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For a Socio-Analysis of Intellectuals: On "Homo Academicus"

Author(s): Loc J.D. Wacquant


Reviewed work(s):
Source: Berkeley Journal of Sociology, Vol. 34, Symposium on the Foundations of Radical
Social Science (1989), pp. 1-29
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An Interview With Pierre Bourdieu
For a
Socio-Analysis
of Intellectuals:
On Homo Academicus*
Introduction
by
Loc J.D.
Wacquant
An
exceptionally productive
and inventive
thinker,
French
sociologist
Pierre Bourdieu
has,
over the
past
three
decades,
produced
one of the
most ambitious and fertile bodies of
sociological
work of the
post-classical
era. After a
protracted history
of
partial
and often distorted
readings
among Anglo-American
scholars,1
his
writings,
which
range widely
from
the
anthropology
of
Algeria,
the
sociology
of
language,
culture,
class and
politics,
to the
philosophy
and
epistemology
of the social
sciences,
have
become one of the
major
sources of the current theoretical renewal.
Beyond
its
apparent dispersion,
one
major
thrust of Bourdieu's work has
been to
explore
the manifold forms of
symbolic power
and to unmask its
contribution to the constitution and
reproduction
of domination in
modern
society.
This
problematic
of a
political economy
of
symbolic
violence has led
him,
time and
again,
to aim his
sociological weapons
at
the
preeminent
contenders in the
symbolic
class
struggle:
intellectuals. In
Homo
Academicus,
a dense volume which
packs
more than
twenty years
of intense research and
thinking
on the
subject,
Bourdieu
(1988a)
tackles
the issue of
practice
and
power among
French
university professors.
The end-result is a
lively
and often
surprising journey through
the
intricate
landscape
of academia in France.
Combining ethnographic
vignettes,
statistical
profiles,
and
prosopographic
detail, the book offers
a vivid
depiction
of the structured conflicts and interests that define and
shape
the French intellectual
space
and link it to the
larger
arena of
politics,
as well as a lucid illustration of Bourdieu's
highly
distinctive
theories,
concepts,
and methods. Homo Academicus
, however,
is much
more than an
empirical investigation
of French academics and the
May
'68 crisis. It is an
attempt
to
provide
an
experimental
demonstration for
the
necessity
and
potency
of a
genuinely
reflexive
sociology:
Bourdieu's
aim is to show that
sociologists
can overcome the
antinomy
of
objectivist
explanation
and
subjectivist understanding
and account for the
very
world
within which
they
live on condition of
turning upon
themselves the
This text is the
transcription
of an interview conducted in Paris in
April
of 1989
by
Lore J.D.
Wacquant,
who is also
responsible
for the translation and notes. The interviewer
would like to thank Daniel Breslau for a careful
re-reading
of the translation and the
editorial collective of the
Berkeley
Journal
of Sociology
for their
suggestions, enthusiasm,
and
patience
on this
project.
1. See
Wacquant (1989)
for a discussion of the reasons for this
fragmented
and
incomplete reception
of Bourdieu's work in America.
2 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
scientific tools for
objectivation
that
they routinely employ upon
others
so as to neutralize the biases inscribed both in the
contemplative
relation
between the social observer and her
object
and in the fact of
occupying
a
particular
location in the universe under
investigation.
In this
sense,
Homo Academicus also constitutes a
political
intervention in the
specific
politics
of intellectual life. Bourdieu's
hope
is that the
socio-analytic
instruments he
sharpens
in this book can be used in academic
struggles
to
help
increase the
autonomy
of the scientific field and
thereby
the
political responsibility
of its
participants by making
them more aware of
the hidden determinations that
operate
within and
upon
it.
Yet the
greatest
value of Homo Academicus lies
perhaps
in the
threat it
poses
to the
present "working
consensus" between "theorists" and
"researchers" that allows each side to
ignore
the other while
paying lip
service to the
necessity
of the
integration
of
conceptual
and
empirical
work.
By consistently effacing
this sacred
divide,
Bourdieu forces us
critically
to re-examine not
only
the institutional conditions of our
professional
conduct,
but also the
scientific
unconscious which
regulates
our
daily practices
as
symbolic producers.
There should be no mistake
about the
implications
of his
inquiry:
while Bourdieu writes about French
professors,
the
concepts, methodology,
and theoretical model he
puts
forth have a
great
deal to reveal about academics and other intellectuals
on this side of the Atlantic. Its ultimate
merit, then, may
be to
challenge
us to a hunt for homo academicus americanas that is as fierceless and
uncompromising
as the one the Professor of the
Collge
de France
launched on his own tribe.
Sociology
As
Socioanalysis
Loc
J.D. Wacquant:
One
might
have
thought
that Homo Academicus
would be an
easy
book for
you
to write since it deals with French
intellectuals,
that
is,
with a world in which
you
have been an
actor,
and
a central
one,
for
nearly
three decades.
Now,
on the
contrary,
of all
your
works,
Homo Academicus
appears
to be the one that has cost
you
most
in terms of
time,
of
thinking,
of
writing,
and in research effort-and also
(I
think this is
revealing)
in terms of
anxiety: you
mention in the
foreword
your apprehension
about
publishing
such a book and
you
devote the entire
opening chapter
to ward
off,
and to
guard yourself
against,
a wide
variety
of
possible misreadings. Why
so much
difficulty?
Pierre Bourdieu: It is true that Homo Academicus is a book that I
kept
for a
very long
time in
my
files because I feared that it would
slip away
from me
upon publication
and that it would be read in a manner
opposite
to its
deep
intent, namely,
as a
pamphlet
or as an instrument
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 3
of
self-flagellation.2
It is a book which is
peculiar
in that the
ordinary
work
required by
scientific
objectivation
is
accompanied by
a work-a
labor in the
psychoanalytic sense-upon
the
subject
of
objectivation.
Working
on such an
object,
one is reminded at
every
moment that the
subject
of the
objectivation
himself is
being objectivized:
the harshest and
most cruel
analyses
are written with the
knowledge
and an acute
awarenesss of the fact that
they apply
to he who is
writing
them; and,
at
the same
time,
with the awareness that those who bear such
cruelty
will
not think for one moment that the author of this or that sentence Glied
with violence bears it
along
with them.
Consequently, they
will denounce
as
gratuitous cruelty
what is in fact a labor
of
anamnesis~a
socioanalysis.
I have in mind here in
particular
some of the
passages
which
separated
me from some of
my
best friends. I have had-I think that this
is not of
merely
anecdotal
significance- very
dramatic clashes with
colleagues
who
perceived very accurately
the violence of the
objectivation
but who saw a contradiction in the fact that I could
objectivize
without
thinking
of
myself,
while of course I was
doing
it all the while.
[...]
This native
familiarity
with the universe that
you analyze
was thus an
asset but
also,
on another
level,
an obstacle that
you
had to overturn.
Is this
why you
base
your
work on such a
large array
of data
(the
mere
listing
of all the sources takes
up
several
pages
and
appendices)
and
yet
display only
a small
portion
of them? One cannot but be struck
by
how
ascetic this book is.
It is indeed an ascetic book in two
respects,
first with
regard
to the
use of
data,
second with
regard
to
writing.
There is first of all an ascesis
in the rhetoric of data
display.
There are several factors behind
this,
including
a number of
things
that an
analysis
of
my
intellectual
trajectory
(Bourdieu
1987a; Honneth,
Kocyba
and Schwibs
1986)
would account for
very
well,
such as a form of aristocratism that I owe
precisely
to
having
followed one of the
highest trajectories
in the French educational
sytem,
to
having
been
initially
trained as a
philosopher,
etc. This
explains
that
my
"invisible
college"
is found for a
part among philosophers
and that a
certain form of
positivistic
exhibitionism is no doubt
unconsciously
forbidden to me as
pedestrian. [...] Having
said
this,
it is true that I have
perhaps
never handled more data than for this book. This is
something
2.
Reflecting
on Homo Academicus
shortly
after its
publication,
Bourdieu
(1987a, p.
117)
writes with rare emotion:
"Sociology
can be an
extremely powerful
instrument of
self-analysis
which allows one better to understand what he or she is
by giving
one an
understanding
of one's own conditions of
production
and of the
position
one
occupies
in
the social world. . . It follows that this book demands a
particular
manner of
reading.
One
is not to construe it as a
pamphlet
or to use it in a
self-punitive
fashion. . . If
my
book
were read as a
pamphlet,
I would soon come to hate it and I would rather have it
burned."
4 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
that is not
always readily recognized
in the United
States,
no doubt in
the name of a
positivistic
definition of data and of their
usage
which
wrongly
identifies science with an exhibitionism of data and results--we
would be better advised to
display
the conditions of construction and
analysis
of these data.
