File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_1997/may12, message 11


Date: Tue, 8 Apr 1997 23:43:35 +0100
Subject: Re: Jon Elster's Sour Grapes


Martha Peach wrote Elster words:
>Then on p. 106 he says " ... The symbolic behaviour of the
>petty bourgeoisie is explained, for instance, in terms of the self-defeating
>intention to impress.  Yet the general theme of La Distinction is that
>behaviour which succeeds in impressing can also be explained in terms of
>this success, as an objective or unconscious strategy harnessed to this
>goal.   It remains unclear, however, what is meant by an objective strategy."
>

And she also wrote her oppinion:

>I think that Bourdieu is using strategy when the element used is within the
>cultural capital and habitus of the user


Bourdieu explicitly says that he rejects to consider any kind of
"maximization" or "utilitarian" view of action. He insists that "habitus"
is neither rational nor normative, "but just the opposite" (in my words):
it is a notion made against this duality.

I would like to remember Elster's words:

>Yet the general theme of La Distinction is that
>behaviour which succeeds in impressing can also be explained in terms of
>this success, as an objective or unconscious strategy harnessed to this
>goal.   It remains unclear, however, what is meant by an objective strategy

I think that this is an important point. Bourdieu's dialectical reasoning
(structured and structurator element of habitus) lead him to a kind of
"functional" explanation (explaining something--in this case a
behavior--for its positive consequences), but without making explicit how
this positive consequences reinforce behavior.

Maybe Elster claim for analytical clarity responds to a "positivist" and
"illusory" attitude, but I would rather think that is a good form of
control of sociological discourse.  I find Bourdieu really interesting, but
I do not feel confortable with this reminiscence of functional explanation
that lies under his holistic view of society.

For this reason I do not find useless Elster's claim for a "mechanism" that
makes possible functional explanation. Otherwise, it seems that Bourdieu's
thesis lack some justification.

I already know this reasoning will not convince most of you subscribed to
this list, but I would appreciate any coments you want to do.

Paul Bayer wrote:

>as you remark, Bourdieu uses a system of interwoven concepts like
>capital, field, strategy, habitus ... which are difficult to understand
>and to explain with ordinary language or with mainstream sociological
>terms amd concepts. But within his system (or language) all these
>consepts are quite precise and meaningful and therefore quite clear.
>Bourdieu uses his concepts/language in a very precise, well thought-out
>and homogeneous way. They don`t change much significance within his
>works, even from "distinction" to "les regles de l'art".

I may be worng, but I do not think that Bourdieu's difficult writing is due
to this necessity. From my point of view Bourdieu's thesis are subject to
be told with a much more understable language.  I think (and sorry for
being so mean) that in some sense Bourdieu's difficult language is used to
hide the real lack of clarity.

I understand Paul Bayer's justifications of Bourdieu's way of writing
(rejection of linear reductionist definitions, Bourdieu's rejction of
Theory as a finality instead of a tool to think and investigate, etc.), but
when I see the result of Bourdieu's attitude and I compare it to others
ways of doing sociology, I end taking the other ways. Bourdieu is
suggesting, fascinating and really interesting, but from my point of view
it lacks some consistency and logic clarity.

I apologize for repeating this kind of reasonings (I guess many of you is
already tired to hear and to answer them very often).
Cheers
;-)

Roger Martinez
Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain)




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