File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_1997/97-04-25.090, message 33


Date: Thu, 20 Feb 1997 00:45:54 -0800
Subject: Re: Bourdieu and structuralism


On Mon, 17. Feb. George Free wrote

I subsequently found Bourdieu's
> essays on science very compelling--and now see him as incorporating and
> advancing this French tradition.

That is the question! Do not forget that Foucault and Bourdieu are more
or less the same generation, so there is no advancement. There are some
parallels, but very much differences and with regard to Levy Strauss we
see t w o different interpretations and applications of his work. I
really liked the ethnological analysis of Bourdieu in Algeria
(especially the first part of Esquisse d'une Théorie de la Pratique.,
but there are great problems to connect his sociology with an
"archaeology" There are great differences between "archäology" and
"sociology of science". And I do not say something like this to play
Bourdieu off against Foucault. But I do see great problems in the
connection of those methods. For example: Bourdieu starts his wonderful
"Lecon sur la lecon" with a tribute to historical epistemology of
Canguilhem and Foucault and asserts 
"The epistemological criticism needs sociological criticism." (my
translation) It is the statement of a sociologist, and so there is no
problem for sociologists, but I would say - and it is ironic -: "The
sociological criticism of epistemology needs an archaelogical
criticism." And archaelogy is a b l e to work with some data, which are
constructed with economical, sociological etc approaches, but they refer
not to an "acteur" or to "habitus" or to "pratique". ( example: The term
practice appears in the young Marx "Feuerbach thesis", so here could
start the genealogy of sociology)Let's say it in another way: The
problem of "structure" needs other ways of conceptualization. I do not
believe, that "structure" is "objectivstic" in the works of
Levy-Strauss, and also not in the works of Lacan (and I know that
Bourdieu does not talk very much about Lacan, but he was very important
- like Heidegger - for Foucault. An anecdote only for your information:
Arlette Farge said in an interview that Foucault and Bourdieu had a
friendship in the early eighties: Both where interested in "Symbolic
power", which shows one possible connection: Ernst Cassirer. But
Foucault had great problems with the Marx-stuff.


I would say that Foucault's emphasis on the
> level of 'positivity' (as opposed to the 'unconscious' of Freudian
> inspiration) is not opposed to the nonconsciousness of which Bourdieu
> speaks.

George, that is not very well defined. I'll try it:

Foucault "positivity": The term means discursive appearance of an object
in an archaeological order and has nothing to do with
nonconsciousness.(difference object-being!) Foucaults theory is
definitively no psychology (or sociology). His analysis refer
word-for-word to a "manifest" level, n e v e r to an latent subsoil.(In
the order of things you can not find the word "structur")

Freuds "unconscious": For example: the term has a specific function in
"Die Traumdeutung". It is a systematical modell (explained in
philological, economical, historical, sociological terms) to describe
the phenomenon (positivities!)which appeared in regard to the difference
of "Traumgedanken" (thoughts of dreams?) and "Trauminhalte" (contents of
dreams?) In Lacans brillant interpretation it is a rhetorical machine.

Bourdieus "unconscious": In "La distinction" it appears as
unconsciousness of class which fixes the identitiy and homogeneity of
class. Also it is a concept which explains "habitus". I think that it is
clear that this is a new - and acceptable - approach in the debates
which marxism knews very well, isnt it?  


Foucault rightly criticizes the
> transcendentalist tradition of western philosophy, but he turns them into
> autonomous structures that are wholly sui generis and self-functioning.

False! He does not use the term structure, and the "episteme" is n o
structure like Saussures "systems", or Jakobsons linguistic
constructions, or Lacans unconsciousness. I think we should debate the
term "structure" and also "structuralism".  

 Ultimately, you have to ask, however,
> what are the orgins of these structures? 

No, I do not have to. And I am a historian! In this point Nietzsche and
Foucault are my direction. But: do you know Roger Chartiers "The origins
of french revolution"? Could be very important for you. It is some kind
of french cultural studies and would be a very good aproch against me!
He works with Bourdieu. Keith Michael Bakers statements are the
opposite. They diskuss the same things like we do. 