Secondly,
there is an ascesis at the level of
writing.
I wrote a
considerable number of
pages
which could have earned me a succs de
scandale for
being slightly polemic
and caustic that I ended
up throwing
out
because,
precisely, they
would have
encouraged
a
regression
to the
ordinary
vision of the
field,
which is
generally polemic.
I should also add
that the scientific
rendering
of an
in-depth sociological analysis
of this
kind raises
very thorny questions
of
writing.
One would need to invent
a whole new
language
for it
(the journal
that we edit at the Center for
European Sociology,
Actes de la recherche en sciences
sociales,
has been
a
laboratory
for
experimenting
such a new mode of
sociological
expression).
In
fact,
one of the central
problems
of a
sociology
of the intellectual
milieu is that intellectuals
are,
as all social
agents, "spontaneous
sociologists"
who are
particularly
skilled at
objectivizing
others.
Being
professionals
of discourse and
explication,
however,
intellectuals have a
much
greater
than
average capacity
to transform their
spontaneous
sociology,
that
is,
their self-interested vision of the social
world,
into the
appearance
of a scientific
sociology.
Besides,
much of
sociology
is little
more than that...
This would be
especially
true of the
sociology
of intellectuals?
Yes,
for the
sociology
of intellectuals is
very
often the mere
conversion of an interested and
partial
vision of the weaknesses of one's
intellectual
opponents
into a discourse that has all the
trappings
of
science. This is most evident at the
stage
of construction of the
object,
for instance in the
sampling procedures adopted: typically,
one asks what
is an intellectual and
provides
a definition based on
biased,
partisan
criteria,
furthermore
destroying
a central
property
of the intellectual field,
namely,
that it is the site of
struggles
over who does and does not
belong
to it.
At the risk of
seeming
to
moralize,
I would
say
that,
on this matter,
scientificity
comes at the cost of a kind of a little
courage
of
every
moment,
a
vigilance
and commitment to
critically
scrutinize each
word,
each
line,
to track down
polemical adjectives, slight
connotations,
unconscious
innuendos,
and so on.
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 5
Field, Interest,
And Practice
Precisely,
it should be
emphasized
that Homo Acadmicas is not a book
on intellectuals but rather on the intellectual
field.
I think that this
introduces a fundamental difference of
perspective
and in the theoretical
construction of the
object
What is the
meaning
of this notion of field
and how did it
help you,
in the
particular
instance of
intellectuals,
in
shaping your problematic?
Before I
put
forth a definition-I do not like definitions much-a
brief aside on their
usage.
I could refer here to Le mtier de
sociologue
(Bourdieu
et al.
1973),
which is a
didactic,
almost scholastic
book,3
but
which nevertheless contains
many
theoretical and
methododological
principles
that would make
people
understand that
many
of the
gaps
or
shortcomings
for which I am
reproached
are in fact conscious refusals and
deliberate choices. For
instance,
the use of
open concepts
is a
way
of
rejecting positivism-but
this is a
ready-made phrase;
it
is,
to be more
precise,
a
permanent
reminder that
concepts
have no definition other
than
systemic.
Such notions as
habitus, field,
and
capital
are
definable,
but
only
within the theoretical
system they constitute,
not in isolation.
This
applies
also to a
question
which is often
put
to me in the
United States:
why
do I not
propose any
laws of the middle
range?
I
think that this would first of all be a
way
of
satisfying
a
positivistic
expectation,
of the kind
represented
in earlier times
by
a book
by
Berelson and Steiner
(1964)
which was a rote
compilation
of
small,
partial
laws established
by
the social sciences. This kind of
positivistic
gratification
is
something
that science must
deny
itself. There are no such
"middle-range
laws" in the social
world,
there are
only systems
of
laws,
as
is the case in
physics-Duhem
said it some
thirty years ago,
and more
recently
Quine
has
developed
it.4 And what is true of
concepts
is true of
relations,
which
acquire
their
meaning only
within a
system
of relations.
3. This book
(whose
translation was for
years
blocked for obscure
copyright
reasons
and has
recently
been announced
by
De
Gruyter)
is essential to an
understanding
of
Bourdieu's
sociological epistemology.
It consists of a
100-page exposition
of the
foundational
principles
of
"applied
rationalism" in the social
sciences,
and of a selection of
texts
(by
historians and
philosophers
of
science, Marx, Durkheim, Weber,
and other
sociologists)
that illustrate
key arguments.
Each
comprises
three
parts
which theorize the
three
stages
that
Bourdieu, following
French
epistemologist
Gaston
Bachelard,
considers
central to the
production
of
sociological knowledge
and that he
encapsulates
in the
following
formula: "facts are
conquered [through rupture
with common
sense],
constructed,
verified
[les faits
sont
conquis,
construits,
constats]" (Bourdieu
et al.
1973, p. 24).
A
worthwhile critical introduction of Bachelard's
philosophy
can be found in Tiles
(1984).
4. The now-famous Duhem-Quine
hypothesis
states that science is a
complex
network
that faces the test of
empirical experience
as a whole: evidence
impinges
not on
any
particular proposition
or
concept
but on the entire net
they
form.
6 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
Now,
in this
instance,
the notion of field has
proved
critical because
the intellectual world is a terrain where we are
particularly exposed
to
using operational
definitions as an unconscious manner of
satiating
social
pulsions
of
categorization,
of
labeling,
and where the uncontrolled
construction of the
object
allows us to exclude those who do not fit the
image
that we
have,
or would like to
have,
of ourselves.
Indeed,
one of
the
general properties
of fields is that
they encompass struggles
over their
very
boundaries. As soon as the researcher is alerted to
this,
he or she
is on
guard against
the
temptation
of
stating
7 shall call 'intellectual'"
such and such set of
agents.
A second
general property
of fields is that
they
are
systems of
relations that are
independent of
the
populations
which these relations
define.
When I talk of the "intellectual
field,"
I know
very
well that in this
field I will find
"particles" (let
me
pretend
for a moment we are
dealing
with a
physical
field-we shall see that it is not the
case)
that are under
the
sway
of forces of
attraction,
of
repulsion,
and so
on,
as in a
magnetic
field.
Having
said
this,
as soon as I
speak
of a
field, my
attention fastens
on the
primacy
of this
system
of
objective
relations over the
particles
themselves. And we could
say, following
the formula of a famous
physicist,
that the
individual,
like the
electron,
is
ausgeburt
des
Felds;
he
or she is in a sense an emanation of the field. This or that
particular
intellectual,
this or that
artist,
exists as such
only
because there is an
intellectual or an artistic field.
(This
is
very important
to
help
solve the
perennial question
that historians of art have raised time and
again,
namely,
at what
point
have we moved from the craftsman to the artist.
This is a
question
which,
posed
in this
fashion,
is almost
meaningless,
since this transition is made
progressively, along
with the constitution of
an artistic field within which
something
like an artist can come to
exist.)5
The notion of field is
extremely important
because it reminds us
that the true
object
of social science is not
individuals,
even
though
one
cannot construct a field if not
through
individuals,
since the information
necessary
for statistical
analysis
are
generally
attached to individuals
(or
institutions).
It is the Held which is
primary
and must be the focus of the
research
operations.
This does not
imply
that individuals are mere
"illusions,"
that
they
do not exist:
they
exist as
agents~and
not as
biological
individuals, actors,
or
subjects-who
are
socially
constituted as
active and
acting
in the field under consideration
by
the fact that
they
5. Bourdieu's
analysis
of the historical formation of the artistic field in late
nineteenth-century
France and of the correlative "invention" of the modern artist is the
centerpiece
of a
forthcoming
book on The Economics
of
Cultural Production. For
'
preliminary
sketches,
see Bourdieu
(1971a, 1971c, 1983b, 1987b, 1988c).
A concise
statement of Bourdieu's
sociology
of aesthetics and art is Bourdieu
(1989b).
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 7
possess
the
necessary properties
to be
effective,
to
produce
effects,
in this
field.6
At
every
moment there is
something
like a "barrier to
entry"
or a
right
of
entry
that the field
imposes
and which defines
eligibility
for
participation.
This is indeed the definition I used to construct
my sample
of
agents
active in the humanities and social sciences
departments 'facult
des
lettres]:
when I
study
the
totality
of the faculties or
disciplines, my sample
is a
representative
random
sample;
for the
analysis
of the
college
of
arts,
however,
I retained the set of
agents
who had titles of
access,
who had
one or several of the
properties
that one must have in order to exist as
such in this universe. I found out that one can exist in the French
university
field because one detains academic
power,
defined as the
power
to control the
reproduction
of the institution
(that
is,
control of
positions, appointments,
and of the allocation of financial and other
resources).
