Placing Pierre Bourdieu has proved difficult for many readers. Anthropologist, sociologist, or philosopher? Action theorist or structuralist? Materialist or culturalist? Determinist or committed to political struggle? Seeking throughout his life to overcome problematic oppositions, Bourdieu also embodied them. Difficult to read, he reached a broad audience far beyond academic walls. Intensely competitive and even combative, he inspired personal loyalty and argued for solidarity. A critic of the higher education system, he was among its most successful products. An opponent of the grands mandarins who dominated French intellectual life, he became one of them. A very private man as well as a critic of the media, he became a remarkably prominent celebrity.
The fame came especially in the last years of his life, and to some extent has distorted reception of his career and oeuvre as a whole. In the 1990s, Bourdieu became France’s most famous campaigner against the imposition of a neoliberal model of globalization. Pierre Carles’ documentary movie on his political work, Sociology Is a Martial Art, was a surprise commercial success in 2000-2001—portraying Bourdieu as a sort of intellectual equivalent of the farmer and anti-fast food activist José Bové. Theater groups staged performances based on his ethnographic exploration of social suffering, La misère du monde. Women approached him in the street to tell him how La domination masculine had inspired them. When he died on January 23rd, 2002, Le Monde delayed publication by several hours so the front page could carry the news. It was the lead story on TV news in France (and other European countries) and ran with expressions of grief and loss from France’s president, prime minister, trade union leaders, and a host of other dignitaries and scholars.
The entry into politics that made Bourdieu so prominent a celebrity also aroused criticisms, suspicions, and resentments among his fellow social scientists. Beyond theoretical or empirical differences, the new conflicts were fueled by both academic and state politics. On the first side, there were many who saw Bourdieu’s fame and influence as unfair, leaving too little room for their own or that of other heroes. Others accused him of bringing a “militant” style to scholarly disputes. Disappointed former protégés and colleagues complained that Bourdieu was not only dominant but also domineering. In a comment after Bourdieu’s death, a distinguished former student and co-author, Luc Bolstanski, acknowledged that Bourdieu had been a serious scientist in the 60s and 70s but suggested that his more recent work was little more than “agit-prop”. That Boltanski broke the norms of mourning made this shocking, but much the same view had been expressed for several years by others whose differences were more in the realm of state politics, and who were troubled by Bourdieu’s criticisms of the Socialist government, especially after the strikes of 1995. Journalists, wounded by his attacks on the mainstream media, joined in. Bourdieu came to symbolize the “gauche de gauche,” the many groups that outflanked the Socialist Party on the Left. Bourdieu indeed had accused the successive prime ministers Juppé and Jospin of selling out and making their version of socialism little different from neoliberalism. As perhaps the most prominent “mainstream” socialist to argue that the party had abandoned both its radicalism and its critical stance on capitalism he was seen as supporting defections to the smaller parties of the Left. When the Socialists were ignominiously defeated in the first round of the 2002 elections, many blamed Bourdieu posthumously (rather than the still-living if uninspiring candidate). Others, of course, suggested that the defeat of Jospin merely confirmed Bourdieu’s diagnosis, and that the party’s sacrifice of principle was also poor electoral strategy.
Though differently motivated, these lines of criticism and attack converged on the notion that Bourdieu’s work changed deeply in the 1990s, and especially that there was a sharp divergence between his earlier, scientific research and his later political interventions. By contrast, I will try to establish the unity of Bourdieu’s work, the extent to which the concerns expressed in his political writings are both of a piece with and supported by his scientific analyses. The extent to which Bourdieu directly entered public debates and the frequency with which he wrote polemics for broader audiences certainly changed through his career and especially in the 1990s. But the intellectual themes, conceptual framework, and both theoretical and empirical orientation of Bourdieu’s sociology remained impressively consistent, especially from its first fully mature expressions in the early 1970s through his death. This is not to say that there was no internal development; new dimensions were added to Bourdieu’s sociology and older themes both deepened and extended. Concepts and theoretical provenance earlier left more implicit were made more explicit. But Bourdieu worked not by declaring a theoretical system and then revising it, but by continually deploying a core conceptual framework and set of insights in different empirical analyses. The definitions of concepts were to some extent pliable and reworked in the midst of different analyses (to the consternation of later systematizers). New concepts were added, but the growth was incremental and consistent, not a matter of sharp breaks. Far from being arbitrary in relation to his more scientific work, his political analyses of the 1990s reflect grounding in that scientific work going back to his early studies of Algeria, and extend a consistent analytic framework to new objects—albeit, given the pressures of time and political immediacy, often without the empirical research necessary to fully substantiate his claims.
Bourdieu’s political actions are fully consistent with and understandable in terms of his scientific sociology, though they were not dictated by it. Bourdieu’s challenge to threatened collapse between scientific and economic (and for that matter, political and economic) fields in the 1990s and early 2000s is of a piece with his rejection of a collapse between academic and political fields in 1968 and both are informed by his theory of quasi-autonomous social fields and by his analysis of the disruption of traditional life and marginalization of former peasants in Algeria.
If it is a misapprehension to divorce Bourdieu’s politics too sharply from his sociology, it is equally misleading to read him only through oppositions to other leading French intellectuals and not through the affinities which also exist. For example, I shall emphasize the extent to which Bourdieu was part of the “poststructuralist” generation (along with Foucault and Derrida among many others). Of course, his work was distinct within that broad movement (and especially distinct from much of what made poststructuralism a movement in the English-language world). Not least, it was more serious about science and social organization than other lines of work usually grouped under that label. But the generation was also shaped by common intellectual sources, institutions and political context.
Roots and Project
To begin with, let us recall the extraordinary scope and distinctive commitments of Bourdieu’s work. The most influential and original French sociologist since Durkheim, Bourdieu was at once a leading theorist and an empirical researcher of broad interests and distinctive style. Bourdieu not only helped redefine the fields of sociology and anthropology; he made prominent contributions also to education, history, literary studies, aesthetics, and a range of other fields. He analyzed labor markets in Algeria, symbolism in the calendar and the house of Kabyle peasants, marriage patterns in his native Béarn region of France, photography as an art form and hobby, museum goers and patterns of taste, schooling and social inequality, modern universities, the rise of literature and art as a distinct fields of endeavor, and the experience of poverty amid the wealth of modern societies.
A former rugby player and a reader of the later Wittgenstein, Bourdieu was drawn to the metaphor of games to convey his sense of social life. But by “game” he didn’t mean mere entertainments. Rather, he meant a serious athlete’s understanding of a game. He meant the experience of being passionately involved in play, engaged in a struggle with others and with our own limits, over stakes to which we are (at least for the moment) deeply committed. He meant intense competition. He meant for us to recall losing ourselves in the play of a game, caught in its flow in such a way that no matter how individualistically we struggle we are also constantly aware of being part of something larger—a team, certainly, but also the game itself. “The habitus, as society written into the body, into the biological individual, enables the infinite number of acts of the game—written into the game as possibilities and objective demands—to be produced; the constraints and demands of the game, although they are not restricted to a code of rules, impose themselves on those people—and those people alone—who, because they have a feel for the game, a feel, that is, for the immanent necessity of the game, are prepared to perceive them and carry them out.”
Social life is like this, Bourdieu suggested, except that the stakes are bigger. Not just is it always a struggle; it both imposes constraints and requires constant improvisation. This is true of marriage, education, professional life, politics. The idea is directly related to Wittgenstein’s account of language games. These are not diversions from some more basic reality but a central part of the activity by which forms of life are constituted, reproduced, and occasionally transformed. Learning a language is a constant training in how to improvise ‘play’ in social interaction and cultural participation more generally. No game can be understood simply by grasping the rules that define it. It requires not just following rules, but having a “sense” of the game, a “feeling” for how to play. “Nothing is simultaneously freer and more constrained than the action of the good player. He quite naturally materializes at just the place the ball is about to fall, as if the ball were in command of him—but by that very fact, he is in command of the ball.” This is a social sense, for it requires a constant awareness of and responsiveness to the play of both one’s opponents and one’s teammates. A good rugby (or soccer or basketball) player is constantly aware of the field as a whole, and anticipates the actions of teammates, knowing when to pass, when to try to break free.
A good social analyst is simultaneously describer, critic, and player of social games. There is no escape from gamesmanship (though many fields that claim disinterestedness as a constitutive feature—like academia—demand that participants dissimulate and Bourdieu’s critics frequently accused him of being a gamesman as though that were a distinctive trait and somehow a betrayal of the game). Games, however, may differ. Science is not mystically purified of self-interest or freed of arbitrary historical determinations. “The pursuit of the accumulation of knowledge is inseparably the quest for recognition and the desire to make a name for oneself; technical competence and scientific knowledge function simultaneously as instruments of accumulation of symbolic capital; intellectual conflicts are always also power struggles, the polemics of reason are the contests of scientific rivalry, and so on.” Yet, this does not mean that knowledge reduces simply to power (in the oversimplification widely read into Foucault’s linkage of the notions) nor does it mean that because technical competence confers symbolic capital it does not function as technical competence. Science and scholarship are not organized not by freedom from interest, though they may claim that, but by the harnessing of interests to the pursuit of knowledge. If such fields “are favourable to the development of reason, this is because, to put oneself forward there, one has to put forward reasons; to win there, one has to win with arguments, demonstrations or refutations.”
Bourdieu came by his critical intellectual orientation naturally, if you will, or at least biographically. Born in 1930, he was the grandson of an itinerant sharecropper and son of a farmer who later turned postman in the remote village of Lasseube in the Pyrénées Atlantiques. He rose through the public school system to the top of his class at the Lycée de Pau, the Lycée Louis-le-Grand à Paris, and the École Normale Supérieure at the rue d’Ulm, the preeminent institution for the consecration of French intellectuals. Lest invoking Bourdieu’s humble origins seem like merely a ritual act of hagiography for the “self-made man,” it is worth noting how much they mattered in his reception (and often rejection) by French elites. Even after he was famous—and indeed, even after his death—he could be haughtily referred to as “the former scholarship boy from Béarn who became the most respected and at the same time most controversial Homo academicus in France.” Or again, “this son of a low-level functionary of Béarn, a lover of rugby as much from regional atavism as from a love for conflict was never at ease in the Parisian salons”.
Bourdieu was never allowed the unselfconscious belonging of those born to wealth, cultural pedigree and elite accents. At the same time, he also never confused his success with simple proof of meritocracy (even if it did demonstrate some degree of grudging openness in the system). Instead, he developed from it an extraordinary capacity for critical social analysis and epistemic reflexivity. While he only presented his “elements of a social self-analysis” as his last lecture course at the Collège de France (and in other venues), a year before he died, one could read much of his work as a less personalistic version of the same project.
Bourdieu’s sense of bodily insertion into the competitive and insular universe of French academe was an inspiration for his revitalization of the Aristotelian-Thomist-Husserlian notion of habitus, the system of socially constituted dispositions that guides agents in their perception and action. His awareness of what his classmates and teachers did not see–because it felt natural to them–informed his accounts of the centrality of doxa–the preconscious taken-for-granted sense of reality that is more basic than any orthodoxy–and of misrecognition in producing and enabling social domination.
Though educated in philosophy, Bourdieu embraced sociology precisely in order to make empirical research a tool for breaking through ordinary consciousness to achieve truer knowledge about a social world usually considered too mundane for philosophical attention. Perhaps this was an especially apt choice for an oblate miraculé—an initiate whose social background and non-elite habitus made his interventions seem brutal amid the aristocratic world of the Parisian intelligentsia and the normaliens philosophes, no matter how brilliant they were. A certain explicitness about academic games both expresses and makes the best of that distance. It is no denigration to note that Bourdieu’s incessant struggle against the heritage of the normalien philosophe was simultaneously an effective reminder that he had earned the status, and at the top of his class, before rejecting what he called the “caste profits” of the philosopher. Accepting instead the challenges of empirical research offered, Bourdieu thought, the best means for breaking with the enchantments of established ideas and self-evident social relations. And his critical distance from the institutions within which he excelled propelled his telling analyses of French academic life, and indeed of inequality, the state and capitalism generally. “I have never really felt justified in existing as an intellectual,” he wrote in an extraordinary but not at all casual line. “I have always tried … to exorcise everything in my thinking that might be linked to that status, such as philosophical intellectualism. I do not like the intellectual in myself, and what may sound, in my writing, like anti-intellectualism is chiefly directed against the intellectualism or intellectuality that remains in me…”
Bourdieu’s contemporaries at the École Normale, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, shared this sense of distance from the dominant culture of the institution. Though the specifics varied, a certain horror at the social environment of the École informed each in a struggle to see what conventional consciousness obscured. Indeed, as Bourdieu sometimes reminded listeners, Foucault attempted suicide as a student there. Bourdieu’s intellectual response differed crucially from Derrida’s and Foucault’s: he embraced science. He remained, nonetheless, friendly with both (and his work showed important similarities to Foucault’s, especially perhaps in its stress on “embodiment” and the politics of knowledge). It was Foucault who proposed Bourdieu for a chair at the Collège de France.
In 1955, Bourdieu was sent to do military service in Algeria during that French colony’s struggle for independence—and Republican France’s horrific repression of it. The bloody battle of Algiers was a formative experience for a generation of French intellectuals who saw their state betray what it had always claimed was a mission of liberation and civilization, revealing the sheer power that lay behind colonialism, despite its legitimation in terms of progress. Bourdieu addressed this both with direct opposition and with research into the nature of domination itself, including in France, and into the nature of misrecognition and the struggle over classification.
Confrontation with the Algerian war, and with the transformations wrought by French colonialism and capitalism, left a searing personal mark on Bourdieu, solidifying his commitment to the principle that research must matter for the lives of others. Scarred but also toughened, he stayed on to teach at the University of Algiers and became a self-taught ethnographer. He proved himself an extraordinarily keen observer of the interpenetration of large-scale social change and the struggles and solidarities of daily life. Among other reasons, his native familiarity with the peasant society of Béarn gave him an affinity with the traditional agrarian societies of rural Algeria that were being destroyed by French colonialism. With Abdelmalek Sayad, he studied peasant life and participation in the new cash economy that threatened and changed it. Working with Sayad and Alain Darbel (among others) helped to inaugurate a pattern of intellectual partnership that characterized Bourdieu’s entire career.
Bourdieu did not simply study Algeria, though, but rather sought out its internal variants, regional and “minority” communities that were stigmatized and marginalized not only by French colonialism but also by the construction of Algerian national identity as modern and Arab in opposition to rural, tribal, and traditional. Sociologie d’Algerie describes in some detail not only “Arabic-speaking peoples” but Kabyles, Shawia, and Mozabites—each of which groups had its own distinct culture and traditional social order though both colonialism and market transformations were disrupting each and along with opposition to French rule pulling members of each into a new, more unified “Algerian” system of social relations. Indeed, the very term “Kabyle” (the name for the group Bourdieu studied most) is derived from the Arabic word for tribe, and both a claimed identity and a reminder of marginalization.
