowledge of the social
universe in which social science is produced
one must wonder whether incessant complaints over to control the effects of the determinisms
Bourdieu's style and syntax are not a symptom of a which operate in this universe and, at the
much deeper difficulty-or of a reluctance to embrace same time, bear on social science itself.
a style of thought that makes one squirm as it cuts So you are entirely right, throughout
through the mist of one's enchanted relationship to this study, I pursue a double goal and
the social world and to one's condition as an
intellectual-since other "difficult" writers (Haber- construct a double object: the naive,
mas, Foucault or even Weber come to mind) do not apparent object of the French university as
elicit nowhere near the same level of protestation as an institution, which requires an analysis
the author of Distinction does. of its structure and functioning, of the
27 See the other recent
English-language writings
listed in the selected bibliography at the end of this various species of power that are efficient
article. in this universe, of the trajectories and

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 33

agents who come to take up positions in it, cisely, to objectivize the form that it took
of the "professorial" vision of the world, at a certain time in the sociologist Pierre
etc.; and the deeper object of the reflexive Bourdieu.
return entailed in objectifying one's own
universe: that which is involved in objecti- LW: Throughout your work, you have
fying an institution socially recognized as emphasized this need for a reflexive return
founded to claim objectivity and universality on the sociologist and on his/her universe of
for its own objectifications. production, insisting that it is not merely a
form of intellectualo-centrism but has real
LW: This device-using the university, scientific consequences. What is the signifi-
that is, the taken-for-granted setting of cance of this return from an epistemological
your own daily life, as a pretext for or theoretical point of view? And what
studying the sociological gaze-is one you difference does it make, concretely, to do a
had previously used when, in the early reflexive sociology of the kind you advocate?
sixties, you conducted an investigation of PB: Indeed, I believe that the sociology
marriage practices in your own village of sociology is a fundamental dimension of
in Southwestern France (Bourdieu 1962b, sociological epistemology. Far from being
1962c, 1977b) after completing one of a specialty among others, it is the necessary
similar practices among Algerian peasants prerequisite of any rigorous sociological
(Bourdieu 1972, 1980a). practice. In my view, one of the chief
PB: Yes. Homo Academicus represents sources of error in the social sciences
the culmination, at least in a biographical resides in an uncontrolled relation to the
sense, of a very self-conscious "epistemo- object which results in the projection of
logical experiment" I started in the early this relation into the object. What distresses
sixties when I set out to apply to my most me when I read some works by sociologists
familiar universe the methods of investi- is that people whose profession it is to
gation I had previously used to uncover objectivize the social world prove so rarely
the logic of kinship relations in a foreign able to objectivize themselves and fail so
universe, that of Algerian peasants and often to realize that what their apparently
subproletarians. scientific discourse talks about is not the
The "methodological" intent of this object but their relation to the object-it
research, if we may call it that, was to expresses ressentiment, envy, social con-
overturn the natural relation of the observer cupiscence, unconscious aspirations or
to his universe of study, to make the fascinations, hatred, a whole range of
mundane exotic and the exotic mundane, unanalyzed experiences of and feelings
in order to render explicit what, in both about the social world.
cases, is taken for granted and to offer a Now, to objectivize the objectivizing
very concrete, very pragmatic, vindication point of view of the sociologist is something
of the possibility of a full sociological that is done quite frequently, but in a
objectivation of the object and of the strikingly superficial, if apparently radical,
subject's relation to the object-what I manner. When we say "the sociologist is
call participant objectivation (Bourdieu inscribed in a historical context," we
1978a). This required resisting a temptation generally mean "the bourgeois sociologist"
that is no doubt inherent in the posture of and leave it at that. But objectivation of
the sociologist, that of taking up the any cultural producer involves more than
absolute point of view upon the object of pointing to-and bemoaning-his class
study-here to assume a sort of intellectual background and location, his race or his
power over the intellectual world. So in gender. We must not forget to objectivize
order to bring this study to a successful his position in the universe of cultural
issue and to publish it, I had to discover production, in this case the scientific or
the deep truth of this world, namely, that academic field. One of the contributions of
everybody in it struggles to do what the Homo Academicus is to demonstrate that,
sociologist is tempted to do. I had to when we carry out objectivations a la
objectivize this temptation and, more pre- Lukacs (and after him Lucien Goldmann,

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34 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY
to take one of the most sophisticated forms must know its limits and accompany all
of this very commonplace sociologistic scientific accounts with an account of the
reductionism), that is, brutally put in limits and limitations of scientific accounts:
direct correspondence cultural objects and theoretic knowledge owes a number of its
their producers (or their public, as when it most essential properties to the fact that
is said that such a form of English theater the conditions under which it is produced
expresses "the dilemma of a rising middle are not that of practice.
class"), we commit what I call the short-
circuitfallacy (Bourdieu 1988d): by seeking LW: In other words, an adequate science of
to establish a direct link between very society must construct theories which com-
distant terms, we omit the crucial mediation prise within themselves a theory of the gap
provided by the relatively autonomous between theory and practice.
space of the field of cultural production. PB: Precisely. An adequate model of
But to stop at this stage would still leave reality must take into account the distance
unexamined the most essential bias, whose between the practical experience of agents
principle lies neither in the social position- (who ignore the model) and the model
ing, nor in the specific position of the which enables the mechanisms it describes
sociologist in the field of cultural production to function with the unknowing "com-
(i.e., his or her location in a space of plicity" of agents. And the case of the
possible theoretical, substantive, or university is a litmus test for this require-
methodological stances), but in the invisible ment, since everything here inclines one to
determinations inherent in the intellectual commit the theoreticist fallacy. Like any
posture itself, in the scholarly gaze, that he social universe, the academic world is the
or she casts upon the social world. As soon site of a struggle over the truth of the
as we observe (theorein) the social world, academic world and of the social world in
we introduce in our perception of it a bias general. (Very rapidly, we can say that the
due to the fact that, to study it, to describe social world is the site of continual struggles
it, to talk about it, we must retire from it to define what the social world is; but the
more or less completely. This theoreticist academic world has this peculiarity today
or intellectualist bias consists in forgetting that its verdicts and pronouncements are
to inscribe, into the theory we build of the among the most powerful socially.) In
social world, the fact that it is the product academe, people fight constantly over the
of a theoretical gaze, a "contemplative question of who, in this universe, is
eye." A genuinely reflexive sociology must socially mandated, authorized, to tell the
avoid this "ethnocentrism of the scientist" truth of the social world (e.g., to define
which consists in ignoring everything that who and what is a delinquent, where the
the analyst injects in his perception of the boundaries of the working class lie, whether
object by virtue of the fact that he is placed such and such a group exists and is entitled
outside of the object, that he observes it to rights, etc.). To intervene in it as a
from afar and from above. Just like the sociologist naturally carried the temptation
anthropologist who constructs a genealogy of claiming for oneself the role of neutral
entertains a relation to "kinship" that is referee, of the judge, to distribute rights
worlds apart from that of the Kabyle head and wrongs.
of clan who must solve the very practical In other words, the intellectualist and
and urgent problem of finding an appro- theoreticist fallacy (which, in anthropology
priate mate for his daughter, the sociologist takes the form of the epistemocratic claim
who studies the American school system, that "I know better than my informant")
for instance, is motivated by preoccu- was the temptation par excellence for
pations and has a "use" of schools that someone who, being a sociologist, and
have little in common with those of a thus party to the ongoing struggle over
father seeking to find a good school for his truth, set out to tell the truth of this world
daughter. of which he is a part and of the opposed
The upshot of this is not that theoretic perspectives that are taken on it. The
knowledge is worth nothing but that we necessity of the reflexive return is not the

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 35

expression of a sort of epistemological a knowing subject; his reflexivity is strictly


"sense of honor" but a principle that leads phenomenological in this sense. In Gould-
to constructing scientific objects into which ner, reflexivity remains more a program-
the relation of the analyst to the object is matic slogan than a veritable program of
not unconsciously projected. The fact that work. What must be objectivized is not the
I had explicitly assigned myself the purpose individual who does the research in his
of scrutinizing the object (the University) biographical idiosyncracy but the position
but also the work of construction of the he occupies in academic space and the
object allowed me, I believe, to sidestep biases implicated in the stance he takes by
the intellectualist trap. I was aware from virtue of being "out of the game" (hors
the outset that my task involved not simply jeu). What is lacking most in this American
telling the truth of this world, as can be tradition, no doubt for very definite socio-
uncovered by objectivist methods of ob- logical reasons (among which the lesser
servation, but also showing that this world role of philosophy in the training of re-
is the site of an ongoing struggle to tell the searchers and the weaker presence of a
truth of this world. critical political tradition can be singled
This temptation to crush one's rivals by out) is a truly reflexive and critical analysis
objectifying them, which was ever-present of the academic institution and, more
in the objectivist phase of this research, is precisely, of the sociological institution,
at the roots of serious technical mistakes. I conceived not as an end in itself but as the
emphasize "technical" here to stress the condition of scientific progress.
difference between scientific work and This is to say, in passing, that the kind of
pure reflection. For everything that I have "sociology of sociology" that I advocate
just said translates into very concrete has little in common with this kind of
research operations: variables added or complacent and intimist return upon the
taken out of correspondence analyses, private person of the sociologist28 or with a
sources of data reinterpreted or rejected, search for the intellectual Zeitgeist that
new criteria inserted into the analysis, etc. animates his or her work (as, for instance,
For instance, anticipating the hostile re- in Gouldner's [1970] analysis of Parsons in
actions that such questions would trigger The Coming Crisis of Sociology), or yet
among intellectuals, I knew that I could with this self-fascinated, and a bit com-
not resort to direct interviewing; I had to placent, observation of the observer's
resign myself, in the manner of historians, writings which has recently become some-
to prosopography, and to using strictly thing of a fad among some American
public and published information. Every anthropologists (e.g., Marcus and Fisher
single indicator of intellectual notoriety I 1986, Geertz 1987) who, having become
use required an enormous amount of work blase with fieldwork, turn to talking about
to construct because, in a universe where themselves rather than about their object
identity is made largely through symbolic of research. This kind of falsely radical
strategies and by collective belief, the most denunciation of ethnographic writing as
minor piece of information (is so and so an "poetics and politics" (Clifford and Marcus
agrege?) had to be independently verified 1986) which becomes its own end opens
from different sources. the door to a form of thinly-veiled nihilistic
relativism (of the kind that one finds also
LW: This return upon the generic relation in some versions of the "strongprogramme"
of the analyst to his object and upon the in the sociology of science, notably in
particular location he or she occupies in the Latour's [1987] recent work) that stands as
space of scientific production would be the polar opposite to a truly reflexive
what distinguishes the kind of reflexivity social science.
you advocate from that of Gouldner (1970)
or Garfinkel (1967)? 82 Bourdieu's
PB: Yes. Garfinkel is content with (1988a) elaboration of the important
distinction between "epistemic individual" and "em-
explicating only things that are very general, pirical individual" is relevant here. Also Bourdieu
universal, tied to the status of the agent as (1987c).