In
France,
this means
being
a member of the
University
Advisory
Committee
[comit consultatif]
which nominates
university
professors.
In the United
States,
I could not
say
for sure what would be
the
equivalent body
but I believe there are
analogous
mechanisms at
work that are controlled
by people occupying
definite
positions
in the
field.
People
are at once founded and
legitimized
to enter the field
by
their
possessing
a definite
configuration
of
properties.
One of the
goals
of research is to
identify
these active
properties,
these efficient
characteristics,
that
is,
these forms of
specific capital.
There is thus a sort
of hermeneutic circle: in order to construct the
field,
one must
identify
the forms of
specific capital
that
operate
within
it,
and to construct the
forms of
specific capital
one must know the field. There is an endless
movement to and
fro,
in the research
process,
which is
quite lengthy
and
arduous.
To
say
that the structure of the field-note that I am
progressively
building
a
working
definition of the
concept-is
defined
by
the structure
of the distribution of the
specific
forms of
capital
that are active in it
means that when
my knowledge
of forms of
capital
is
sound,
I can
differentiate
everything
that there is to differentiate. For
example,
and
this is one of the
principles
that
guided my
work,
one cannot be satisfied
6. For further
elaborations,
see Bourdieu
(1971b, 1987e)
and Bourdieu and de Saint
Martin
(1982)
on the
religious field;
Bourdieu
(1981c, 1989e,
1989f)
on the scientific
field;
Bourdieu
(1981a)
on the field of
representative politics;
Bourdieu
(1983b, 1988c)
on the
artistic
field;
Bourdieu
(1987d)
on the
juridical field;
Bourdieu
(1983a)
on the field of
philosophy,
and Bourdieu and de Saint Martin
(1978)
and Bourdieu
(1989a)
on the "field
of
power."
8 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
with an
explanatory
model
incapable
of
differentiating people
whom
ordinary
intuition in the
specific
universe tells us are
quite
different.
(Parenthesis: ordinary
intuition and mundane
knowledge
are
quite
respectable; only,
one must be sure to introduce them in the
analysis
in
a conscious and reasoned
manner,
whereas
many sociologists
use them
unconsciously,7
as when
they
build the kind of
silly typologies
that I
criticize at the
beginning
of Homo
Academicus-^et sociologist" giving way
to "universal" vs.
"parochial," etc.)8
Here intuition raises
questions:
"Where
does the difference comes from?" And if I have built a model that does
not differentiate these
people,
then it means that somewhere I
forgot
something.
In the academic
universe,
a
rigorous
and
fully explanatory
system
must account not
only
for
objective
differences between
positions
and
institutions,
but also for the individual and collective distinctions that
agents spontaneously
establish,
for these are
part
and
parcel
of the
objective
truth of this universe. This kind of work is
very time-consuming,
because one must
acquire
both a
thorough knowledge
of
objective
properties
of the field and sufficient command of the native
"practical
sense,"
which is
always suspect
and
touchy
to use since it is
through
native intuition that
"spontaneous sociology"
and
value-judgements
can
re-enter the
picture.
One last and critical
point
on this: social
agents
are not
"particles"
that are
mechanically pushed
about
by
external forces.
They
are, rather,
bearers of
capitals
and,
depending
on the
position
that
they occupy
in the
field
by
virtue of their endowment
(volume
and
structure)
in
capital, they
tend to act either toward the
preservation
of the distribution of
capital
or toward the subversion of this distribution
(things
are of course much
more
complicated
than
that).
I think that this is a
simplified
but
general
proposition
that
applies
to social
space
as a
whole, although
it does not
imply
that all small
capital
holders are
necessarily
revolutionaries and all
big capital
holders are
automatically
conservatives.
The field is thus not
only
of field of
forces,
a
space
of
objective
force
lines,
but also a
battlefield,
a structured arena within which
agents,
because
they carry
different
potentials
and have different
positions
and
proclivities, struggle
to
(re)define
the
very
structure and boundaries of
the field.
7. H. Stuart
Hughes' Sophisticated
Rebels
(1988)
would be a
good
instance of this
uncontrolled
bricolage
of scientific and commonscnsical
types
and
propositions.
8. "Far from
being,
as certain
'initiatory' representatives
of the
'epistemological
break'
would have us
believe,
a sort of
simultaneously inaugural
and terminal act,
the renunciation
of first-hand intuition is the end
product
of a
long
dialectical
process
in which
intuition,
formulated in an
empirical operation, analyses
and verifies or falsifies itself, engendering
new
hypotheses, gradually
more
firmly
based,
which will be transcended in their
turn,
thanks to the
problems,
failures and
expectations
which
they bring
to
light" (Bourdieu
1988a,
p. 7).
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 9
Correct,
but
they
do not
struggle freely: they struggle
in a manner
consistent with the
position they occupy
in the field.
They
are
differentiated on the basis of the
perception
that
they
have of the
field,
of the
point
of view
they
take on the field as a view taken from a
point
in the field.
If one defines the field
by
a
specific
form of
capital and, conversely,
the
type
of
capital by
the fact that it is in
currency
in a
given field, then,
this is not
tautological:
there is a dialectical movement of mutual
specification through
which one term
helps progressively
to define the
other. It seems to
me, however,
that there is a third
term, lacking
so far
in the
discussion,
which constitutes the
conceptual bridge
between
capital
and field
by providing
the mechanism that
"propels"
definite
agents,
who bear certain valences of
capital,
to take
up
this or that
strategy,
subversion or conservation. This tertiwn
quid
is the
concept
of habitus. It
plays
a
pivotal
role in
allowing you
to break out of the
structuralist vision which reduces the social
agent
to the mere
bearer,
in the sense of
Trger,
of a
capital (or
of a
position
in a network in the
case of "American
structuralism1*)
that
mechanically
determines the
strategy
he or she will
follow,
and thus eliminates action from social
analysis.
One would need to
specify
the
meaning
of the
adjective
"structuralist.11 Marxist
structuralism,
for
instance,
does not even have the
concept
of
specific capital,
the notion that there can
be,
within social
space, sub-spaces
of
struggles
which
enjoy
a
degree
of
autonomy
and
follow
specific logics
that are irreducible to economic
logic
even
though
they
have an
economy.
In
short,
they ignore
a whole
range
of
phenomena
that are
critical,
even from within their own
approach.
The notion of habitus is
important
in that it allows us to
escape
structural mechanism without
relapsing
into the intentionalist behaviorism
which is but its
transfigured expression.9
This
perspective posits
that there
are external stimuli associated with a
position
and that
responses
to them
can be somewhat deduced from a
description
of the
position, following
a
logic
which can be either mechanistic and deterministic or
teleological
and voluntaristic. On the one hand it is
proposed
that
agents
act under
the constraint
of
causes that are inscribed in the situation and we have
the mechanistic
perspective;
on the other it is
argued
that
agents
acts
9. The
concept
of
habitus,
as the
"principle
of
regulated improvisation,"
is the means
whereby
Bourdieu re-introduces a
strategic
dimension into his structural framework
while-paradoxically-eschewing intentionality
and individual
rationality.
See Bourdieu
(1980a,
chapter 3; 1977, 1985a, 1986a, 1986b,
1988d).
10 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
with
full knowledge of
the
facts,10
that
they
have a
complete, totalizing,
and
fully-informed
vision of the situation and thus
produce
the
response
best
adjusted
to
it,
and we have the finalist
perspective.
Thus,
paradoxically (but
this is
something
that
philosophical
reflection since the
Cartesians has demonstrated
repeatedly),
there is
ultimately
no difference
between a
fully
mechanistic and a
fully
finalist
philosophy
of social
conduct
The notion of habitus accounts for what is the truth of human
action,
namely,
the fact that social
agents
are neither
particles
of matter
that are determined
by
external
causes,
nor little monads
guided solely
by
internal
reasons,
executing
a sort of
perfectly
rational internal
programme
of action. Social
agents
are the
product of history,
of the
history
of the whole social field and of the accumulated
experience
of a
path
within the
specific
sub-field.11
Thus,
in order to understand what
such and such a
professor
will do in a
given conjuncture,
we must know
what
position
he
occupies
in academic
space
but also how he
got
there
and from what
original point
in social
space.
The
way
one accedes to a
position
is inscribed in habitus as a
system
of durable and
transposable
dispositions
to
perceive,
evaluate,
and
respond
to social
reality.
To
put
it
differently,
social
agents
will
actively
determine,
on the basis of these
socially
and
historically
constituted
categories
of
perception
and
appreciation,
the situation which determines them. One can even
say
that
social
agents
are determined
only
to the extent that
they
determine
themselves.
