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Chapter 4 - Bourdieu and International Social Science

from PART I: Aspects Of Bourdieu's Thought

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 July 2017

Derek Robbins
Affiliation:
University of East London
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Summary

Introduction

’ “The point of view”, says Ferdinand de Saussure, “creates the object” ’. This is the opening sentence of part 2 of Le métier de sociologue: Préalables épistémologiques (The craft of sociology: epistemological preliminaries), which Pierre Bourdieu coproduced with Jean- Claude Chamboredon and Jean- Claude Passeron in 1968 ([1968], 1991, 33). The co- authors proceeded to quote from Karl Marx and Max Weber to suggest that there was an epistemological principle articulated in the Saussurean statement that unified social science practice in spite of ideological diff erences, one that involves seeing science as ‘an instrument for breaking with naive realism’ ([1968], 1991, 33). The whole text can be said to have been a manifesto against ‘hyperempiricism, which abdicates the right and duty of theoretical construction in favour of spontaneous sociology’ ([1968], 1991, 38). Failure to construct the object, they argued, necessarily involved ‘abandoning research to preconstructed objects’ ([1968], 1991, 34) – either those of everyday common sense or those of the professional scientific community. They attempted to recommend a scientific practice that would be independent both of popular perceptions and of professional predispositions. As quoted, however, Saussure's remark is unsatisfactory. It seems to posit an abstract correlation between ‘the point of view’ and ‘the object’, and to avoid asking either what creates the point of view or what might be the relation between the created object and reality. Do diff erent points of view create the same object diff erently or do they create diff erent objects? Are there criteria that enable us to decide whether some points of view are more valid than others? Are objects exclusively the creations of points of view or do they also refl ect categories of things, either actually (a realist correspondence theory) or in their mode of presentation (a phenomenological theory of intentionality)? What is in epistemological contention in the account given in Le métier de sociologue derives proximately from Immanuel Kant's attempt to reconcile the claims of a priorism and empiricism and from anti- Kantian or neo- Kantian eff orts either to criticize or refine the reconciliation that he offered.

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Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2016

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