What Bourdieu helps us see is that these
> structures are the products of distinct social fields.

Do not be angry, it is a joke: This "statement" is "product" (Oh,
economy!) of the episteme.

With his notion of habitus, he
> r e i n t r o d u c e s an a g e n t who is quite different from the self-conscious
> actor envisioned by traditional philosophy and much sociology as well
> (e.g., Rational Action Theory).

You are right, but is it absolutely necessary to reinroduce the agent?
And what is the difference (which I know) when he R E-introduces the
agent. What was the gap? or better: Was it a gap? Believe me: I know
what Bourdieu says.

Sociology, at least in Bourdieu's perspective, is not distinct
> from the ethnographic tradition to which you refer. It is an anthropology
> applied to modern society.

I know! Both (F.+ B.) wanted to do an "ethnology" of our "culture". But
the archaeological approach gives a n o t h e r perspective, another
interpretation of Levy Strauss. Come on! Let's r e a d again
Levy-Strauss! 

If the structures of thought are not social, what are they?
> transcendental? theological? psychological? To me the social-historical
> perspective makes the most sense. Thought, like all other aspects of human
> culture, is the product of people working under specific social
> circumstances.

They are "statements" (is it the right term in english?), in the way I
defined them in my last mail. And thats the argument! When you work with
Bourdieu, "statements" are socio-linguistic moments (see: Qu'est-ce que
parler veux dire!). In archaeology they are definitively n o t! (see the
second chapter of archaeology of knowledge). They are e x i s t e n t i
a l s (ger. Existenziale) And an "Existential" is not transcendental,
theological or psychological. It s an ontological term which was worked
out by phenomenology (especially: Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty)and this
term was not the problem with phenomenology (transcendental subject)! It
is also a "differential" entity (object-being). 

Yes. Max Weber can be seen as first raising this question in a
> distinctly sociological context.

Repetition: sociology of knowledge is not historical epistemology at its
best: archaelogy.


"its condmenation of the
> Welfare State, hiddend deep inside a theory of temporality; its
> anti-semitism, sublimated as a condmenation of rootlessness; its refusal
> to disavow the commitment ot Nazism . . ." (Bourdieu, The Political
> Ontology . . .p. viii). They have produced a "pure" reading that relates
> his ideas solely to the history of philosophy. On the other hand, social
> critics of Heidegger have pointed out his political involvement, but have
> not been able to relate his politics to the technical dimension of his
> work without being reductionistic. What is new in Bourdieu may not be
> individual facts and insights, but that he could overcome this opposition
> via a genuinely sociological reading of Heidegger's work.

I am sorry that I can not give you the exact reference of the debate at
the moment, because my book is in Vienna (Die Heidegger-Debatte). But
this moral sentence of Bourdieu is only "sensus communis" (in the
leaning sense Bourdieu gives to this term of Kant.) or "Öffentlichkeit
des Man" (Heidegger). Heideggers "condemnation of rootlessnes" does not
exist in "Sein und Zeit". Here you can find statements like "wesenhafte
Heimatlosigkeit des Daseins" (means something like: intrinsic
homelesseness of existence, which is the extreme opposite of his
interview in the year 1966, where he said that there was no great
performance of human beings without any "Heimat" =root or home.)But all
of that is absolutely clear! In Germany and Austria all this was more or
less discussed after 68. And if you would have been interested in this
it was possible to know it in the fifties. I time where Derrida started
to work with Heidegger. Let us discuss the technical dimension and also
the term "Technik"! And I do not read only i n t e r n a l! What means
the opposition of external/internal text/context! And for me, as for
Foucault, there is not, as for Derrida only one great text? Why means
"external automatically "social","cultural", "context" and also
"content"? Why means "internal" automatically "verbal", "text", "form"?

Ciao, Alessandro
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