When
they
are thus
embodied,
differences of social
trajectory
are
such that events and situations that are
perceived by
some as unbearable
or
revolting
will seem
acceptable,
natural or even desirable to others
(Bourdieu 1980c).
For
instance,
when there is a
general
shift to the
right
in the
political
field,
the fact that some
people
remain
steady
on the left
will be viewed as
rigidity,
stubborness,
from the
standpoint
of dominant
values,
whereas for others this will be a mark of
rigor.
Differences in
disposition
that account for differences in stances or
position-takings
[prises
de
position]
are
linked,
through
social
trajectory,
to the values
associated with the
group
of
origin-
for
instance,
values of
dignity,
of
constancy,
constantia
sibi,
that are at the foundation of values of honor
(a
man of honor is one who does not
change
at
every
turn of the
wind).
10. Translator's note: here Bourdieu
plays
on the
similarity
of the French
expressions
sous la contrainte de causes
(literally
"under the constraint of
causes")
and en connaissance
de cause
("with knowledge
of
causes")
to
bring
home the
similarity
of finalist and
mechanistic forms of social
analysis.
11. On
practice
as the
product
of the
"meeting
of two forms of
history," history
embodied in habitus and
history objectified
in
fields,
see Bourdieu
(1980a, pp.
95-101;
1980c, 1981b, 1984, 1986b).
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 11
Such and such
political
or social event that divides intellectuals cannot
be described as a stimulus which
automatically
determines their reactions.
These reactions are
socially generated
on the basis of situational
properties,
not as these
properties
are in fact
given,
but as
they
are
perceived through
the
dispositions
associated with a definite
position
and
trajectory
in the academic and social
spaces.
This
explains
that academics
who
occupy
similar
positions synchronically may
take
up quite
different
lines of
political
conduct.
You thus
reject
the kind of deterministic scheme that is sometimes
attributed to
you
with the formula "structure determines
practice
which
reproduces
structure"
(e.g.,
Gorder
1980; Jenkins 1982,
G i roux
1982, p.
7),
that
is,
with the idea that
position
in the structure
directly
determines social
strategy,
inasmuch as the determinisms
applying
to
a
given position
never
operate
but
through
the
complex
filter of
dispositions acquired
and articulated over the whole social and
biographical trajectory
of the
agent,
and of the structural
history
of this
position
in social
space.
Circular and mechanical models of this kind are
precisely
what the
notion of habitus is
designed
to
help
us
get away
from
(see
Bourdieu
1980a,
1988b).
On the other
hand,
I can understand such
interpretations:
insofar as
dispositions
themselves are
socially
determined,
then one could
say
that I am in a sense an ultra-determinist. It is true that
analyses
that
take into account both effects of
position
and effects of
disposition
can
be
perceived
as
formidably
deterministic. This
being
said,
one can utilize
such
analyses precisely
to
step
back and
gain
distance from
dispositions.
(This
is the old
Spinozist
definition of
freedom;
there are of course
many
other forms of
freedom,
but it is one that social
analysis
can
provide).
The Stoicians used to
say
that what
depends upon
us is not the first
movement but
only
the second one. It is difficult to control the first
movements of habitus but reflexive
analysis
allows us to alter our
perception
of the situation and
thereby
our reaction to the
situation,
thus
to
control,
up
to a certain
point,
some of the determinisms that
operate
through
the relation of immediate
complicity
between
position
and
dispositions.
To come to the substantive
argument
of Homo
Acadmicas,
what
are,
in the French
university
world as
you analyzed it,
the main forms of
power,
the
principal species
of
capital
that are effective? Is the
underlying
structure of this universe as
you
describe it found in other
academic
fields,
and
especially
in the American academic
field,
or is it
a
unique
case?
One can and must read Homo Academicus as a
programme
of
research on
any
academic field. In
fact,
by
means of a mere mental
12 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
exprimentation,
the American reader can do the work of
transposition
and
discover,
through homological reasoning,
a
good
number of
things
about his or her own
professional
universe. Of
course,
this is no
substitute for a
thorough
scientific
study
of the American scientific field.
I
toyed
with the idea of
doing
such a
study
a few
years
back;
I had even
begun gathering
data and documents
during
a
previous sojourn
in the
United States. At the time I even
thought
of
putting together
a team
with some American
colleagues
to
try
to cumulate all
advantages,
those
of the theoretical
mastery
of a
comparative
model and the
primary
familiarity
with the universe to be
analyzed.
I believe
that,
in the
American
case,
such a
project
would be in some
ways
easier,
owing
to
the fact that there exist series of
yearly
statistics that are much more
elaborate and
readily
available,
on
professors,
on the various student
bodies,
and on
universities,
particularly university
hierarchies and
rankings
of
departments. (In
the French
case,
I had to
construct,
often from
scratch,
a whole
battery
of indicators which did not
exist).
I even think
that a
very
worthwhile first
pass
could be done on the basis of a
secondary analysis
of data that are
already
collected.
My hypothesis
here would be that we would find the main
oppositions,
such as that between academic
capital
linked to
power
over
the instruments of
reproduction
and intellectual
capital
linked to scientific
renown,
but that it would be
expressed
in
different,
perhaps
more
differentiated,
forms. Would the
opposition
be more or less
pronounced?
Is the
capacity
of an academic
power
devoid of scientific
grounding
to
perpetuate
itself
greater
in France or in the United States?
Only
a full
survey
could tell us the answer. Such research could also
give
an
empirical
answer to the
question
that is raised
periodically,
both
by
the
American
sociology
of the French
university system
and
by
the French
uses of the American model as a instrument of
critique
of the French
system, namely,
whether this American
system
that
presents
itself as more
competitive
and "meritocratic11 is more favorable to scientific
autonomy
from social forces than the French
system,
in which
sociopolitical
pressures
seem to exert themselves in more visible fashion. This is an
issue of the
greatest importance,
both
scientifically
and
politically.
This raises also the
problem
of the relation of academics to the
powers
that be.
Here, too,
we would need to have
very precise
measurements of the relation of American scholars to the various
institutions that are
part
of what I call the field of
power.12
In
France,
12. On the notion of field of
power, by
which the French
sociologist
seeks to
get away
from the susbstantialist cast of the
concept
of
"ruling class,"
see Bourdieu
(1989a, especially
pp. 373-427).
A
preliminary
definition is the
following:
The field of
power
is a
field of
forces
defined
by
the structure of the
existing
balance of forces between forms of
power,
or between different
species
of
capital.
It is also
simultaneously afield of struggles for power
among
the holders
of different forms of power.
It is a
space
of
play
and
competition
in
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 13
you
have indicators such as
membership
in official administrative
commissions,
governmental
committees,
advisory
boards, unions,
etc. In
the United
States,
I think that one would need to turn one's attention
to the control of
departments,
Offices of the
Dean,
scientific
"blue-ribbon"
panels, expert reports,
and
especially
the
large
research and
philanthropic
foundations and institutes of
policy
research which seem to
play
a
crucial,
albeit
largely
hidden,
role in
defining
the broader directions
of research. On this
count,
my hypothesis
would be that the structural
links between the
university
field and the field of
power
are
stronger
in
the United States. Of
course,
one would need to take into consideration
another difference: the
specificity
of the
very
structure of the American
political
field, characterized, very cursorily, by
federalism,
the
multiplication
and conflicts between different levels of
decision-making,
the absence of leftist
parties
and of a
strong
tradition of
oppositional
trade-unionism,
the weak role of
"public
intellectuals,"
and so on.
In
your perspective, you
have not
produced
a
monograph
on the French
university
but studied a set of
very general
mechanisms that bear on
intellectuals
through
one of its
specific
historical realizations.
I follow here the Bachelardian idea of the
"particular
case of the
possible."
One of the virtues of the notion of field is
precisely
that it
allows one to ask
very general questions
about
objects
that are
very
specific
and well-demarcated in time and
space.
It
generates
broad
propositions
or
problems-take
for instance the notion that the field is the
site of
struggles
around
specific
stakes-which
immediately specify
themselves as
they
are
applied
to a concrete historical
case,
and which
suggest
new issues that
immediately
call for
comparisons,
and so on. In
my
own
work,
I
constantly
use the
knowledge acquired
of one field to
throw
light
on another and to ask
questions
of both that each could not
possibly generate
on its own. Thus in
my
latest
book,
The State
Nobility
[Bourdieu 1989a],
in which I
analyze
the function of consecration of elite
which the social
agents
and institutions which all
possess
the determinate
quantity
of
specific capital (and
economic and cultural
capital
in
particular)
sufficient to
occupy
the
dominant
positions
within their
respective
fields
[the
economic
field,
the field of
higher
civil
service or the
state,
the
university field,
and the intellectual
field]
confront one another in
strategies
aimed at
preserving
or
transforming
this balance of forces.
