The Bourdieu paradigm

The origins and evolution of an intellectual social project

Derek Robbins
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In two parts, the book examines, first, the attempts of three thinkers of the first half of the twentieth century to reconcile, in different socio-cultural contexts, the legacy of idealist philosophy with the claims of empirical social science, and, secondly, the trajectory of Bourdieu’s career in France from philosophy student to sociological researcher to political activist. It traces a progression from thought to action, but an emphasis on action informed by thought. It poses the question whether Bourdieu’s attempted integration of intellectualism and empiricism correlated with his particular socio-historical situation or whether it offers a global paradigm for advancing inter-cultural understanding. The book is of interest in confronting the question whether socio-political organization is best understood by social scientists or by participants in society, by experts or by the populace. It will stimulate general consideration of the relevance of a sociological perspective in everyday life and how much that perspective should be dependent on inherited concepts. Part I analyses the work of Alfred Schutz, Aron Gurwitsch and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Part II that of Pierre Bourdieu. The book is methodologically meticulous in situating these works socio-historically. It provides an introduction to some ideas in social philosophy and shows how these ideas became instrumental in generating a theory of practice. The book is aimed at post-graduate students and staff in all disciplines in the Humanities, and Human and Social sciences, but, more generally, it should interest all academics concerned about the contemporary social function of intellectuals.

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‘The Bourdieu Paradigm is a helpful contribution to existing writing on Bourdieu, particularly in its ability to conduct an analysis of the origins of his theoretical perspective. Given the increasing application of Bourdieu’s theoretical tools across contemporary social scientific research, both in the United Kingdom and internationally, this book is a timely addition to scholarship, allowing researchers to reflect on the development of this sociological theory and providing insights into potential new directions.
LSE Review of Books
February 2020

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