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by Loïc J. D. Wacquant,Pierre Bourdieu

Over the last three decades, the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has produced one of the most imaginative and subtle bodies of social theory and research of the post war era. Yet, despite the influence of his work, no single introduction to his wide-ranging oeuvre is available. This book, intended for an English-speaking audience, offers a systematic and accessible overview, providing interpretive keys to the internal logic of Bourdieu's work by explicating thematic and methodological principles underlying his work. The structure of Bourdieu's theory of knowledge, practice, and society is first dissected by Loic Wacquant; he then collaborates with Bourdieu in a dialogue in which they discuss central concepts of Bourdieu's work, confront the main objections and criticisms his work has met, and outline Bourdieu's views of the relation of sociology to philosophy, economics, history, and politics. The final section captures Bourdieu in action in the seminar room as he addresses the topic of how to practice the craft of reflexive sociology. Throughout, they stress Bourdieu's emphasis on reflexivity—his inclusion of a theory of intellectual practice as an integral component of a theory of society—and on method—particularly his manner of posing problems that permits a transfer of knowledge from one area of inquiry into another. Amplified by notes and an extensive bibliography, this synthetic view is essential reading for both students and advanced scholars.
Download An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology epub
ISBN: 0226067416
ISBN13: 978-0226067414
Category: Other
Subcategory: Social Sciences
Author: Loïc J. D. Wacquant,Pierre Bourdieu
Language: English
Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1st edition (July 15, 1992)
Pages: 348 pages
ePUB size: 1391 kb
FB2 size: 1427 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 623
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A very heavy yet insightful read.
In this book, you find all the major themes running through Bourdieu's work expressed in a very accessible way. It's a wonderful introduction to his sociology!
worked great for my research
It book will help me a lot in my thesis, in special, The Purpose of Rflexive Sociology Chapter.
Another point, it is currently to my job.
If you are reading this you already know that this is not the place for consumer reviews. Bourdieu adds this to his series on higher education and the cretins that inhabit that "field". Let's all "objectivize the objectivisors"!
Pierre Bourdieu, who died in 2002, was perhaps the leading sociological theorist in the last quarter of the twentieth century. I have been rereading his many contributions both for their own sake, as well as to help me understand why the discipline of sociology is in the bizarre situation it now finds itself. This situation, in brief, consists of (a) considerable sophistication in the empirical analysis of concrete social problems (b) a total lack of core social theory; and (c) a tendency to overvalue political correctness at the expense of scientific coherence. I find the lack of core theory disheartening because it leads the other behavioral disciplines that deal with modeling human behavior, especially economics and biology, to ignore key aspects of human mental and social organization that sociologists have carefully documented and simply take for granted.

I should note that both economics and biology do have core theories. In economics, the theory includes the rational actor model, the Walras-Arrow-Debreu general equilibrium theory, the capital assets pricing model in financial theory, and the general methodology of neoclassical economics. While each of these pillars of core theory is imperfect and sorely in need of improvement, they are together strong enough to form a common basis that economic theorists may use to venture into new and more powerful analytical models. In biology, the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin was supplemented by the genetics of Gregor Mendel, giving rise to a synthesis forged in the first half of the twentieth century by Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J. B. S. Haldane, Theodosius Dobzhansky and others that served as the basis for the triumph of sociobiology in the second have of the century, based on innovations by William Hamilton, Robert Trivers, David Sloan Wilson, Edward O. Wilson, Mark Feldman, Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson.

Sociology did have a period of core theory consolidation, in the person of Talcott Parsons, whose contributions in the three decades starting in 1937 were systematically geared towards synthesizing the greats of traditional sociology (Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and Vilfredo Pareto), as well as indicating precisely how the sister disciplines of psychology, economics, and political science might articulate with core sociological theory. There is no doubt but that Parsons' body of theory is seriously flawed, but there was much more than enough to build on in forging a core sociological theory. Parsons correctly started with the division of social life into roles occupied by actors who internalize the norms and values associated with these roles. However, he made the mistake of identifying the rational actor model of economic theory with Homo economicus, the socially isolated selfish material maximizer. It is true that this is how the rational actor model was depicted in economic theory, but only by happenstance, not intrinsic logicality. Extending the rational actor model to include moral elements as well as material elements, self-regard as well as other-regard, would have given Parsons exactly the tool he needed to create a core sociological theory. However, he did not take this step, probably because (a) Pareto had convinced him that the economics/sociology split was just the norms and values/material self-interest split, and (b) he was a poor mathematician can couldn't handle the sophistication of the rational actor model. So he moved on to structural-functionalism, which is useful and insightful, but quite incapable of supporting an analytically cogent sociology.

