File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_1997/may12, message 18

Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 12:36:38 +0200
Subject: Re: re Luhmann and Derrida

Heiner Barker wrote (Monday 14th of April):

>I was wondering if anyone knows if Bourdieu himself has ever passed
>comment on the German Social Systems Theorist, Niklaus Luhmann. I would
>very much appreciate any references, or even comments, if anyone has the
>time to respond.

I haven't found any references to Luhmann in the books by Bourdieu which I
have read. If it is true (I only know the work of Luhmann rather vaguely)
as Habermas says that all of Luhmanns work is a gigantic "translation"
("Uebersetzungsleistung") of biological and cybernetical systems theory
into social theory, then I would be quite sure that Bourdieu would NOT like
this kind  of approach which instead of making theoretical reconstructions
of empirical material makes purely speculative constructions to which some
empirical examples are then put in as illustration.

Having read a book in which a luhmannian "systems theory" was used to write
literary history, I can see that there is a certain similarity between the
concept of (literary) system and the concept of (literary) field (autonomy,
internal organization, etc.), but it seems to me that where the system is
an organism in a quite literal sense, i.e. with a sort of instinctual drive
to self-preservation, there the field is a much more unstable and
conflictual structure. The latter idea seems to me to be much more useful
for reconstruction of fields/systems because it seems to be closer to the
reality of social life.
>I also understand that in "Du Doit a la Philosophie", Derrida runs a
>counter-critique to Bourdieu's critical comments on the deconstruction
>of Kantian aesthetics in the appendix to "Distinction". Has this ever
>been translated? Does anyone want to comment on this?

I don't know about any translations. The discussion in Derrida's Du droit a
la philosophie (Paris: Galilee, 1990, pp.103-108) seems primarily to
concern the question of the relation between truth and objectivity, i.e. if
it is possible to make the sort of self-objectivation proposed by Bourdieu
without getting into some sort of infinite regress. But I am not sure that
I wholly understand what Derrida is saying, so I too would be interested in
comments on this text.

best wishes

Carsten Sestoft
University of Copenhagen



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