(...)
This
struggle
for
the
imposition
of the dominant
principle
of domination
leads,
at
every
moment,
to a
balance in the
sharing
of
power,
that
is,
to what I call a division in the work
of
domination.
It is also a
struggle
over the
legitimate principle
of
legitimation
and for the
legitimate
mode of
reproduction
of the foundations of domination. This can take the form of
real,
physical struggles, (as
in
"palace
revolutions" or wars of
religion
for
instance)
or of
symbolic
confrontations
(as
in the discussions over the relative
ranking
of or
atores, priests,
and
bellatorts, knights,
in Medieval
Europe). [...]
The field of
power
is
organized
as a
charismatic structure: the distribution
according
to the dominant
principle
of hierarchization
(economic capital)
is
inversely symmetrical
to the distribution
according
to the dominated
principle
of hierarchization
(cultural capital)" (unpublished
lecture on "The Field of
Power,"
University
of
Wisconsin-Madison, April 1989).
14 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
schools in their relation to the field of
power
and in the
reproduction
of what we
commonsensically
call the
"ruling
class,"
I refer both to
equivalent
institutions in advanced
countries,
especially
in
England
and
the United
States,
and to
comparable
mechanisms
present
in more
traditional societies such as the Maori of New
Zealand,
or to the
ceremony
of the
dubbing
of
knights
in medieval
society
as described
by
Marc Bloch...
Let us return to the
problem
of the
logic
of action. Even
though you
utilize the
vocabulary
of
interest, strategy,
even sometimes
preferences
as in The State
Nobility
(Bourdieu 1989a, pp. 225-228),
the
theory
of
practice
that
you put forth,
as a
historically
constituted dialectic
between the social embodied in the form of habitus and the social made
institution in the form of
fields, presents itself,
not as a
theory germane
to rational choice
theory,
but
really
as a fundamental alternative and
challenge
to it
It
is,
I
believe,
the true
paradigm
which accounts both for the
immanent
logic
of action and for what
appearance
of
validity
the
paradigm
of Rational Action
Theory (RAT) may
have. The
paradigm
of
RAT is
obviously
untenable~we have known this for
quite
some time
now and I shall not rehearse here all the criticisms that have been
levelled at its
anthropological
foundations,
from Pascal to Durkheim on
down to
Wittgenstein.
But,
just
as
Ptolemy perpetuated
his
system
after
Copernicus by introducing
in it more and more
corrections, likewise,
on
the side of the
RAT,
some authors such as Jon Elster
'(who
reads what
I write and more
readily emphasizes divergences
than he admits
borrowings),
make
every
effort to
preserve
their
paradigm by continually
inserting
in it more and more corrections taken from the rival
paradigm
-thus the scheme of "sour
grapes,"
for instance
(Elster 1984).
The
adequate analysis
of social action that is made
possible by
the
theory
of habitus
explains
that,
without
being
rational,
social
agents
are
reasonable-and this is what makes
sociology possible
in the end. Without
acting
with full
knowledge
of the
facts,
and without
mechanically
or
passively obeying
causes,
social
agents
act as if
they
had
knowledge
of
those causes.
People
are not
fools;
they
act,
more often than
not,
in
accordance with their
objective
chances because
they
have internalized
them,
through
a
long
and
complex process
of
conditioning,
in the form
of mental
schemes,
of
expectations.
Hume writes in the Treatise on
Human Nature that "no sooner do we know of the
impossibility
of
satisfying
a desire than this desire itself vanishes." This
ongoing
dialectic
of
subjective hopes
and
objective
chances,
which can
yield
a
variety
of
outcomes
ranging
for
perfect
mutual fit
(when people
come to desire that
to which
they
are
objectively doomed)
to radical
disjunction (as
with the
Millenarism of
subproletarians
for
instance,
or the Don Quixote
effect
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 15
dear to
Marx),
is at work
throughout
the social world
(Bourdieu
1974,
1979,
1977).
At
bottom,
determinisms
operate
to their full
only by
the
help
of
unconsciousness,
with the
complicity
of the unconscious.13 For
determinism to exert itself
unchecked,
dispositions
must be abandonned
to their free
play.
This means that
agents
become
something
like
subjects
only
to the extent that
they consciously
master the relation
they
entertain
with their
dispositions: they
can
consciously
let them "act" or
they
can on
the
contrary
inhibit them
through
the virtue of consciousness.
Or,
following
a
strategy
that
seventeenth-century philosophers
advised,
they
can
pit
one
disposition against
another.
(Leibniz
said that one can not
fight passion
with
reason,
as Descartes
claimed,
but with "slanted wills"
[volonts obliques],
i.e.,
with the
help
of other
passions).14
But this work of
management
of one's
dispositions,
of habitus as the
unchosen
principle
of all
"choices,"
is
possible only
with the
help
of
explicit
clarification.
Failing
an
analysis
of such subtle determinations that
work themselves out
through dispositions,
one becomes
accessory
to the
unconsciousness of the action of
dispositions,
which is itself the
accomplice
of determinism.
Science, Conscience,
And Politics
Could one
say
that
your
method of
analysis
and the
sociology you
practice comprise
both a
theory
of the social world and an ethic?
This is a
very
difficult
question
and I would be
tempted
to answer
both
yes
and no. I would
say
no if one abides
by
the old
antinomy
between the
positive
and the normative. I would
say yes
if we
agree
to
think
beyond
this
opposition.
In
point
of
fact,
it is an ethic because it is
a science. If what I
say
is
correct,
if it is true that it is
through knowledge
of determinations that
only
science can know that a form of freedom
which is the condition of an ethic is
possible,
then it is also true that
science is an ethic-which does not
imply
that it is a scientistic ethic.
Morality
is,
in this
instance,
made
possible by
an
awakening
of
consciousness
[prise
de
conscience]
that science can
trigger
under definite
13. The 'unconscious' is indeed never but the
forgetting
of
history
that
history
itself
produces by turning
the
objective
structures it itself
engenders
into those
quasi-natures
that
habituses are"
(Bourdieu
1980a:
94).
14. Albert Hirschman's
(1977)
The Passions and the Interests recounts
part
of that
story
and
argues persuasively
for its role in the cultural
legitimation
of
early capitalism.
16 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
circumstances.
(It goes
without
saying
that this is not the
only way
to
ground
an
ethic.) [...]
Where does this
significance you
attribute to the
autonomy
of the
scientific field lie
precisely
and how does it relate to
your analysis
of
the social world?
There would be too much to
say
on this. I will
simply
state,
in a
rather coarse and
hasty
manner,
that
autonomy
is the condition of
scientificity,
but more
importantly
that one does not find freedom alone.
Just as one is not an artist
alone,
but
by participating
in the artistic
field,
likewise we can
say
that it is the scientific field which makes scientific
freedom
possible through
its
very functioning.15
In other
words,
if there is a freedom of the
intellectual,
it is not the
individual freedom of a Cartesian
cogito
but a freedom achieved
collectively through
the
historically
dated and situated construction of
a
space
of
regulated
discussion and
critique.
This is
something
that intellectuals
very
seldom
recognize,
who are
typically
inclined to think in
singular
fashion and who
expect
salvation
from individual
liberation,
in the
logic
of wisdom and
initiatory conquest.
Intellectuals too often
forget
that there is a
politics of
intellectual
freedom.
On the basis of
everything
I have
said,
one can
clearly
see that an
emancipatory
science is
possible only
if the social and
political
conditions
that make it
possible
are
gathered:
this
requires,
for
instance,
to
put
an
end to the effects of domination which distort scientific
competition by
preventing people
who want to enter into the
game
to do
so-by turning
down meritorious
applications
for
fellowships
or
by cutting
off research
funds
(this
is the more brutal form of
censorship
but we must not
forget
that it is exercised on a
daily basis).
There are softer
formulas,
such as
censorship through
academic
propriety [biensance]: by obliging somebody
who has a lot to contribute to
expend
a considerable
portion
of his or
her time to
provide
the full
proof, according
to the
positivistic
canons of
the
time,
of each and
every
one of her
propositions,
one can
prevent
her
from
producing
a
great many
new
propositions
whose full validation she
could leave to others. As I showed in Homo
Academicus,
it is
mainly
through
the control of time that academic
power
is exercised
(Bourdieu,
1988a,
pp. 90-105).
