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A Dialogue on the Ideas of "World" and "Field" Author(s): Howard S.

Becker and Alain Pessin Reviewed work(s): Source: Sociological Forum, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Jun., 2006), pp. 275-286 Published by: Springer Stable URL: . Accessed: 10/11/2011 18:26
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Vol. 2006(C2006) Forum, 21,No.2, June Sociological

DOI: 10.1007/s11206-006-9018-2


A Dialogue on the Ideas of "World"and "Field"'

HowardS. Becker2and Alain Pessin2

Publishedonline:22 August2006

THE INTERVIEW Alain Pessin:HowardBecker (1982), the idea of "world," which you have exploredfullyin Art Worlds,has arousedgreat interestamongsociologists of art,in Franceas elsewherein the world.It appearsin manyworks, but one neverthelesshas the feeling that the uses it is put to are not always very clearand do not do it justice.It is often minimized,reducedin its range and significance the single positivevirtueof cooperation.It is sometimes to and simply denied in its specificitywhen it is finally turned into a purely more optimisticvariantof what Pierre Bourdieu has called "field."Thus, many authors-professionals as well as graduatestudents-think that the conceptsof field and worldsimplyreferto two interchangeable approaches that are equallyuseful in the same researchproject,one emphasizingconof flict,the otherthe complementarity actorsandactions.In thisview, sprina little Becker on Bourdieuwouldproducegood sociology,if only bekling cause it would make the world seem a little less desperateplace. It seems to me that this would be too simple minded,an insufficiently rigoroususe of the idea of world.That'swhy I thinkit is time to clarifythis idea, and to see, with you, how it differsfrom and is opposed to the idea of field. Let's begin with this latteridea. Whatdoes the idea of a field evoke for you? Howard S. Becker:I've just finishedreadingPierre Bourdieu'sautobiography(Bourdieu,2004), publishedafter his death, and so I've had a chance to see how he uses the idea in practice. The book starts with a
1Thisarticlefirstappeared Sociologiede l'artin French(HowardS. BeckeretAlainPessin, in "Dialoguesurles notionsde Mondeet de Champ," Sociologiede l'art(NouvelleS6rie,Opus here is by HowardS. Becker. 8), pp. 165-180.The Englishtranslation 2884Lombard California 94133. Street,SanFrancisco, 275
0884-8971/06/0600-0275/0 2006 Springer Science+Business Media,


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as descriptionof the champ universitaire it existed when he entered it in the late 1950s.He describesit as dominatedby Sartreand his followers.He says that philosophywas the importantdiscipline,that sociologyand social sciencewere not taken seriously,except to be seen as dangeroustendencies to be suppressed.Sociology, in particular, was seen by Sartreand his followers as too American,too positivist,too much opposed to the dominant myth of the solitaryintellectualwho achievedthe great thingshe achieved by, as a friendof mine used to say, "thoughtand thoughtalone." He puts this descriptionin the languageof field. I'll try to summarize the imagery he uses. First of all, the idea seems very metaphorical,the metaphorcoming perhapsfrom physics.There is a defined and confined space, which is the field, in which there is a limited amount of room, so that whateverhappensin this field is a zero-sumgame.If I have something, you can't have it. Naturally,then, people struggleand fight over the limited space. The people who control the limited space try to keep it all for themselvesand their allies and preventnewcomersfrom gettingany of it. Space here is a metaphorfor anythingthat people want that is in limited supply.For Bourdieu,this is often esteem or recognition,but it can also be more materialstuff like money or access to publicationoutlets, things like that, "real"things,you mightsay. The field is organizedas "forces"of variouskinds, and one big force is power, which seems to involve the control of resources:in the case of the champuniversitaire, these would be thingslike, as I said above,postes in faculties and researchcenters,money to support (permanentpositions) research,accessto publication outlets,and,in a generalway,esteem, honor, and so on. recognition, The people with power make judgmentsabout newcomers,deciding whether they can be admittedto the circle of the powerful,perhapsin a subordinaterole at first, or whether they must be rejected. He says that these determinations made on the basis of the workpeople do but also are their behavior,the way they dress,theiraccents, on more personalcriteria: their political ideas, their friends,their lovers. (He doesn't quite say that the latter are illegitimatecriteria,althoughperhaps he does somewhere, but he certainly means that you should understandhim this way.) Althoughthe idea is meantto be completelygeneral,the examples(naturally, since it is autobiographical) come from the Frenchuniversitysystemof the 1950s. Alain Pessin:The idea of field should be generalizableto all areas of social life, includingthe one that interestsus directly,artisticactivity. Having proposed, with the idea of world, a very different approach, what point, would you say, separatesyou most clearlyfromBourdieu'sapproach?