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36 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY
LW: What is your response to the criticism upon scientificity (the faculty of sciences
that may be levied that Homo Academicus being typical of this category).
deals exclusively with a particular case, And I recently carried out yet another
that of France, which poses problems for experimental verification of this principle
generalization, and that furthermore the of the durability of fields as relational
data are twenty-years old? configurationsby showing that the structure
PB: Inasmuch as the real object of the of the field of French Grandes Ecoles,
analysis goes well beyond the apparent conceived as a set of objective positional
one, the historical specificity of the French differences and distances among elite
case in no way invalidates or limits the graduate schools, and between them and
implications of the inquiry. But I would go the social positions of power which lead to
further: one of the goals of the book is to them and to which they in turn lead, has
show that the opposition between the remained remarkably constant, nearly
universal and the unique, between nomo- identical in fact, over the twenty-year
thetic analysis and ideographic description, period from 1968 to the present (Bourdieu
is a false antinomy. The relational and and de Saint Martin 1987; Bourdieu 1987f
analogical mode of reasoning fostered by and 1989a).
the concept of field enables us to grasp
particularlywithin generality and generality LW: Precisely, several commentators (e.g.,
within particularity, by making it possible Collins 1981, Jenkins 1982, Sulkunen 1982,
to see the French case as a "particular case Connell 1983, Wacquant 1987) have criti-
of the possible" as Bachelard says. Better, cized your models for being static and
the specific historical properties of the "closed", leaving little room for resistance,
French academic field-its much higher change, and the irruption of history. Doesn't
degree of centralization and institutional Homo Academicus answer this concern by
unification, its well-delimited barriers to putting forth an analysis of May '68 which,
entry, if we contrast it with the American in effect, dissolves the opposition between
higher education system for instance- structure and history and between struc-
make it a uniquely suited terrain for tural history and event history?
uncovering some of the universal laws that PB: I must say that I find many of these
tendentially regulate the functioning of all criticisms strikingly superficial; they reveal
fields. that those who make them may have paid
Likewise, the criticism-which was al- more attention to the titles of my books
ready raised against Distinction by some of (most blatantly in the case of Reproduction)
my American commentators-that the data than to the actual analyses they contain. I
are old entirely misses the mark inasmuch have repeatedly denounced both what I
as one of the purposes of the analysis is to call the "functionalism of the worst case"
uncover transhistorical invariants, or sets and the dehistoricizing that follows from a
of relations between structures that persist strictly structuralist standpoint (e.g.,
within a clearly circumscribedbut relatively Bourdieu 1968b and 1987a, pp. 56ff.).
long historical period. In this case, whether Likewise, I cannot begin to comprehend
the data are 5 or 15 years old matters little. how relations of domination, whether
Proof is that the main opposition that material or symbolic, could possibly
emerges, within the space of disciplines, operate without implying, activating resist-
between the college of arts and sciences on ance. The dominated, in any social uni-
the one hand and the schools of law and verse, can always exert a certain force,
medicine on the other, is nothing other inasmuch as to belong to a field means by
than the old opposition, already described definition that one is capable of producing
by Kant in The Conflict of the Faculties, effects in it (if only to elicit reactions of
between the faculties that directly depend exclusion on the part of those who occupy
upon temporal powers and owe their the dominant positions), thus of putting
authority to a sort of social delegation and certain forces into motion.
the faculties that may be labelled "pure," In Homo Academicus, I try to account,
self-founded, whose authority is premised as completely as possible, for the crisis of

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 37

May '68 and, at the same time, to put forth analysis of its constitution, and of the
some of the elements of an invariant tensions that exist between positions, as
model of crises or revolutions. In the well as between this field and other fields,
course of the analysis of this specific event, and especially what I call the field of
I discovered a number of properties which power.
have me wondering if they are not very In the present state of the social sciences,
general. First I tried to show that the crisis however, I think that the history of the
internal to the university was the product longue duree, the kind of "macro-history"
of the meeting of two partial crises pro- most sociologists practice when they tackle
voked by separate, autonomous evolutions. processes of rationalization, bureaucrat-
On the one hand we have a crisis among ization, modernization, etc., continues to
the faculty triggered by the effects of the be one of the last refuges of a thinly-
rapid and massive swelling of the ranks of masked social philosophy. What we need
professors and by the resulting tensions to do, rather, is a form of structural history
between the dominant and subordinate that is rarely practiced, which finds in each
categories of teachers. On the other hand, successive state of the structure under
we find a crisis of the student body due to a examination both the product of previous
whole range of factors, including the struggles to maintain or to transform this
overproduction of graduates, the devalu- structure and the principle, via the contra-
ation of credentials, etc. These partial, dictions, the tensions, and the relations of
local crises converged, providing a base for force which constitute it, of subsequent
conjunctual alliances. The crisis then spread transformations.
along lines which were very determinate, The intrusion of pure historical events,
toward instances of symbolic production in such as May '68 or any other great historical
particular (radio, TV, the church, and so break, becomes understandable only when
on), that is, all those universes in which we reconstruct the plurality of "indepen-
there was a conflict of legitimacy between dent causal series" of which Cournot
the established holders of the legitimacy of spoke to characterize chance (le hasard),
discourse and the new contenders who that is, the different and relatively auto-
preached the ministry of the universal. nomous historical concatenations that are
put together in each universe and whose
LW: More generally, could you clarify the collision, through synchronization, deter-
place of history in your thinking? mines the singularity of historical happen-
PB: Obviously, this is an immensely ings. But here I will refer you to the
complex question and I can only outline its analysis of May 68 that I developed in the
resolution in the most general terms. last chapter of Homo Academicus and
Suffice it to say that the separation of which contains the embryo of a theory of
sociology and history is a disastrous division symbolic revolution that I am presently
and one totally devoid of epistemological developing.
justification: all sociology should be his-
torical and all history sociological. In point
of fact, one of the functions of the theory
of fields that I propose is to make the FROM STRUCTURE TO FIELD
opposition between reproduction and LW: In the preface to the English edition of
transformation, statics and dynamics, or Homo Academicus, you write that this
structure and history, vanish. As I tried to book "tacitly refutes the notion of pro-
demonstrate practically in my research on fession." What is it in the notion of profes-
the French literary field in Flaubert's time sion, or in the sociology of occupations as it
and on the artistic field around Manet's is practiced in the U.S. in particular, that
time (Bourdieu 1983d, 1987i, 1988d), we you find objectionable? What separates an
cannot grasp the dynamics of a field if not analysis conducted in terms of field from
by a synchronic analysis of its structure one conducted in terms of profession?
and, simultaneously, we cannot grasp this PB: The notion of profession is dangerous
structure without a historical, or genetic, because it has all appearances of false

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38 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

neutrality in its favor. Profession is a folk deciding who is included and who is not.
concept which has been uncritically Again, this empirist surrender has all
smuggled into scientific language and which appearances for itself, since it abandons to
imports in it a whole social unconscious. It the social world as it is, to the established
is the product of a historical work of order of the moment, the most essential
construction and representation of a group operations of research, thereby fulfilling a
which has slipped into the very science of deeply conservative function of ratification
this group. This is why this "concept" of the doxa.
works so well, or too well: the category of Naturally, if you adopt the notion of
profession refers to realities that are, in a profession as an instrument-rather than
sense, "too real" to be true, since it grasps as an object-of analysis, none of this
at once a mental category and a social creates any difficulty. As long as you take
category, socially produced only by super- it as it presents itself (as in the hallowed
seding or obliterating all kinds of differ- data of positivist sociologists), no profession
ences and contradictions. is difficult to apprehend. What group
All this social work of construction of would turn down the sacralizing and
the category must be undone and analyzed naturalizingrecording of the social scientist?
so that a rigorous sociological construct What "profession" would take exception
can be built that accounts for its success. to a sociological report that gives objective,
Everything becomes different, and much that is public, reality to their subjective
more complicated if I take seriously the representation of their collective being?
work of agregation and symbolic imposition As long as you remain within the realm of
that was necessary to produce the "aca- socially constituted and socially sanctioned
demic profession" and if I treat it as a field, appearances-and this is the order to
that is, a space of social forces and which the notion of "profession" belongs
struggles.29 The first question that arises -you will have all appearances in your
is: How to draw up a representative favor, even the appearance of scientificity.
sample in a field? If, following the canon In other words, to accept the precon-
dictated by orthodox methodology, you structed notion of profession is to lock
take a random sample, you mutilate the oneself up in the alternative of celebration
very object you have set out to construct. (as do many American studies of "pro-
If, in a study of the field of lawyers, for fessions") and partial objectivation. By
instance, you do not draw the President of reconceptualizing it as a field, as I do in
the Supreme Court, or if, in an inquiry Homo Academicus, it becomes possible to
into the French intellectual field of the break with the notion of profession and to
1950s, you leave out Jean-Paul Sartre, or reintegrate it within a model of the full
Princeton University in a study of American reality it pretends to capture.
academics, your field is destroyed, insofar
as these personas or institutions alone LW: The notion of field is, together with
mark a crucial position-there are posi- those of habitus and capital, the central
tions in a field which command the whole organizing concept of your work, particu-
structure.3"Moreover, there is an ongoing larly your more recent work, which includes
struggle over the limits of the field of studies in the fields of artists and intellec-
academics, over who belongs to it and who tuals, classes, lifestyles, Grandes Ecoles,
does not. This is a question that the most religion, the field of power, of law, of
daring of positivists solve by what they call housing construction, etc.3' You use the
an "operational definition," by arbitrarily
3
On the intellectual and artistic field, see inter
2' See Boltanski (1987) for an in-depth examination alia Bourdieu (1971a, 1975b, 1975c, 1983a, 1983d,
of the organizational and symbolic invention of the 1988a); on the field of classes and class lifestyles,
category of "cadres" in French society. Bourdieu (1978b, 1984a, 1987b); on cultural goods,
31?How Sartre both dominated, and was in turn Bourdieu (198()h, 1985d) and Bourdieu and Delsaut
dominated by his own domination in, the French (1975); on the religious field, Bourdieu (1971b,
intellectual field is shown in detail by Boschetti 1987h), Bourdieu and de Saint Martin (1982); on the
(1988) and Bourdieu (198()e, 1984b). scientific field (1981d, 1987e, forthcoming); on the