My analysis of Parson's failure, however, was not the reaction of other leading sociologists of the time. Rather, Parsons was bitterly criticized and rejected whole cloth. The offenders---and I here choose my words carefully---were mostly crusading left-wing sociologists who considered sociology an instrument of social change first, and a science only second. They include Alvin Gouldner, Theda Skocpol, George Homans, Lewis Coser, Ralf Dahrendorf, C. Wright Mills, Tom Bottomore, and many others. These pseudo-theorists in fact had no idea what social theory should look like, and railed against Parsons because he did not directly deal with social oppression and his language was not inherently emancipatory. To my mind, this is like criticizing da Vinci's studies of human anatomy because they don't deal with cancer and the plague---infinitely shortsighted and even risible. Habermas and others criticized Parsons on the grounds that systems theory is inherently hostile to action theory. This too is just a terrible mistake, since Parsons' theory of action was from the very first a pillar of his social theory. And what have these critics given us in place of Parsons' core theory? Some entertaining stories and a little credible philosophy, but nothing in the form of social theory.

The critique of Parsons exploded sociological theory into a thousand glittering but laughably parochial fragments of nano-theories. The contemporary culture of sociology is to treat social theory as set of personal expressions of literati and pseudo-philosophers. Surveying contemporary sociological theory is like going to the art museum. There we see lots of brilliant works, each the product of an artist's imagination. Certainly there is no attempt by artists to form a unified aesthetic vision. Nor should there be. But science is not art. A science becomes mature when the efforts of all researchers are coordinated by an underlying core model. This truth is denied in contemporary sociological culture. Bourdieu is a case in point.

"Pierre Bourdieu," Wacquant tells us in the preface to this book, "is viscerally opposed to the dogmatization of thought that paves the way for intellectual orthodoxies." (p. xiv) This sentiment is fine for artists, but it is the kiss of death for scientists. Maxwell's equations are intellectual orthodoxy, and nevertheless a crowning achievement of human intellect. Of course orthodoxies are ripe for overturning and being replaced by new and more powerful orthodoxies. But orthodoxy is good, not bad, the contemporary culture of sociology not withstanding.

Bourdieu enters stage with two grand European sociological traditions battling for supremacy. The first is the structuralism of Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Althusser, and Foucault, in which all human agency is absent. The second is the subjectivist theories of Sartre, Garfinkel, Berger and Luckmann, which denies all structure. Bourdieu, reacts by creating "a non-Cartesian social ontology that refuses to split object and subject, intention and cause, materiality and symbolic representation." (p. 5) The problem is that structure and action are not fused in society, but rather relate to one another as mutually constitutive, a fact that Bourdieu is unwilling to recognize, because it would require taking structure and action both fundamentally. Bourdieu does develop a structure-surrogate, which he calls a "frame", but he refuses to relate this to any previous work of structuralist-oriented theorists. He also recognizing something akin to an action framework, in the form of "habitus," but he refuses to relate this to the economist's rational actor model or an action-type model as proposed by Parsons and his coworkers. This is a terrible, but typical mistake. Certainly in both economic and biological theory, we have well-developed models of the mutual constitution of individuals and structures---for human society in biological theory in the form of gene-culture coevolution (Boyd and Richerson, Feldman and Cavalli-Sforza) , and the general equilibrium model in economics. Bourdieu, by contrast, reject both structure and action in favor of the primacy of relations: "Against all forms of methodological monism that purport to assert the ontological priority of structure or agent, system or agent, the collective or the individual, Bourdieu affirms the primacy of relations." (p. 15) But relations must be relations among agents mediated by structures, so why not accept the proven models available in biology and economics as a starting point for developing more powerful sociological constructions?