This double domination informed both his analyses of Algeria specifically and his development of a theory of symbolic violence. Conducting research in Kabyle villages and with Berber-speaking labor migrants to the fast-growing cities of the Algeria’s coastal regions, he addressed themes from the introduction of money into marriage negotiations to cosmology and the agricultural calendar, and the economic crisis facing those who are forced into market relations for which they are not prepared. He studied the difficult situation of those who chose to work in the modern economy and found themselves transformed into its “underclass”, not even able to gain the full status of proletarians because of the ethno-national biases of the French colonialists.
Behind the studies of social change was an account of the traditional “other” to modernization, the less rapidly changing peasant culture and economy. It is informative to recall that the Kabyle were Durkheim’s primary exemplars of traditional, segmentary social organization in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life and thus already had a role as representative of a certain ‘type’ of the premodern. Influenced by Merleau-Ponty and Sartre, among others, Bourdieu undertook in his first book to write a “phenomenology of affective life”. This was a vague frame for the minimally theoretical Sociologie d’Algerie, but it contributed to Bourdieu’s development of an analytic perspective on people’s investment in social roles and games, symbolic systems and structures. Before abandoning the study of philosophy in Paris, he had contemplated writing a thesis on Merleau-Ponty under the direction of Cangulhem. He carried this broadly phenomenological orientation into his Algerian research, but gradually came to reject what he saw as a one-sided subjectivism. It was partly this search for a way to explain the symbolic order and its role in constituting life in Berber villages but which could not be fully articulated by those who lived it that drew him to Lévi-Strauss and structuralism. He would eventually seek to transcend structuralism as well, notably through trying to grapple better with issues of temporality, including both the role of “timing” in social action and the constitution of time as part of the sociocultural order. From this start, however, he launched a lifelong struggle to understand and express the ways in which practical activity was informed by both abstract doctrine and lived experience without being strictly reducible to either (for example, prescription of ideal marriage patterns and actual social relations and available options).
One of the most basic difficulties in ethnographic research, Bourdieu came to realize, is the extent to which it puts a premium on natives’ discursive explanations of their actions. Because the anthropologist is an outsider and starts out ignorant, natives must explain things to him. But it would be a mistake to accept such explanations as simple truths, not because they are lies but because they are precisely the limited form of knowledge that can be offered to one who has not mastered the practical skills of living fully inside the culture. Unless he is careful, the researcher is led to focus his attention not on the actual social life around him but on the statements about it which his informants offer. “The anthropologist’s particular relation to the object of his study contains the makings of a theoretical distortion inasmuch as his situation as an observer, excluded from the real play of social activities by the fact that he has no place (except by choice or by way of a game) in the system observed and has no need to make a place for himself there, inclines him to a hermeneutic representation of practices, leading him to reduce all social relations to communicative relations and, more precisely, to decoding operations.” Such an approach would treat social life as much more a matter of explicit cognitive rules than it is, and miss the ways in which practical activity is really generated beyond the determination of the explicit rules. This involves not only “failure” to follow rules but creative transpositions of representations across different settings and improvisations implicit in the successful play of social games. Bourdieu’s project was to grasp the practical strategies people employed, their relationship to the explanations they gave (to themselves as well as to others), and the ways in which people’s pursuit of their own ends nonetheless tended to reproduce objective patterns which they did not choose and of which they might even be unaware.
Bourdieu initially represented the lives of the “original” inhabitants of Algeria in fairly conventional terms, echoing many aspects of the more critical end of the modernization theories of the day. Increasingly, though, he began to develop not only a challenge to the idea of benign modernization, but a much richer and more sophisticated analysis of how a traditional order could be created such that it reproduced itself with impressive efficacy without any conscious intention to do so, template for the reproduction, or exercise of power in its pursuit. This was made possible, Bourdieu argued, by the very organization of social practices, combining the symbolic and the material seamlessly in a “polythetic” consciousness, and inculcating practical orientations to actions in the young through experiences repeated in everyday life. The spatial organization of the household and the calendar of agricultural production, thus, were not only “cultural” choices or responses to material conditions, they were media of instruction organizing the ways in which the world appeared to members of the society and the ways in which each could imagine himself and improvise action. This social order did not admit of divisions into different fields of activity with different specific forms of value or claims on the loyalties of members. Kinship, poetry, religion, and agriculture were not distinct, thus, as family, art, religion and the economy were in more “modern” societies. Kabyle could thus live in a doxic attitude, reproducing understanding of the world as simply the taken-for-granted way it must be, while the development of discrete fields was linked to the production of orthodoxies and heterodoxies, competing claims to right knowledge and true value.
Recognizing that the traditional order was sustained not by simple inertia or the force of cultural rules, Bourdieu turned attention to the ways in which continuous human effort, vigilance towards ‘proper’ action that was simultaneously an aspect of effective play of the game, achieved reproduction. This was a game peasants could play effectively in their villages. They were prepared for it not only by explicit teaching but by all their practical experiences—embodied as “second nature” or habitus. The same people who could play the games of honor with consummate subtlety in peasant villages were incapacitated by the games of rationalized exchange in the cities. Labor migration and integration into the larger state and market thus stripped peasant habituses of their efficacy and indeed made the very efforts that previously had sustained village life and traditional culture potentially counterproductive.
From this it was a short step to problems posed by declining efficacy of the traditional order and the weakness of preparation the Berbers had for participation in the ‘modern’ society of Algeria—notably the fields of economy and politics. At first, Bourdieu looked to education as a vehicle for equipping the marginal and dominated with the capacity to compete effectively in the new order.  Eventually, he saw education as more contradictory—providing necessary tools but only in a system that reinforced and legitimated subordination. Kablyes and other Berbers not only wound up dominated, but colluded in their own subjugation because of the ways in which they felt themselves to be different and disabled. Experience constantly taught the lesson that there was no way for “people like us” to succeed. Occasional exceptions were more easily explained away than the ubiquitous reinforcement that inculcated pessimism as habitus. Feeling fundamentally unequipped for the undertakings of Algeria’s new “modern” sector, they transformed a fact of discrimination into a principle of self-exclusion and reduced ambition.
These studies helped forge Bourdieu’s theory of practice and informed his entire intellectual trajectory, including both academic endeavors and his later political critique of neoliberalism. Near the end of his life, he wrote:
As I was able to observe in Algeria, the unification of the economic field tends, especially through monetary unification and the generalization of monetary exchanges that follow, to hurl all social agents into an economic game for which they are not equally prepared and equipped, culturally and economically. It tends by the same token to submit them to standards objectively imposed by competition from more efficient productive forces and modes of production, as can readily be seen with small rural producers who are more and more completely torn away from self-sufficiency. In short, unification benefits the dominant.”
Unification, of course, could be a project not only of the colonial state but also of national states, the European community, and the World Trade Organization.
As a self-taught researcher in Algeria, Bourdieu fused ethnography and statistics, theory and observation, to begin crafting a distinctive approach to social inquiry aimed at informing progressive politics through scientific production. In some ways, it may have helped to be self-taught because it encouraged Bourdieu to ignore some of the artificial oppositions structuring the social sciences—e.g., between quantitative and qualitative inquiry. Research also gave Bourdieu an approach to practical action at a time when he felt caught uncertainly between political camps. He both drew heavily on Fanon, for example, and then vehemently rejected the revolutionary politics that attracted him, seeing it as naively and sometimes dangerously romantic. Convinced that total revolution was impossible, but also that the French state was insupportable, Bourdieu sought—without complete success—an approach that would give adequate weight to the power of social reproduction without simply affirming it.
Structure and Practice
The resulting studies, developing through Esquisse d’une théorie la pratique, Outline of a Theory of Practice and The Logic of Practice (not to mention a host of articles) are among the most influential efforts to overcome the reified oppositions between subjective and objective, agency and structure. Though Bourdieu introduced the phrase “structuration” later made famous by Anthony Giddens, his approach was different in two important ways. First, it was always rooted in a reflexive inquiry into the conditions of possibility of both objective and subjective views, never simply a new theory of a third way. Second, Bourdieu never sought to tackle these issues purely in the abstract but instead always in struggle to understand concrete empirical cases. The most important of these cases came from his Algerian fieldwork, studies of French educational institutions, and inquiries into the fields of art and literature. Bourdieu’s studies join with Foucault’s work of the same period in moving beyond structuralism’s avoidance of embodied subjectivity and with Derrida’s effort to recover epistemology by breaking with the notion that it must be grounded in the Cartesian perspective of the individual knowing subject. In an important sense, discussed further below, the imprecise term “poststructuralist” fits Bourdieu as well it does Foucault or Derrida.
Bourdieu built on structuralism and benefited especially from the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss, who among other things had helped rehabilitate the Durkheimian project. Indeed it is actually hard to remember in the English language world and given the way in which the history of social science is typically taught, that in France the work of Durkheim had fallen precipitously from prominence after his death and that of Marcel Mauss. Not only were less sociological views ascendant, but the Durkheimian version of neoKantianism with its social foundations for the categories of knowledge was all but forgotten. Philosophy sought an emancipation from social determination (this was a prominent theme in existentialism, but not limited to it). Lévi-Strauss revitalized the Durkheimian tradition and renewed the project of studying the interdependence of cultural and social relations. Bourdieu saw himself as in important ways resuming that legacy, even while also improving on it, and the book series he edited made a variety of works by Durkheim and his students available that considerably broadened understanding of their project.
In studies like his analysis of the Kabyle house, Bourdieu produced some of the classic works of structuralism. He broke with conventional structuralism, however, as he sought a way to move beyond the dualisms of structure and action, objective and subjective, social physics and social semiotics and especially to inject a stronger account of temporality (and temporal contingency) into social analysis. For this he drew on the materialist side of Durkheim and Marx; on the phenomenologies of Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty and later on ethnomethodology (not least the work of his friend Aaron Cicourel); on Wittgenstein, Austin and post-Saussurian linguistic analysis; on Ernst Cassirer’s neo-Kantian theory (especially The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms) and Erwin Panofsky’s studies of the history of art and perception; and on the “historical rationalism” of his own teachers Gaston Bachelard, Georges Canguilhem, and Jules Vuillemin. Bourdieu’s effort was not merely to forge a theoretical synthesis, but to develop the capacity to overcome some of the opposition between theoretical knowledge based on objectification of social life and phenomenological efforts to grasp its embodied experience and (re)production in action. Human social action is at once “structured” and “structuring,” Bourdieu argued, indeed structuring because it is structured, with the socialized body as “analogical operator of practice.”
At the heart of Bourdieu’s approach to practice lay the notion of “habitus”. The concept is old, rooted in Aristotle’s notion of bodily “hexis” and transmuted and transmitted by Thomas Aquinas in his approach to learning and memory. It is used by a range of modern thinkers including Hegel, Husserl, and Mauss. Bourdieu’s own recovery of the term coincided with that of Norbert Elias (though they seem to have been independent) as Elias sought to grasp the transformations of manners in modern European history. Bourdieu’s concept was specifically more social and more bodily than, say, Husserl’s usage which focused on the background understandings latent in any act. Though Husserl understood action (including perception) in more individual and cognitive terms, he did stress the importance of dispositions and horizons of potential acts. Bourdieu stressed the generative role of the habitus, the ways in which embodied knowledge transmutes past experience into dispositions for particular sorts of action. “The conditionings associated with a particular class of conditions of existence produce habitus, systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles which generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary in order to attain them. Objectively ‘regulated’ and ‘regular’ without being in any way the product of obedience to rules, they can be collectively orchestrated without being the product of the organizing action of a conductor.” This is the kind of prose that leads unsympathetic critics like Jenkins to call for Bourdieu to be translated into ordinary language. The idea is genuinely complex, however, not simply mystified; it is not unintelligible.
Bourdieu emphasizes first that learning is not all explicit and mediated by language, but often tacit and embodied. Second, he stresses that action is generally not produced by rule-following but by improvisation. Much of this improvisation is unconscious (like that of musicians in a jazz band) and takes place in the “real time” of participants rather than the “time out” for thought that characterizes the point of view of observers. Third, the capacity to produce such improvisations—and thus actions—is developed through lengthy processes of learning which are simultaneously processes of “inculcation” by society and social fields (since the learning takes place in interaction) and active self-creation (since the learning is a byproduct of action which is itself improvised and either satisfying in its effects or not). Habituses thus reflect processes of conditioning associated with material and social conditions of life but also some individuation in those processes. Fourth, they are simultaneously structured and structuring, because they are embedded in the repetition and occasionally innovation of action through time. They are reproduced in the effort to do almost anything, and they are inherently social, existing as much in the interaction as the person. Fifth, they are efficacious without conscious orientation to ends because they have been produced out of a nearly infinite number of iterations of similar actions (and reactions) and trial and error learning reinforces the effective actions; this is what Bourdieu means by saying they are “objectively adjusted” to circumstances and “objectively adapted” to outcomes. Sixth, though, they may be transposed into new circumstances, where they may be more or less effective but will in any case shape the production of actions (and responses) and thus new learning.
Bourdieu acknowledges that in some cases such new learning may involve varying degrees of conscious effort to change unconscious improvisation—as coaches get athletes to watch tapes of themselves and try to change the ways they swing golf clubs, rush tennis nets, or pole vault. But whatever our conscious intentions, what we do is shaped by the “objective intention” inscribed in how we have learned to do what we do and in the flow of activity in which we are engaged. (Try saying the alphabet rapidly with the conscious intention of skipping certain prespecified letters.) In all situations—each of which is new in some degree—the habitus generates responses to objective possibilities based on its history. It represents not the patterns of the past as thought but the totality of the past insofar as it is embodied.
Part of what makes the notion of habitus difficult to explicate is the extent to which pre-established categories of our thought systematically get in the way. We oppose mind and body and imagine relations between them as though they could be external matters of cause and effect; embodied knowledge is thus a problematic idea. We emphasize individual actors rather than fields of interaction and thus exaggerate intention rather than minimally thought reaction or awareness of whole fields of activity in trying to account for outcomes. We think of “intention” as obviously a matter of consciousness, a thought about what we might do, and not equally the very “objective” direction of our thoughts (and actions), where they “tend” to go, the stretching of past into future, which is shaped by our capacities and their limits, the patterns of our learning, the distribution of our emotional investments.
Bourdieu railed against false antinomies and the kinds of scholastic oppositions that serve less to advance scientific knowledge than the careers of those who write endless theses arguing one side or the other, or proposing artificial syntheses designed essentially to create a new academic profit niche. The point was not simply to choose Weber over Marx, or Lévi-Strauss over Sartre, but to escape from false dualities and imposed categories. In Outline of a Theory of Practice, thus, he analyzed the opposition of mechanism to finalism, so prominent in the debates over structuralism, as “a false dilemma”. It is, by the way, a false dilemma that has refused to die. Once familiar to English-language anthropologists through the debate between George Homans and David Schneider (attacking the structuralist, especially Lévi-Straussian position on methodologically individualist grounds) and Rodney Needham defending it, the false dilemma has recurred in recent metatheoretical arguments occasioned by rational choice theory and so-called “critical realism”. Mechanisms are all the rage, advocated by Jon Elster and Charles Tilly, backed up by philosophers of science like Mario Bunge. They promote various ideas of “mechanism” (usually without considering that their work might be read as ‘mechanistic’) in response to the common interpretative style of ethnographic or phenomenological work that treats agents’ self-understandings or intentions as analytically sufficient. Bourdieu would not be altogether unsympathetic, as he pointed out that methodological objectivism is a necessary moment in all research. But most of the protagonists in the theoretical debates seek ways to advance causal analysis without having to pass through the complexities of a theory of practice, usually by treating either actors’ decisions or structural conditions as in themselves causally efficacious. As Bourdieu reported, “one of the major functions of the notion of habitus is to dispel two complementary fallacies each of which originates from the scholastic vision: on the one hand, mechanism, which holds that action is the mechanical effect of the constraint of external causes; and, on the other, finalism, which, with rational action theory, holds that the agent acts freely, consciously, and as some of the utilitarians say, ‘with full understanding’, the action being the product of a calculation of chances and profits.”