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 39
notion of field in a highly technical and In highly differentiated societies, the
precise sense which is perhaps partly hidden social cosmos is made up of a number of
behind its common-sense meaning. Could such relatively autonomous social micro-
you explicate in a few words where the cosms, i.e., spaces of objective relations
notion comes from (for Americans, it is which are the site of a logic and of a
likely to evoke the "field theory" of Kurt necessity that is specific and irreducible to
Lewin), what you put under it and what its those which regulate other fields. For
theoretical purposes are? instance, the artistic field, or the religious
PB: To think in terms of field is to think field, or the economic field all follow
relationally. The relational (rather than specific logics: while the artistic field has
more narrowly "structuralist") mode of constituted itself by refusing or reversing
thinking is, as Cassirer demonstrated in the law of material profit (Bourdieu 1983d),
Substanzbegriff und Funktionsbegriff, the the economic field has emerged, historically,
hallmark of modern science and one could through the creation of a universe within
show that it lies behind scientific enterprises which, as we commonly say, "business is
apparently as different as those of Marx, business," where the enchanted relations
of the Russian formalist Tyrianov, of Kurt of phylia, of which Aristotle spoke, of
Lewin, of Norbert Elias, and of the friendship and love, are excluded.
pioneers of structuralism in anthropology,
linguistics and history, from Levi-Strauss LW: How does one determine the existence
to Jakobson to Dumezil. (If you check, of a field and its boundaries, and what is
you will find that both Lewin and Elias the motor cause of its functioning?
draw explicitly on Cassirer, as I do, to PB: The question of the limits of the
move beyond the Aristotelian essentialism field is always at stake in the field. Partici-
that spontaneously impregnates social pants to a field, say, economic firms, high
thinking.) I could twist Hegel's famous fashion designers, or novelists, constantly
word and say that the real is the relational: work to differentiate themselves from
what exist in the social world are relations, their closest rivals in order to reduce
not interactions between agents or inter- competition and to establish a monopoly
subjective ties between individuals, but over a particular sub-sector of the field.
objective relations which exist "indepen- Thus the boundaries of the field can only
dently of individual consciousness and be determined by an empiricalinvestigation.
will," as Marx said. Only rarely do they take the form of
I define a field as a network, or a juridical frontiers, even though they are
configuration, of objective relations be- always marked by more or less institution-
tween positions objectively defined, in alized "barriersto entry." The limits of the
their existence and in the determinations field are situated at the point where the
they impose upon their occupants, agents effects of the field cease.
or institutions, by their present and poten- The principle of the dynamics of a field
tial situation (situs) in the structure of the lies in the form of its structures and, in
distribution of species of power (or capital) particular, in the distance, the gaps, be-
whose possession commands access to the tween the various specific forces that
specific profits that are at stake in the field, confront one another. The forces that are
as well as by their objective relation to active in the field-and thus selected by
other positions (domination, subordination, the analyst as pertinent because they
homology, etc.). Each field presupposes, produce the most relevant differences-
and generates by its very functioning, the are those which define the specific capital.
belief in the value of the stakes it offers. A capital does not exist and function but in
relation to a field: it confers a power over
the field, over the materialized or embodied
juridical field and the field of power, Bourdieu instruments of production or reproduction
(1986c, 1987g, 1981a, 1989a), Bourdieu and de Saint
Martin (1978, 1982, 1987), respectively; the field of whose distribution constitutes the very
private housing construction is explored in Bourdieu structure of the field, and over the regu-
ct al. (1987). larities and the rules which define the

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40 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

ordinary functioning of the field, and may consider to be a limiting case, of


thereby over the profits engendered in this fields.
field.
As a space of potential and active LW: Very briefly, how does one conduct
forces, the field is also a field of struggles the study of a field, what are the necessary
aimed at preserving or transforming the steps in this type of analysis?
configuration of these forces. Concretely, PB: An analysis in terms of field involves
the field as a structureof objective relations three necessary and internally connected
of force between positions undergirds and moments. Firstly, one must analyse the
guides the strategies whereby the occupants position of the field vis-a-vis the field of
of these positions seek, individually or power. In the case of the "society" of artists
collectively to safeguard or improve their and writers (Bourdieu 1983d), we find that
position, and to impose the principle of the literary field is contained within the
hierarchization most favorable to their field of power where it occupies a domi-
own products. The strategies of agents nated position. (In common, and much
depend on their position in the field, that less adequate, parlance: artists and writers,
is, in the distribution of the specific capital. or intellectuals more generally, are a
"dominated fraction of the dominant
LW: What difference is there between a class"). Secondly, one must map out the
field and an apparatus? objective structure of the relations between
PB: An essential difference: struggles the positions occupied by the agents or
and thus historicity!The notion of apparatus institutions who compete for the legitimate
is the Trojan horse of "pessimistic func- form of specific authority of which this
tionalism:" it is an infernal machine, pro- field in the site. And, thirdly, one must
grammed to accomplish certain purposes analyze the habitus of agents, the system
no matter what, when, or where. The of dispositions they have acquired by
school system, the State, the church, internalizing a determinate type of social
political parties or unions are not appar- and economic condition and which find in
atuses but fields. In a field, agents and a definite trajectory within the field under
institutions constantly struggle, according consideration a more or less favorable
to the rules constitutive of this space of opportunity to become actualized.
game, with various degrees of strength and The field of positions is methodologically
therefore diverse probabilities of success, inseparable from the field of stances or
to appropriate the specific products at position-takings (prises de position), i.e.,
stake in the game. Those who dominate in the structured system of practices and
a given field are in a position to make it expressions of agents. Both spaces, that of
function to their advantage, but they must objective positions and that of stances,
always contend with the resistance, "poli- must be analyzed together, treated as "two
tical" or not, of the dominated. translations of the same sentence" as
Now, under certain historical conditions, Spinoza put it. It remains nevertheless
which must be examined, a field may start that, in situation of equilibrium, the space
to function as an apparatus. When the of positions tends to command the space of
dominant manage to crush and annul the position-takings. Artistic revolutions, for
resistance and the reactions of the domi- instance, are but the result of transform-
nated, when all movements go exclusively ations of the relations of power constitutive
from the top down, the effects of domi- of the space of artistic positions which are
nation are such that the struggle and the themselves made possible by the meeting
dialectic which are constitutive of the field of the subversive intentions of a fraction of
cease. There is history only as long as producers with the expectations of a frac-
people revolt, resist, act. Total institutions tion of the audience, thus by a transform-
-asylums, prisons, concentration camps- ation of the relations between the intellec-
or totalitarian states are attempts to insti- tual field and the field of power. Needless
tute an end to history. Thus apparatuses to say, what is true of the artistic field,
represent a pathological state, what we applies to other fields. One can observe

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 41
the same "fit" between positions within the local determinations; and between the
academic field on the eve of May 1968 and analysis of essence as the universalization
the political stances taken by the various of a given case and historicist immersion
protagonist of these events, as I show in into particularity.
Homo Academicus.
What must be emphasized is, firstly, that
the external determinations that bear on
INTEREST, HABITUS, AND
agents situated in a given field (intellectuals, RATIONALITY
artists, politicians, or construction com-
panies), never apply on them directly, but LW: Your use of the notion of interest has
only through the specific mediation of the often called forth the charge of "economism"
specific forms and forces of the field, after (e.g., Caille 1981, 1987, Joppke 1986).
having undergone a re-structuring that is What theoretical role does interest play in
all the more important the more auto- your mode of analysis?
nomous the field, that is, the more it is PB: Building upon Weber, who utilized
capable of imposing its specific logic, the the economic model to develop a materialist
cumulative product of its specific history. sociology of religion and to uncover the
(This is what Baudelaire expressed when specific interests of the great protagonists
he exclaimed: "If there is one thing more of the religious game, priests, prophets
abominable and worst than the bourgeois, and sorcerers (Bourdieu 1987h), I intro-
it is the bourgeois artist"). duced the notion of interest-I prefer to
Secondly, we can observe a whole range use the term illusio since I always speak of
of structural and functional homologies specific interest, of interests that are both
between the field of class relations, the presupposed and produced by the function-
political field, the literary field, etc.: each ing of historically delimited fields-in my
has its dominant and its dominated, its analysis of cultural producers in reaction
struggles for usurpation or exclusion, its to the dominant vision of the intellectual
mechanisms of reproduction, and so on. universe, to call into question the ideology
But every one of these characteristics of the freischwebende Intelligenz. The
takes on a specific, irreducible, form in notion of interest as I use it, which,
each field (a homology may be defined as a paradoxically, as you indicate, has brought
resemblance within a difference). Thus, forth the accusation of economism against
being contained within the field of power, a work which, from the very outset (I
the struggles that go on in the philosophical could refer here to my first ethnographic
field, for instance, are always overdeter- pieces on the sense of honor among the
mined and tend to function in a double Kabyles [Bourdieu 1965 and 1979d]) was
logic. They have political effects and fulfill conceived in opposition to economism, is
political functions by virtue of the homology the means of a deliberate and provisional
of position that obtains between such a reductionism which allows me to bring the
such a philosophical contender and such materialist mode of questioning into the
and such political or social group in the cultural sphere from where it was expelled,
field of class relations. historically, when the modern notion of art
To sum up, the chief merit of the notion was invented and the field of cultural
of field, in my eyes, is that it allows us to production won its autonomy (Bourdieu
transcend a whole series of methodological 1980h, 1987d).
and theoretical antinomies: between in- This is to say that the concept of interest
ternal reading, or tautegoric analysis as as I construe it has nothing in common
Schelling called it, and external or allegoric with the naturalistic, trans-historical, and
analysis; between efficient and final causes; universal interest of utilitarian theory. (It
between the individual and the society; would be otiose to show that Adam Smith's
between the normative discourse of cele- self-interest is nothing more than an un-
bration and the positive, or positivist, conscious universalization of the form of
discourse, often animated by an iconoclast interest required and engendered by a
intent, which overlooks the specificity of capitalist economy.) Far from being an

