File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_1998/bourdieu.9806, message 28

Date: Wed, 24 Jun 1998 18:13:45 +0100 (BST)
Subject: Re: acteur, agent, suject

>         This is surely the most important principle in education, where
> initially we are rather passively subject to the cultural field and then
> gradually learn to have some agency in relation to it, learn to question it
> and finally gain the capital to be able to act upon it and transform it. 

In effect, one gets a 'feel for the game'.  The critical question, which
cannot be answered a priori, is the balance between on the one hand
learning how the game works and how to progress within it, thereby
reproducing the game, and on the other hand attempting to change it. 
Without the capital, no one listens. But to get the capital, one (usually)
has to conform to some extent. I have sometimes got the impression that
Bourdieu himself is a master game strategist.

Those who wish to classify theories and theorists according to optimism /
pessimism do so at their peril. It is almost a wish for reassurance.  As
Bourdieu would probably say, and Roger Cook implies, there is no guarantee
of a happy ending.  The problem with thinking which seems at first glance
to be optimistic is that it usually involves some form of 'stay as sweet
as you are' in relation to a dominated social group.  It often ends up
Panglossian, which is the ultimate conservatism.

> He is neither a fatalistic pessimist nor an unrealistic optimist, rather;
> as he said in his recent acceptance speech for the Ernst Bloch Prize, he
> engages with a "reasoned utopianism". This is, of course, no easy matter.

I hesitate to reiterate that much overused expression by Gramsci which
seems pertinent.  Another will do... this one by Leo Lowenthal of the
Frankfurt School (usually unthinkingly tarred as a hopeless pessimist):

	'the situation may well call for sorrow, melancholy and doubt, but
never despair.'

>         In my view it is time more of us applied Bourdieu's ideas to the
> contemporary field of cultural production, where there are, of course, far
> more risks of getting it wrong!

It is about time also that Bourdieu himself did so.  His substantive
studies are almost totally of the field of restricted production.  His
'book' on television hardly counts.  I'd be interested in how you get on,
Roger, with applying his ideas to a field with relatively low autonomy.  

Karl Maton



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