When Bourdieu wrote Outline, it was Sartrean existentialism that posited “each action as a sort of unprecedented confrontation between the subject and the world.” For today’s advocates of explanation by “mechanisms” the fear of a loss of objectivity is aroused by poststructuralist cultural studies, in which the subject acting in the world may be less central but the subjective perspective of the observer dramatized. But the objectifying response—whether in the form of rational choice theory or a more structural theory—remains problematic if it is conceived as sufficient for science rather than a moment in a larger process of producing social knowledge. As Bourdieu wrote in Outline:
In order to escape the realism of the structure, which hypostatizes systems of objective relations by converting them into totalities already constituted outside of individual history and group history, it is necessary to pass from the opus operatum to the modus operandi, from statistical regularity or algebraic structure to the principle of the production of this observed order, and to construct the theory of practice, or, more precisely, the theory of the mode of generation of practices, which is the precondition for establishing an experimental science of the dialectic of the internalization of externality and the externalization of internality, or, more simply, of incorporation and objectification.
There exists, thus, no simple ‘solution’ to the riddle of structure and agency. Rather, their mutual constitution and subsequent interaction must be worked out in analysis of concrete empirical cases, by reconstituting, first, the social genesis and makeup of objective social worlds (fields) within which agents develop and operate, second, the socially constituted dispositions (habitus) which fashion the manner of thinking, feeling, and acting of these agents. This “double historicization” calls for field and habitus to be related in analysis of specific temporal processes and trajectories. Moreover, it must be complemented by the historicization of the analytic categories and problematics of the inquiring scholar. Only in this way can social scientists do the necessary, if hard, labor of “conquering and constructing social facts”—that is, of distinguishing the hidden forms and mechanisms of social reality from the received understandings of previous academic knowledge, folk knowledge and the everyday preconceptions of “culture” more generally. On this basis, empirically-based reflexive analysis can also establish the social and epistemological conditions for both the objective and subjective perspectives themselves, and for avoiding the pitfalls of what Bourdieu later termed “the scholastic bias” – the tendency of social analysts to project their own (hermeneutic) relation to the social world into the minds of the people they observe.
Bourdieu’s analyses thus lay the basis for an empirical science that would address the practices of knowledge at the same time as it produced knowledge of social practice. The issue remained central in his challenge to neoliberalism:
The implicit philosophy of the economy, and of the rapport between economy and politics, is a political vision that leads to the establishment of an unbreachable frontier between the economic, regulated by the fluid and efficient mechanisms of the market, and the social, home to the unpredictable arbitrariness of tradition, power, and passions.
This “frontier” is reinforced by both academic preconceptions and folk understandings, and structures the apparently objective categories and findings of economic analysis. The production of knowledge structured by such presupposed categories undergirds the failure to take seriously the social costs of neoliberalism, the social conditions on which such an economy depends, and the possibilities of developing less damaging alternatives.
Pursuit of such a reflexive grounding for social science was one of the central motivations for Bourdieu’s sociology of the scientific and university fields. One cannot understand the stances intellectuals took during the pivotal period of May 1968, for instance, without understanding both the positions they held within their microcosm or the place of that intellectual field in the web of symbolic and material exchanges involving holders of different kinds of power and resources which Bourdieu christened “the field of power.” This bears not just on political position-taking but on intellectual work itself. It is necessary to use the methods of social science—not merely introspection or memory—to understand the production of social science knowledge. Bourdieu was often accused of determinism, as though he were simply expressing a belief in agents’ lack of free will. Much more basically, though, he argued that agency itself was only possible on the basis of the complex and ubiquitous pressures of social life, and that this as well as simple exercise of material coercion helped to explain the inertia of power relations and academic ideas alike. In the context of ‘68, for example, despite his own critiques of the educational system, Bourdieu was wary of romantic radicalism that imagined leaping beyond it or beyond inequality at a power at a single jump. That would be to neglect the way in which institutions actually worked; a new institution like University of Paris VIII (Vincennes) would still be an institution and still within the university system. It also posed the risk of making matters worse by undermining rather than expanding the capacity of the higher education system to offer opportunities, destroying the claim to universalism that underwrote the value of universities. Bourdieu remained committed to educational reform—and indeed wrote an influential report on the subject for the socialist government of the 1980s. He did not take his analysis of social reproduction as a warrant for fatalism, but rather as pointing equally to the difficulty and the need for struggle to transform education and society to the benefit of the marginalized.
More generally, Bourdieu called for an objective analysis of the conditions of creativity, and the pressures that resisted it, rather than an idealization of it as a purely subjective phenomenon. Alexander, for example, has criticized Bourdieu on the grounds that only a theory that posits a sharp autonomy of self from environment could possibly offer a meaningful account of creative action, and that only an appeal to universal values transcending social and historical circumstances could provide a normative basis for democracy. Bourdieu, by contrast argued for “refusing to replace God the creator of ‘eternal verities and values’, as Descartes put it, with the creative Subject, and giving back to history and to society what was given to transcendence or a transcendent subject.” He demanded also that social scientists pay scrupulous attention to the conditions and hence limitations of their own gaze and work—starting with the very unequal social distribution of leisure to devote to intellectual projects—and continually objectify their own efforts to produce objective knowledge of the social world. As he made clear, he could not exempt himself from epistemic reflexivity, though like any other would need to be placed in an intellectual field not analyzed in purely individual terms. Bourdieu challenged, in other words, the common tendency to propound objective explanations of the lives of others while claiming the right of subjective interpretation for one’s own.
As Bourdieu has suggested, his generation of French intellectuals—the normaliens philosophes especially—were formed in a tightly organized intellectual field. Sartre and Lévi-Strauss were the towering giants organizing the oppositions in this field of force, though there were a number of influential, if not quite towering giants. Existentialism was always broader than Sartre, and structuralism came in Lacanian, Althusserian and other non-Lévi-Straussian variants, but both the intellectual power of the individuals and the social organization of the field itself made them paramount. Sartre was the dominant French intellectual of Bourdieu’s youth. In the 1960s, structuralism was ascendant and available to Bourdieu and his peers as help in challenging the cult of the self-sufficient individual, even though the strongest among them would in turn try to transcend the limits of structuralism.
Poststructuralism is almost by definition incoherent. It labels, mainly at a distance, a congeries of predominantly French efforts to move beyond the temporary certainties of structuralism. Structuralism itself was more a bundle of linked theoretical positions than a single theory. It joined Lévi-Strauss to Althusser and Lacan to Piaget, despite their substantial oppositions. To some extent, though, it was a kind of intellectual movement. It reached an apogee in the 1960s and gave birth to poststructuralism in that moment of its triumph. This was also the moment in which American reception began in earnest. This was, however, a reception that varied considerably by discipline. In anthropology, the importance of Lévi-Strauss brought a significant engagement with structuralism before engagement with Foucault or Derrida (and in fact, some of Bourdieu’s early work was rightly read as exemplifying this structuralism). Althusser influenced Marxists, but not the core of any academic discipline. American sociology drew little on French structuralism, and only belatedly incorporated much influence of Foucault. History, by contrast, showed a very selective influence of structuralism (mainly in the “new” intellectual history) but a pervasive influence of poststructuralism, especially Foucault. To a considerable extent, nonetheless, structuralism and poststructuralism made the Atlantic crossing together. This was perhaps especially true in literary studies, which were pivotal for the very idea of poststructuralism, and where the way had been prepared to some extent by the teachings of Paul DeMann and the development of a Yale School of French Studies. Moreover, in many fields, “poststructuralist” writings were vastly better known and more influential than structuralism itself had been—and failure by later generations of students to grasp the structuralism in poststructuralism produced many misunderstandings. In a sense, in the American reception, what poststructuralism was “post” to and in tension with varied among academic disciplines and not surprisingly shaped its appropriation.
Derrida and Foucault were the most influential sources—and symbols–for what came to be called poststructuralism, reaching out initially from within the structuralist movement to embrace other philosophical resources and ideals, such as the work of Nietzsche; to challenge rationalist certainties with reinstatements of both doubt and irony; and to suggest that rejecting the philosophy of individual consciousness did not entail rejecting epistemological inquiry. Their commonalities, like their places at the head of a putative poststructuralist movement, were less claimed by them than ascribed by appropriators on the other side of the Atlantic (and the link of poststructuralism to postmodernism can be similarly confusing). The unity of poststructualism was always dubious, and seldom important to those acclaimed the central poststructuralist theorists. There were a variety of paths beyond (as well as within) structuralism.
As Bourdieu indicates, “it would be possible to produce as one wished the appearances either of continuity or break between the 1950s and 1970s, depending on whether or not one takes account of the dominated figures of the 1950s who provided the launch-pad for some of the leaders of the anti-existentialist revolution in philosophy.” Bachelard and Canguilhem were among the most important for Bourdieu. But the generational pendulum had been swinging for some time. Existentialism joined forces with individualist reaction against Durkheim, setting the stage for Lévi-Strauss’s resuscitation of the Durkheimian tradition as well as his specific version of structuralism within it. If the Algerian war marked a crisis in the domination of existentialist thought, the field contained a plurality of positions and shifting relations of force well before that. Structuralism was certainly a “movement” but not a movement sufficient unto itself and without a context of struggle. And the poststructuralist generation grew directly out of this movement. Many, including Bourdieu, had experienced in their youth simultaneously the domination of Sartre and existentialism and the teaching of a number of powerful critics of existentialism and advocates of other philosophical approaches. Teachers like Bachelard and Cangulhem were crucial influences even if never dominant forces in the broader intellectual field. Thus, for example, Jeffrey Alexander misunderstands both Bourdieu and the field in imagining that Bourdieu was greatly influenced by Althusser during the wave of structuralist Marxism prominent in the 1960s because he fails to realize that Althusser taught Bourdieu as a teenager—as indeed he taught many of the rest of Bourdieu’s generation in Khâgne and at the École Normale. Khâgne and the École Normale of the Rue d’Ulm were central and extraordinarily intense formative experiences, and the khâgnes of the late 1940s and early 1950s became the poststructuralist generation by rebelling against the philosophy of the subject dominant in their youth, embracing structuralisms of various sorts, and then reacting against limits of structuralism (while simultaneously making their own ways in the academic hierarchy).
Most poststructuralism was at odds with social science because it embraced the intellectual identity and location of philosophy. Nonetheless, it was influenced by the partially sociological insights of the earlier generations of philosophers and historians of science. “To take an extreme example, only the transfiguration resulting from a complete change of theoretical context prevents people from seeing in the Derridean slogan ‘deconstruction’ a very free variation on Bachelard’s theme, which has become an academic topos, of the break with preconstructions, inherent in the construction of the scientific object, which has been simultaneously orchestrated at the ‘scientific’ or ‘scientistic’ pole of the field of philosophy (especially by Althusser) and of the social sciences.”
Most of those labeled poststructuralists, however, shared three refusals. First, they shared a rejection of positive politics, most especially the “modern” attempt to build new political systems or defend political arrangements rather than only to resist power or expose inconsistencies, abuses, and aporias. Second, they shared a repudiation of—or at least a disinterest in—the social, which often appeared as the mundanely material and was associated with determinism. In a sense, both of these refusals reflected the Nietschean heritage of poststructuralism; they reflected Nietzsche’s rejection of a world of ordinary values and compromises, of the masses and mere existence, and of a morality of good and evil as the underpinning for a politics of liberation. Third, they rejected science, viewing it mainly as part of a system of repressive power and not as a potential source of liberation (a concept usually abandoned with ideas of positive politics). Bourdieu suggested, in fact, that this was partially a reflection of the very training of the “core” poststructuralists as philosophy students at the École Normale, but also their appreciation of the “caste profits” that accrued to those who chose higher status disciplines (even though both Derrida and Foucault were in fact marginalized by academic philosophy, the former gaining influence mainly in literary studies and the latter gaining position as a historian). Other situations of privilege could also support such thought, however. As Bourdieu wrote of an American center of this ostensibly decentered thought, the University of California at Santa Cruz, “how could one not believe that capitalism has dissolved in a ‘flux of signifiers detached from their signifieds’, that the world is populated by ‘cyborgs’, ‘cybernetic organisms’, and that we have entered the age of the ‘informatics of domination’, when one lives in a little social and electronic paradise from which all trace of work and exploitation has been effaced?”
Bourdieu had little patience for the rejection of science recently fashionable among self-declared critical thinkers. He thought that the “French theory” that claimed indebtedness to Foucault and Derrida had “much to answer for” on both the scientific and the political fronts and considered “postmodernism” a “global intellectual swindle” made possible by the uncontrolled “international circulation of ideas” that gained prestige from their exotic provenance even while this undercut what should have been the corrective mechanisms in different intellectual fields. Much of French poststructuralism and postmodernism derived, thus, from a German Lebensphilosophie opposed to the historicist rationalism at root of the French social science lineage. While he shared the view that simple empiricism was liable to reproduce ideologically conventional views (and while concepts like habitus also point to the limits of rationalism and the importance of a lebenswelt perspective, if not a lebensphilosophie), he argued that the necessary response was not to throw out the baby of science with the bathwater of positivism and abandon empirical research, but to wield continual collective vigilance over the classifications and relations through which scientific knowledge was produced and disseminated—including by state bureaucracies whose categories pigeon-hole human beings for their own purposes while providing social scientists with apparently neutral data.
The problematic tendencies inherent in French poststructuralism were magnified in its American appropriation. As in the importation of lebensphilosophie into France, the export of poststructuralism to America involved both an artificial accretion of prestige and an intellectual decontextualization. The American appropriation was marked by a further reduction in attention to social relations, partly perhaps because it was led by professors of literature whose disciplinary formation encouraged focusing on the abstracted text, but also because of a tendency to underappreciate (Jameson notwithstanding) the marxist theory in the background and underpinnings of many poststructuralist theorists. Poststructuralist theories were conjoined with politics, but seldom with positive rather than negative political projects (and too often with the illusion of politics that intra-academic insurgency offers). If French poststructuralism was born of the 1960s, it is not unfair to suggest that American poststructuralism flourished most in the wake of the 1960s, amid considerable disillusionment and cynicism. And American poststructuralism eagerly embraced the critique of science.