and A Dialogueon the Ideas of "World" "Field"


HowardS. Becker:The idea of field seems to me much more a than term.Bourdieu described socialarthe metaphor a simple descriptive in whichartis made-whathe callsa field-as if it werea field rangements rather thana lot of peopledoingsomething of forcesin physics together. and Theprincipal entities a fieldareforces, in relations, actors spaces, (charwhodevelop acterized theirrelative by strategies usingthevariable power) amounts powertheyhaveavailable. of The peoplewhoactin a fieldarenot fleshandbloodpeople,withall that but in thecomplexity implies, rather caricatures, thestyleof theHomo of endowed withthe minimal economicus the economists, capacities they relations seem haveto haveto behave thetheory as suggests will.Their they to be exclusively relations domination, of basedin competition conflict. and WhenI try to imagine sucha field,I see a diagram: squareenclosing a a arrows connect invisible structures. worse units, Or, creating spacein which a inside box around yet, I imagine bigplastic withallkindsof raysshooting fiction movie. it, likesomething wouldsee in a science you of in Therepetition thephysical is metaphor verystriking TheRulesof in Art.Forexample, the sectionat thebeginning thebookentitled of "The of Inheritance," says, he Question
In thuslaying the twopolesof the fieldof power, truemilieu the Newout in a or attractions repulsions, exercised find tonian socialforces, are and sense,where
in their phenomenalmanifestation the form of psychological motivationssuch as love or ambition, Flaubertinstitutesthe conditionsof a kind of sociologicalexperi-

mentation: adolescents-including hero, five the assembled Fre6dric-provisionally will as into into by theirsituation students, be launched thisspacelikeparticles a will and between the force-field, theirtrajectories be determined the relation by on forces the fieldandtheirowninertia. inertia inscribed the one hand of This is
in the dispositions and they owe to theiroriginsand to theirtrajectories, whichimply a tendencyto perseverein a mannerof being and thus a probabletrajectory, an on the other in the capitalthey have inherited,and whichcontributes definto whichthe field assignsthem. (Bourdieu ing the possibilitiesand the impossibilities 1996:9-10)

AlainPessin: Whatevokessuchimages in somewaythe "compresis The of is of sion"of thesocial. virulence theoppositions inevitable because the the fundamental of of scarcity the spaceand,as a result, scarcity posican The tionsanyone occupy. ideaof world putsus in an extendable, open to which, it's to insofar thespatial as moreover, difficult assign limits, space, is to metaphor relevant it at all. Howard Becker: ideaof world, I thinkof it, is verydifferent. S. The as But it of Of course, is stilla metaphor. themetaphor world-whichdoesnot of seemto be at alltrueof themetaphor field-containspeople,allsortsof that themto people,who are in the middleof doingsomething requires take of attention eachother,to consciously account the existence to of pay