This
problem
arises in a
particularly
acute manner in the case of
sociology
because
sociology
is a field where
political
forces can exert
15. For
Bourdieu,
the scientific field is both a field like all others and a
unique space
of
struggles
in that it is
capable
of
yielding products (true knowledge)
that transcend their
historical conditions of
production.
This
"peculiarity
of the
history
of scientific reason" is
discussed in Bourdieu
(1981c,
1989e, 1989f).
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 17
themselves more
strongly: by
some of its
properties,
the
sociological
field
follows the
logic
of the scientific
field,
but
by
others it follows the
logic
of the
political
field
(Bourdieu
1980b,
1989d).
It follows that the claim
for
autonomy
and the
conquest
of the
political
conditions that make it
possible
are absolute
prerequisites
for individual autonomization and even
for the
appropriation
of instruments of individual autonomization.
To
put
it
differently,
one does not win one's scientific salvation or
one's ethical salvation alone. This is a
point
that
separates
me from
Habermas,
beyond many convergences. (Very quickly,
at the risk of
sounding quite simplistic,
I would
say
that we must not
forget
that the
universal
subject
is a historical achievement and that it is
through
historical
struggles
in historical
spaces
of forces that we
progress
toward
a little more
universality [Bourdieu
and Schwibs
1985].)
It is on condition
that we
engage
in the
struggle
for reason and that we
engage
it in
history-that
we
practice
what I called a
Realpolitik
of reason
(Bourdieu
1987c)~for
instance
through
interventions to reform the
university system
or
through
actions aimed at
defending
the
possibility
of
publishing
avant-garde books,
by
means of a demonstration
against
the exclusion
of assistant
professors
on
political grounds
or
by fighting
the use of
pseudo-scientific arguments
in issues of
racism, etc.,
that we can
push
reason forward.16
Let us
pursue
this issue of the relations between scientific
sociology
and
political progress.
Some critics will
object
that this reflexive
return,
this
reflection on the intellectual world and on the
possibilities
it offers for
more
universality,
runs the risk of
becoming
an end in itself. Is the
analysis
of Homo
Acadmicas, then,
a self-contained
project
or is
it,
as
you just suggested,
the means of a more
rigorous
science of the social
capable
of
producing stronger political
effects because it is more
rigorous?
Such an
analysis
has two kinds of
effects,
the one scientific and the
other
political,
scientific effects in turn
generating political
effects. Just
16.
Among
Bourdieu 's recent
political interventions,
the
following
bear
mentioning.
After
drafting
the
"Report
of the
Collge
de France on the Future of Education" that
informed Mitterrand's 1988
presidential platform
on
education,
Bourdieu is
currently
heading
a cabinet-level
advisory
-Committee on the Reform of the Contents of Education"
charged
with
spearheading
the
long-term
school reform that is the
pet project
of Rocard's
socialist
government.
He is also on the board of Channel
7,
a
publicly-owned, European,
cultural television channel in the
making;
he will be the editor-in-chief of
Liber,
an
international intellectual
journal
scheduled to
appear
as a
supplement
to
major newspapers
in
France, Italy,
Great
Britain,
and
^Germany
later this
year
and
designed
to facilitate the
formation of a
European
"collective intellectual"
capable
of
acting
as a
countervailing
power.
Over the
years,
Bourdieu has also been involved with the socialist-led
CjFDT
union
and active in anti-racism
struggles
with the
group
SOS-Racisme. For a
sample
of his
stances and
thinking
on the role of
sociology
in
politics
and current
issues,
see Bourdieu
(1985b, 1986c, 1987e, 1988f)
and
Bourdieu,
Casanova and Simon
(1975).
18 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
as I said earlier
regarding
individual
agents
that unconsciousness is
complicit
with
determinism,
likewise I would
argue
that the collective
unconsciousness
of
intellectuals is the
specific form
that the
complicity of
intellectuals with the dominant
sociopolitical forces
takes. I believe that
the blindness of intellectuals to the social forces which rule the
intellectual
field,
and therefore their
practices,
is what
explains
that,
collectively,
often under
very
radical
airs,
the
intelligentsia
almost
always
contribute to the
perpetuation
of dominant forces. I am aware that such
a blunt statement is
very shocking
because it
goes against
the
image
of
themselves that intellectuals have fabricated:
they
like to think of
themselves as
liberators,
as
progressive (or
at worst as
neutral,
disengaged, especially
in the United
States).
And it is true that
they
have
often taken sides with the dominated-for structural
reasons,
by
virtue of
their
position
as dominated
among
the dominant. But
they
have been so
much less often than
they
could have been and
especially
much less than
they
believe.
Is this the reason
why you reject
the label of "critical
sociology"?
You
have
always kept
aloof from
everything
that marches under the
self-proclaimed
banner of "radical"
sociology
or "critical"
theory?
You are
absolutely right (I
can even
say
that one of
my
first reflexes
as a
young sociologist
was to constitute
myself against
a certain
image
of
the Frankfurt School as a sort of
"spiritualist point
d'honneur,"
to use
Marx's
expression,
that some
bourgeois
intellectuals like to avail
themselves
of).
I think that it is the
ignorance
of the collective
mechanisms of
political
and ethical
subordination,
and the overestimation
of the freedom of
intellectuals,
that has too often led the most sincere
intellectuals such as Sartre-who does not at all
belong
in this
category
in
my
estimation-to remain
complicit
with the forces
they thought they
were
fighting,
and this in
spite
of the efforts invested in
trying
to
escape
the shackles of intellectual determinism. Because
they engage
in forms
of
struggle
that are
unrealistic, naive,
"adolescent."
Part of the
difficulty
here is
that,
among
the risks that one must
take to defend
positions
like
mine,
there is that of
disappointing
adolescents
(in
the
sociological,
not the
biological,
sense of the
term,
that
is,
in
particular younger
scholars and
graduate students).
All intellectuals
dream of
being
the
"corrupters
of
youth,"
in all
meanings
of the word.
Granted,
it is
disappointing
to tell adolescents that their subversive
intentions are
adolescent, immature,
that
is, oneiric,
Utopian,
unrealistic.
There is a whole
range
of such
strategies
of subversion that are in effect
strategies
of
displacement. (The specific
Pharisaism of intellectuals- this
was remarked
long ago,
but I think that
my
book enables us to
grasp
its
principle-consists
of
being
the more
revolutionary,
the more
distant,
geographically
and
historically,
the issues at
stake.)
One of the
goals
of
my
work is to show that the
principle
of all these
malpractices,
of all this
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 19
double talk and doubles
jeux,
resides in bad faith in one's relation to
one's insertion in the intellectual field.
It follows from this that the reflexive
sociology you practice aims,
not
at
effecting
a narcissistic return
upon
the individual
person
of the
scientist,
but at
uncovering
what her vision of the
object
owes to what
is a
specific
interest of the intellectual.
Intellectuals are
particularly
inventive when it comes to
masking
their
interests. For
instance,
after
'68,
there was a kind of
topos
in the French
intellectual milieu which consisted in
asking:
"But from where are
you
speaking?
From what
place
am I
speaking?"
This
false,
narcissistic
confession,
vaguely inspired by psychoanalysis,
served as a
screen,
in the
Freudian sense of the
word,
and blocked a
genuine
elucidation,
that
is,
the
discovery
of the social location of the locutor: in this
case,
the
position
in the
university hierarchy.
I first elaborated the notion of field in the case of the intellectual
and artistic world and this is no
happenstance (Bourdieu,
1971a, 1971b,
1971c). (In
this
regard,
Homo Academicus is both a culmination and a
return to the
point
of
departure.)
This notion was
deliberately
constructed to
destroy
intellectual narcissism and this
particularly
vicious
legerdemain [escamotage]
of
objectivation
which consists of
making
objectivations
either
singular,
and here
psychoanalysis
comes in
handy,
or
so broad that the individual under consideration becomes the token of
a
category
so
large
that his or her
responsibility
vanishes
entirely.
To
proclaim
"I am a
bourgeois
intellectual, I am a
slimy
rat!1* is devoid of
any
meaning.
But to
say
"I am an
assistant-professor
at Grenoble and I am
speaking
to a Parisian
professor"
is to force oneself to ask whether it is
not the relation between these two
positions
that is
speaking through my
mouth.
Now,
this is much more
painful
because it touches
upon
vital
things,
and this is where the notion of interest becomes
extremely
useful:
it serves to show that there are
specific profits
in
being
an intellectual.
There is a libido acadmica which is this
type
of
very specific
desire
or
impulse
which arises out of the relation between a certain
habitus,
socially
constituted-we know that the children of
professors,
for
instance,
have,
everything
else held
equal,
a
greater propensity
to libido acadmica
than the children of businessmen
who, often,
will find such stakes
grotesque-and
a field which offers
specific profits.
