This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002)
Department of Sociology, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
The death of Pierre Bourdieu in January of this year is a sad loss both to the social sciences and to the activist communities with whom he was closely involved. To the social sciences Bourdieu offered a toolbox of extremely powerful and persuasive analytic concepts (e.g. habitus, the forms of capital, eld, doxa, illusio, symbolic power, etc.), and a succession of impressive empirical studies which use, illustrate and develop those concepts. Indeed, he was one of the few ‘grand theorists’ of the twentieth century capable of making theory and empirical analysis work together in a rigorous and revealing fashion. Moreover, beyond their technical interest, these studies painted an often compelling picture of modern societies and the various invisible forces and subtle forms of domination which hold them together. To activist communities, including recently ATTAC, he offered, in addition to his time and ‘hands on’ efforts, both the considerable weight of his symbolic capital, qua prestigious and in uential academic, and the insight (‘cultural capital’) gleaned through years of study and analysis. When Bourdieu spoke people listened and, even if they did not agree, found themselves facing a formidable opponent. And he attempted to use this power constructively. One of his nal key political acts, for example, was a call to all European leftist SMOs to pull together in a common movement to oppose neo-liberalism. At the time of his death, the work of Bourdieu had acquired a considerable pro le in the anglophone world. This is despite his work being subject to a range of quite vehement criticisms. Many critics argued that his work was overly deterministic and pessimistic. Identifying its (partial) root in structuralism, they saw in it an account of how the social world reproduces itself over and over, leaving hierarchies intact and accepted. This is not the place to engage in the exegetic debates that are necessary to release Bourdieu from these charges. Suf ce it to say that his concepts need not and should not be interpreted in a deterministic and mechanistic way. This is the place, however, to consider a number of interrelated questions which stem from these criticisms; namely, in what ways does Bourdieu’s academic work square with the fact of social movements and his involvement in them? Don’t his accounts of the invisible mechanisms and powers responsible for the reproduction of the social world preclude the possibility of social movements? Doesn’t his approach, like that of many of his contemporaries, fail to give suf cient consideration to agency, such that it is very difcult to reconcile his work with the fact of human resistance in both its individual and
ISSN 1474-2837 print/ ISSN 1474-2829 online/02/ 020187-05 Ó 2002 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080/1474283022000010673
shine fresh light upon society and thereby empower citizens to make more informed decisions concerning their fate. most of the time. My starting point is the concept of ‘re exivity’ which Bourdieu advocated in much of his work. one’s concepts are intended to present a more nuanced conception of human agency. secondly. inform and intersect with both social movements and social movement analysis. prove problematic from the point of view of social movement analysis. ethnography) which allow one to view and interrogate the world from a point of view which is generally inaccessible to the naked eye—much as the microscope and telescope do in the natural sciences. This can appear ‘deterministic’. . because it is comprised of a disciplined community of interlocuters who argue. bringing to light the many blind spots of social life which ordinarily elude us. if they do their job properly. It is able to do this. where other agents (including ‘off duty’ social scientists) are addressing that question. disagree and demand high standards of proof and argument from one another. we may say that sociology springs from the same basic ‘knowledge constitutive interest’ as ordinary re ection and critique but specializes and extends it (Habermas. In this brief re ection I want to offer a sketch of some of the important ways in which Bourdieu’s work can. Social science. The social sciences. because it takes place in a relatively privileged space where its practitioners have the luxury of time and money to study the world ‘from a distance’. They are ‘therapeutic’ practices which allows us to turn our perception back upon ourselves. as I believe is the case with Bourdieu. Social science illuminates the numerous ways in which we are unwittingly shaped and affected by our social world. thirdly. But this is not the way it is intended. borrowing from the early Habermas (who also likens the social sciences to psychoanalysis). if not properly addressed. This is a theoretically contradictory enterprise if one’s concepts are ‘deterministic’ in some sense. because it has at its disposal a range of methodologies and methods (surveys. But these details do not obscure a bigger picture which is far more positive. can be seen to extend the quite normal human process of self-re ection and critique. either because we are too close to them or too far. Social scientists can. the point of revealing ‘unconscious’ tendencies and forces is to make people aware of them. 2 collective forms? And thus. are akin to psychoanalysis. unhindered by the practical exigencies which blinker most other people. I believe there is a great deal to be gained from a more sustained re ection upon the nature of agency in Bourdieu’s work. since this would not admit the autonomy required to use the ndings of social theory constructively. This does not better equip the social scientist to address the question ‘What is to be done?’—only citizens qua citizens have a right to answer that question— but it implies that social science may have a relatively unique role to play in the public sphere. Vol. It can appear to deem human beings ‘cultural dopes’. as neither (absolutely) free and self-transparent nor determined and lacking in (some) self-insight. wasn’t his own involvement in social movements at odds with his more academic work? My answer to each of these questions is ‘no’. No.188 Social Movement Studies. with it privileged position and specialized methods. Indeed. But if. in order that they might be able to better take control over their lives. Conceived in this way social theory constructs a distance between itself and the society which spawns it. rstly. and I believe that certain ambiguities and anomalies in his conception of agency could. if properly considered. for Bourdieu. it objecti es. statistics. then this process is both theoretically coherent and socially usefully. Again like psychoanalysis. 1987). 1.