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others and to shape what they do in the light of what others do. In such a to world, people do not respond automatically mysteriousexternalforces them. Instead, they develop their lines of activitygradually, surrounding whatthey do next seeing how othersrespondto what they do and adjusting in a way that mesheswithwhat othershave done andwill probablydo next. Above all, the metaphoris not spatial.The analysiscenters on some kind of collectiveactivity,somethingthat people are doing together.Whoever contributesin any way to that activity and its results is part of that world. The line drawnto separatethe world from whateveris not part of it is an analyticconvenience,not somethingthat exists in nature,not something that can be found by scientificinvestigation. So the worldis not a closed unit. Sometimes,of course,there reallyis a bounded area of activity,such as the universityworld,in whichsome set of and organizations people monopolizesthe activityin question.Some forms of collective action have walls aroundthem, not just the total institutions Goffman describedbut also all the companieswhere you have to have a badge to get beyond the receptionarea and, in the cases Bourdieufocuses on, those places where physicalaccess isn't limited but access to positions and activitiesis. In these cases, you might say, the field, limited as it is by rules and practicesthat keep outsidersout, makes it impossibleto be part of some collective activityunlessyou are chosen by the people who alreadyare part of it. You can'tdo sociologyor intellectualworkif you are denied accessto the places where people are doing that sort of work together.So you can't be a sociologist unless you can have a job in a sociology departmentor researchcenter and can publishyour work in the recognizedplaces where sociologyis published. To say it that way raises obvious problems.Even in such cases, the monopoly is almost never complete and certainlyis never permanent.So, as Bourdieu describesthe world that was the setting for the beginningof his career,doing sociologywas not confinedto the places he seems to care about most. It was not only at the Sorbonne or the College de France that sociologicalwork got done. He never mentions,for example,Georges who was a friendof my mentor,EverettHughes,andwho studFriedmann, world. ied factories,the industrial I suppose a Bourdieusienmight say that, well, of course, you could do somethingthat would look like sociology and might even be sociology, from some point of view (maybe, as in the case of Friedmann,from the sociologist),but, let's face it, point of view of a visitingAmericanindustrial it wouldn'treallybe sociologybecause the people who own the trademark Friedwouldn't recognize you as doing the real thing. "Congratulations, mann, looks like interestingstuff; too bad no one knows or cares about

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you."The equivocalterm here is "no one," because of course people knew about Friedmann,but the people who counted, in Bourdieu'sview, didn't accepthim. At this point it is, as we like to say, an empiricalquestion:is it true that someone can controlaccessto everythingimportantin that way? Can your heterodoxideas be preventedfrom reachingsome publicif the "important people" ignore them? That depends. I think that probablyit is not really very common, althoughit is common for people to feel that this is what's happeningto them and theirideas. At this point I think it might be useful to consider the differences academicand intellectuallife of the United between the institutionalized States and France, and even to engage in some speculation about the sourcesof those differences.I have for years been telling people in France that thatto understand Americansociologythey mustfirstunderstand there in the United States and something are somethinglike 20,000 sociologists like 2,000 departmentsof sociology (and many sociologistswork in other fields-education, socialwork,nursing,etc.-thus makingthe numbereven that larger).Thisis at least ten timesthe numberof people and departments exist in France,probablymore like twentytimes. One consequenceof this is that it is relativelyeasy to supporta wide variety of sociological activities.No idea is too crazy or unacceptableto find a home somewhere.You name it, and there is, somewhere,a department or a part of a departmentdevoted to propagatingthat idea or point of view. You can alwaysfind some other people who think your idea, unacceptableas it is to "the leaders of the field,"whoever they are, is really good and are ready to marchunderyour flag. If you can find two or three hundredof them (not so easy, but certainlynot impossiblewhen there are 20,000from whom to recruit),you can organizea section of the American SociologicalAssociation. If you can't get that number,you can start your own organization(e.g., the InternationalVisual Sociology Association), publish your own journal, elect your own president, and give your own prizes. It's in that sort of setting that the idea of world seems like a "natural" to thinkabout organizedactivity. way Alain Pessin: One could summarizeall this in one of your favorite ideas: "You could alwaysdo somethingelse." But this idea has to have a it's generalapplication; not only in the United Statesthat you can do someelse. Such a formula,when you applyit to any situationof social life, thing opens the way to a sociology of the possible;it standsin oppositionto the idea of limited possibilitiesof action and the blocked aspect of social systems. When you aren'twanted in one place, you can alwaysgo someplace else and do whatyou want to do there.


