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The origins and evolution of an intellectual social project
Author: 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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From the model of reality to the reality of the model
Richard Jenkins

The sociological and anthropological work of Pierre Bourdieu, from the 1960s through to his death in 2002, is among the most impressive examples of sustained, consistent social science that the field has produced during the century and a half or so that it has existed as an institutionalised academic endeavour. Despite the criticisms to which it is vulnerable, Bourdieu’s oeuvre is a distinguished and challenging combination of extreme theoretical ambition and systematic empirical investigation across a range of substantive topics, from the matrimonial

in Human agents and social structures
Thomas Osborne

Anthropology – Relationism and habitus – Freedom and culture – Distinction – Reflexivity – High art – Sociologisms – Creativity and autonomy – The autonomisation of art – Creativity again – Half-against Bourdieu – Denunciation – Ethics – Science – Reflexivity again – Intellectual sociology – Auto-analysis – Intellectualism and ambivalence – Antinomies of universalism – Difficult autonomy – Educationality and cultural theory Pierre Bourdieu was a contrarian and sociologist, perhaps in that order. As with Adorno and Foucault, he can be claimed

in The structure of modern cultural theory
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Derek Robbins

? Perhaps we are at one of those moments when history moves on. We are stunned by French affairs or diplomacy’s clamorous episodes. But underneath the clamor a silence is growing, an expectation. Why could it not be a hope? (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, trans. Richard C. McCleary, 1964, Signs, Northwestern University Press, Introduction, 23) Only about six months after writing these sentences of cautious optimism, Merleau-Ponty died suddenly of a heart attack on 3 May 1961. Early in the same year, Pierre Bourdieu returned to Paris from Algeria to become secretary to Aron

in The Bourdieu paradigm
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Derek Robbins

6 The 1960s Introduction The last chapter focused on Bourdieu’s publications in the early 1960s which consolidated the research that he had undertaken in Algeria in the last few years of the previous decade. This established the pattern of activity which was to persist until 1980. Fieldwork or empirical research progressed in tandem with more generalized social and philosophical reflection. Bourdieu had not yet articulated a working philosophy of science, but he proceeded on the tacit assumption that he was offering intelligent responses to the phenomena which

in The Bourdieu paradigm
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Derek Robbins

9 The 1990s Introduction The last chapter argued that Bourdieu’s engagement in the 1980s with the North American intellectual field reached a climax in two conferences in 1989. Wacquant records that Bourdieu visited New York in 1994 and Berkeley in 1996 (see Bourdieu and Wacquant, 2014, 10), but the intervention entitled ‘Passport to Duke’ which was delivered on his behalf at a conference on ‘Pierre Bourdieu. Fieldwork in Culture’ at Duke University in April 1995, repeats the same dismay at the misrepresentation of his work that he had articulated in the

in The Bourdieu paradigm
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Derek Robbins

7 The 1970s Introduction Jacques Rancière later criticized the work of Bourdieu and Passeron of the 1960s on the grounds that their analyses had reinforced the view that ordinary people live in ‘méconnaissance’ [ignorance] of the real conditions of their existence which can be identified by a ‘Sociologist King’ in a malign tradition going back to Plato’s conception of the function of the ‘Philosopher King’.1 Perhaps himself sensing this deficiency in his earlier work, Bourdieu began in the 1970s to articulate an epistemological position which would protect the

in The Bourdieu paradigm
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Derek Robbins

5 The 1950s Early career In this chapter I explore the beginnings of Bourdieu’s career. It was, perhaps, his enforced period of military service in Algeria which extinguished any aspiration to become a philosopher which may have lingered after his time at the École Normale Supérieure. What he saw in Algeria and how he saw it crystallized the awareness of the tension between familial and scholarly experience which he had already sensed in his youth. His time in Algeria enabled him to recognize the abyss between the way in which indigenous culture operated

in The Bourdieu paradigm
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Derek Robbins

8 The 1980s Introduction At the end of the last chapter I argued that, by the end of the 1970s, there was an obvious tension in Bourdieu’s work, epitomized in Le sens pratique (Bourdieu, 1980a) on the one hand and La distinction (Bourdieu, 1979a) on the other. This was not an absolute tension but one which Bourdieu’s system of thought enabled him to accommodate relativistically. In disciplinary terms, the tension equated with one between the explanatory parameters of anthropology versus those of sociology. More importantly, the tension correlated with changes

in The Bourdieu paradigm
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Derek Robbins

Introduction Scope This book is the culmination of more than thirty years of study of the work of Pierre Bourdieu. During this period I have come to believe that Bourdieu is properly understood as an intellectual whose sociological production was informed by a phenomenological orientation.1 By reference to three key phenomenological thinkers of the first half of the twentieth century, I try to provide a background to the way in which Bourdieu’s work developed in the second half. I contend, however, that there is much more at stake in this account than an

in The Bourdieu paradigm