Here is what Bourdieu gives as a justification for abandoning the analytically clear rational actor model in favor of the fuzzy notion of habitus: "Bourdieu does not deny that agents face options, exert initiative, and make decision. What he disputes is that they do so in the conscious, systematic, and intentional (in short, intellectualist) manner expostulated by rational-choice theorists." (p.24) This critique is just silly and uninformed. There is nothing in rational choice theory about consciousness, systematicity, or intentionality. The concept of habitus is perfectly compatible with rational choice theory in circumstances where information is costly to acquire subject to error. But not for Bourdieu, who offers us such poetic excesses as "rational action puts the mind of the scientist who conceptualizes practice in the place of the causally constituted practical sense of the agent." (p. 123) Note that Bourdieu is correct in noting that the subjective priors of the rational actor model appear to come from nowhere. This, however, is grounds for extending, not rejecting, the rational actor model. I could give even more vapid criticisms of the rational actor model offered by Bourdieu in this volume, but I will move on to other matters.

There is no contradiction between the social norms of Durkheim or Parsons and the frames of Bourdieu, although Bourdieu does not accept this. Wacquant suggests that for Bourdieu, "each field simultaneously presupposes and generates a specific form of interest incommensurate with those that have currency elsewhere." (p. 117) Bourdieu responds, "Precisely. Each field calls forth and gives life to a specific form of interest, as specific illusio...the properly social magic of institutions can constitute just about anything as an interest." ["illusio" is not a misprint---it is one of Bourdieu's many neologisms] There is of course truth to Bourdieu's statement, but he insists in clothing it in his own set of neologisms---neologisms that his followers interpret as brilliance, whereas in fact are simply forms of product differentiation that help preserve his preeminence, at the expense of science.

Bourdieu then proceeds to reject structural linguistics because "the meaning of linguistic utterances cannot be derived, or deduced, from the analysis of their formal structure." (p. 142) Once again, the point is to reject all scientific work that is not created by ones' self. This particular critic is like that of a chef rejecting chemistry because it cannot deal with the culinary experience. How can anyone take such argumentation seriously?

There is much of descriptive interest in Bourdieu's analysis (e.g., pp. 124-137), well worthy of systemic development. However, by creating his own terms and pushing them around according to his current whim, Bourdieu contributes to the maintenance of theoretical incoherence in contemporary sociology.
This book consists of three parts. In the first part Wacquant offers a general summary of the key points and works in Bourdieu's oeuvre. The second part is an extremely entertaining interview with Bourdieu. Here, Bourdieu demonstrates that he is far from a cold scientist of social culture. Of particular interest, is Bourdieu's reflections on his book 'Homo Academus' which is an internal critique of the French Academy. In these passages, Bourdieu's comments reflect his passionate committment to his work, and in the ways that his own interest and investment in a social field must (somehow) become an object of reflection. Also, Bourdieu's comments reflect his great passion for art despite his own analysis of art strictly in terms of cultural capital and social status. At times, Bourdieu is dazzling. The final section is a transcription of a seminar, again, on the practice of sociology that remains conscientious of its position and limitations.
This book also includes an extensive bibliography of Bourdieu's writings up to 1992, as well as another bibliography of relevent external sources and commentaries.
I'm an aspiring historian, not a sociologist. Bourdieu's work, however, is of such a caliber that it transcends arbitrary academic boundaries. It's essential reading for anyone who's interested in the ontology and epistemology of humankind.
He's difficult to read, though. That's one of the reasons this book is so valuable. Loic Wacquant (no sociological slouch himself) has undertaken to provide an exposition of Bourdieu's ideas without trivializing them. Some of those ideas that struck a chord with me include replacing the false antinomy of structure/agent with notions of "field" and "habitus" (structure and agency's relationship to one another); cultural capital and symbolic power (more balanced perspectives on the philosophy/sociology of language); and the inherent bias of the intellectual qua intellectual (apart from race, class, etc).
Bourdieu is definitely postmodern, but once the reader grasps the technically precise language in which they are articulated, his ideas are surprisingly down-to-earth. P.B. would probably not much like that I write this--he abhors the intuitive in social science--but that's what comes of thinking well and writing carefully. This is a job well done by Wacquant. I highly recommend it for serious students.