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Chapter 2 - The Sociological Challenge of Reflexivity in Bourdieusian Thought

from PART I: Aspects Of Bourdieu's Thought

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 July 2017

Simon Susen
Affiliation:
City University London
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Summary

Introduction

The main purpose of this chapter is to examine Pierre Bourdieu's conception of Reflexivity. The concept of Reflexivity plays a pivotal role in Bourdieu's attempt to develop a ‘critical sociology’ (sociologie critique), often referred to as ‘refl exive sociology’ in the Anglophone literature. Based on a thorough textual analysis of his key works, the chapter aims to demonstrate that the following twelve elements are particularly important to Bourdieu's conception of Reflexivity: (1) ‘science’, (2) ‘vigilance’, (3) ‘consciousness’, (4) ‘self- awareness’, (5) ‘critique’, (6) ‘self- objectification’, (7) ‘distance- taking’ (8) ‘rupture’, (9) ‘epistemology’, (10) ‘historicization’, (11) ‘understanding’ and (12) ‘emancipation’. Although the concept of Reflexivity constitutes a useful methodological tool for the construction of critical epistemologies and for the pursuit of social research, it raises a number of significant questions. It is the task of the final section of this chapter to address several controversial issues that arise when one is faced with the challenge of evaluating the merits of Bourdieu's account of Reflexivity. In accordance with the structure of the foregoing inquiry, these issues will be synthesized on the basis of ‘twelve theses on Bourdieu's conception of Reflexivity’.

‘Reflexivity’

Bourdieu makes extensive use of the concept of Reflexivity throughout his writings. Indeed, the vital role that this concept plays in the development of his sociology is illustrated in the fact that it appears in the titles of several studies published by Bourdieu himself as well as in the titles of numerous commentaries concerned with central aspects of his oeuvre. It is worth taking note of the etymological observation that the term ‘Reflexivity’ is derived from the Latin word re- fl ectere, meaning ‘to bend back’, that is, to recline with the intention of considering or reconsidering something in a paused, contemplative and – if necessary – critical fashion.

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Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2016

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