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Howard S. Becker: Someone is monopolizingthe field you want to work in? Move somewhereelse and start your own field. You don't even have to compete with the other people. You can criticizethem to your followers, or ignore them, but they are not powerfulenough and do not have enoughof a monopolyto preventyou from doing anything. Rememberthat even in totalitarian regimesthere were almost always dissidentintellectualmovementsdoing thingsforbiddenby the people who dominated the legitimate field for that kind of work. When the Brazilian militaryjuntasforbadeacademicsociology,people organizedresearch institutes-with outside help, of course-and began to practice"urbananwhichwas not forbidden.(Of course,there are extremecases thropology," where it is impossibleto escape the power of the leaders of a field, but I think that, empirically,that isn't frequent, and certainlynot at all in the case of artisticactivitiesin most contemporary societies.) So the idea of a worldof people who collaborateto producethis or that result, a world in which people can find others to collaboratewith even if the more powerfulpeople in their disciplinedon't approveof or recognize what they do, a world in which the power to define what is importantor acceptableis not held by only one set of actors-in that sort of situation, the idea of worldmakessense andis analytically useful,becauseit takesinto accountwhat is there to be discovered,what events there are to explain. In contrastwith the idea of field, the idea of world seems to me more empiricallygrounded.It talks about things that we can observe-people or doing things rather than "forces,""trajectories," "inertia,"which are not observablein social life, if you understandthese terms in the technical sense given to them in physics. We cannot observe these things perfectly, of course, but well enough that we can argue about them, and the proceduresof empiricalscience can give us provisionalanswersof the kind science gives. is Alain Pessin:A "world" thus an ensemble of people who do something together.The action of each is not determinedby somethinglike the of "globalstructure" the world in questionbut by the specificmotivations of each of the participants, of whom might "do somethingdifferent," any create new responsesto new situations.In these conditions,what they do aboutwhichthe least one can say is that togetherresultsfromarrangements are never entirelypredictable. they it-and if my language HowardS. Becker:A "world"as I understand elsewheredoesn't convey this, then I've failed to be clear-consists of real people who are tryingto get things done, largely by getting other people to do things that will assist them in their project.Because everyone has a project, and the outcome of negotiationsbetween them is whateverthey

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finallyall agree to, all those involved in such an activitymust take into accounthow otherswill respondto theirown actions.David Mamet,the playwright,said somewhereI can't now findthat, in a scene in a play, everyone in the scene has somethingthey want. If they didn't want somethingthey wouldn'tbe there, they'd be off someplacewhere they could pursuesomething they did want. The scene consists of each one tryingto get what he or she wants,and the resultingcollective activityis somethingthat perhaps no one wanted but is the best everyone could get out of this situationand thereforewhat they all, in effect, agreedto. This means that while people are free to try to findother possibilities, those possibilitiesare limitedby whatthey can force or persuadeotherpeople to do. Thisapproach perhapsmakessociallife seem more open to continuous and spontaneousactionthanit reallyis. Sociallife exhibits,afterall, change substantial regularity. People do not do whatevercomes into theirheads at the contrary,most of the time they do thingsas they have any moment.On done them before. In a scheme that emphasizesopenness and possibility, that regularity requiresexplanation. I find that explanationmainlyin the idea of "convention." People often, but not always,knowhow thingshave been done in the past,how things are usuallydone, and they know that othersknow all these thingstoo. So, if I do thingsas I know everyoneknowsthey are usuallydone and is prepared to do them, I can feel confidentthat my actionswill fit in with theirs, and we will be able to accomplishwhat we are tryingto do with a minimumof and This difficulty misunderstanding. is not to say that there is not, or never has been, conflict,but ratherthat in most cases the conflicthas been settled, in one way or another,andparticipants the activityhave agreedto do it this than one of the other ways it mighthave been done. way rather That's very abstract,so I'll give an example, taken from my favorite domainof examples,music.Musiciansand composerssometimesdisagree on how many notes to include between the two notes of an octave. God did not decree that there should be the twelve notes of the Westernchromatic scale. Musiciansin other traditionshave often made other choices, and great musicaltraditionsare founded on them. But Westernmusicians, over a very long time, did acceptthe 12-tonechromaticscale as the basis of their music. Now the instrumentswe play have that scale built into them, the notationwe use to writemusic down for replaying,and everythingelse connected with Western music takes for granted, on the basis of shared conventionalunderstandings, that everyone will be playingmusic written in that form on instruments built to play those notes. So it is alwayseasier to play music based on that conventionthan music created in some other system.The cost in time and energyis muchgreaterwhen you don't accept