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42 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

anthropological invariant, interest is a fields which emerges progressively from


historical arbitrary,a historical construction generalization to generalization (I am
that can be known only through historical presently working on a multi-volume book
analysis, ex post, through empirical obser- in which I try to isolate, at a more formal
vation, and not deduced a priori from level, the general properties of fields)
some fictitious-and so naively Eurocentric enables us to describe and to specify the
-conception of "Man." specific form taken by the most general
mechanisms and concepts such as capital,
LW: This would imply that there are as investment, interest, within each field, and
many "interests" as there are fields, that thus to avoid all kinds of reductionisms,
each field simultaneously presupposes and beginning with economism, which recog-
generates a specific form of interest that is nizes nothing but material interest and the
incommensurable with those that have search for the maximization of monetary
currency elsewhere. profit.
PB: Absolutely. There are as many Thus my theory owes nothing, despite
practical understandings of the game, and appearances, to the transfer of the eco-
thus interests, as there are games. Each nomic approach. And, as I hope to demon-
field calls forth and gives life to a specific strate fully one day, far from being the
form of interest, a specific illusio as tacit founding model, economic theory (and
recognition of the value of the stakes of Rational Action Theory which is its socio-
the game and as practical mastery of its logical derivative) is probably best seen as
rules. Furthermore, this specific interest a particular instance, historically dated
implied by one's participation in the game and situated, of field theory.
specifies itself according to the position
occupied in the game (dominant vs. domi- LW: Would the notion of habitus be the
nated, or orthodox vs. heretic) and with conceptual lynchpin by which you rearticu-
the trajectory that leads each participant late these apparently economic notions into
to this position. Anthropology and com- a model of action that is radically different
parative history show that the properly from that of economics?
social magic of institutions can constitute PB: In double opposition to the objec-
almost anything as an interest, and as a tivism of action "without an agent" of the
realistic interest, i.e., as an investment (in Althusserians and to the subjectivism which
the double meaning the word has in portrays action as the deliberate pursuit of
economics and in psychoanalysis) that is a conscious intention, the free project of a
objectively paid back by an "economy." conscience positing its own ends and maxi-
mizing its utility through rational compu-
LW: Beyond interest and investment, you tation, I have put forth a theory of practice
have "imported" from economic language a as the product of a practicalsense (Bourdieu
number of other concepts, such as market 1980a), of a socially constituted "sense of
and capital (e.g., Bourdieu 1985d, 1986b), the game." Against positivistic material-
all of which evoke the economic mode of ism, the theory of practice as practice
reasoning. What sets your theoretical posits that objects of knowledge are con-
approach apart from the "economic ap- structed, and not passively recorded. And
proach" to social action? against intellectualist idealism, it reminds
PB: The only thing I share with neo- us that the principle of this construction is
marginalist economists are the words. habitus, the system of structured and
Take the notion of investment. By invest- structuringdispositions which is constituted
ment I mean the propensity to act which is by practice and constantly aimed at prac-
born out of the relation between a field tical-as opposed to cognitive-functions.
and a system of dispositions adjusted to In order to sidestep objectivism without
the game it proposes, a sense of the game relapsing into subjectivism and its demon-
and of its stakes which implies both an strated incapacity to account for the neces-
inclination and an ability to play the game. sity immanent in the social world, it is
The general theory of the economy of necessary to return to practice as the locus

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 43
of the dialectic between opus operatum Forgetting all the abstractions it has to
and modus operandi, between the objecti- effect in order to produce its theoretical
fied and the embodied products of historical artefact, Rational Action Theory (RAT)
action, structures and habitus. typically substitutes the scientist for the
I could show that the concept of habitus, practical habitus. It slips from the model to
like that of field, is relational in that it the reality and does as if the action that its
designates a mediation between objective model accounts for had this model as its
structures and practices. First and fore- principle. The social actor of RAT is
most, habitus has the function of over- nothing but the imaginary projection of
coming the alternative between conscious- the sujet savant (knowing subject) into the
ness and the unconscious and between sujet agissant (acting subject).32
finalism and mechanicalism. Following the Note also that this "imaginary anthro-
programme suggested by Marx in the pology" has nothing to tell us about the
Theses on Feuerbach, it aims at making social genesis of historically varying forms
possible a materialist theory of knowledge of interests since it postulates ex nihilo the
which does not abandon to idealism the existence of a universal, preconstituted
idea that all knowledge, be it mundane or interest. Just as it ignores the individual
scholarly, presupposes a work of construc- and collective history of agents through
tion, but a work which has nothing in which structuresare formed and reproduced
common with intellectual work, a practical and which "live" in them. In reality, far
activity which sets into motion the practical from being posited as such in an explicit,
ars inveniendi of habitus. (All those who conscious project, the strategies suggested
used this old concept or similar ones by habitus as a "feel for the game" aim, on
before me-from Hegel's ethos to Husserl's the mode of "protension" so well character-
Habitualitdt to Mauss's hexis-were in- ized by Husserl in Ideen, towards the
spired by a theoretical intention akin to "objective potentialities" immediately given
mine, which was to escape from under the in the immediate present. Must we talk of
philosophy of the subject without doing "strategy," then? The word is strongly
away with the agent). associated with the intellectualist and
In order to capture the gist of social subjectivist tradition which, from Descartes
action, we must recognize the ontological to Sartre, has dominated Western philo-
complicity, as Heidegger and Merleau- sophy and which is now again on the
Ponty suggested, between the agent (who upswing with RAT, a theory so well-suited
is neither a subject or a consciousness, nor to satisfy the spiritualist point d'honneur of
the mere executant of a role or the Trager intellectuals. This is not a reason not to use
of a function) and the social world (which it, however, with a totally different theor-
is never a mere "thing" even if it must be etical intention, to designate the objectively
constructed as such in the objectivist phase orientated lines of action which social
of research). Social reality exists, so to agents continually construct.
speak, twice, in things and in minds, in Moreover, the theory of habitus explains
fields and in habitus, outside and inside of why the finalismof Rational Choice Theory,
agents. And when habitus encounters a although anthropologically false, may
social world of which it is the product, it appear as empirically sound. Individualist
finds itself "as fish in water," it does not finalism, which conceives action as deter-
feel the weight of the water and takes the mined by the conscious aiming at explicitly
world about itself for granted. posed goals, is a well-founded illusion: the
sense of the game which implies an antici-
LW: All of this puts you in a frontal pated adjustment of habitus to the necessi-
opposition to this wide, if heterogenous, ties and to the probabilities inscribed in
current that has recently been gaining the field does present itself under the
strength across the social sciences under
the label of Rational Action Theory or 32
See Bourdieu (1980a, pp. 71-86) for a thorough
Rational Choice Theory. critique of Sartrian phenomenology and Elster's
PB: Without the shadow of a doubt. brand of Rational Choice Theory along these lines.

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44 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

appearance of a successful "aiming at" a body, and fields, i.e., systems of objective
future. Likewise, the structural affinity of relations which are the product of the
habituses belonging to the same class is institution of the social in things, or in
capable of generating practices that are mechanisms that have the quasi-reality of
convergent and objectively orchestrated physical objects; and, of course, of every-
outside of any collective "conspiracy" or thing that is born out of this relation, that
consciousness. In this fashion it explains is, social practices and representations, or
many of those phenomena of quasi-tele- fields as they present themselves in the
ology which can be observed in the social form of realities perceived and appreciated.
world, such as those forms of collective
action or reaction which pose such insuper- LW: What is the nature of this relationship
able dilemmas to RAT. of "ontological complicity" between habitus
But the efforts of the proponents of and field and how does it work itself out
some or other version of Rational Action more precisely?
Theory remind me of Tycho Brah6 trying PB: The relation between habitus and
to salvage the Ptolemaic paradigm after field operates in two ways. On one side, it
Copernicus: it is the anthrological postu- is a relation of conditioning: the field
lates of RAT concerning the nature of structures the habitus, which is the product
social action that are, in my view, irretriev- of the embodiment of the immanent neces-
ably flawed. Both the kind of finalism sity of a field (or of a hierarchically
represented by RAT, which wants to see intersecting set of fields). On the other
nothing but choice (if under constraints: side, it is a relation of knowledge or
limited rationality, irrational rationality, cognitive construction: habitus contributes
"weakness of the will," etc., the variations to constituting the field as a meaningful
are endless-here again, anyone who re- world, a world endowed with sense and
calls Sartre's analysis of bad faith or of with value, in which it is worth investing
oaths will quickly recognize the intellectual one's energy. Two things follow: firstly,
contortions of an Elster [1984b] in Ulysses the relation of knowledge depends on the
and the Sirens as the mediocre remake of a relation of conditioning that precedes it
well-known show), and the mechanistic and fashions the structures of habitus;
determinism taken to its extreme by struc- secondly, social science is necessarily a
tural Marxists equally mutilate the intrin- "knowledge of a knowledge" and must
sically double reality of human existence make room for a sociologically grounded
as a thing of the world for which there are phenomenology of the primary experience
things, a fundamental anthropological of the field or, to be more precise, of the
reality that Pascal captured brilliantlywhen invariants and variations of the relation
he said: "Le monde me comprend et between different types of fields and
m'aneantit comme un point mais je le different types of habitus.
comprends" (in short, the world en- In short, the specificity of social science
compasses me but I understand it). lies in the fact that its object of knowledge
The proper object of social science, is a reality which includes agents who have
then, is neither individuals, this ens realis- this very reality as an object of knowledge.
simum naively crowned as the paramount, The task becomes, then, to construct a
rock-bottom reality by all "methodological theory of practice as practice and a theory
individualists," nor groups as sets of con- of the practical mode of knowledge that is
crete individuals sharing a similar location implied in it. Thus, if it is indispensable to
in social space, but the relation between break with the spontaneous knowledge of
two realizations of historical action, in the social world, it is no less necessary to
bodies (or biological individuals) and in include in our theory the practical knowl-
things. It is the double and obscure relation edge against which scientific knowledge is
between habitus, i.e., the durable and constructed and which continues to orient
transposable system of schemes of per- practices. The relation of practical knowl-
ception, appreciation, and action that result edge is not that between a subject and an
from the institution of the social in the object constituted as such and perceived as