All these are crucial reasons why what has come most visibly after poststructuralism—in both France and the US–is on the one hand a resurgent right wing populism and on the other variants of liberalism—whether neoKantian or Hayekian. The Left has been both weak and theoretically impoverished. Certainly, the new right wing politics has attracted few poststructuralists, and indeed few theorists. It is rooted more in populist ressentiment than in intellectual innovation. But it also builds on some openings poststructuralism helped to create, including especially the denigration of the social. If few poststructuralists like Margaret Thatcher, many have nonetheless seemed sympathetic to her suggestion that “there is no such thing as society”. Poststructuralism, as conventionally understood, offers scant tools to contest the neoliberalism of global capitalist interests. Likewise, while many poststructuralists have emphasized the deconstruction rather than affirmation of identity in identity politics, nonetheless the movement has offered minimal bases for contesting the resurgence of a racism transformed into a kind of ethnic claim—putatively not against others but only in favor of ‘us’.
The popular poststructuralism that began to flourish after 1968, and as “French theory” spread to America was, Bourdieu feared, specifically disempowering to the struggles against neoliberalism. Just as 1960s-era attacks on the university made it harder to defend the academy from new right-wing assaults, the poststructuralism (and “postmodernism”) that followed encouraged denigrations of science, government action, and social order. Identity politics was often substituted for more material struggles. Both trends weakened those who might resist neoliberalism, and fight to protect some of the gains made in previous struggles (and often institutionalized in states).
Much academic poststructuralism and postmodernism produced illusions of radicalism without fact contesting either power structures or the production of suffering. It involved, in Bourdieu’s terms, “transgression without risk”. As Bourdieu wrote of Philippe Sollers, the famous founder of Tel Quel and ostensible cultural radical, “The man who presents and sees himself as an incarnation of freedom has always floated at the whim of the forces of the field.” The phrase could describe not only the particular individual, but the paradigmatic individual of individualism, unable to recognize the social conditions of actual freedom, confusing ephemeral novelties with changes in the underlying field of power. And what Bourdieu suggests is that for all the will to radicalism in fashionable poststructuralist thought, it more commonly achieves cynicism and a kind of cultural play that fails to engage deeper social issues. If this is willfully self-serving in Sollers’ case and a genuine intellectual misrecognition in others’, so much more reason to seek out a theoretical basis for a more critical intellectual position.
Poststructuralists were the most important enemies of the universalist critique of hierarchy—sometimes to be sure still resisting hierarchy itself, but abandoning this foundational position for the resistance. Bourdieu also surrendered foundationalism, but insisted on aspirations to the universal even if his theory held that these would inevitably fail to reach perfection. Instead of accepting the “illusion of foundation,” he argued that we should recall both the arbitrariness of beginnings and the constructive work of history. Critical analysis, thus, revealed that “in the beginning, there is only custom, the historical arbitrariness of the historical institution which becomes forgotten as such by trying to ground itself in mythic reason.” But historical and sociological research provided tools not merely for announcing this, but for distinguishing the ways in which different fields work, the defenses they create against direct exercise of force, and their capacity to support an investment in “constitutive norms” that embody the aspiration to universality. Art, literature, and science are thus not realms of pure disinterest, but are still realms in which agents have “a particular interest in the universal”. Moreover, the very existence of differentiated fields is a bulwark against the exercise of tyrannical force. “Every advance in the differentiation of powers is a further protection against the imposition of a single, unilinear hierarchy based on a concentration of all powers in the hands of one person … or one group.”
Many other poststructuralists were strong celebrants of “difference”. Bourdieu was skeptical. He emphasized instead “distinction” and differentiation of fields. In his view, “difference” typically suggested essential, internal characteristics of identities, as though persons, groups, or social positions simply existed unto themselves. Distinction, by contrast, emphasized the ways in which each existed only in its juxtapositions to the others, in a field of relationships, and in a temporal process in which positions were always in a dialectical relationship to position-takings. Rather than emphasizing attributes of individuals, Bourdieu showed them to be embedded in trajectories and struggles, improvising new responses on the basis of generative capacities learned in their previous social engagements. This is why the dispositions of individuals or groups can lead in opposite directions depending on specific confrontations with circumstances. But, the logic of distinction always involves hierarchies. Bourdieu thought the celebrants of difference often naïve, imagining that they could will into being an egalitarian order without addressing institutional underpinnings in a serious way. In fact, the differentiation of social fields produces hierarchies even as it defends against the dominance of a single hierarchy. To have science, thus, entails recognizing differences in scientific achievement and judging the validity of truth claims. That legitimate scientific authority is likely to be co-mingled with illegitimate impositions of power based on other criteria is true and deserves critique. But that science is hierarchically organized rather than purely egalitarian is hardly a reason to reject it or consider it no different from the market or politics. On the contrary, maintaining science—among other fields—reduces the scope for direct exercise of political and economic power.
In the hands of many in the European new right (and some homologues in America and elsewhere) a non-hierarchical construction of essentialist difference has served as the basis for both celebrations of self-identity and politics of exclusion. However repugnant right-wing nationalism and ethnic politics may be to poststructuralist advocates of identity politics, those advocating more relativist, less sociological and historical positions, and those failing to analyze fields and hierarchical relations have weak capacity for critical analysis. It is accordingly not surprising that this new “differentialist racism” (in Taguieff’s phrase), has produced confusion in the anti-racist camp, because it has reduced the purchase of traditional anti-racist arguments while introducing a new racism that can appropriate the terms of the poststructuralist discourse of difference and resistance to universalism. There is clearly an irony in seeing celebration of difference turn into a racist reaction to it.
Equally ironically, and even more centrally perhaps, the poststructuralist politics of resistance has turned into an outright liberalism for some, and undercut resistance to dominant liberalism for others. This is ironic, because most versions of liberalism depend, for example, on presumptions of individual subjects strikingly at odds with poststructuralism’s deconstructions and analyses of the production of subjects by disciplinary power. Similarly, poststructuralists often affirmed a polymorphous creativity at odds with the role of neoliberalism in support of the disciplining labor for global consumption. There is perhaps a closer and less ironic link between the celebration of consumer culture by many postmodernists (in ways not really inherently poststructuralist) and the neoliberal argument that consumer choices are a good measure of freedom. In any case, many whose primarily political instincts were simply to resist authority have found themselves unable to resist the seductions of an ideology that sees free movement—free play!—of capital as a prime instance of resistance to authority. It is now hard to find a way out of oppositions between a racism and nationalism dressed up in new differentialist colors, and a neoliberalism in which the liberties of capital dominate over any positive conception of human freedom. Whatever their contributions, most versions of poststructuralism offer little help in the search for an escape from this frustrating forced choice.
For many who have been influenced by poststructuralism, positive political action on a large scale raises a specter of utopian aspirations and the potential consequences of totalitarian social engineering. Simply shoring up liberalism appears as the best choice—protecting civil liberties, for example, as a way of protecting differences among subjects. To some extent this reflects simply the extent to which the left was thrown on the defensive, hoping to preserve various freedoms during the rise of the new right. But there was also an elective affinity between poststructuralism and the abandonment of projects more directly engaging state power or seeking structural change in social relations. At the same time, many followers of poststructuralism, in America at least, tended to substitute academic politics for ties to social movements beyond the universities. Feminism, for example, was once a remarkable demonstration of how academic intellectual work and broad social movement could be joined, but the link was largely severed in the era of poststructuralist predominance. To some extent, this was not the fault of poststructuralism but of larger movement and political dynamics. The dominant forms of poststructuralism, though, were particularly prone to what Bourdieu called the “scholastic fallacy,” to attributing the problems of theoretical understanding to people not engaged in theory as such, and thus to imagining that academic contestation over cultural issues was the same as practical politics rather than a potentially useful complement to it. Poststructuralist theory did offer useful complements—including its emphasis on difference and the problems with universalism—but not a viable alternative. Fights between marxists and poststructuralists, moreover, tended to crowd out other traditions of critical social analysis—including for example the approaches offered in France by Mauss and Merleau-Ponty, both part of a tradition Bourdieu sought to revitalize.
Not all features of liberalism are problematic, of course, but liberalism without a strong theory of social relations and social practice is in a remarkably weak position to contest the “neoliberalism” that makes the abstracted individual the ground of all analysis and the economic the primary measure of this individual’s well-being. This neoliberalism is the dominant ideology of the day. Mounting an effective challenge to it, and moving beyond the idea that it is the only available alternative to the new racism and nationalism, depends on revitalizing the idea of the social and overcoming debilitating oppositions between the social and the economic, the social and the individual, and the social and the cultural. Not least of the importance of Bourdieu’s work, then, is suggesting a truly sociological way to incorporate the gains of poststructuralism, but transcend its weaknesses. Most versions of liberalism, by contrast, represent a continued retreat from the social.
In order to contest neoliberal orthodoxy and the paradoxical collapse of much poststructuralism into it, we need to inquire into the very construction of “the social”—that is, of human life understood relationally. Bourdieu’s theory is not the last word on this, but it is a crucial starting point for investigating how the social is built and rebuilt in everyday practice, and how the basic categories of knowledge are embedded in this. Bourdieu’s work at its most basic is a challenge to false oppositions: the interested and disinterested, the individual and the collective, and the socio-cultural and the economic. “A presupposition which is the basis of all the presuppositions of economics” is that “a radical separation is made between the economic and the social, which is left to one side, abandoned to sociologists, as a kind of reject” This in turn undergirds “a political vision that leads to the establishment of an unbreachable frontier between the economic, regulated by the fluid and efficient mechanisms of the market, and the social, home to the unpredictable arbitrariness of tradition, power, and passions. Economics is able to claim a falsely asocial (and acultural) individual subject, and the social (including culture) is posited as the non-economic realm (the realm at once the economically unimportant and of the pure aesthetic–never a true commodity but claimable only after the fact as an economic good). When the production of knowledge is structured by such presupposed categories, failure to take seriously the social costs of neoliberalism, the social conditions on which such an economy depends, and the possibilities of developing less damaging alternatives is almost inevitable.
Education, Inequality and Reproduction
Bourdieu’s engagement with “the social” was not simply a theoretical position but the product of an acute interest in social inequality and the ways in which it is masked and perpetuated. At once personal and political as well as scientific, this concern was appropriately evident in his studies of intellectual production and its hidden determinations. More generally, it underpins his account of the forging, conversion and communication of “cultural capital” and the operation of “symbolic power”—a central theme of his career. Already prominent in his work on Algeria, this concern became even more prominent when he turned his attention to France, notably in studies of matrimonial strategies and gender relations in his native Béarn during the early 1960s.
In 1964, in collaboration with Jean-Claude Passeron, Bourdieu published The Inheritors, the first of several ground-breaking studies of schools, cultural distinction and class division, soon followed by Reproduction in Education, Culture, and Society. The latter outlines a theory of pedagogical work as an exemplar of “symbolic violence”. This concept reflects Bourdieu’s structuralist/poststructuralist heritage, referring to the imposition of a “cultural arbitrary” that is made to appear neutral or universal. Both books examined the ways in which seemingly meritocratic educational institutions reproduced and legitimated social inequalities, for example by transforming differences in family background or familiarity with bourgeois language into differences in performance on academic tests. Read in English narrowly as texts in the sociology or anthropology of education, they were also more general challenges to the French state, which embraced education more centrally than its counterparts in the English-language countries. The national education system stood as perhaps the supreme exemplar of the pretended seamless unity and neutrality of the state in simultaneous roles as representative of the nation and embodiment of reason and progress. Bourdieu showed not merely that it was biased (a fact potentially corrigible) but that it was in principle biased. This was read by some as a blanket condemnation, and indeed Bourdieu himself worried later that this loose reading of his work encouraged teachers simply to adopt lax standards in order not to be seen (or see themselves) as the agents of symbolic violence.
The heavy emphasis of the early works on demonstrating the tendency of the educational system to reproduce its own internal hierarchy and the external material and symbolic hierarchies of the larger social order encouraged some readers in the distorting simplification of seeing the studies as merely arguments that “education is a process of reproduction”. In fact, Bourdieu did not deny the progressive possibilities of education—albeit in need of reform—and he certainly saw science as potentially liberating. If anything, Bourdieu’s early work on Algeria suggests that he started out with a conviction that reformed educational institutions and access could provide the dominated and marginalized with effective resources for political and economic participation (The Work of Pierre Bourdieu, ch. 4). By the mid-1960s, he was becoming increasingly dubious that educational institutions could play this role, and perhaps reacted against his own earlier affirmation of their potential in his disappointed critique of their embeddedness in processes of reproduction.
Bourdieu’s views of the educational system reflected the disappointed idealism of one who had invested himself deeply in it, and owed much of his own rise from provincial obscurity to Parisian prominence to success in school. As he wrote in Homo Academicus, he was like someone who believed in a religious vocation then found the church to be corrupt. “The special place held in my work by a somewhat singular sociology of the university institution is no doubt explained by the peculiar force with which I felt the need to gain rational control over the disappointment felt by an ‘oblate’ faced with the annihilation of the truths and values to which he was destined and dedicated, rather than take refuge in feelings of self-destructive resentment.” The disappointment could not be undone, but it could be turned to understanding and potentially, through that understanding, to positive change.
Bourdieu’s disillusionment with the educational system was not simply an immediate response to his experience at the École Normale, though that was certainly among its roots. In his early work on Algeria, in fact, Bourdieu looked to schools as potential vehicles for remedying the poor preparation of ex-peasants for the new commercial society and post-colonial politics. If only they could be organized to provide fair, open, and effective access to high value cultural goods, he implied in concert with many educational reformers, then educational institutions could be the crucial means for improving society. As Bourdieu continued to think about Algeria, though, and even more as he began to analyze French schooling, he became dubious about the potential. Increasingly, he saw the issue not as the failure of schools to perform their manifest function—to use Merton’s phrase—but rather as their success in fulfilling various latent functions. Of the latter, maintaining and simultaneously disguising the class structure was central. Also important, though, was providing an institutionally specific field for educators and intellectuals themselves—together with field-specific capital over which these could struggle. The very engagement of the educators in this field and in the pursuit of standing within it made it very unlikely that they could become the force for change Bourdieu had previously hoped.
Educational institutions were central to Bourdieu’s concern, but his sense of disappointment and his critical analyses both reached widely. All the institutions of modernity, including the capitalist market and the state itself, share in a tendency to promise far more than they deliver. They present themselves as working for the common good, but in fact reproduce social inequalities. They present themselves as agents of freedom, but in fact are organizations of power. They inspire devotion from those who want richer, freer lives, and they disappoint them with the limits they impose and the violence they deploy. Simply to attack modernity, however, is to engage in the “self-destructive resentment” Bourdieu sought to avoid. Rather, the best way forward lies through the struggle to understand, to win deeper truths, and to remove legitimacy from the practices by which power mystifies itself. In this way, one can challenge the myths and deceptions of modernity, enlightenment, and civilization without becoming the enemy of the hopes they offer. Central to this is renewed appreciation of both the autonomy and distinctive character of the scientific field and of the contributions it can make to public discourse:
It is necessary today to reconnect with the 19th century tradition of a scientific field that, refusing to leave the world to the blind forces of the economy, wished to extend to the whole social world the values of the (undoubtedly idealized) scientific world (Bourdieu 2001: 8).