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these conventions.So-here, I'm afraid,is a physicalmetaphor!-a kind of inertiadisposespeople to do thingsas they have been done in the past, and that accountsfor a greatdeal of the regularity social life. of that produce these regularAmong the conventionalunderstandings ities, we will of course often find elements of coercion and force, open or disguised,thatwillproduceinequalitiesandwhatwe mayfeel are injustices. People often agree to thingsthat are unfair,for lack of any better alternative. Alain Pessin:The ideas of career and process,which are essential to the understanding functioningof a world,bringus backto the fact thatpersonal trajectories,as they confrontcollective situations,go throughstages and that, at each step, the actors have to make choices. Thus nothing is definitivelypromisedto anyone. One can't think successfullyin terms of process when using the idea of field. Everythingseems alreadysettled in of advance.The struggleis predefinedas the normalframework activity. And the weightof the habitusmakesthe behaviorof those affectedby it essentiallypredictable. Howard S. Becker:Events and results are not determinedthat way. The history of attemptsby social scientiststo predictwhat will happen in this or that case shouldbe sufficientto make us give up this dream.This is not just a problemof not havingenoughdataor lackingsufficientcomputing power. It may be-but rememberit is only a hypothesisof chaos theory, not somethingdemonstrated-that a butterflybeating its wings in South Americawill producea hurricane somewhereelse in the world.But nothing in like that has ever been demonstrated social life, and I don't think it is a resultwe shouldaim for. Imaginethat we knew enough to predictsome result, on the basis of of habitus or somethingmuch clearer and more specific,a "variable" the kind quantitative sociologistslike to workwith,for example,that Mr.Jones will have an automobileaccidenttomorrow.He will be drunk,his brakes will be in bad shape, and it will be raining,all things that make an accident likely. But it will also be necessaryfor Mr. Smith(or Mr. Somebody) to "cooperate"to produce the accident.That is, Smith will have to be in the rightplace for the drunkenJones to hit him, and the possibilityof preless dictingthose two events is correspondingly likely. When you multiply decrease.And the accidentwill involve not only Jones probabilities,they and Smith, but also hundredsof other people. So the practicalpossibility of predictingany event, consideringthe multiple specific events that are necessaryand the diminishing probabilities,approaches multiplicative zero. That includespredictionsabout what people will do based on habitus and similar individual qualities. Such things aren't meaningless,but