The relation between
a
specific
habitus and a
specific
field
produces
a
specific
libido,
a libido
acadmica,
which
can,
under certain
conditions, sublimate itself into a
libido
scientifica capable
in addition of
producing
science.
(It
is clear that
the notion of interest is here a means of contest that allows one to effect
20 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
a break with the
professional ideology
of intellectuals as "unattached and
disinterested" which is
inseparably epistemological
and
social.)17
In the
end, although you
use the same
expression,
reflexive
sociology
as
you
conceive it
(e.g.,
Bourdieu 1982 and
1987a),
is
quite
different from
the kind of
reflexivity
advocated
by
Gouldner or claimed
by
ethnomethodologists.
I believe that it is somewhat the
opposite
inasmuch as it
is,
first of
all,
a
paradoxical reflexivity
because
fundamentally
anti-narcissistic.
Psychoanalytic reflexivity
is better tolerated and received
because,
if the
mechanisms it makes us discover are
universal,
they
are also tied to a
unique history:
the relation to the father is
always
a relation to a
singular
father in a
singular history.
What makes for the absence of
charm,
the
painfulness
even,
of
sociological reflexivity
is that it makes us discover
things
that are
generic, things
that are
shared, banal,
commonplace.
Now,
in the table of intellectual
values,
there is
nothing
worse than the
common and the
average.
This
explains
much of the resistance that
sociology,
and in
particular
a non-narcissistic reflexive
sociology,
encounters
among
intellectuals.
Under this
angle, my
contribution resides in
uncovering
the fact that
intellectual
productions
are
related,
not to the social
position
of the
producer
defined in the broadest
terms,
but to the location he or she
occupies
in the
objective
structure of the intellectual universe. The
intellectual field
provides
a crucial mediation: external factors and forces
act
upon
its
participants only through
its
specific
structure. This is
already
a considerable advance and we could
stop
here. There
is, however,
something
even more
important
that I discovered in
my anthropological
fieldwork: the fact that there are
fallacies,
blunders,
that are associated
with the
position
of
thinker,
that
go
with the
posture
of the
"thinking
man"
[homme
de
pense]
who retires from action in order to think it
(see
Bourdieu
1977, 1986a,
and
1980a,
Book
I).
A sort of intellectualist bias that inheres in the scientific
project,
inscribed within the "scientific
eye" itself,
and which therefore cannot
see itself?
Exactly.
There is an intellectualist bias inherent in the
position
of
the social scientist who observes from the outside a universe in which he
or she is not
immediately
involved. It is this intellectualiste relation to
the
world,
which
replaces
the
practical
relation to
practice
that
agents
17. Bourdieu's
usage
of the notion of interest and its difference from utilitarian social
theory
is discussed in Bourdieu
(1988b)
and in The Interest of the
Sociologist" (Bourdieu
1987a:
124-131).
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 21
have with that between the observer and his
object,
that must be
objectivized.
This is one of the
things
that
separate
me from Garfinkel
and
ethnomethodology.
I
grant
that there is a
primary experience
of the
social
which,
as Husserl and Schutz
showed,
rests on a relation of
immediate belief in the
facticity
of the world that makes one take it for
granted,
and so on. This
analysis
is excellent as far as
description
is
concerned,
but we must
go beyond
it and raise the issue of the conditions
of
possibility
of this doxic
experience.
We must
recognize
that the
coincidence between
objective
structures and embodied structures which
creates the illusion of immediate
understanding
is a
particular
case of the
relation to the
world,
namely
the native relation. The
great
virtue of
ethnological experience
is that it makes one
immediately
aware that such
conditions are not
universally
fulfilled,
as
phenomenology
would have us
believe
by universalizing
reflection based on the
particular
case of the
indigenous
relation to one's own
society.
But this is not all:
ethnomethodology
is a
depoliticized form of analysis
of conformismo
We need
thoroughly
to
sociologize
the
phenomenological
analysis
of doxa as the uncontested
acceptance
of the
daily
lifeworld,
not
simply
to establish that it is not
universally
valid for all
perceiving
and
acting subjects,
but also to discover
that,
when it realizes itself in certain
social
positions, among
the dominated for
instance,
it
represents
the most
radical form of
acceptance
of the
world,
of conservatism. This relation of
pre-reflexive acceptance
of the world
grounded
in a fundamental belief
in the
immediacy
of the structures of the Lebenswelt
represents
the
absolute,
ultimate form of conservative conformism
(it
lies below
orthodoxy,
that
is,
the
"right
belief," which
presupposes
at least an
awareness of a
"wrong
belief,"
a
croyance gauche).
There is no
way
of
adhering
to the established order that is more
undivided,
more
complete
than this
infra-political
relation of doxic
evidence;
there is no fuller
way
of
finding
natural conditions of existence that would be
revolting
for
somebody
socialized under other conditions and who does not
grasp
them
through categories
of
perception
issued out of this world.18 This alone
explains
a
good
number of
misunderstandings
between intellectuals and
workers,
where
proletarians
will take for
granted
and find
acceptable,
even
"natural,"
conditions of
oppression
and
exploitation
that are
sickening
to those "on the outside"--which does not exclude
practical
forms of resistance and the
possibility
of a revolt
against
them
(Bourdieu
1980c).
18. The
two-way
relation
(of conditioning
on the one
hand,
of
structuring
on the
other)
between a
position
in a social
space
and the
categories
of
perception
that come with
it,
and which tend to mirror its
structure,
is
captured by
Bourdieu with the
concept
of
"point
of view as a view taken from a
point" (see
Bourdieu
1988d,
1989c and
1988c,
on
"Flaubert's Point of
View").
22 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
What
separates you
from
ethnomethodology
on this count is that where
they
talk of a
generic experience
of
doxa, you argue
that there are daxak
there is not a
single
doxa but various forms of doxic
experience, specific
to different fields and
regions
of social
space,
each of which with its
definite historical conditions of
possibility
and
efficacy.
Yes
and,
more
generally,
I
argue
that doxa is
political.
The doxic
relation to the world is not an individual relation to the world. As soon
as we recall its social conditions of
possibility,
we remind ourselves
that,
first there are different manners of
being
and
living
in this
relation, and,
secondly,
that what comes with a
narrowly phenomenological analysis
is
the
neglect
of the historical
underpinnings
of this relation and of its
political import,
that
is,
depoliticization.
For a
Sociological Utopianism
If I understand
you correctly, then,
science is still the best tool for the
critique
of domination. You are
very
much in line with the modern
project
of the
Aufklrung
when
you present sociology,
when it is
scientific,
as an
inherently politically progressive
force. But isn't there
a
paradox
here in the fact
that,
on the one
hand, you
increase the
possibility
of a
space
of
freedom,
of a
liberating awakening
of
consciousness which
brings
within rational reach historical
possibilities
hitherto excluded
by symbolic
domination and
by
the
misrecognition
implied
in the doxic
understanding
of the social
world, while,
on the
other
hand, you simultaneously
effect a radical
disenchanting
that
makes this social world in which we must continue to
struggle
almost
unlivable? There is a
strong tension, perhaps,
a
contradiction,
between
this will to
provide
instruments for
increasing
consciousness and
freedom and the demobilization that an
overly
acute consciousness of
the
pervasiveness
of social determinisms threatens to
produce.
Reflexive
analysis
as I conceive of it serves two
important purposes.
The first is a scientific function:
reflexivity
is not an end in itself
and,
on
this
count,
I must disassociate
myself completely
from the forms of
"reflexivity"
that have
recently
become
popular
in the United
States,
especially
in
anthropology (viz.
the books
by
Marcus and Fisher
[1986]
or
by
Rosaldo
[1989])
and in the
sociology
of science
(Latour
and
Woolgar
1983,
Latour
1988),
and that culminate in a sort of relativist
nihilism. In Homo
Academicus,
I use the instruments
provided by
reflexivity
to control the biases introduced
by un-reflexivity
and to make
headway
in the
knowledge
of the mechanisms that can alter
my
reflection.
Reflexivity
is a tool to
produce
more
science,
not less.
Secondly, by helping
the
progress
of science and thus the
growth
of
knowledge
about the social world,
reflexivity
makes
possible
a more
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 23
responsible politics,
both inside and outside of academia. Bachelard wrote
that "there is no science but of that which is hidden." This effect of
unveiling
carries an unintended
critique
that will be all the
stronger
the
more
powerful
science is and the more
thoroughly
mechanisms of
occultation and
misrecognition
are neutralized.19
Thus
reflexivity
is not at all a form of "art for art's sake." Its
end-goal
is not to
contemplate my private backyard;
it is to find out what
is in
my backyard
in order to look at what lies behind its fence. But as
long
as I do not know what
goes
on in
my backyard,
I cannot see
anything;
I do
nothing
but
project my
blindness. A
rigorous sociology
can
help
free intellectuals from their illusions-and first of all from the illusion
that
they
do not have
any, especially
about themselves-and can have at
least the
negative
virtue of
making
it more difficult for them to
bring
a
passive
and unconscious contribution to
symbolic
domination.