In educational institutions, particular systems of categories, contents, and outcomes are presented as necessary and neutral (and one senses Bourdieu’s outrage at professors who can’t see the system reflexively and critically even while he explains their complacency and incapacity). Forming the taxonomic order of both the way academics think and the way the system is organized, these impressively protect against internal critique and therefore against successful reform and improvement.
The homology between the structures of the educational system (hierarchy of disciplines, of sections, etc.) and the mental structures of the agents (professorial taxonomies) is the sources of the functioning of the consecration of the social order which the education system performs behind its mask of neutrality.
In short, the educational system is a field. It has a substantial autonomy, which it must protect, and a distinctive form of capital which depends on that autonomy for its efficacy. It is internally organized as a set of transposable dispositions and practical taxonomies that enable participants to understand their world and to take effective actions, but which also produce and reproduce specific inequalities among them and make these appear natural. These can be challenged—as indeed Bourdieu challenged them by analyzing them—but it should not be thought that they could be easily changed by a simple act of will. And it is externally productive, providing the larger field of power with one of its most powerful legitimations through the process of the conversion of educational capital into more directly economic, political, or other forms.
Here we see again the dialectic of incorporation and objectification. The education system depends on the inculcation of its categories as the mental structures of agents and on the simultaneous manifestation of these as material structures of organization. This enables the production of objective effects that do not cease to be objective and materially powerful simply by pointing to the subjective moments in their creation. It is true that there is “symbolic aggression observable in all examination situations” (and Bourdieu goes to great lengths to document and analyze such things as the terms teachers use in commenting on examination papers) but not that this is explicable simply as the psychological attitude of individual agents. Rather, it is a disposition inculcated by agents’ own trajectories through the educational field (as students as well as teachers) and both reproduced and rendered apparently neutral by its match to the categories of organization and value in the field as a whole.
More generally, the social order is effectively consecrated through the educational system because it is able to appear as neutral and necessary. In one of Bourdieu’s favorite metaphors for describing his own work, Mao’s notion of “twisting the stick in the other direction”, he turned the structuralist analysis of taxonomies in another way by mobilizing it through an account of practice in the context of fields. And the analysis of how the culturally arbitrary (and often materially unequal) comes to appear as natural and fair directly informed his later critique of the imposition of neoliberal economic regimes and the American model of dismantling or reducing state institutions, including those like education that do provide opportunities for ordinary people even while in their existing form they reproduce distinctions like that of ordinary from extraordinary.
Just as Marx argued that capitalism produced wealth that it could not effectively distribute to all its participants, Bourdieu argued that science and education do in fact produce and reproduce knowledge but do so inseparably from inequalities in capacity and opportunity to appropriate that knowledge:
Economic power lies not in wealth but in the relationship between wealth and a field of economic relations, the constitution of which is inseparable from the development of a body of specialized agents, with specific interests; it is in this relationship that wealth is constituted, in the form of capital, that is, as the instrument for appropriating the institutional equipment and the mechanisms indispensable to the functioning of the field, and thereby also appropriating the profits from it.
It would make no sense to start socialism—or any more egalitarian society—by willfully abolishing all the material wealth accumulated under capitalism and previous economic systems. But it would be necessary to transform the system of relations that rendered such wealth capital. Likewise, knowledge as a kind of resource deployed by those with power in relation to specific fields—legal, medical, academic–constitutes a specific form of capital. But knowledge need not be organized this way.
Fields and Forms of Capital
Bourdieu’s exploration of the operation of different forms of power blossomed into a full-fledged model of the relations between economic, cultural, social and symbolic capital in the deployment of strategies of class reproduction. This perhaps reached its fullest development in his study of the grands écoles and the political and economic power structure of the elite professions. The studies of education were part of a broader approach to culture and power that drew also on a series of empirical studies of art and artistic institutions starting in the 1960s. In addition to the book-length works on education and art, Bourdieu published extensive shorter studies of the religious, scientific, philosophical, and juridical fields. In these and other investigations, he laid the basis for a general theory of “fields” as differentiated social microcosms operating as spaces of objectives forces and arenas of struggle over value which refract and transmute external determinations and interests. His deepest and most sustained work on fields, as well as his most historical research, focused on literature and was capped by The Rules of Art, an investigation of the symbolic revolution wrought in literature by Flaubert, Baudelaire and others. Bourdieu’s greatest unfinished work is probably its companion study, a sociogenetic dissection of Manet and the transformation of the field of painting in which he played a pivotal role.
This line of work is most widely known, however, through Distinction, almost certainly Bourdieu’s most prominent book in English. Distinction is an analysis of how culture figures in social inequality and how the pursuit of distinction or differential recognition shapes all realms of social practice. It is also an effort to “move beyond the opposition between objectivist theories which identify the social classes (but also the age or sex classes) with discrete groups, simple countable populations separated by boundaries objectively drawn in reality, and subjectivist (or marginalist) theories which reduce the ‘social order’ to a sort of collective classification obtained by aggregating the individual classifications or, more precisely, the individual strategies, classified and classifying, through which agents class themselves and others”. Bourdieu develops, thus, an argument that struggles over classification itself are an important and largely ignored aspect of class struggle (suggesting in the process that class struggle has hardly become obsolete). That classification is materially efficacious may be a familiar idea from the structuralist heritage; that it is an exercise of political power and potentially challengeable by a political—and also cultural—struggle is more in keeping with “poststructuralist” arguments (though Bourdieu’s notion of power always had more to do with agents wielding and benefiting from it than, say, Foucault’s).
Distinction, however, is also crucially a response to Kant’s Third Critique (and to subsequent philosophical disquisitions on judgment). Much as Durkheim had sought to challenge individualistic explanation of social facts, so Bourdieu sought to uncover the social roots and organization of all forms of judgment. Kant’s argument had sought an approximation in practical reason to the universality available more readily to pure reason. He had seen this as crucial equally to artistic taste and political opinion. But he had imagined a standpoint of disinterested judgment from which practical reason (and critique) might proceed. Bourdieu clearly accepted the analogy between art and politics, but not this idea of disinterest or of a place outside social struggles from which neutral knowledge might issue. If he shared this critique of ostensible neutrality with Foucault and other more conventional poststructuralists, he differed importantly in arguing that knowledge not only buttresses the hierarchies of the social world but also can be an effective part of the struggle to change that world, even if it is never produced from a standpoint outside it. The world-as-it-is-perceived issues out of and bolsters the world-as-it-is, a struggle over classification may actually change the world, and—this was crucial for Bourdieu—that struggle need not be simply a matter of power but can be through science a matter of knowledge which transcends mere power even if it does not escape struggles over power and recognition altogether. In short, we needn’t go down the ostensibly Nietzschean path towards a choice between simple embrace of the will to power or a futile resistance to it. On the contrary, “there is, as Nietzsche pointed out, no immaculate conception; but nor is there any original sin – and the discovery that someone who discovered the truth had an interest in doing so in no way diminishes his discovery.”
We can refuse relativism even though we cannot escape social relations. And if many of the poststructuralists failed to avoid relativism, they also failed to recognize the system of social relations in which they remained embedded, including the quasi-aristocratic system of the university (and especially in the French case, the philosophy-centered production of this aristocratic system).
Failing to be, at the same time, social breaks which truly renounce the gratifications associated with membership, the most audacious intellectual breaks of pure reading still help to preserve the stock of consecrated texts from becoming dead letters, mere archive material, fit at best for the history of ideas or the sociology of knowledge, and to perpetuate its existence and its specifically philosophical powers by using it as an emblem or a matrix for discourses which, whatever their stated intention, are always, also, symbolic strategies deriving their power essentially from the consecrated texts. Like the religious nihilism of some mystic heresies, philosophical nihilism too can find an ultimate path of salvation in the rituals of liberatory transgression. Just as, by a miraculous dialectical renewal, the countless acts of derision and desacralization which modern art has perpetrated against art have always turned, insofar as these are still artistic acts, to the glory of art and the artist, so the philosophical ‘deconstruction’ of philosophy is indeed, when the very hope of radical reconstruction has evaporated, the only philosophical answer to the deconstruction of philosophy.
Philosophy is like art in claiming a certain disinterested distance from the economy but in fact contributing to the reproduction of the social order. Both also specifically deny the centrality of the social, not only in terms of the institutions in which they flourish but equally in the necessary distinction between merely intellectual and truly social breaks with the established order.
If philosophy and art—and at least to some extent science–operate with a denial of interest, economics and less academic discourses about economic matters clearly embrace interest. But they operate with a presumption of neutrality and objectivity that renders them vulnerable to a closely related critique. For if the cultural world is the economic world reversed, as Bourdieu famously put it, it is also true that liberal economics turns precisely on the denial of cultural significance, the positing of “interests” as objective, and the perception of economic systems as matters of necessity rather than products of choice and power (and therefore potentially to be improved by struggle). There is no disinterested account of interests, no neutral and objective standpoint from which to evaluate policy, not even academic economics. But this doesn’t remove economic matters from science, it simply extends the demand for a truly reflexive social science, and for an overcoming of the oppositions between structure and action, objective and subjective to economics and economic analysis. The economy has no more existence separate from or prior to the rest of society than do art or philosophy. It is not merely ‘necessity’, to which we may only adapt, any more than artistic creativity is simply ‘freedom’ with no social base.
Bourdieu did not develop any detailed account of “the economy” as such, partly because his concerns lay elsewhere and partly because he questioned whether any such object existed with the degree of autonomy from the rest of social life that conventional economics implied. His account of the different forms of capital, thus, involved no account of capitalism as a distinctive, historically specific system of production and distribution. This was perhaps implied by his treatment of the corrosive force of markets in Algeria and by his critique of neoliberal economic policies. In each case the more inclusive, larger-scale organization of economic life also entailed a greater reduction of other values to economic ones (and a specification of economic values as those of private property). “Economism is a form of ethnocentrism,” Bourdieu wrote. It removes the elements of time and uncertainty from symbolically organized exchange; it desocializes transactions leaving, as Bourdieu follows Marx (and Carlyle) in saying, no other nexus between man and man than “callous cash payment”. It treats pre-capitalist economies through the categories and concepts proper to capitalism. Among other things, this means introducing what Bourdieu calls “monothetic” reason, in which analysts imagine that ‘social’ can only mean or actors only intend one thing at a time. Precapitalist thought in general, and much ordinary thought even in capitalist societies is, Bourdieu suggests, polythetic, constantly deploying multiple meanings of the same object. “Practice has a logic which is not that of the logician.” It puts symbols and knowledge together “practically,” that is, in a philosophically unrigorous but convenient way for practical use.
Bourdieu devoted a good deal of effort to challenging such economism. But he did this not to suggest an alternative view of human nature in which competition did not matter so much as an alternative view of the social world in which other kinds of “goods” and relationships were the objects of investment and accumulation. This led him into the influential idea of different partially convertible forms of capital: notably cultural, social, and symbolic.
The social world can be conceived as a multi-dimensional space that can be constructed empirically by discovering the main factors of differentiation which account for the differences observed in a given social universe, or, in other words, by discovering the powers or forms of capital which are or can become efficient, like aces in a game of cards, in this particular universe, that is, in the struggle (or competition) for the appropriation of scarce goods of which this universe is the site. It follows that the structure of this space is given by the distribution of the various forms of capital, that is, by the distribution of the properties which are active within the universe under study–those properties capable of conferring strength, power and consequently profit on their holder. … these fundamental social powers are, according to my empirical investigations, firstly economic capital, in its various kinds; secondly cultural capital or better, informational capital, again in its different kinds; and thirdly two forms of capital that are very strongly correlated, social capital, which consists of resources based on connections and group membership, and symbolic capital, which is the form the different types of capital take once they are perceived and recognized as legitimate.
Economic capital is that which is “immediately and directly convertible into money.” Educational credentials (cultural capital) or social connections (social capital) can only be converted indirectly, through engagement in activities that involve longer-term relationships: employment, family and marriage, etc. Different social fields create and value specific kinds of capital, and if economic capital has a certain primacy for Bourdieu, it is not dominant in all fields and its role may in varying degree be denied or misrecognized.
Bourdieu’s work on Algeria stresses the tension between the relatively undifferentiated traditional order and development conceived as transition to a society in which the economic field had a kind of differentiated autonomy. His later arguments against neoliberal globalization, by contrast, focus on the threats posed by dedifferentiation, a loss of autonomy by fields other than the economy. There are common threads: crucially, the lack of preparation of large segments of the population for the new conditions and the introduction of new inequalities without systems of social reciprocity to mitigate their effects. But Bourdieu does not offer a strong account of how and why economic capital should have its distinctive powers, and to what extent these are specific to or take a distinctive form in societies that can be called “capitalist”. Perhaps it is simply the one-sided focus on certain sorts of social practices and values—those designated properly economic in capitalism—that both constitutes capitalism and makes it powerful (as well as dangerous).
Bourdieu’s analytic focus is more on showing that what economism takes as the universal characteristic of human nature—material, individual self-interest—is in fact historically arbitrary, a particular historical construction. “A general science of the economy of practices,” thus, would “not artificially limit itself to those practices that are socially recognized as economic.” It would “endeavor to grasp capital, that ‘energy of social physics’ in all of its different forms, and to uncover the laws that regulate their conversion from one into another.” Capital is analogous to energy, thus, and both to power. But, “the existence of symbolic capital, that is, of ‘material’ capital misrecognized and thus recognized, though it does not invalidate the analogy between capital and energy, does remind us that social science is not a social physics; that the acts of cognition that are implied in misrecognition and recognition are part of social reality and that the socially constituted subjectivity that produces them belongs to objective reality.”
Sociology in Action
Bourdieu’s approach was to rethink major philosophical themes and issues by means of empirical observation and analyses rooted in “a practical sense of theoretical things” rather than through purely theoretical disquisition. Only relatively late, in Pascalian Meditations, did Bourdieu offer a systematic explication of his conception of social knowledge, being, and truth. In this book, he started once again with the premise that the knowledge produced by social analysts must be related to the conditions of intellectual work and to the peculiar dispositions fostered by the scholastic universe. He laid out his philosophical anthropology, in which human action is guided not by “interests” but by the struggle for practical efficacy and pursuit of recognition, whose form will be determined by particular locations in collective and individual histories. He clarified his agonistic view of the social world, anchored not by the notion of “reproduction” but by that of struggle (itself internally linked to recognition). And he showed why epistemic–as distinguished from narcissistic—reflexivity mandates a commitment to “historical rationalism,” and not relativism.