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 45
a problem. Habitus being the social in- LANGUAGE, PHILOSOPHY, AND
corporated, it is "at home" in the field it SYMBOLIC DOMINATION
inhabits, it perceives it immediately as
endowed with meaning and interest. Prac- LW: In Language and Symbolic Power
tical action may be described by analogy (Bourdieu 1982b, 1989b), you develop a
with the orthe doxa of Plato in Meno, as sweeping critique of structural linguistics,
the "right opinion:" the coincidence be- or what one might call the "pure" study of
tween dispositons and position, between language. You put forth an alternative
the "sense of the game" and the game, model which, to simplify greatly, makes
explains that the agent does "what he or language an instrument or a medium of
she has to do" without posing it explicitly power relations, rather than simply a
as a goal, below the level of calculation means of communication, that must be
and even consciousness, beneath discourse studied within the interactional and struc-
and representation. tural contexts of its production and actual-
The theory of habitus, again, allows us ization. Could you summarize the gist of
to overcome a whole series of antinomies this critique?
into which the theory of action routinely PB: What characterizes "pure"linguistics
locks itself, those of consciousness and the is the primacy it accords to the synchronic,
"thingness"of social facts, of mechanicalism internal, structural perspective over the
and finalism, of subjective teleology (as in historical, social, economic, or external,
all so-called theories of "rational choice") determinations of language. I have sought,
and objective teleology (which personalizes especially in Le sens pratique (Bourdieu
collectives, "the State," the "Bourgeoisie," 1980a, pp. 51-70), to draw attention to the
etc., and endows them with intentions and relation to the object and to the theory of
projects). practice implicit in this perspective. The
Saussurian point of view is that of the
"impartial spectator" who seeks under-
LW: Does the theory of habitus rule out standing as an end in itself and thus leads
strategic choice and conscious deliberation to impute this "hermeneutic intention" to
as one modality of action? social agents, to construe it as the principle
PB: Not at all. The immediate fit between of their practices. It takes up the posture
habitus and field is only one modality of of the grammarian, whose purpose is to
action, if the most prevalent one ("We are study and codify language, as opposed to
empirical," said Leibniz, by which he that of the orator, who seeks to act in and
meant practical, "in three quarters of our upon the world through the performative
action"). The lines of action suggested by power of the word. Thus by treating it as
habitus may very well be accompanied by an object of analysis rather than using it to
a strategic calculation of costs and benefits think and to speak with, it constitutes
which tends to carry out at a conscious language as a logos, by opposition to a
level the operations which habitus carries praxis, as a telos without practical purpose
out in its own way. Rational choice may or no purpose other than that of being
even become a metier, a profession, as in interpreted, in the manner of the work of
the trade of the historian, the economist, art.
or the scientist. Times of crises, in which This typically scholastic opposition is a
the routine adjustment of subjective and product of the scholarly apperception and
objective structures is brutally disrupted, situation-another case of the scholastic
constitute a class of circumstances when fallacy we talked about earlier. This schol-
indeed "rational choice" often appears to arly epoche neutralizesthe functions implied
take over. But, and this is a crucial in the ordinaryusage of language. Language
proviso, it is habitus itself that commands according to Saussure, or in the herme-
this option. We can always say that indivi- neutic tradition, is constituted into an
duals make choices, as long as we do not instrument of intellection and into an
forget that they do not choose the principle object of analysis, a dead language (written
of these choices. and foreign as Bakhtine points out), a self-

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46 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY
contained system completely severed from are always relations of power (rapports de
its real uses and denuded from its practical force) and, consequently, cannot be eluci-
-and political-functions (as in Fodor's dated within the compass of linguistic
and Katz's pure semantics). The illusion of analysis alone.33 Even the simplest linguistic
autonomy of the "purely" linguistic order exchange brings into play a complex and
which is asserted by the privilege granted ramifying web of historical power relations
the internal logic of language at the between the speaker, endowed with a
expense of the social conditions of its specific social authority, and an audience,
timely usage opens the way to all subse- which recognizes this authority to varying
quent theories which proceed as if the degrees, as well as between the groups to
theoretical mastery of the code sufficed to which they respectively belong. What I
confer practical mastery of socially appro- have sought to show is that a very important
priate usages. part of what goes on in verbal communi-
cation, even the content of the message
LW: By that, do you mean to assert, itself, remains unintelligible as long as one
contrary to the claims of structural linguis- does not take into account the totality of
tics, that the meaning of linguistic utter- the structure of power relations that under-
ances cannot be derived, or deduced, from lay the exchange.
the analysis of their formal structure? Let me take a simple example, that of
PB: Yes, and to put it more strongly, communication between settlers and natives
that grammaticality is not the necessary in a colonial or post-colonial context. The
and sufficient condition of the production first question that arises, and one typically
of meaning, as Chomsky (1967) would overlooked by linguists, is: what language
lead us to believe by overlooking the fact will they use? Will the dominant embrace
that language is made not for linguistic the language of the dominated as a token
analysis, but to be spoken and to be of his newly-found concern for equality? If
spoken a propos. (The Sophists used to say he does, there is a good chance that this
that what is important in learning a language will be done through what I call a strategy
is to learn the appropriate moment, kairos, of condescension (cf. Bourdieu 1984a, pp.
for saying the appropriate thing.) All the 472-473): by temporarily but ostentatiously
presumptions, and all the subsequent diffi- abdicating his dominant position in order
culties, of all structuralisms (and this is to "reach down" to his interlocutor, the
true both of anthropology and sociology) dominant profits from this relation of
are contained in nutshell in this initial domination, which continues to exist, by
operation which reduces the speech act to denying it. Symbolic denegation (in the
a mere execution. It is this primeval Freudian sense of Verneinung), i.e., the
distinction between language and its fictitious bracketting of the relation of
realization in speech, that is in practice power, exploits this relation of power in
and in history, which is at the root of the order to produce the recognition of the
inability of structuralism to think the relation of power that abdication elicits.
relation between two entities other than as Let us turn now to the situation, which in
the model and its execution, essence and fact is by far the most frequent one, where
existence, and which amounts to putting it is the dominated who is obliged to adopt
the scientists, keeper of the model, in the the language of the dominant-and here
position of a Leibnizian God to whom the the relation between standard, white
objective meaning of practices is given. English and black American provides a
In challenging this posture, I am trying paradigm. In this case, the dominated
to recover the lost foundations of linguistic speaks a broken language, as William
exchanges and, again, to overcome the Labov (1973) has shown, and his linguistic
shortcomings of both the economic and capital is more or less completely devalued,
the purely linguistic analysis of language.
What is it that they both forget? Essentially, 33 See Bourdieu and Boltanski
(1975), Bourdieu
to sum up a long and difficult demonstration (1975a, 1977c, 1983b) and Bourdieu (1980b, pp. 95-
in one sentence, that linguistic relations 112, 121-142) for further developments.

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 47
be it in school, at work, or in social treasure. The illusion of "linguistic com-
encounters. What conversation analysis munism" is the illusion that everyone
leaves out too easily, in this case, is that participates in language as they enjoy the
every linguistic interaction between whites sun, the air or water-in a word, that
and blacks is constrained by the encom- language is not a rare good. In fact, access
passing structural relation between their to language is quite unequal and the
respective appropriations of English, and theoretically universal competence liberally
by the power imbalance which sustains it granted to all by linguists is in reality
and gives the arbitraryimposition of "white" monopolized by some. Certain categories
English its air of naturalness. of locutors are deprived of the capacity to
To push this analysis further, one would speak in certain situations (and often
need to introduce all kinds of positional acknowledge this deprivation in the manner
coordinates, such as gender, level of edu- of this agriculturalist who explained that
cation, class origins, residence, etc. All he never thought of running for mayor of
these variables intervene at every moment his small township by saying: "But I don't
in the determination of the objective know how to speak!").
structure of "communicative action," and Inequalities of linguistic competence
the form taken by linguistic interaction will reveal themselves on the market of daily
hinge substantially upon this structure, interactions, that is, in the chatter between
which is unconscious and works almost two persons, in a public meeting, in a
wholly "behind the backs" of locutors. In seminar, and on the radio or TV. Com-
short, if a French person talks with an petence effectively functions differentially
Algerian, or a black American to a WASP, and there are monopolies on the market of
it is not two persons who speak to each linguistic goods just as on the market of
other but, through them, the colonial economic goods. This is most visible in
history in its entirety, or the whole history politics, where spokespersons, being
of the economic, political, and cultural granted a monopoly over the legitimate
subjugation of blacks (or women, or political expression of the will of a collec-
workers, etc.) in the United States. tive, speak not only in favor of those
whom they represent but also in their
LW: You also denounce the "illusion of place (Bourdieu 1985b, 1981a).
linguistic communism" (Bourdieu and
Boltanski 1975) according to which the
social competence to speak is equally given LW: Your analysis of language, then, is not
to all. an accidental "incursion" into the domain
PB: Any discourse is the product of the of linguistics but, rather, an extension, to a
encounter of a linguistic habitus, that is, a new empirical realm, language and speech,
competence at once technical and social, or discursive practices more generally (in-
and a market, i.e., a system of relations of cluding those of linguists), of the method of
force which determine the price of linguistic analysis you have applied to other cultural
products and thus helps fashion linguistic products.
production. The anticipation of the price PB: Yes. I think that the division
that my discourse will fetch contributes to between linguistics and sociology is un-
determining the shape and content of my fortunate and deleterious to both disci-
discourse, which will be more or less plines. I have spent my entire life fighting
"tense," more or less censored, sometimes such arbitrary boundaries, which are pure
to the point of annulment-as in the products of academic reproduction and
silence of intimidation. have no epistemological foundation what-
This means that not all linguistic utter- soever, between sociology and anthro-
ances are equally acceptable and not all pology, sociology and history, sociology
locutors equal. Saussure says that language and linguistics, the sociology of art and the
is a "treasure" and he describes the relation sociology of education, the sociology of
of individuals to language as a sort of sport and the sociology of culture, etc.
democratic participation to the common Here again is a situation where "tres-

