File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_1999/bourdieu.9905, message 39


Subject: The content and the context
Date: Tue, 18 May 1999 20:13:43 +0100


Oh, please, let's end with this 'celebrity' and 'morbid curiosity' talk.
What do you mean by a 'celebrity'? Of course he's not a 'Hollywood'
celebrity, but of course he's an 'intelectual' celebrity, one of the great
european intellectuals. What is this list for? Let me tell you: celebrating
his intellectual celebrity. We are just 'reproducing' it. 

The rationale behind your distinction is: "well, for the celebrities you
may have a morbid interest for their private life, but for the serious
guys, well, that's a taboo! Just matters what they wrote and produced". I'm
sorry, but :

1 I cannot draw a boundary between the Bourdieu 'intelectual' and Bourdieu
'man': I think that Jen Webb has made it clear - my intellectual admiration
for Bourdieu's work means that I am emotionally tied to him. Until now (i'm
only 22), Bourdieu has been the sociologist and intellectual that
contributed more for my intellectual formation - so if he dies, I die a
little bit with him. If you know a 'magic' solution to separate the
'intellectual' admiration from the 'emotional' admiration, please tell me.

2  you cannot draw a boundary between an author's private life and an
author's work. Why is the family life of the artists and intellectuals
(more divorces, less children) much more unstructured than the family life
of the university professors (more children, lesse divorce - as Bourdieu as
shown us in 'Homo Academicus', english translation, p.36-37)? Why did
Anthony Giddens wrote 'Modernity and Self-Identity' after three years in
psychological therapy due to his second divorce? Why are the biographies of
Louis Althusser (in his case, auto-biography) and Michel Foucault so
important? Why are some of the most brilliant thinkers of our century
passed long moments of their lives in psychiatric asylums (Althusser,
Foucault, but also Weber, for example) or died using so radical methods
(Poulantzas or Deleuze, who commited suicide')? Are this uninteresting
questions? I think they are astonishingly revealing.

Returning to Bourdieu - this is obviously a speculation, but: can't a
possible (serious) illness of Bourdieu - or simply his ageing process - be
related to the turning of his strategy as an intellectual, more engaged and
with more public and medicatic visibility than he enjoied during his past
professional career? Or that is just the 'logical' product of his 'purely'
intellectual trajectory, from the margins to the center of the field
(position that he obviously denies - the Swartz book has one or two
references on this point, Bourdieu seeing himself as an outsider...)? 

This questions are sociological, not the result of gossiping or 'morbid
curiosity'. If they sometimes overlap, that is probably because in every
meddler is a potential sociologist. 

Yours,

Hugo Mendes
[ISCTE/Lisbon]
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