Science—including sociology and anthropology—was for him a practical enterprise, an active, ongoing practice of research and analysis (modus operandi), not simply a body of scholastic principles (opus operatum). It was no accident that he titled his book of epistemological and methodological preliminaries The Craft of Sociology. The craft worker is always a lover of knowledge; the craft itself is precisely a store of knowledge, yet it is never fully discursive and available for explicit transmission as such. Masters teach their skills by example and coaching, knowing that know-how cannot be reduced to instructions, and never escapes its situated and embodied character. Like habitus, “the rules of art” is a phrase that signifies practical knowledge, learning-by-doing, tacit understanding, like the knowledge of cooking embodied in a grandmother’s demonstrations and guidance rather than a cookbook. Art can never be reduced to following set rules and yet to say it is without coherence, strategy or intention or not based on social organized and shared knowledge would be to misunderstand it utterly. Neither is science simply the value-free expression of “truth.” It is a project, but one organized, ideally, in a social field that rewards the production of verifiable and forever revisable truths—including new truths and new approaches to understanding–and not merely performance according to explicit rules and standards. It is a project that depends crucially on reason as an institutionally embedded and historically achieved capacity, and therefore refuses equally the rationalistic reduction of reason to rules, simple determinism’s unreasoned acceptance of the status quo, and the expressive appeal to insight supposedly transcending history and not corrigible by reason.
Indeed, it was as a social scientist that Bourdieu in the last years of his life turned to analyze the impacts of neoliberal globalization on culture, politics, and society. “The social sciences, which alone can unmask and counter the completely new strategies of domination which they sometimes help to inspire and to arm, will more than ever have to choose which side they are on: either they place their rational instruments of knowledge at the service of ever more rationalized domination, or they rationally analyse domination and more especially the contribution which rational knowledge can make to de facto monopolization of the profits of universal reason.” Though he was accused of simply adopting the mediatic throne Sartre and Foucault had occupied before—and certainly he never fully escaped from that mediatic version of politics–he offered a different definition of what a “public intellectual” might be. Citing the American term, he wrote of “one who relies in political struggle on his competence and specific authority, and the values associated with the exercise of his profession, like the values of truth or disinterest, or, in other terms, someone who goes onto the terrain of politics without abandoning the requirements and competences of the researcher”. He contrasts such a “specific intellectual” to the “general intellectual” (Sartre was the obvious model) who spoke on all matters claiming a right conferred more by personal eminence or authenticity than by professional expertise or perspective. If the tradition of Zola legitimates intellectual as political forces in France, it was nonetheless important to recognize the difference between simply claiming a new sort of aristocratic-clerical right to speak in public, and bringing analyses with specific scholarly bases into public debate.
Bourdieu was famous long before the struggle against neliberal globalization of the 1990s. In June 1968, some students had actually carried copies of his book, The Inheritors, onto the barricades. But Bourdieu had stayed more or less apart from that struggle, turning his attention to scientific—albeit critical–research. Some of this research produced Homo Academicus, a book partly about the relationship between the university microcosm and the larger field of power in 1968, but the book appeared over fifteen years later. One reason Bourdieu was not a vocal public activist in 1968 was that he did not think the crucial issues of power and inequality were well-joined in the struggles of that year. Neither their romanticism nor the predominant versions of Marxism appealed to him, and he resisted especially leftist tendencies to collapse the scientific and political fields. Moreover, he worried that naïve overoptimism encouraged actions that would set back rather than advance the causes of liberation and knowledge. Not least of all, there was a superabundance of symbolically prominent intellectuals in 1968. By the early 1990s this was no longer so. Sartre and Foucault were both dead, and a number of others had abandoned the public forum or simply appeared small within it.
The death of Foucault may have been especially important. While Foucault lived, Bourdieu was in a sense protected from the most intense demands of media and popular activists for a dominant public intellectual of the left. After Foucault was gone, there was a sort of vacuum in French public life which Bourdieu was increasingly drawn to fill. Bourdieu seized the occasion to fight for undocumented and unemployed workers, against the tyranny of neoliberal ideology, and to create a new “International” of public-spirited intellectuals. He defended the homeless and anti-racist activists. There was nonetheless an irony, given the extent to which Bourdieu had earlier railed against French model of the “total intellectual” with its presumption of omnicompetence and its displacement of more specialized scientific knowledge. His distinction of specific from general intellectuals clarified his self-understanding but inevitably he traded not only on demonstrated competence but fame and position. The sociologist who had criticized Sartre seemed to be taking on a Sartrean mantle.
As Bourdieu’s theory suggested, however, public fame is a product of the field not just the individual, it is not surprising that he could not escape it or that he sought to use it like any other resource or field-specific capital. In this case, of course, academic prominence transcended the intellectual field to become political fame partly because of the very weakness of the boundaries between political and intellectual life and the mediation of journalists that he elsewhere criticized. Though he increased his public interventions during the 1980s and early 1990s, a wave of strikes in 1995 was pivotal. This not only pitted the government and capitalists against workers but split the Left over whether reformist accommodation to globalization was the best strategy or resistance made sense. Bourdieu had previously written important reports on education for the socialist government and participated quietly in the politics at or beyond the left wing of the socialist party. He grew increasingly disillusioned and frustrated, though, after Mitterand forced out Michel Rocard (whom Bourdieu explicitly praised), and carried the party in an opportunistically centrist direction. After making what was then a rare appearance at a demonstration at the Gâre de Lyon in 1995, Bourdieu took on an increasingly public role and became a critic of the socialist party from its left. It was in many ways a transformation of the intellectual and political fields that brought about the transformation in at least an aspect of Bourdieu’s habitus.
Basic to Bourdieu’s interventions as a public intellectual, in this sense, was the importance of creating the possibility of collective choice where the dominant discourse described only the impositions of necessity. In the context of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, for example, Bourdieu challenged the idea that the choices of European citizens were limited to passivity before the horrors of ethnic cleansing or support for the American-led NATO policy of high-altitude bombing. More prominently, especially from the early 1990s, Bourdieu worked to protect the achievements of the social struggles of the twentieth century — pensions, job security, open access to higher education and other provisions of the social state — against budget cuts and other attacks in the name of free markets and international competition. In the process, he became one of the world’s most famous critics of neoliberal globalization. He challenged the neoliberal idea that a specific model of reduction in state action, enhancement of private property, and freedom for capital was a necessary response to globalization (itself conceived as a quasi-natural force).
Calling this the “American model” annoyed Americans who wished to distance themselves from government and corporate policies. The label nonetheless captured a worldwide trend toward commodification, state deregulation, and competitive individualism exemplified and aggressively promoted by the dominant class of the United States at the end of the 20th century. Bourdieu identified this American model with five features of American culture and society which were widely proposed as necessary to successful globalization in other contexts: (1) a weak state, (2) an extreme development of the spirit of capitalism, and (3) the cult of individualism, (4) exaltation of dynamism for its own sake, and (5) neo-Darwinism with its notion of self-help.
Whatever the label, Bourdieu meant the view that institutions developed out of a long century of social struggles should be scrapped if they could not meet the test of market viability. Many of these, including schools and universities, are state institutions. As he demonstrated in much of his work, they are far from perfect. Nonetheless, collective struggles have grudgingly and gradually opened them to a degree to the dominated, workers, women, ethnic minorities, and others. These institutions and this openness are fragile social achievements that open up the possibility of more equality and justice, and to sacrifice them is to step backwards, whether this step is masked by a deterministic analysis of the “market” or a naked assertion of self-interest by the wealthy and powerful. This does not mean that defense must be blind, but it does mean that resistance to neoliberal globalization, even when couched in the apparently backward-looking rhetoric of nationalism, can be a protection of genuine gains and indeed, a protection of the public space for further progressive struggles.
Bourdieu was concerned above all that the social institutions that supported reason—by providing scholars, scientists, artists, and writers, with a measure of autonomy–were under unprecedented attack. Reduction to the market threatened to undermine science; reduction to the audience-ratings logic of television entertainment threatened to undermine public discourse. “If one wants to go beyond preaching, then it is necessary to implement practically … the Realpolitik of reason aimed at setting up or reinforcing, within the political field, the mechanisms capable of imposing the sanctions, as far as possible automatic ones, that would tend to discourage deviations from the democratic norm (such as the corruption of elected representatives) and to encourage or impose the appropriate behaviors; aimed also at favouring the setting up of non-distorted social structures of communication between the holders of power and the citizens, in particular though a constant struggle for the independence of the media.” The problem was not internationalization as such. Bourdieu himself called forcefully for a new internationalism, saw science as an international endeavor, and founded Liber, a European review of books published in six languages. The problem was the presentation of a particular modality of “globalization” as a force of necessity to which there was no alternative but adaptation and acceptance.
In his own life, Bourdieu recognized, it was not merely talent and effort that propelled his extraordinary ascent from rural Béarn to the Collège de France, but also state scholarships, social rights, and educational access to the closed world of “culture.” This recognition did not stop him from critical analysis. He showed how the classificatory systems operating in these institutions of state, culture, and education all served to exercise symbolic violence as well as and perhaps more than to open opportunities. But he also recognized the deep social investment in such institutions that was inescapably inculcated in people whose life trajectories depended them: “what individuals and groups invest in the particular meaning they give to common classificatory systems by the use they make of them is infinitely more than their ‘interest’ in the usual sense of the term; it is their whole social being, everything which defines their own idea of themselves…”
Neoliberal reforms, thus, not only threaten some people with material economic harms, they threaten social institutions that enable people to make sense of their lives. That these institutions are flawed is a reason to transform them (and the classificatory schemes central to their operation and reproduction). It is not a basis for imagining that people can live without them, especially in the absence of some suitable replacements. Moreover, the dismantling of such institutions is specifically disempowering, not only economically depriving. That is, it not only takes away material goods in which people have an “interest”, it undercuts their ability to make sense of their social situation and create solidarities with others.
A central strength of global capitalism is its ability to control the terms of discourse, and most especially, to present the specific emerging forms of globalization as both inevitable and progressive. Consider the force of this message in the rhetoric of the European Union and the advocates of a common currency. Globalization appears as a determinant force, an inevitable necessity to which Europeans must adapt; capitalism appears as its essential character; the American model is commonly presented as the ‘normal’ if not the only model. Yet European unification is held to be liberal, cosmopolitan, and progressive. To assert as Bourdieu did that the specific pattern of international relations—like relations within nations—is the result of the exercise of power is to open up the game, to remove the illusion of necessity. To reveal the power being wielded and reproduced when apparently open political choices are structured by a symbolic order organized to the benefit of those in dominant positions, whether or not they are fully aware of what they do, is to challenge the efficacy of doxic understandings. These are basic acts of critical theory, and both consistent with and informed by Bourdieu’s work since his early Algerian studies.
As we saw, the entry into politics that made Bourdieu so prominent a celebrity also aroused criticisms, suspicions, and resentments among his fellow social scientists. Beyond theoretical or empirical differences the new conflicts were fueled by both academic and state politics. Many charged that Bourdieu’s new politics was not only irresponsible but deceptive. It was the former, critics said, because it encouraged populism, ultra-leftism, and a new anti-Americanism. It was the latter because Bourdieu claimed to speak with the authority of science, but his ex cathedra pronouncements were not supported by thorough research and the role in which he made them was one he had specifically criticized when it was performed by Sartre.
I have tried in this paper to challenge the charge of discontinuity or even contradiction, showing the connections within Bourdieu’s scientific work and between it and his political analyses. As to the role, there is an element of truth to the charge, but also considerable bad faith since most of those making the accusation were precisely the university based intellectuals who most commonly seek to appear in the editorial pages of the newspapers.
It is easy to see how celebrity can fuel jealousy among intellectuals. To this we must add the special complexities of the French intellectual field and Bourdieu’s place within it. His chair at the Collège de France gave him a symbolically preeminent but materially marginal position. He could not effectively place all his protégés in independent positions. Moreover, though he resisted (and sometimes fiercely denied) becoming one of the “mandarins” of the French system, its structural constraints insistently asserted themselves. There was no other way to organize a large collective enterprise (or at least he found none). And it was hardly at odds with Bourdieu’s theory that those challenging a field should have to accumulate and deploy capital within it, and participate despite all in its reproduction.
Nonetheless, Bourdieu’s enterprise exemplified charismatic not rational-bureaucratic leadership. He alone gave the crucial assignments and conferred value on participants’ activities. Many felt they were in a competition for his favor and attention, some that he played them off against each other. Not surprisingly, Bourdieu was worried by struggles over succession. To achieve personal autonomy, several of Bourdieu’s early students and collaborators felt it necessary to go through painful rebellions. A few could not restrain themselves from publicly expressing their quasi-Oedipal struggles in newspaper commentary after Bourdieu’s death. And yet, perhaps the greatest source of resentment against Bourdieu was his refusal to turn his own success – in the intellectual world, on the political scene, and in the media — into an endorsement of the system and thus of all those honored by it. On the contrary, Bourdieu was relentlessly critical of the consecration function performed by educational institutions. By implication, many felt deconsecrated.
Bourdieu’s public interventions were, however, firmly rooted in his sociological analyses. Indeed, it was his theory of social fields—honed in studies of the religious field, the legal field, and the field of cultural production–that informed his defense of the autonomy (always only relative) of the scientific field from market pressure. His theory of the multiple forms of capital—cultural and social as well as economic—suggested that these were indirectly convertible but if they were reduced to simple equivalence cultural and social capital lost their specificity and efficacy. And his early studies in Algeria showed the corrosive impact of unbridled extension of market forces.
Bourdieu knew the political importance of science, but also that this importance would be vitiated by reducing science to politics. In Pantagruel, Rabelais famously said, “Science without conscience is nothing but the ruin of the soul.” It is a better line in French, where ‘conscience’ also means consciousness. It is not the sort of line Bourdieu would quote, though, because public appeals to conscience are too commonly justifications for a jargon of authenticity rather than the application of reason. Nonetheless, Bourdieu demonstrated that conscience—in both its senses–is not simply an interior state of individuals. It is a social achievement. As such, it is always at risk. Bourdieu was a scholar and researcher of great rigor and also a man and a citizen with a conscience attuned to inequality and domination. Would there were more.
 This paper was developed out of speeches presented early in 2002 at New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, and finally the New School for Social Research, April 26, 2002; it incorporates parts of a French text presented as the opening speech to the Colloq Bourdieu at Cerisy-la-salle, July 2001. I am indebted to Loic Wacquant and Emmanuelle Saada for their comments on earlier versions.
 President of the Social Science Research Council and Professor of Sociology and History at New York University.
 Bourdieu, et al. The Weight of the World. Trans. P. Ferguson. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000; orig. 1993.
 Bourdieu, La domination masculine. Paris: Seuil, 1997.
 This charge was made in especially vitriolic and lengthy form in Jeannine Verdès-Leroux, Le Savant et la politique: Essai sur le terrorisme sociologique de Pierre Bourdieu. Paris: Grasset, 1998.
 Interview, in “Les réactions de nombreux compagnons de route,” Le Monde, 24.01.02.
 Anthony Pouilly “Bourdieu et les journalists: l’heure des comptes,” Revue la science politique 12 (2002): 1-4; Daniel Schneidermann, Du journalisme après Bourdieu. Paris: Fayard, 1998. Schneiderman was a Le Monde reporter who complained that Bourdieu should have recognized that, within necessary limits, many journalists were also engaged in promoting critical consciousness. In the same manner that social democrats resented being lumped with liberals, Schneiderman thought Bourdieu should have made stronger distinctions among journals and jounralists. For extensive discussion of this, see the website Action-Critique-Medias (http://acrimed.samizdat.net/journalismes/critiques) and Pascal Fortin, “Bourdieu, Schneidermann et le journalisme: Analyse d;une contre-critique,” Composite, 1 (http://commposite.uqam.ca/2000.1/articles/fortin.htm).