generating debate and contention in a much wider circle of French society. It is my view that Bourdieu often failed to fully appreciate this quality of social movements. whether they are . generating pressure for change. Social movements. He was. an investigation of the movement of Mai ‘68. Homo Academicus (Bourdieu 1986) is. Bourdieu is an important example of one whose work complements the work of movements in this way. re exes and forms of behaviour people acquire through acting in society. however. too. The possibility of protest and crisis forms a constant backdrop to his work and his major study. movements can draw upon re exive critiques to further explore the issues and problems they face. illuminating blind spots. Having effected a ‘break’ from everyday conceptions of the world Bourdieu was able to feed his ndings directly back into the everyday world. where he does talk about protest he seems to imply that it transcends the terms of his analysis. in his own words. in ways which can be of mutual bene t to practitioners in both worlds. His focus upon the blind spots and invisible mechanisms of modern societies often seems to blind his own analysis to the fact that at least some groups in society. From his early work on the cultural dimensions of domination in Algeria. Bourdieu sheds fresh light upon issues that are of central concern to many contemporary social movements and offers considerable empirical support for their claims and critiques. In a later work on Masculine Domination (Bourdieu 2001a) he acknowledged the importance of gay and lesbian movements as forces for bringing the hidden mechanisms and assumptions of sexual construction to light. are often wise to them also. are constituted through a ‘break’ with received or dominant ways of looking at and understanding the world. but such foregrounding of protest and unrest is rare. The ‘tasks’ of the academic social scientist and the movement activist are. and yet they are complementary.Crossley: Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) 189 More to the point. Similarly. Notwithstanding this. It re ects the different positions people have in society. Furthermore. the re exive sociology advocated by Bourdieu and the transformative praxes of social movements do overlap signi cantly. for example. through his studies of the perpetuation and misrecognition of social inequalities in education and the eld of cultural production. at least in his academic writing. quite different and distinct. a scientist who ‘made trouble’—the emphasis here being both upon science and upon trouble. namely movement communities. of course. Social scientists can learn about the social world they seek to study from the ‘epistemological break’ effected by movement discourses and the ‘natural experiments in social change’ which movements effect. 2001b) for example. in this sense. at least in part. In his own work Bourdieu never turned his critical gaze upon social movements themselves. La Distinction and La Misere du Monde (Bourdieu ` 1984. and. Furthermore. but such acknowledgemen t is rare in his academic writing. and particularly his conception of agency in terms of his concept of habitus: The habitus is a set of dispositions. such social science can be seen to spring from the same ‘knowledge constitutive interest’ as many emancipatory social movements. sent ripples of contention through French society. to his more recent work on contemporary human misery and the distortions of public communication in the media. They too turn back upon the society which gives rise to them. Of all recent major gures in social science. for his fellow citizens to debate. interrogating it in new ways. many of these studies passed beyond the narrow con nes of social scienti c publics.