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48 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

passing," as Albert Hirschman would say, apparently the most unfavorable case for
is a prerequisite for scientific advance. the sociology of cultural works as I conceive
it, that the method of analysis I propose
LW: If I could try to summarize what you could not only account for the sociopolitical
are saying: the meaning and social efficacy conditions of production of the work but
of a message is only determined within a also lead to a better understanding of the
given field (e.g., journalism or philosophy), work itself, that is, in this case, of the
itself nested in a network of hierarchical central thrust of Heidegerrian philosophy,
relations with other fields (such as the field namely, the ontologization of historicism.
of power, of law, of class relations, etc.). This being said, I used the controversy
Without an understanding of the full struc- which recently erupted around the work of
ture of objective relationships that define Heidegger,34 and in which certain philos-
positions in this field, of the specific forms ophers (Lacoue-Labarthe and Lyotard
of censorship they imply, and without notably) displayed more clearly than ever
knowledge of the trajectories and linguistic before their profound political irresponsi-
dispositions of those who occupy them, it is bility, to highlight the politically ambiguous
impossible to fully explicate processes of implications of a certain way of conceiving
communication, why something is said or philosophy which has spread in France
not said, by whom, what is meant, what is since the 1960s: a vision of philosophy,
understood, and with what effects, i.e., especially through the exaltation of the
what can be "done with words," to borrow works of Nietzsche or Heidegger, that
Austin's (1962) formula. leads to an aestheticism of transgression, to
PB: This is exactly what I tried to a "radical chic," as some of my American
demonstrate in my study on The Political friends put it, that is extremely ambiguous
Ontology of Martin Heidegger (Bourdieu intellectually and politically. Under this
1975c and 1988b). Indeed, it is the logic of angle, my work-I think in particular of
my research on language and on the notion L'amour de l'art (Bourdieu et al. 1966)-35
of field which led me to concern myself or Distinction-stands as the very anti-
with Heidegger. The work of Heidegger thesis of the supreme philosophical role
(with which I became intimately familiar which, since Sartre, has always entailed an
very early on, at a time of my youth when I aesthetic dimension: the critique, not of
was preparing a book on the pheno- culture, but of the social uses of culture as
menology of affective life and of temporal a capital and an instrument of symbolic
experience) appeared to me as a "strategic domination, is incompatible with the
research site," to use Merton's expression, aestheticist entertainment often concealed
to verify my hypotheses on the effect of behind a scientific front, as in Barthes or
censorship exerted by fields of cultural pro- Tel Quel (not to mention even more trivial
duction: Heidegger is a master-I am manifestations such as Baudrillard's Cool
inclined to say, the master-of double talk Memories), of those French philosophers
or, if you wish, of polyphonic discourse. who have taken the degree of aestheticiz-
He manages to speak simultaneously in ation of philosophy to a degree hitherto
two keys, that of scholarly philosophical unequalled. Derrida is, on this point, no
language and that of ordinary language.
This is particularly visible in the case of the 34 The
publication of Farias' (1987) study docu-
apparently "pure" concept of Fiirsorge menting Heidegger's support of and involvement in
which plays a central role in the Heideg- Nazi politics triggered a heated and politically charged
intellectual controversy into which all the "heavy-
gerian theory of time and which, in the weights" of the French intellectual field were drawn.
expression soziale Firsorge, social security, It was the occasion of a vigorous exchange between
refers to the political context and to the Derrida and Bourdieu in the pages of the daily
condemnation of the welfare state, of paid Liberation. For a sample of this debate in France and
in Germany, see Davidson (1989).
vacations, of health insurance, etc. But 35
Bourdieu's work on the social production and
Heidegger interested me also as the ex- uses of art also includes Bourdieu, Boltanski, Castel
emplary incarnation of the "pure philo- and Chamboredon (1965), and Bourdieu (1968a,
sopher" and I wanted to show, in what was 1971c, 198()h, 1985d, 1987d).

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 49
doubt the most skilled and the most social sciences, against psychology and
ambiguous insofar as he manages to give against sociology in particular, and through
the appearance of a radical break to those them, against any form of thought that is
semi-ruptures which extend the game of explicitly and immediately directed at the
iconoclast destruction into the realm of "vulgar" realities of the social world. The
culture. His analyses always stop short of refusal to derogate by studying objects
the point where they would fall into deemed inferior or by applying "impure"
"vulgarity," as I showed in the post- methods, be it statistical survey or even
scriptum of Distinction (1984a, pp. 485- the simple historiographic analysis of
500); situating himself both inside and documents, castigated at all times by
outside the game, on the field and on the philosophers as "reductionist," "positivist,"
sideline, he plays with fire by brushing etc., goes hand in hand with the refusal to
against a genuine critique of philosophical plunge into the fleeting contingency of
imposture without ever completing it, and historical things that prompts those philos-
for good reason. ophers most concerned by their statutory
Thus the "Heidegger affair" was for me dignity always to return (often through the
an opportunity to show that philosophical most unexpected routes, as Habermass
aestheticism is rooted in a social aristo- testifies today), to the most "universal"
cratism which is itself at the base of a and "eternal" thought.
contempt for the social sciences that is A good number of the specific character-
highly unlikely to facilitate a realistic istics of French philosophy since the 60s
vision of the social world and which, can be explained by the fact that, as I
without necessarily determining political demonstrate in Homo Academicus, the
"mistakes" as monstrous as Heidegger's university and intellectual field came, for
grosse Dummheit, have very serious im- the first time, to be dominated by specialists
plications for intellectual life and, indirectly, in the human sciences (led by Levi-Strauss,
for political life. It is no happenstance if Dum6zil, Braudel, etc.). The central focus
the French philosophers of the sixties, and of all discussions at the time shifted to
in particular Derrida and Foucault, whose linguistics, which was constituted into the
philosophical project was formed in a paradigm of all the human sciences, and
fundamentally ambivalent relation with even of such philosophical enterprises as
the "human sciences" and who never fully Foucault's. This is the origin of what I
repudiated the privileges of caste associated have called the "-logy effect" to designate
with the status of philosopher, have given the desperate efforts of philosophers to
a new life, throughout the world but borrow the methods, and to mimick the
especially in the United States, to the old scientificity, of the social sciences without
philosophical critique of the social sciences giving up the privileged status of the "free
and fueled, under the cover of "decon- thinker:" thus the literary semiology of
struction" and the critique of "texts," a Barthes (not to mention Kristeva and
thinly-veiled form of irrationalist nihilism. Sollers), the archeology of Foucault, the
grammatology of Derrida, or the attempt
LW: Your analysis of Heidegger, and of the of the Althusserians to pass the "pure"
social production and functioning of philo- reading of Marx off as a self-sufficient and
sophical discourse more generally,36 thus self-contained science (cf. Bourdieu 1975b).
presupposes, and calls forth, an analysis of
the objective position of sociology in relation
to philosophy.
THE REFUSAL OF "THEORETICAL
PB: Since the second half of the 19th
THEORY"
century, European philosophy has con-
stantly defined itself in opposition to the LW: Since we are talking "theory," let me
bring up a puzzle. You are frequently
3" Further analyses of philosophy as an institution billed, and certainly read, as a "social
and as a discourse are found in Bourdieu (1975a, theorist" (and, as you well know, this is a
1975b, 1975c, 1980f, 1982b, 1983a. and 1983c). very definite type in the gallery of possible

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50 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

sociological personas in the United States). treated, thought of, comparatively or,
Yet I keep being struck by how seldom, in more precisely, analogically. The thread
your work, you make purely "theoretical" which leads from one of my works to the
statements or remarks. Instead, you keep next is the logic of research, which is in my
referring to particular research problems eyes inseparably empirical and theoretical.
and mundane dilemmas you encountered I readily confess that I feel very little in
while gathering, coding, or analyzing data, common with the kind of rhetorical exer-
or thinking through a substantive issue. cises in "theoretical theory" that are so
Even in your research seminar at the Ecole common on your side of the Atlantic.
des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in
Paris, you warn your audience upfront that LW: What is the difference between "theo-
they shall not get from this course "neat retical theory" and scientific theory as you
presentations on habitus and field." You conceive it?
are also extremely reluctant to discuss the PB: For me, theory is not a sort of
concepts that you have coined and use in prophetic or programmaticdiscourse which
your work in isolation from their empirical originates by dissection or by amalgamation
supports. Could you explicate the place of other theories for the sole purpose of
that theory occupies in your work? confronting other such pure "theoretical
PB: Let me say outright and very force- theories." (I need not give examples of
fully that I never "theorize," if by that we these endless and unassailable "conceptual
mean engage in the kind of conceptual melting pots" of neologisms, refurbished
gobbledygook (laius) that is good for categories, and pseudo-theorems, generally
textbooks and which, through an extra- closed by a call for future research or
ordinarymisconstrualof the logic of science, empirical application, preferably by others
passes for Theory in much of Anglo- -Glaser and Strauss [1967] speak some-
American social science. I never set out to where of "theoretical capitalists," perhaps
"do theory" or to "construct a theory" per rentiers would be a better image-whose
se, as the American expression goes. And paradigm remains, a decade after his
it is a complete misapprehension of my death, Parsons' AGIL scheme that some
project to believe that I am attempting today are trying to resurrect.) Rather,
some kind of "synthesis of classical theory" scientific theory as I conceive it emerges as
a la Parsons. There is no doubt a theory in a program of perception and of action-a
my work, or, better, a set of thinking tools scientific habitus, if you wish-which is
visible through the results they yield, but it disclosed only in the empirical work which
is not built as such. actualizes it. It is a temporary construct
The ground for these tools-the notion which takes shape for and by empirical
of cultural capital,37 for instance, that I work.38 Consequently, it has more to gain
invented in the early 60s to account for the by confronting new objects than by en-
fact that, after controlling for class origins, gaging in theoretical polemics that do little
students from more cultured families have more than fuel a perpetual, self-sustaining,
not only higher rates of academic success and too often vacuous meta-discourse
but exhibit different modes and patterns of around concepts treated as intellectual
cultural consumption and expression in a totems. There is nothing more sterile than
wide gamut of domains-lies in research, epistemology or theory when it becomes a
in the practical problems and puzzles topic for society conversation and a substi-
encountered and generated in the effort to tute for research.
construct a phenomenally diverse set of To treat theory as a modus operandi
objects in such a way that they can be which practially guides and structures
scientific practice obviously implies giving
37 See Bourdieu (1979a) on the "three forms"
up the somewhat fetishistic accommodative-
ness that "theoreticians" usually establish
(embodied, objectified and institutionalized) of cul-
tural capital, and Bourdieu (1986b) on the relations
3KSee Bourdieu and Hahn
between cultural, social, economic, and symbolic (1970) and Bourdieu et
capital. al. (1968, part I) for elaborations.