 See Rogers Brubaker, “Social Theory as Habitus,” Pp. 212-234 in C. Calhoun, E. LiPuma, and M. Postone, eds.: Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives. Chicago: University of Chicago Press and Derek Robbins The Work of Pierre Bourdieu. Boulder: Westview, 1991.
 If there was any such break in Bourdieu’s work, it came in the 1960s and 1970s as he first appropriated and then transcended structuralism (without ever fully abandoning it) in developing a theory of practice and struggle. Bourdieu’s early studies of Algeria were not especially theoretical, and were influenced more by phenomenology than structuralism. Bourdieu first drew on structuralism to challenge naïve subjectivism, then sought to bring time, improvisation, and sense of the game to bear to show the limits of thinking culture in purely structural terms, especially as a system of rules. Yet this was not a break into epistemic maturity, but a gradual working-out and improvement of positions and tools.
 Pierre Bourdieu, Alain Darbel, J-P. Rivet and C. Seibel. Travail et travailleurs en Algerie. Paris and the Hague: Mouton, this ed. 1995; orig. 1963.
 Pierre Bourdieu, “La maison kabyle ou le monde renversé,” pp. 739-58 in J. Pouillon and P. Maranda, eds., Échanges et communications : Mélanges offerts à Claude Lévi-Strauss à l’occasion de son 60ème anniversaire. Paris: Mouton, 1969; Pierre Bourdieu. Esquisse d’une théorie de la pratique. Précédé de trois etudes d’ethnologie kabyle. Genève: Droz, 1972
 Pierre Bourdieu, “Les strategies matrimoniales dans le system de reproduction,” Annales, 1972 n. 4-5: 1105-27; Le bal des célibataires. Paris : Seuil, 2002.
 Pierre Bourdieu, Luc Boltanski, Robert Castel, Jean-Claude Chamboredon and Dominique Schnapper, Photography: A Middle-Brow Art. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990; orig. 1965.
 Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Darbel, The Love of Art. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990; orig. 1966.
 Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron, The Inheritors. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979; orig. 1964; Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron, Reproduction in Education, Culture, and Society. Trans by. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1977; orig. 1970.
 Pierre Bourdieu, Homo Academicus. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988; orig. 1978; The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power. Stanford: Stanford University Press; this ed. 1996; orig. 1989.
 Bourdieu, Pierre, “The Historical Genesis of a Pure Aesthetic,” pp 254-266 in The Field of Cultural Production. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993; orig. 1989; The Rules of Art. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996; orig. 1992.
 Pierre Bourdieu, et al., The Weight of the World. Trans. P. Ferguson. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000; orig. 1993. Though it is dated, the best review of the development and breadth of Bourdieu’s work are Derek Robbins, The Work of Pierre Bourdieu, op cit.; also helpful is David Swartz, Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
 Bourdieu, In Other Words. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 63; original emphases.
 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations. Trans G.E.M. Anscombe, London: Macmillan, 1967; orig. 1953.
 See Charles Taylor, “To Follow a Rule…” pp. 45-60 in C. Calhoun, E. LiPuma, and M. Postone, eds.: Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993 on Bourdieu’s account of the limits of rule-following as an explication of action and its relationship to Wittgenstein.
 Bourdieu, In Other Words, p. 63.
 Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2000; orig. 1997, p. 110.
 Ibid., p. 109.
 Aude Lancelin, “Bourdieu fait son cinema,” Le Nouvel Observateur, 26.04.01; also Nouvel Observateur website, 04.02.2002. Lancelin’s article is excerpted on the Action-Critique-Medias site, http://acrimed.samizdat.net/journalismes/culture/01bourdieu09.html. Nouvel Observateur and Bourdieu existed in longtime mutual acrimony, perhaps precisely because the Nouvelle Observateur was the journal of “caviar socialism”.
 Ferenzci, Thomas, “Un homme de combat,” Le Monde, 25.01.02, p. 1-2.
 Pierre Bourdieu, Science de la science et réflexivité. Paris: Raisons d’agir, 2002; see also Homo Academicus and Postscript 1 to Chapter 1 of Pascalian Meditations. An unauthorized publication of parts of the “elements of a social self-analysis” by Nouvel Observateur shortly after Bourdieu’s death, contrary to the wishes of his family, created a small scandal.
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 7.
 Derrida was Bourdieu’s exact contemporary and early friend; Foucault finished at the Ecole a year after they started. All were taught in part by Louis Althusser, though they responded differently, Bourdieu ultimately with considerable hostility.
 See James D. Le Seuer, Uncivil War: Intellectuals and Identity Politics During the Decolonization of Algeria. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002 and Bourdieu’s foreward to it.
 Bourdieu and Sayad, Le deracinement, la crise de l’agriculture en Algerie. Paris: Editions de Minuit. An exceptional scholar in his own right, Sayad remained a close friend and interlocutor of Bourdieu’s until his death in 1998. See Emmanuelle Saada, “ (2000); Bourdieu and Loïc Wacquant, “The Organic Ethnologist of Algerian Migration,” Ethnography, 1 (2000) #2: 173-82.; Bourdieu’s introduction to Sayad, La double absence: Des illusions de l’émigré aux souffrances de l’immigré. Paris: Seuil, 1999.
 Weight of the World was produced with contributions from 23 co-authors! Much of Bourdieu’s later effort would go into maintain sites of collective production and dissemination of knowledge: research centers, journals, and book series.
 Bourdieu, Sociologie d’Algerie, Paris: PUF, 1958.
 See, perhaps most importantly, Bourdieu and Sayad, op cit.
 Bourdieu, Sociologie d’Algerie, Paris: PUF, 1958; Bourdieu, Darbel, Rivet and Seibel, Travail et travailleurs en Algerie. Paris and the Hague: Mouton, this ed. 1995; orig. 1963.
 Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (New York: Free Press, 1997; orig. 1912).
 Jeffrey Alexander makes much of uncovering the fact that Bourdieu was influenced by Sartre, and then suggests that Bourdieu’s later critiques of Sartre were disingenuous. See Alexander, “The Reality of Reduction,” in his Fin de siecle Social Theory, London: Verso, 1995. But Alexander fails to grasp both the ubiquity of Sartre’s influence—as of Lévi-Strauss’s—in the French intellectual field of the 1950s and the extent to which Bourdieu in his work of the later 1960s and 70s played each off against the other as representations of subjectivism and objectivism. Bourdieu drew on many influences, and it is true that he did not always make them clear, and especially not those that were most obvious in his field. Though the temporal progression is not quite so simple, Bourdieu proceeded through the stages his theory described: subjectivism, structuralist objectification, the attempt to develop an account of practice that transcended their opposition.
 Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans R. Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977, p. 1.
 For decades Bourdieu quietly supported students from Kabylia in the pursuit of higher education, a fact that speaks not only to his private generosity and sense of obligation, but to his faith that, for all their complicity in social reproduction, education and science remained the best hope for loosening the yoke of domination. He also helped Berber emigrants in Paris found a research center, “CERAM” (Centre de Recherches et d’Etudes Amazighes), and was a founder of a prominent support group for imprisoned and threatened Algerian intellectuals (CISIA, Comité de soutien aux intellectuels algériens).
 Pierre Bourdieu, “Unifying to Better Dominate,” Items and Issues, winter 2001; orig. 2000 (forthcoming in Firing Back, New York: New Press, 2002.
 See Bourdieu, “The Revolution in the Revolution.” There is useful discussion in Jeremy Lane, Pierre Bourdieu: A Critical Introduction. London: Pluto, 2000.
 Esquisse d’une théorie la pratique, précédé de trois études d’ethnologie kabyle, Geneva : Droz, 1972; Outline, op cit., The Logic of Practice, trans R. Nice. Stanford : Stanford University Press, 1990 ; orig. 1980. Outline is often described as a translation of Esquisse, but it is in fact substantially rewriting and incorporates not only a changed order of presentation and relation between theoretical and ethnographic text, but some significant changes in theory. Logic (Le Sens Pratique, a more evocative title), reworked the same texts, with further additions and deletions. Robbins’ account of the relations among the three is the most detailed in English; see The Work of Pierre Bourdieu, ch. 7.
 I mean here an analytic “third way”, some manner of escape from the problems objective and subjective. Bourdieu sought to objectify each perspective, but also to recognize each within the larger whole of sociological inquiry. “Objective analysis,” he wrote in Homo Academicus, p. xiv “obliges us to realize that the two approaches, structuralist and constructivist … are two complementary stages of the same procedure.” Bourdieu and Giddens diverged much more sharply on the idea of a political Third Way and what Bourdieu saw as Giddens’ insufficiently critical approach to globalization.
 This was not merely a feature of the late Durkheim as opposed to some less cultural early work, but a theme throughout his career. It is in part an artificial separation of sociological and anthropological claims on Durkheim that makes his interests look more discontinuous than they are. See discussion in Michele Richman, Sacred Revolutions, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.
 British social anthropology kept the Durkheimian tradition alive in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, and it is no accident that Radcliffe-Brown’s Structure and Function in Primitive Societies was translated into French as part of Bourdieu’s Le sens commun series.
 Originally written in 1963-4, this was first published in 1969 in an homage to Lévi-Strauss and republished as part of the French edition of the Outline. In the same sense, many of Michel Foucault’s works of the mid-1960s are arguably classics of structuralism and not yet in any strong sense “poststructuralist”—e.g., The Order of Things, New York: Pantheon, 1970; orig. 1966.
 Bridget Fowler (Pierre Bourdieu and Cultural Theory. London: Sage, 1977, p. 16) rather strangely sees the concept of practice as “associated with [Bourdieu’s] conversion to structuralism” thus missing some of the other sources on which it drew-most notably Marx and marxism–and the extent to which it marked an effort to transcend limits of structuralism.
 Bourdieu’s book series “Le sens commun” (published by Éditions de Minuit) revealed some of the intellectual resources on which he drew and which he made available in France: The works of Ernst Cassirer, Gregory Bateson, Erwin Panofsky, Joseph Schumpeter, Mikhail Bakhtin, Jack Goody, and Erving Goffman, among many others, are known in France mainly because of Bourdieu’s efforts.
 See discussion in Roger Chartier, “Social Figuration and Habitus,” pp. 71-94 in Cultural History (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988). Elias and Bourdieu share a variety of themes, tastes, and some other concepts, though there are also striking differences. Not the least of the latter is the extent to which Elias focused on long-term historical change, whereas Bourdieu, while sometimes dealing intensively with sharter-term processes of change seldom addressed questions of large-scale, epochal historical change. See Calhoun, “Habitus, Field of Power and Capital: The Question of Historical Specificity,” in Critical Social Theory, Oxford: Blackwell, 1995.
 Logic of Practice, p. 53.
 Jenkins, Pierre Bourdieu, pp. 162-73.
 Rodney Needham, Structure and Sentiment. Oxford: Blackwell, 1962; George C. Homans and David M. Schneider, Kinship, Authority and Final Causes. Glencoe: The Free Press, 1955; Jon Elster, Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989; Charles Tilly, “Mechanisms in Political Processes,” Annual Review of Political Science, 2001, 4, pp. 21-41; Mario Bunge, The Sociology/Philosophy Connection. New Brunswick: Transaction, 1999; Peter Hedström and Richard Swedberg, eds., Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. A key question is whether what many mean by the emphasis on mechanisms is less a serious statement about the nature of explanation than simply a restatement of Merton’s advice to stick to “middle-range theories” between pure description and grand theoretical systems. See Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe: Free Press, 1949, 1957, 1968. For some it is dogmatic metatheory, for others merely prudent search for partially generalizable aspects of complex social phenomena.
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 138.
 Outline, p. 73.
 Outline, p. 72.
 This is discussed in several places; for a general treatment see chapter 6, “The Scholastic Point of View,” in Practical Reason. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.
 “L’imposition du modèle américain et ses effets,” Contre-feux 2, pp. 25-31; p. 29-30.
 Bourdieu’s understanding of the historical process by which this tacit understanding of market society was established was close to—and indebted to—that of Karl Polanyi. See, e.g., The Great Transformation, New York: Rinehart, 1944.
 See Bourdieu, “The Specificity of the Scientific Field and the Social Conditions of the Progress of Reason,” Social Science Information, vol. 14, no. 6, 1975, pp. 19-47; Homo Academicus; and The State Nobility.
 “I have always asked of the most radically objectifying instruments of knowledge that I could use that they also serves as instruments of self-knowledge,” Pascalian Meditations, p. 4. See also Bourdieu and Wacquant, Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
 The background to this phase of Bourdieu’s thought as well as to the struggles of the era was the expansion of the university system which made room for new subjects (like sociology) and new (or at least more common) class trajectories of rapid upward mobility. The new eighth branch of the University of Paris became a center for both. Close colleagues of Bourdieu’s like Passeron and Robert Castel did in fact move to Vincennes. That Bourdieu did not may reflect both his greater cultural capital, which enabled his move eventually to the Collège de France, and his sense that the specific form of the growth produced compartmentalization more than opportunity.
 Alexander, Fin de Siècle Social Theory.
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 115.
 See Pascalian Meditations, esp. Postscript 1 to Chapter 1 and the sketch of a social self-analysis in Science de la science et réflexivité.
 See “Impersonal Confessions,” pp. 33-42 in Pascalian Meditations.
 This is a broad generalization. Deeply influenced by Lacan, for example, Castoriadis also draws on phenomenology and materialsim. Foucault’s work is more phenomenological and materialist (in some ways) than that of Derrida or Lacan.
 François Dosse, History of Structuralism. Trans. D. Glassman. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998 (2 vols.); orig. 1991.
 In the 1960s, Foucault, Derrida, and Bourdieu all published texts that stand among the “classics” of structuralism: e.g., Foucault, The Order of Things. New York: Pantheon, 1970; orig. 1966; Derrida, Of Grammatology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976; orig. 1967; and Bourdieu, “The Kabyle House” in Logic of Practice; orig. 1960. There was perhaps more “post” to Derrida’s mid-1960s structuralism. In the 1970s, all three challenged structuralism in basic ways even while continuing to incorporate much from it. See Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice; Derrida, Disseminations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983, 1972 ; and Foucault, Discipline and Punish. New York: Pantheon, 1977; orig. 1975.
 See Craig Calhoun, Critical Social Theory: Culture, History, and the Challenge of Difference. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1995; Norris, Christopher, The Truth about Postmodernism. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1993; Peter Dews, Logics of Disintegration. London: Verso, 1987.
 Alexander, Fin de siècle Social Theory. Alexander is determined to show Bourdieu to be a deterministic Marxist at heart. Some of Bourdieu’s formulations do indeed resemble Althusser’s, as some resemble other versions of structuralism and then post-structuralism as he works through his own version of the “problematique” he and most of his philosophical generation confronted.