both in general theoretical terms and for social movement analysis (e. b). It is part of how society reproduces itself. These studies illustrate that Bourdieu’s work can make an important contribution to movement analysis as an academic discipline but hopefully also serve the same re exive function as Bourdieu strived for in his own work. P. No. runs Bourdieu’s ideas against the grain. says Leibniz. Eder’s important work on ‘new social movements’ and their rootedness in the middle-class habitus is one important example of this (Eder 1985. P. ‘The Politics of Protest (Interview)’. But there is also change. and to continue the project that he began. 1. both theoretical (Crossley 2002a. (1984) (1986) (1990) (2000) Distinction. But if we do this it is only because the power and usefulness of these ideas make it worth doing so. In Other Words. In two quite different ways these studies show how Bourdieu’s theoretical toolbox can be used to shed light on the work of social movements and the relationship of such movements to the society from which they emerge. in some ways. (Bourdieu 1990: 108) I have argued elsewhere that this way of formulating things is problematic. P. P. ‘in three-quarters of our actions’—one cannot rule out that it may be superseded in certain circumstances—certainly in situations of crisis which adjust the immediate adjustment of habitus to eld—by other principles. and it would be a more be tting memorial to him if we were to continue exploring that problematic. Bourdieu. b). affording movements an opportunity to re ect upon their own nature and perhaps upon aspects of their organization which practical exigencies function to keep below the threshold of visibility.190 Social Movement Studies. I have attempted in some of my own work. Homo Academicus. This is what is happening in France today. to recognize that and how others inspired by Bourdieu’s work have been able to use his key concepts to effect interesting and useful analyses of movements. to show how this toolbox allows us to thematize and explore the way in which movements are organized and perpetuate themselves through time. (Bourdieu 2000: 19) And … habitus is one principle of production of practices amongst others and although it is undoubtedly more frequently in play than any other—‘We are empirical’. Cambridge: Polity. . It is more important here. London: RKP. using and sharpening the tools he forged. Furthermore. Vol. 2 brought up in a middle class environment or in a working class suburb. Then the question of social agency and political intervention becomes very important. Con ict is built into society. Crossley 2002a. Bourdieu. It is important to remember Bourdieu but it is more important to walk through the doors that he opened for us. Bourdieu. Walter’s analysis of the ‘redstocking’ feminists is another (Walter 1990). References Bourdieu. 1993). such as rational and conscious computation. however. People can nd that their expectations and ways of living are suddenly out of step with the new social position they nd themselves in. There is far more of value in the Bourdieu toolbox and problematic than he had the time to draw out in his lifetime. Socialist Review (June): 18–20. Each of the above-mentioned studies.g. b) and more empirical (Crossley 1999a. Cambridge: Polity.
Cambridge: Polity. On the First Wave Mental Health Users in Britain’. (2001b) The Weight of the World. Social Research. Manchester Metropolitan University. N. P. 2–4 April. Cambridge: Polity. L. N. (2002b) ‘From Reproduction to Transformation’. (1993) The New Politics of Class. Feminist Review. 36: 24–36. 50(4): 647–70. Bourdieu. (2001a) Masculine Domination. N. British Journal of Sociology. (1985) ‘The New Social Movements: Moral Crusades. (1999a) ‘Fish. and his most recent book is Making Sense of Social Movements (Open University 2002). or Social Movements’. K. N. J. Crossley. Cambridge: Polity. (2002a) Making Sense of Social Movements. Field. 52(4): 869–90. Walter. (1987) Knowledge and Human Interests. (1990) ‘The Embodiment of Ugliness and the Logic of Love’. . Habitus and Madness. The Author Nick Crossley is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Manchester. Crossley. Crossley. Crossley. Eder. Habermas. He has published a number of articles on social movements. London: Sage.Crossley: Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) 191 Bourdieu. K. (1999b) ‘Working Utopias and Social Movements: An Investigation Using Case Study Materials from Radical Mental Health Movements in Britain’. Sociology. 33(4): 809–30. Buckingham: Open University Press. P. in Proceedings of the Eighth Alternative Futures and Popular Protest Conference. Political Pressure Groups. Eder.
download. . However.Copyright of Social Movement Studies is the property of Routledge and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. or email articles for individual use. users may print.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.