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they are just one among hundredsof things relevant to what people and do. organizations in You havepointedto somethingelse important yourquestion.Things do not happen, events do not occur, people don't choose, all at once. Rather,these thingsoccurin steps,in stages,and that meansthat every step offers the possibilityof going in more than one direction-there is more than one possibilityat every juncture.That means that the possible outcomes are alwaysnumerousand varied,not easily capturedin a formula. Alain Pessin:It's time now to put to rest once and for all the misunderstandingattachedto the idea of cooperation.We sometimeshearit saidthat you are the sociologistwho has forgottenconflict.But tryingto do somethingtogetherin no way impliesan absolutelypeacefulconceptionof social relations. HowardS. Becker:I supposethatsomeonewho wasn'ttryingveryhard this it to understand point of view could characterize as simplyfocusingon But that wouldn't be accurate.It could be true only if you cooperation. understand cooperationin a very extendedway, as encompassing anything thatpeople do togetherin whichthey take into accountandrespondto what the othersinvolvedare doing.Collectiveaction-two or more (usuallya lot more) people doing somethingtogether-is not the same as cooperating in the more conventional,minimalunderstanding that word, which has of overtones of peacefulness,getting along with one another,and good will. On the contrary,the people engaged in collective action might be fighting or plottingagainstone anotheror doing any of the other thingsthat figure in so prominently Bourdieu'sdescriptions social fields. of But they might also be workingtogetherto do something(rehearsing for a concertthey are going to give that night),or they mightbe linkedindirectly,one doingsomethingnecessaryfor whatthe other does, even though man they mightnot know each other (as the instrument-repair fixesthe broken saxophone necessaryfor the musician'sevening performance).They mighthavejoined forcesfor this one occasion,as composerswho otherwise compete with each otherfor scarcecommissionsandposts will cooperateto music(see Gilmore,1987).Or they might put on a concertof contemporary routinelywork together on the particular thing that bringsthem together, as the playersin an orchestrawith a long season do. The natureof these relationsbetween people is not given a priori,not somethingyou can establishby definition.It's somethingyou discoverby observingthem in action,seeing what they do. If they are in conflict,you'll see that. If they are working together on a project, you'll see that. And if they do both-fight and work together on a project,you will see that too.


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Alain Pessin:So one can thus easilyintegrateconflictinto the idea of a world, as long as you integrateit as a situationand not as an priorioverdetermination.From this perspective,situationsare absolutelynot reducible to some dynamicthat overpowersthem. The idea of field is characterized, on the otherhand,not only by the omnipresence conflict,but by the exisof tence of the conflictof conflicts,the conflictof social classes,whichoverdeterminesall other social relations.Conflictis, in this conception,a generating principleof social life. It seems that you don't share this point of view, beginningwith the very idea of a generatingprincipleof social life. HowardS. Becker:That'sright.I don't thinkthere is any singlegenerating principle.It is more likely that manyprincipleswork togetherin one way or anotherto producethe messinessof ordinarylife. But it's not just a matter of my taste. It is also, I'm sure, true that this way of looking at things is a more fruitfulguide to researchbecause it is more open to possibilitiesyou hadn'tthoughtof, whichcarefulattentionto the detailsof social life can suggest to you. It's better not to decide before you begin what the "important things"are. Alain Pessin: Readers of these two points of view are sometimes tempted to say that it is a photographicproblem.Bourdieu uses a wideone angle lens while Becker focuses on micro-relations; has an overarching globalview;the other does case studies.And then people go on to say that, of course,case studiesare inevitablypartial,that they cannotget at what is really determiningin social life. The answersyou have alreadygiven show that it is the overarching view that is reductive,becauseit systematically ignores certainaspectsand certainactorswho are neverthelessessentialand for just as determining the resultsof certainsocial arrangements. HowardS. Becker:The languageof a "world" points us towardan inclusivenotion of which actorsbelong in an analysisof art works,makes us recognizethat everyonewho contributesanythingto whatthe workeventuin everyone ally is participates some way in its making.That'stautological: who participates makinga workparticipates makingit. The advantage in in of that tautologyis that it showsus how to incorporateinto our conception of art-making people who are conventionallyleft out of such an analythe sis:the technicians, money people, all the people I have called "support the in personnel."Their participation makingthe work shows itself througha little thought experiment.Remove any of them from the action (in your mind-no one would let you do it in real life) and see what happens. If the caterersdon't provide the meals for the people in the movie crewwell, they have to eat, don't they? If they can't eat right there, on the set or the location,they'll go someplaceelse and take longer, and the production's costs will go up. That means that more money must be raisedor that