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 51
with it. It is for this reason that I never felt status attainment research) are based al-
the urge to retrace the genealogy of the most entirely on one particular method,
concepts I have coined or reactivated, like and reinforced by the political demand for
those habitus, field, or symbolic capital. instruments of rationalization of social
Not having been born of theoretical partho- domination-and it must be rejected. I
genesis, these concepts do not gain much could paraphrase Kant and say that re-
by being resituated vis-a-vis previous search without theory is blind and theory
usages. Their construction and use emerged without research is empty.
in the practicalities of the research enter- The trick, if I may call it that, is to
prise and it is in this context that they must manage to combine immense theoretical
be evaluated. The function of the concepts ambition with extreme empirical modesty.
I employ is first and foremost to designate, The summum of the art, in social science,
in stenographic manner, within the research is, in my eyes, to be capable of engaging
procedure, a theoretical stance, a principle very high "theoretical" stakes by means of
of methodological choice, negative as well very precise and often very mundane
as positive. Systematization necessarily empirical objects. We tend too easily to
comes ex post, as fruitful analogies emerge assume that the social or political import-
little by little, as the useful properties of ance of an object suffices in itself to grant
the concept are successfully tried and importance to the discourse that deals with
tested.39 it. What counts, in reality, is the rigor of
Unfortunately, the socially dominant the construction of the object. I think that
model of sociology today is still predicated the power of a mode of thinking never
on a clear-cut distinction, and a practical manifests itself more clearly than in its
divorce, between research (I think here in capacity to constitute socially insignificant
particular of this "science without a scien- objects into scientific objects (as Goffman
tist" epitomized by public opinion research did of the minutiae of interaction rituals)4"
and of this scientific monster called or, what amounts to the same thing, to
"methodology") and the "theory without approach a major socially significant object
object" of pure theoreticians, presently in an unexpected manner-something I
exemplified by the trendy, and mostly am presently attempting by studying the
empty, discussion raging around the so- effects of the monopoly of the state over
called "micro-macro link" (e.g., Alexander the means of legitimate symbolic violence
et al. 1987). This opposition between the by way of a very down-to-earth analysis of
pure theory of the lector devoted to the what a certificate (of illness, invalidity,
hermeneutic cult of the scriptures of the schooling, etc.) is and does. For this, one
founding fathers (if not of his own writings), must learn how to translate very abstract
on the one hand, and survey research and problems into very concrete scientific
methodology on the other is an entirely operations.
social opposition. It is inscribed in the
institutional and mental structures of the
sociological profession, rooted in the PROGRESS AND PROSPECTS FOR
academic distribution of resources, posi- SOCIOLOGY
tions, and competencies, as when whole
schools (e.g., conversation analysis or LW: In a paper published in 1968 in Social
Research (Bourdieu and Passeron 1968, p.
212), you expressed the hope that, "just as
3'
For instance, it is only after utilizing the notion American sociology was able, for a time, by
of "social capital" for a good number of years and in a its empirical rigor, to act as the scientific
wide variety of empirical settings, from the matri- bad conscience of French sociology," French
monial relations of peasants to the symbolic strategies
of research foundations to designers of high fashion sociology might, "by its theoretical strin-
to alumni associations of elite schools (see, respec- gency, become the philosophical bad con-
tively, Bourdieu 1977b, 198(a, 1980b, 1981b; Bourdieu
and Delsaut 1975), that Bourdieu wrote a paper
outlining some of its generic characteristics (Bourdieu 4" See the eulogy written by Bourdieu (1983) for
1980c). Le Monde upon Goffman's sudden death.

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52 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY
science of American sociology." Twenty sociologically speaking-and perhaps more
years later, where does this wish stand? so in the United States than in many other
PB: I think that it is the very distinction countries. Sociology is an especially difficult
between theory and research implied by science because it uncovers things that are
this statement that must be challenged. If hidden and sometimes even repressed, and
French sociology is to become the scientific because its objects are the stakes of
bad conscience of American sociology, struggles in social reality itself.41 Sociology
then it must succeed in overcoming this denaturalizes, and thereby de-fatalizes the
separation by putting forth a new form of world, and the knowledge it produces is
scientific practice founded at once upon a liable to exert a political efficacy every
greater theoretical exigency and upon time it reveals the laws of functioning of
greater empirical rigor. The programme of mechanisms that owe part of their own
work that I recently completed on French efficacy to being misrecognized, i.e., every
elites schools in the field of power attempts, time it reaches into the foundations of
in its own partial way, to contribute to the symbolic violence.
maturing of such a form of research. In the I have repeated often that one of the
book entitled The State Nobility (Bour- necessary conditions for progress is the
dieu 1989a) which grew out of it, I try to autonomy of the scientific field (Bourdieu,
bring together the results of nearly 20 1981d, forthcoming). But this does not
years of in-depth investigations, not of one mean that each national sociology must
but of some twenty Grandes Ecoles and of remain aloof, on the contrary. We need to
some 200 corporations and their CEOs, engage in a collective reflection on the
based on surveys, direct observation, inter- institutional conditions of rational com-
views of students, archival documents, etc.; munication in the social sciences. (It is an
a reflection on methods, including the prob- opportunity for such a reflection that I
lem of theoretical sampling; a phenomen- sought to promote in accepting to organize,
ology of the experience of being selected along with James Coleman, the conference
in or out of the elite; and a structural on "Social Theory and Emerging Issues in
theory of modes of reproduction. Of a Changing Society" to be held at the
course, I have no illusions that this work University of Chicago in April of 1989).
reaches all the lofty goals I just set but I What social scientists on both sides of the
believe that it does represent a genuine Atlantic must do is work to build and
attempt at truly marrying theoretical and strengthen institutional mechanisms against
empirical rigor. isolationism, against all forms of scientific
intolerance, mechanisms capable of pro-
LW: In what sense can we speak of moting fair communication and a more
progress then? Can we say that sociology open confrontation of ideas, theories, and
has moved forward, or are we still battling paradigms. More than the positive and
with the same evils of Grand Theory and negative developments which have taken
Abstracted Empiricism as C.-Wright Mills place in each national sociology in the last
(1959) expressed it in the late 1950s? twenty years, what matters is the establish-
PB: Instead of progress, I would rather ment of relations between American and
speak of obstacles to progress, and of Continental social scientists that make
means of overturning these obstacles. possible a greater unification of the field of
There is undoubtedly progress, and soci- world sociology and, most importantly, a
ology is a considerably more advanced unification respectful of diversity.
science than observers, even its practi- If there exist, pace Habermas, no trans-
tioners, are willing to grant. The reasons historical universals of communication,
for this distrust of the scientific status of there certainly exists forms of social organ-
sociology are more social than epistemo- ization of communication that are liable to
logical: a truly scientific sociology, that is, foster the production of the universal. We
a science of society that rejects the social 41 See
especially "Une science qui derange" and
demand for legitimation or manipulation, "Le sociologue en question" in Bourdieu (1980b, pp.
is a practice that is highly improbable 19-60) for an elaboration of this point.

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 53
cannot rely on moral exhortation to abolish world. It is the task of research pedagogy
"systematically distorted" communication to make students acutely aware of this
from sociology. Only a true Realpolitik of double bind and to train them to resist its
scientific reason can contribute to trans- negative effects. (In this respect, I rest
forming structures of communication by convinced that one of the chief obstacles to
helping to change both the modes of progress in the social sciences today lies in
functioning of those universes where science the ordinary teaching of sociology, and
is produced and the dispositions of the graduate students are no doubt its number
agents who compete in these universes, one victim.) And it is the role of the
and thus the institution that contributes reflexive return, of the social history of
most to fashion them, the University. scientific practices, in a word, the objec-
tivation of tools of objectivation, to remind
LW: Isn't one of the conditions of scientific us of it.
progress, then, to be capable of liberating This being said, the social dispositions
oneself from the constraints of traditions of one brings into academia evidently play a
thought (and especially national traditions), crucial role here. Those best armed to
which in turn presupposes a kind of "anti- avoid this dilemma are people who bring
nomic attitude" towards one's discipline: together an advanced mastery of scientific
on the one hand you need concepts and culture with a certain revolt against, or
theories to construct objects, thus you need distance from, this culture (often rooted in
to absorb and trust its heritage. But, on the an estranged experience of the academic
other hand, these intellectual tools them- universe which pushes one 'not to "buyit" at
selves are already (pre)constructions that face value), or, quite simply, a political
carry over the accepted wisdom of our sense which intuitively leads one to reject
predecessors and create blinders which or to resist the asepticized and derealized
may hide as much as they reveal. vision of the social world offered by the
PB: Indeed, the sociologist is inescapably socially dominant discourse in sociology.42
and endlessly faced with a sort of double Needless to say, the more you consciously
bind, strapped in a Catch-22 situation of command the principles that lead you to
this sort. Without the intellectual instru- challenge the accepted preconceptions of
ments he owes his scholarly tradition, he an intellectual tradition, the greater your
or she is nothing more than an amateur, a chances of fully mastering your own
self-taught, spontaneous sociologist-and thought and scientific products-in sum,
certainly not the best equipped of all lay to be the true subject of the problems that
sociologists, given the generally limited can be posed about the social world.
span of the social experiences of academics.
But, at the same time, there is the ever- LW: Since you evoked the process of
present danger that he will simply substitute becoming a sociologist, perhaps I could
to the naive doxa of lay common sense the bring this conversation to a close by asking
no less naive doxa of scientific common you a more practical question: what advice
sense which parrots, in the technical jargon would you give to young, aspiring sociol-
and under the official trappings of scientific ogists, say, graduate students who are
discourse, the discourse of common sense, learning their trade and wish to escape this
which retranslates it in this terrible, half-
concrete, half-abstract linguo that his 42 For
training and the censorship of the socio- instance, Skocpol (1988) shows that the
recent rebirth of macrohistorical sociology in the
logical establishment impose on him. U.S. and its unique sensitivity to issues of conflict,
It is not easy to escape the horns of this
power, and social transformation, are in part an
dilemma, this alternative between the effect of the academic maturing of an "uppity
disarmed ignorance of the autodidact de- generation" of students trained during the rebellious
void of instruments of rigorous scientific sixties who came to academia with an experience of
social and political activism that made it difficult, if
construction and this half-science which not impossible, for them to believe in the consensual
unknowingly accepts categories of per- and falsely neutral vision of society promoted by
ception directly borrowed from the social structural functionalism and modernization theory.

