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The Bourdieu paradigm

The origins and evolution of an intellectual social project

Derek Robbins

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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Derek Robbins

This chapter offers a brief outline of Schutz’s career in the first half of his life and then considers in detail the texts, published and unpublished at the time, which he produced in this period. It concludes with a summary of the correlations between these social and intellectual trajectories, both in relation to the Viennese context.

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Derek Robbins

This chapter offers a brief outline of Gurwitsch’s career in the first half of his life, in Germany until 1932 and in France between 1932 and 1938. It then considers in detail the texts, published and unpublished at the time, which he produced in this period. It provides detailed analysis of his doctoral and Habilitation theses and of the texts which he produced in the period when he was mentor to Merleau-Ponty. It concludes with a summary of the correlations between these social and intellectual trajectories.

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Derek Robbins

The chapter examines in detail the tension in Bourdieu’s thinking between ‘intellectualism’ and ‘practical sense’. It looks at three articles of the late 1970s as a prelude to consideration of his work in the new decade. It examines his analyses of Heidegger and his restatement of his thinking about cultural capital. It examines some of his ‘field’ articles and considers the implications of his appointment to a Chair at the Collège de France and the impact of his encounters with American academics.

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Derek Robbins

This chapter discusses Bourdieu’s ‘activism’ of the 1990s. He consolidated earlier thinking about the field of politics with a view to inserting himself within that field. He reasserted his earlier disquiet about the consecrated status of academic philosophy with a view to exemplifying the need, instead, for the exercise of thought in action. The chapter discusses Bourdieu’s publishing ventures and his involvement with the International Parliament of Writers. It considers his interventions against neo-liberalism and analyses La sociologie est un sport de combat as an attempt to represent in film a mode of intellectualist social action.

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Derek Robbins

The chapter outlines the scope of the book, indicating that it reflects generally on the function of intellectual tradition in shaping empirical research through detailed consideration of the development of the work of Bourdieu in relation to some phenomenological antecedents. It offers brief summaries of the philosophical terminology used in the book as well as a specific brief sketch of the meaning and implications of phenomenology. It offers a note on the method adopted in its presentation, mentions some disclaimers in terms of the inherent limitations of its analysis, and invites a particular response from readers to the ‘paradigm’ which it offers.

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Derek Robbins

This chapter considers the social and intellectual adjustments made by Schutz and Gurwitsch as a consequence of their migrations to the United States. It does so by examining elements of their correspondence in the 1940s and by considering the development of their original views in the new cultural context. It highlights Schutz’s exchange with Parsons and Gurwitsch’s critique of the political consequences of the German philosophical tradition. It suggests that their change of context had the effect of consolidating their intellectual detachment from socio-political issues.

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Derek Robbins

The chapter analyses the research which Bourdieu directed within the Centre de Sociologie Européenne, Paris. It discusses the publications which followed on education, photography and museums/art galleries, but it also examines in detail some ‘collateral’ texts where Bourdieu’s intellectual endeavour informed the development of the conceptual framework which he deployed in his empirical research.

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Derek Robbins

The chapter asks whether Bourdieu prolonged the dilemma of the activist intellectual which Merleau-Ponty had articulated and which derived from the Western tradition indicatively absorbed and reproduced by Schutz and Gurwitsch. It suggests three possible responses to Bourdieu’s work. It prefers a particular response but concludes that the merit of the book is that it provides information to enable readers themselves to assess the value of the Bourdieu paradigm in their socio-cultural contexts.

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Derek Robbins

This chapter focuses on the career and work of Merleau-Ponty. During the 1930s he worked with Gurwitsch and was also responsible for publicizing some of the late work of Husserl which, during the war, was held in archives in Louvain. He was involved, with Sartre, in attempting to conceptualize post-war social construction. He tried to integrate his phenomenological thinking with political engagement in a way which had not been done by either Schutz or Gurwitsch but, finally, commitment to philosophy prevailed. Consideration of the work of Merleau-Ponty provides a link between the a-political orientation of the productions in America of Schutz and Gurwitsch, and Bourdieu’s transposition of Merleau-Ponty’s thinking from the field of philosophy to that of sociology.