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somethingelse won't be paid for-either one havingseriousconsequences for the finalform of the film. The basic questionof an analysiscenteredon the idea of worldis this: Who is doing what with whom that affects the resultingwork of art? The basic question of an analysiscentered on the idea of field seems to me to be: Who dominateswhom, using what strategiesand resources,with what results? Such questions can be and often are (repeatedlyin Art Worlds) raised in an analysisbased on the idea of world, as a subset of the larger set of questionsthat mightbe asked. But that much largerset of questions cannoteasilybe raisedby an analysiscenteredon Bourdieu'snotionof field. Most of them, it seems to me, are set aside a priorias trivialin comparison with the "bigquestions"of dominanceand forces. If this is all true, then the conventionalnotion that you can mix Bourdieu and Becker in whateverproportions like-according to your taste you for or toleranceof conflict,let's say-is not accurate.In fact,they askdifferent kinds of questionsand look for differentkinds of answersand are not reducibleone to the other. Alain Pessin:They startout withtwo differentintentions,whichis clear from the fact that the one must extractitself from commonknowledgeand oppose itself to common sense to construct,in theory, the truth about the social,while yoursmustimmerseitself in lived practices,observingand taking seriouslythe proceduresby whichsocial actorsconstructwhat you call whichare the only truthsthatthe socialworldcan "shared understandings," those whichcreate symboliclinksbetween real people. produce, Howard S. Becker:This is an importantdifference.Many social theories start with the premise that reality is hidden from ordinarymortals and that it takes a special competence,perhapseven a magicalgift, to be able to see throughthese obstacles and discoverThe Truth.I have never believed that. To quote my mentorHughes again,he often said that sociologists did not know anythingthat nobody else knew. Whateversociologists knew aboutsociallife, they had learnedfromsomeone who was partof and fully engagedin that area of life. But since, as Simmelhad made clearin his essay on secrecy (Simmel,1950), knowledgeis not equallydistributed,everyone doesn'tknow everything-not becausepeople are blindedto reality by illusions,but because thingshave been kept from them by institutional (whichmay or maynot have been put in place to achievethat arrangements end). Sociologistsfindout whatthis one knowsand what that one knows so that, in the end, they can assemble the partialknowledge of participants into a more comprehensiveunderstanding. The idea of "false consciousness"is a classicexampleof the theory of social knowledgeopposed to my own practice.



Alain Pessin: A sociology of situationsas opposed to a sociology of structures, processversushabitus,careerversusdisposition,openness versus closure,choice versusdetermination-the exercise of analysiswe have gone through,it seems to me, shows very clearlythat the idea of a worldis in no way a "soft version" of the theory of fields. One could, moreover, add that it proceeds from observation,and is very suspiciousof theory. These are not two differentlynuancedversionsof an approachthat refer essentiallyto the same thing. They are two ways of thinkingthat are opposed in theirintentionsand, necessarily,in theirresults:the philosophicothatsearchesfor the essence of the social,whichleads sociologicalapproach to the theoryof fields,and the sociologico-ethnographic approachthat tries in to make explicit the circumstances which social situationscreate links between actors,whichis the idea of a world. Howard S. Becker:You have capturedhere the essential differences the between the approaches: one open to multiplepossibilities,discovered in the course of immersionin social life; the other focused on demonstrating, on the basis of a priori considerations,the truth of an alreadyestablished abstractphilosophical position.I have nothingto add. REFERENCES

and 1987 "Coordination convention: The organization of the concert world." Symbolic Interaction 10:209228.


"Art Worlds. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. "Esquisse pour une auto-analyse. Paris: Raisons d'agir editions.



1996 "The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

"'The Secret'and the secret society." In Kurt H. Wolff (ed.), The Sociology of Georg Simmel: 307-378. New York: Macmillan.