Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 July 2017
In his mature life, especially after the eighties and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Pierre Bourdieu was one of the harshest critics of Europe as a political reality, or better as that political reality created and performed in the last decades of the twentieth century as the European Union (EU).
Bourdieu's positions against the EU have attracted much attention among scholars and commentators, and political actors as well. However, Bourdieu's relation with Europe cannot be reduced to his cries and attacks against Brussels, the EU rules, its institutional powers and its economic policies. Europe is much more than its current political embodiment as the EU. Indeed, we could say that in order to fully appreciate his cries and criticisms against the EU we have to investigate Bourdieu's idea of Europe and his life in Europe as both a scholar and an educated man. We could even say that this investigation is a condition for a full understanding of Bourdieu's social theory, as Europe has provided not only a material location for his intellectual work as a writer and a teacher – after all, France is in Europe, and Paris one of the historical capitals of Europe as a cultural entity – but also a strong reference point and a research object.
Bourdieu was clearly a European thinker: a French sociologist and intellectual who had a strong sense of France's embeddedness in a larger space that included not only French colonial possessions in Northern Africa – the first place where he did social research as a young social ethnographer working in a colonial region – but also all the countries sharing with France the common cultural heritage of ancient Greece, Latin Rome, Christianity (Reform included) and the birth of modernity (in the economic, political, intellectual and aesthetic fields). In this sense, Bourdieu has never ceased to be an intellectual of the “old Europe” – his intellectual genealogy being rooted in classics of Western (read European) thought as Aristotle, St. Thomas, Thomas Hobbes, Niccolò Machiavelli, Baruch de Spinoza, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Karl Marx, Edmund Husserl, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, Martin Heidegger, Ernst Cassirer and so on.