(The
rather
naive idea which some American radicals have
objected
to
me,
which
consists in
invoking
"true
political struggles,"
is here an alibi in the
etymological
sense of the term: I
displace my gaze
elsewhere~alibi~in
order not to have to look in
my backyard.)
You remind me here of Durkheim's
aphorism (1921:267)
which
says
that
sociology
"increases the
range
of our action
by
the mere fact that it
increases the
range
of our science." But I must come back to
my
question:
doesn't the disillusionment
reflexivity produces
also
carry
the
risk of
condemning
us to this
"passively
conservative attitude1* from
which the founder of the Anne
sociologique
was
already defending
himself?20
There is a first level of answer to this
question
which is the
following:
if the risk is
only
to disenchant and undermine adolescent
rebellion,
which oftentimes does not last
beyond
intellectual
adolescence,
then it is not that
great
of a loss.
This is
your anti-prophetic side,21
and
perhaps
one of the
things
that
distinguishes your
work from that of Foucault
19. "If 'there is no science but of that which is
hidden',"
write Bourdieu and Passeron
(1977, Foreword),
"one understands that
sociology
is on the side of historical forces
which,
at
every epoch, compel
the truth of relations of
power
to unveil
themselves,
if
only by
forcing
them to veil themselves ever more."
20. The Durkheim
quotation (1921, p. 267) begins
thus:
"Sociology
in no
way imposes
upon
man a
passively
conservative attitude. On the
contrary.11
21.
"If,
as Bachelard
says, 'every
chemist must
fight
the alchemist
within', every
sociologist
must
fight
the social
prophet
within that his
public
asks him to incarnate"
(Bourdieu
et al.
1973,
p. 42).
24 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
There
is,
it is
true,
a side of Foucault's work which theorizes the
revolt of the adolescent in trouble with his
family
and with the
institutions that
relay family pedagogy
and
impose "disciplines"
and
regulations (that
is,
the
school,
the
clinic,
the
asylum,
the
hospital,
and
so
on).
The notion of
discipline
as used
by
Foucault is a rather coarse
one: it refers to forms of social constraint that are
very
external and
adolescent revolts
represent symbolic dngations, Utopian responses
to
general
social constraints that allow one to avoid
carrying
out a full
analysis
of the
specific
historical
forms,
and
especially
of the
differential
forms,
assumed
by
the constraints that bear on adolescents of different
milieux,
and also of forms of social constraint more subtle than those that
operate through
the
drilling [dressage]
of the bodies.22
Naturally,
it is not
pleasurable
to disenchant
adolescents,
especially
since there are
quite
sincere and
profound things
in adolescent revolts:
an inclination to
go against
the established
order,
against
the
hypocrisy
of submissive
adults,
against
the academic doxa which makes for the fact
that there are
people
who can
say very revolutionary things
with their
lips
while their
eyes say very
conservative
things.
There is a whole
range
of
things
that adolescents
grasp very
well because
they
have not
yet
lost all
their
illusions;
they
are not
disenchanted,
cynical, they
have not done the
kind of about-face that most of the
people
of
my generation,
at least in
France,
have made. Adolescents can feel such
things
and
they
show no
indulgence
for them.
I believe that
sociology
does exert a
disenchanting
effect but
this,
in
my
view,
marks a
progress
towards of form of scientific and
political
realism that is the absolute antithesis of naive
utopianism.
While it is true
that a certain kind of
sociology,
and
perhaps particularly
the one I
practice,
can
encourage sociologism
as submission to the inexorable laws
of
society (and
this even
though
its intention is
exactly
the
opposite),
I
think that Marx's alternative between
utopianism
and
sociologism
is
somewhat
misleading
here: there is
room,
between
sociologists
resignation
and
Utopian
voluntarism,
for what I would call a
sociological
utopianism,
that
is,
a rational and
politically
conscious use of the limits
of freedom afforded
by
a true
knowledge
of social laws and
especially
of
their historical conditions of
validity.23
The
political
task of social science
22. Bourdieu refers here to Foucault's
(1977) analysis
of the
-training"
of the
body
in
Discipline
and Punish.
23. "A social law is a historical law that
perpetuates
itself
only
as
long
as we let it
operate,
that
is,
as
long
as those whom it serves
(sometimes
unbeknownst to
them)
are in
a
position
to
perpetuate
the conditions of its
efficacy.
. . One can claim to
posit
eternal
laws,
as conservative
sociologists
do about the so-called
tendency
of
power
to concentrate
itself. In
reality,
science must know that it does
nothing
more than
record,
in the form of
tendential
laws,
the
logic
which characterizes a certain
game,
at a certain moment in
time,
and which functions in favor of those who dominate the
game
and have the means to set
INTERVIEW WITH BOURDIEU 25
is to stand
up
both
against irresponsible
voluntarism and fatalistic
scientism,
to contribute to
defining
a rational
utopianism by using
the
knowledge
of the
probable
to make the
possible
come true. Such a
sociological,
i.e., realistic,
utopianism
is
very unlikely among
intellectuals.
First because it looks
petty bourgeois,
it does not look radical
enough.
Extremes are
always
more chic and the aesthetic dimension of
political
conduct matters a lot to intellectuals.
This
argument
is also a
way
of
disavowing
an
image
of
politics
that is
very
dear to
intellectuals,
that
is,
the idea of a rational zoon
politicn
who constitutes him- or herself
through
the exercise of free will and
through political self-proclamation.
I would not
quite put
it that
way.
Rather,
I
argue
that this
project
itself is an historical
project.
Those who take
up
this
position
should
know that
they
are the historical heirs of a
long
line of men and women
who have been
placed
in historical conditions such that
they
had an
opportunity
to
help
freedom advance a little.
They
must first come to
grips
with the fact
that,
to
carry
this
project
forward,
there must be chairs
of
philosophy
or
departments
of
sociology (which implies specific
forms
of
alienation),
that
philosophy
or social science as official
disciplines,
sanctioned
by
the
state,
ought
to have been invented. In order for the
intellectual as an efficacious
myth
to
exist,
who feels
compelled
to
speak
up
on
apartheid
in South
Africa, repression
in Chile and Romania or
gender inequality
at
home,
it took the Paris
Commune,
it took the
Dreyfus
trial,
it took Zola and
many
others
(see
Pinto, 1984).
Institutions
of
freedom,
such as social
security,
are social
conquests (Bourdieu
and
Schwibs,
1985).
To
conclude,
isn't Homo Acadmicas a manner of
sociological
biography?
You write in the
preface
to the
English
translation that the
book
"comprises
a considerable
proportion
of
self-analysis by proxy"?
I would rather
say
that it is an
anti-biography,
insofar as an
autobiography
is oftentimes a manner of
erecting
oneself a mausoleum
which is also a
cenotaph.
This book is both an
attempt
to test the outer
boundaries of
reflexivity
in social science and an
enterprise
in
self-knowledge.
I could sum this
up by saying something quite
banal but
little remarked: the most intimate truth of what we
are,
the most
unthinkable
unthought [impens],
is inscribed in the
objectivity,
and in the
the rules of the
game
in fact and in law. As soon as a law is
stated,
it can become the
stake of
struggles...The uncovering
of tendential laws is the condition of success of actions
aimed at
proving
them
wrong...
Just as it 'denaturalizes'
it, sociology
'de-fatalizes' the social
world... True
political
action consists of
using
the
knowledge
of the
probable
to increase
the likelihood of the
possible" (Bourdieu
1980b:
46).
26 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY
history,
of the social
positions
that we have held in the
past
and that we
presently occupy.24
24. Bourdieu
(1980a:40-41)
concludes the
long, socio-analytic preface
that
opens
The
Logic of
Practice with those words:
HBy forcing
us to discover
externality
within
internality,
banality
behind the illusion of
rarity,
the common in the search for the
unique, sociology
has not
only
the effect of
denouncing
all the
impostures
of narcissistic
egotism;
it also
offers a
means, perhaps
the
only one,
to
contribute,
if
only through
the consciousness of
determinations,
to the
construction,
otherwise abandoned to the forces of the
world,
of
something
like a
subject."
See also Bourdieu's
(1987g)
"The
Biographical
Illusion."
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