 The École Normale in the rue d’Ulm is the pre-eminent institution for the formation of French intellectuals—and overwhelmingly important to its field in a way no single institution in the US comes close to rivaling. Khâgne is the intensive preparatory course for those seeking to enter the École (and its students are called khâgnes).
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 38. Bachelard is the source for the idea of ‘epistemic break’ that Althusser used in his analysis of Marx and which English language readers often cite as though it originated with Althusser.
 This is not to say that they were politically inactive; Foucault, for example, campaigned importantly on prisons. The point is the reluctance to embrace a positive political project as distinct from resistance. Perhaps equally indicative is Foucault’s early support for the Iranian revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeni, which Foucault praised precisely its resistance to modernity.
 It should be granted, though, that if poststructuralism, along with much of the “cultural studies” movement in English language scholarship, suffered an inattention to the social, a symmetrical lack, or even repudiation, characterized much of social and political theory and sociology. Those on the other side from poststructuralism and kindred cultural inquiry often insisted on thin notions of culture and especially failed to pay much attention to creativity.
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 41.
 A variety of liberalisms are involved, including both more “left” and more “conservative” neoKantian positions in France–and there especially the variety of academic positions trading on rejections of the thought of ‘68 (cf. Luc Ferry and Alain Renaud, French Philosophy of the Sixties. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990; consider also Lyotard). In America, somewhat similarly, feminists who had argued largely from poststructuralist positions were often thrown back on liberalism in their efforts to defend gains against resurgent right wing challengers. This fit with feminism’s close association with defense of multicultural freedoms, but it often sacrificed the kind of more general and positive social and political theory earlier linked to socialist-feminism (though see efforts to reclaim the latter project, e.g., by Nancy Fraser, in Justice Interreuptus. New York: Routledge, 1996).
 “La Nouvelle vulgate planétaire,” Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2000: 6-7; pp. 443-51 in Bourdieu, Interventions, 1961-2001, Paris, Agone, 2002.
 This is the grain of truth in the otherwise ludicrous assaults of rightwing critics of “tenured radicals”. The attacks are most painful precisely because they force ostensible radicals to realize that they are not so radical—and certainly not the Marxists many critics claim—as well as that they lack the power ascribed to them.
 Sollers, Bourdieu said, made “cynicism one of the Fine Arts”; Acts of Resistance. New York: New Press, 1998, p. 12.
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 94. Bourdieu’s position, embracing Pascal and a tradition of French “historical rationalism” should evoke in English-language readers some echoes of Hume, rethought as less conservative and less anti-rationalist. Á propos of the opposition of existentialism to structuralism, it is worth recalling that Pascal is often seen as anticipating Kierkegaard and some other existentialists, not least in his emphasis on the non-rational sources of the first principles of knowledge, and on the paradoxical, contradictory aspects of human existence.
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 123.
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 103.
 “Just as physical space … is defined by the reciprocal externality of positions, … the social space is defined by the mutual exclusion, or distinction, of the positions which constitute it, that is, as a structure of juxtaposition of social positions,” Pascalian Meditations, p. 134.
 Pierre-Andre Taguieff, The Force of Prejudice: On Racism and its Doubles. Trans. by Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001; orig. 1991. See also Bourdieu and Wacquant, “La Nouvelle vulgate planétaire.”
 One of the many ironies of U.S. politics in the 1980s was that many who saw themselves as radical critics of the established order identified with poststructuralism and with an academic politics in which more old-fashioned leftists (including marxists, especially of an older generation) were the would-be authorities to be resisted as often as extra-academic authorities of the right. To speak of the social, or of basic structures of capital, was in many circles seen as a retrograde attempt to enforce old views that stood condemned as repressive and—perhaps worse—boring. What this meant was that opportunities for a fruitful melding of marxist and poststructuralist insights were often lost, or at least deferred. Indeed, the image of poststructuralism in the U.S. tended often to present French poststructuralists as more clearly opposed to marxism (and structuralism) than was in fact the case. The structuralism and (often structuralist) marxism incorporated into many of the classics of poststructuralism was underestimated—making works like Derrida’s Specters of Marx (New York: Routledge, 1994) more surprising than they should have been.
 Pascalian Meditations, ch. 2 (among many discussions).
 On this point, and also the relationship of both Bourdieu and other poststructuralist arguments to critical theory, see Calhoun, Critical Social Theory: Culture, History, and the Challenge of Difference. Oxford: Blackwell, 1995.
 Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance, p. 31. Bourdieu’s emphasis was especially on the separation of the economic from both the social and the cultural, but the opposition of the latter two can also be equally pernicious, as in specious ideas of division of labor between sociology and anthropology in the US, or the construction of “sociology of culture” within American sociology—rather than, say the “cultural sociology” of central Europe.
 Bourdieu, Contre-feux II. Paris: Raisons d’Agir, 2001, pp. 29-30.
 Bourdieu published several articles on these themes, and left a more extended, book-length treatment, Le Bal des célibataires: crise de la société paysanne en Béarn (Paris: Seuil, 2002) in press at his death.
 Bourdieu and Passeron, op cit.
 See Robbins, The Work of Pierre Bourdieu, ch. 4.
 Homo Academicus, p. xxvi.
 Failure to take Bourdieu’s work in Algeria seriously enough has impeded many sociologists’ grasp of the trajectory of his views on education. A prominent recent American book on Bourdieu, thus, never connects the two (David Swartz, Culture and Power: the Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997). The issue is even more acute in the sketchier accounts of Richard Jenkins (Pierre Bourdieu, London: Routledge, 1992) and Bridget Fowler (Pierre Bourdieu and Cultural Theory, London: Sage, 1997). Harker points to the problem in “Bourdieu—Education and Reproduction,” pp. 86—108 in Richard Harker, Cheleen Mahar, and Chris Wilkes, eds.: An Introduction to the Work of Pierre Bourdieu (New York: St. Martins, 1990); Robbins gives a fuller account in The Work of Pierre Bourdieu and Lane in Pierre Bourdieu: A Critical Introduction. Part of the issue is that Bourdieu’s early work is not all available in English; part is that the way Bourdieu’s work was received into different English-language fields at different times created structuring preconceptions about it—not least about the work on education which was the first source of Bourdieu’s fame in English. Sociologists also tended to assume his work on Algeria was somehow of a different, “anthropological” genre, and of interest mainly with regard to “traditional society” (an impression perhaps encouraged by the way in which it was represented in Outline). See also discussion in Moishe Postone, Edward LiPuma, and Craig Calhoun, “Introduction” to Calhoun, LiPuma, and Postone, eds., Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993) and Loïc Wacquant, in Bourdieu and Wacquant, Toward a Reflexive Sociology.
 Bourdieu, “The Categories of Professorial Judgment,” in English edition of Homo Academicus. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988; orig. 1978.
 Outline, p. 72; Logic of Practice, ch. 3, and esp. p. 56.
 “The Categories of Professorial Judgment” ends with an illustration of the workings of fields that is also a comment on the aristocratic side of the fashionable Heideggerianism of the poststructuralist era:
These generic dispositions are in fact made specific by the position held by each reader in the university field. We see, for instance, what the most common reading of the classical texts (O Epicurean garden!) may owe to the virtues of provincial gardeners, and what ordinary and extraordinary interpretations of Heidegger may owe to that aristocratic asceticism which, on forest path or mountain pass, flees the flabby, vulgar crowds or their concrete analagon, the continually renewed (bad) pupils who have to be endlessly saved from the temptations of society in order to inculcate in them the recognition of true value; p. 225.
See also Bourdieu, The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991; orig. 1988 where field analysis is used to understand Heidegger himself (whose trajectory from rural origins to professorial eminence is not altogether without resemblance to Bourdieu’s). It is worth noting that this book originated as a lengthy article in 1975; Bourdieu redeployed it as an intervention into a different set of intellectual debates when he republished a slightly revised version.
 Bourdieu complained about the misunderstanding of those who seized on the analytic devices he took up from one or another established approach, missing the fact that he was already exaggerating in order to twist the stick in the other direction, and then labeled his approach by the strategically deployed concept—perhaps most famously the idea of ‘strategy’ that he used as a way of injecting dynamism into structuralist analysis; Pascalian Meditations, p. 63; see also Bourdieu, “Concluding Remarks,” pp. 263-75 in C. Calhoun, E. LiPuma and M. Postone, eds.: Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives. Cambridge: Polity and Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
 See Bourdieu, “The essence of neoliberalism,” Le Monde diplomatique (English edition), December, 1998: 1-7.
 Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice. Trans. R. Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977, pp. 184-5; see also Bourdieu, Les structures sociales de l’économie. Paris: Seuil, 2000.
 Bourdieu, The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996; orig. 1989.
 Bourdieu, Alain Darbel and Dominique Schnapper, The Love of Art. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990; orig. 1966; Bourdieu, Luc Boltanski, Robert Castel, Jean-Claude Chamboredon and Dominique Schnapper, Photography: A Middle-Brow Art. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990; orig. 1965.
 Bourdieu, The Rules of Art. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996; orig. 1992.
 It was named one of the ten most influential sociology books of the 20th century by the International Sociological Association, on the basis of an impressively unscientific survey. Distinction ranked 6th with 43 votes; Bourdieu’s next entry on the list was Logic of Practice with 7. Weber’s Economy and Society topped the list with 95 votes (http://www.ucm.es/info/isa/books/).
 Distinction, p. 489.
 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett, 1987; orig. 1790.
 Notably in Suicide, New York: Free Press, 1976; orig. 1895.
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 3.
 Bourdieu, “Lecture on the Lecture,” in In Other Words. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990; orig. 1982.
 Bourdieu, Distinction, p. 496.
 Bourdieu, “The Specificity of the Scientific Field and the Social Conditions of the Progress of Reason,” Social Science Information, 14 (1975), #6: 19-47 and Les usages sociaux de la science. Paris: INRA Editions, 1997.
 Bourdieu, “The Field of Cultural Production, or: The Economic World Reversed,” pp. 29-73 in The Field of Cultural Production. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993; orig. 1983.
 See Andrew Sayer, “Bourdieu, Smith and disinterested judgment,” Sociological Review 47 (1999) #3: 403-31.
 See Bourdieu Les structures sociales de l’économie, which takes up but moves well beyond arguments about ‘embeddedness’ following Polanyi.
 Logic of Practice, pp. 112-3.
 Logic, p. 86. Compare Pascal’s most famous line, “The heart has its reasons, of which reason is ignorant.”
 “What Makes a Social Class? On the Theoretical and Practical Existence of Groups,” Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 32 (1987): 1-18, quotation from pp. 3-4.
Bourdieu, “The Forms of Capital,” in John G. Richardson, ed., Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood, 1986, pp. 241-58.p. 243.
 See Calhoun, “Habitus, Field, and Capital.”
 Bourdieu and Wacquant, Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, p. 118. The reference in quotes is to Logic, p. 122, “the capital accumulated by groups, which can be regarded as the energy of social physics, can exist in different kinds.”
 Logic, p. 122.
 Brubaker, “Social Theory as Habitus,” Pp. 212-234 in C. Calhoun, E. LiPuma, and M. Postone, eds.: Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
 Pierre Bourdieu, Jean-Claude Chamboredon and Jean-Claude Passeron, The Craft of Sociology. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1991 ; orig. 1968. If it was an accident that this was Bourdieu’s book of 1968, it was nonetheless meaningful, for his response to the crisis of the university was in part to institute a better, more democratic but also professional pursuit of sociological knowledge. See Robbins, The Work of Pierre Bourdieu, ch. 5.
 Suggested in “The Specificity of the Scientific Field,” and discussed at more length in Pascalian Meditations.
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 83-4.
 Bourdieu, Contre-feux II, p. 33.
 Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, op. cit.
 Bourdieu and Passeron, “Sociology and Philosophy in France since 1945: Death and Resurrection of a Philosophy Without Subject,” Social Research 34, no. 1 (Spring 1967), pp. 162-212.
 See, e.g., “The Hit Parade of French Intellectuals, or Who is to Judge the Legitimacy of the Judges?” pp. 256-270 in Pierre Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, and On Television.
 See, e.g., Interventions, pp. 279-80.
 Bourdieu published a host of essays collected in Acts of Resistance, Firing Back, and Interventions. Bourdieu’s essays were only a part of his struggle “against the tyranny of the market”. He gave speeches and interviews, appeared on the radio and at public demonstrations, launched a non-party network of progressive social scientists called Raisons d’agir (Reasons to act), and helped to forge links among intellectuals, cultural producers and trade-union activists.
 Bourdier, Contre-feux II, pp. 25-31.
 Pascalian Meditations, p. 126.
 Distinction, p. 478.
 Bourdieu, “The Myth of ‘Globalization’ and the European Welfare State,” pp. 29-44 in Acts of Resistance. Also, Calhoun, “The Democratic Integration of Europe: Interests, Identity, and the Public Sphere,” in M. Berezin and M. Schain, eds., Remapping Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming; “The Class Consciousness of Frequent Travelers: Toward a Critique of Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism,” in Daniele Archibugi, ed. Debating Cosmopolitics. London: Verso, 2002.
 The Left had no need of Bourdieu, Bruno Latour suggested, not least precisely because he claimed to speak from the vantage point of science and science itself lacked legitimacy. Moreover, Bourdieu—like science—claimed an authority which Latour thought could only be a form of domination. This interest in science Latour saw (wrongly) as a sudden departure and deplored it from the vantage-point of a more aristocratic humanism. Bourdieu preserved the scientific dream of mastery, Latour suggested, and therefore was not content simply to describe the social world in the terms of actors themselves. Latour both rejected Bourdieu’s manner of speaking and posed the rhetorical question, “what has Bourdieu done in his laboratory, over thirty-five years? … Have fields become more permeable? Has symbolic capital become more fluid? Has reproduction become less repetitive?” In other words, if one were to claim the authority of science, one must demonstrate it in technical mastery. One cannot, Latour implies, at least not for social science, and in any event to speak as though science could underwrite any political position recalls the crimes of Leninism; “La gauche a-t-elle besoin de Bourdieu?” Liberation, 15.9.1998.
 Bourdieu himself had benefited from the patronage of Raymond Aron, and built his academic base largely on institutional connections he derived from Aron. And yet he chose to break with Aron rather than be seen directly as carrying on Aron’s work, a role more fulfilled by Aron’s other prominent assistant of the same period, Alain Touraine (see Aron’s Memoires, Paris: Julliard, 1993). Bourdieu presented his rise to prominence in ways that minimized the role of Aron’s patronage and maximized his own rebellion against the established elite rather than his consecration by it. That Bourdieu was upwardly mobile and Touraine from an elite background gave a material ground to their distinctive styles and positions. To his credit, and perhaps to the credit of a tradition of patrician graciousness, Touraine offered an eloquent appreciation of Bourdieu after his death while some of Bourdieu’s own one-time protégés could not (José Garçon, “La reaction de Alain Touraine,” Libération, 25/012002).
 Knowing the antagonism this would arouse, Bourdieu had called the first chapter in Homo Academicus “A ‘Book for Burning’?”