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54 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY
sterile opposition between "empty theory" kitchen sink: do not settle for the cozy and
and "blind research"? derealized experience of the social world
PB: First and foremost: have fun! The fostered by those bureaucratic machineries
craft of the sociologist is one of the most of survey research that create a huge
pleasant and enriching activities one can buffer between the social analyst and the
indulge in, spanning the whole gamut of universe he or she claims to dissect. Direct
intellectual practices and skills, from those contact with the object not only has the
of the novelist laboring to create emotions virtue of helping preserve you from the
and characterto those of the mathematician fetishization of concepts and theories; it
striving to capture the world in abstract will also make you more attentive to the
models and equations. We must repell any details of research procedures, to the built-
unilateral, undimensional and mono- in assumptions and consequences of
maniacal definition of sociological practice, apparently innocuous technical choices
and resist all attempts to impose one. that are generally made unthinkingly. Most
Consequently, and this would be my of all, you must adopt an active and
second point, apprentice sociologists need systematic posture vis-a-vis "facts." To
to question and constantly challenge break with empiricist passivity, which rests
methodological prescriptions and interdicts. content with ratifying the preconstructions
Social research is something much too of common sense, without relapsing into
serious and much too difficult that we can the vacuous discourse of grand "theorizing,"
allow ourselves to mistake scientific rigidity, you must tackle a very concrete empirical
which is the nemesis of intelligence and case with the goal of building a model
invention, for scientific rigor, and thus to (which need not be mathematical to be
deprive ourselves of this or that resource rigorous), by linking the relevant data in
available in the full panoply of traditions such a manner that they function as a self-
of our discipline-and of the sister disci- propelling program of research capable of
plines of anthropology, economics, history, generating systematic questions liable to
etc. In such matters, I would dare say that be given systematic answers, in short, to
one rule only applies: "it is forbidden to yield a coherent system of relations which
forbid." So watch out for methodological can be tested as such. To be intelligent in
watchdogs! Of course, the extreme liberty the scientific sense is to put oneself in a
I advocate here (and which, let me hasten situation that automatically generates true
to add, has nothing in common with the problems and true, productive, difficulties.
kind of relativistic epistemological laissez Fourthly, beware of words. Language
faire which seems to be much in vogue in poses a particularly acute problem for the
some quarters) has its counterpart in the sociologist because it carries along a "spon-
extreme vigilance that we must accord to taneous" social philosophy which consti-
the conditions of use of analytical tech- tutes one of the most formidable "epis-
niques and to ensuring their fit with the temological obstacles" to a rigorous science
question at hand. Instead of arbitrarily of society, to speak like Bachelard (1938).
imposing this or that technology of measure- Common language is the repository of the
ment or analysis as the penultimate badge accumulated common sense of past gener-
of scientificity, we must, whenever possible, ations, both lay and scientific, as crystallized
mobilize and put to work all of the in occupational taxonomies, names of
techniques which are relevant and practi- groups, concepts (think of all the ideological
cally usable given the definition of the baggage bore by the apparently innocuous
problem under investigation. As the most couple of "achievement" and "ascription,"
rudimentarysociology of sociology reveals, or consensus and conflict, or even indivi-
methodological indictments are often no dual and society), and so on. The most
more than a disguised way of making a routine categories that sociologists borrow
virtue out of necessity, of feigning to from it (e.g., young and old, "middle
dismiss, to ignore in an active way what class" and "upper-middle class") are natur-
one is ignorant of in fact. alized preconstructions which, when they
Thirdly, get your hands dirty in the are ignored as such, function as unconscious

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TOWARD A REFLEXIVE SOCIOLOGY 55
and uncontrolled instruments of scholarly potentially liberating awakening of con-
construction. One of the most powerful sciousness.43
instruments of rupture with the doxa APPENDIX: SOME BIBLIO-
embedded in words lies in the social GRAPHICAL TIPS ON HOW TO
history of problems, concepts, and objects READ BOURDIEU
of inquiry. By retracing the collective work For the novice, finding an entry into
that was necessary to constitute such and Bourdieu's work poses the thorny problem
such issue (the feminization of the work of where to start. The following strategy
force, the growth of the welfare state, reflects my personal preferences and what
teenage pregnancy, or religious funda- some of the participants to the Workshop
mentalism) into a visible, scientifically on Pierre Bourdieu I organized found
legitimate problem, the researcher can practical (only English-language writings
shelter him or herself from the social are included and short pieces are given
imposition of problematics. For a soci- preference over longer ones). The order of
ologist more than any other thinker, to listing, from the more (meta-)theoretical
leave one's own thought in a state of and conceptual to the more empirical, is
unthought (impense) is to condemn one- somewhat arbitrary since Bourdieu rarely
self to be nothing more than the instrument separates epistemology, theory, and em-
of what one claims to think. pirical work, but it is useful as a practical
This is why, in my view, the history of indication of the emphases of the papers.
sociology, understood as an exploration of In general, it is recommended to withhold
the scientific unconscious of the sociologist judgment until you have read a great deal;
through the explication of the genesis of particularly,one must read across empirical
problems, categories of thought, and in- domains and alternate more theoretical
struments of analysis, constitutes an abso- and more empirically-oriented pieces.
lute prerequisite for scientific practice. Most of all, the style and the substance of
And the same is true of the sociology of his arguments being intimately linked,
sociology: I believe that if the sociology I seek to understand Bourdieu in his own
propose differs in any significant way from terms before "translating" him into more
the other sociologies of the past and of the friendly lexicons.
present, it is above all in that it continually Begin with Bourdieu's "Social Space
turns back onto itself the scientific weapons and Symbolic Power" (this issue) and with
it produces. It is fundamentally reflexive in Brubaker's (1985) excellent overview, then
that it uses the knowledge it gains of the move on to the article "On symbolic
social determinations that may bear upon power" (Bourdieu 1979b) for a dense
it, and particularly the scientific analysis of statement of Bourdieu's work in relation
all the constraints and all the limitations to various strands of classical sociology
associated with the fact of occupying a and philosophy (Hegel, Kant, Cassirer,
definite position in a definite field at a Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Durkheim, Marx,
particular moment and with a certain Weber, etc.), and to the 1986 interviews
trajectory, in an attempt to master and (Honneth, Kocyba and Schwibs 1986;
neutralize their effects. Bourdieu 1986a) which help situate it
Far from undermining the foundations more fully on the French and international
of social science, the sociology of the social intellectual scene. Although somewhat
determinants of sociological practice is the dated, "The Three Forms of Theoretical
only possible ground for a possible freedom Knowledge" (Bourdieu 1973c) is a useful
from these determinations. And it is only summary of what the French sociologist
on condition that he avails himself the full sees as the respective strengths and weak-
usage of this freedom by continually sub- nesses of three fundamental forms of
jecting himself to this analysis that the theorizing: subjectivist, objectivist, and
sociologist can produce a rigorous science praxeological (the transcendence of these
of the social world which, far from sen-
tencing agents to the iron cage of a strict 43 The empirical demonstration of this argument
determinism, offers them the means of a is, of course, Homo Academicus (Bourdieu 1988a).

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56 SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY

two). This piece also serves as a useful basis for a sociological theory of scientific
introduction to Outline of a Theory of progress and develops a sociological epis-
Practice (Bourdieu 1972, 1977a). temology. "The Field of Cultural Pro-
Next, read "Men and Machines," a terse duction" (1983d) exemplifies Bourdieu's
piece where Bourdieu (1981c) outlines his approach to culture and power and his
conceptualization of the dialectic, or uses of the concept of field, habitus,
"ontological complicity," between social interest, structural homology, etc., in the
action incarnate in bodies (habitus, dis- context of a detailed study of the French
positions) and in institutions (fields, posi- literary scene of the late 19th century.
tions), and by which he proposes to over- "The Force of Law: Toward a Sociology of
come the dichotomies of action and the Juridical Field" (Bourdieu 1987g) is an
structure and micro- and macro-analysis. application of Bourdieu's framework to
"The Forms of Capital" (Bourdieu 1986b) the legal domain and outlines a sociological
presents Bourdieu's conception of the theory of law and its specific bearing upon
main species of capital or power: economic, society. "The Philosophical Establishment"
cultural, social, and symbolic, and the (Bourdieu 1983a) does the same for the
specific effects and properties of each, as institution of philosophy.
well as typical strategies and dilemmas of Readers of a more empirical bent might
conversion. "Social Space and the Genesis want to begin with "The Categories of
of Groups" (Bourdieu 1985a) is a major Professorial Judgment" and work their
statement of Bourdieu's concept of social way backwards to the more conceptual
space and of his theory of group formation, pieces, then read Bourdieu's studies of
including the role of symbolic power and fields. Once all of this is digested, one
politics in the constitution of social collec- must read together Distinction (Bourdieu
tives. "The Economy of Linguistic Ex- 1984a) and Outline of a Theory of Practice
changes" (Bourdieu 1977c) extends this (Bourdieu 1977a), before tackling Homo
model to the analysis of language and Academicus (1988a). Bourdieu's best and,
leads into Language and Symbolic Power arguably, most important book Le sens
(1982b, 1989b). pratique (1980a) is forthcoming in English
Bourdieu's view on the classification under the title The Logic of Practice (by
struggles through which correspondences Polity Press and Stanford University Press).
between cultural and economic power are
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