Introduction to Part II
At one point in his work, Bourdieu refers to the “opposition” between subjectivism and objectivism as dividing the social sciences and as being “the most fundamental, and the most ruinous” (1990c: 25). He goes on to refer to them as “modes of knowledge” and declares a necessity to go beyond their mutual antagonism while preserving what has been gained from each. Both are essential, yet both offer only one side of an epistemology necessary to understanding the social world. The world cannot be reduced to phenomenology or social physics; both must be employed in order to constitute an authentic “theory of practice”. This part of the book sets out the key base concepts for the project.
As we saw in Part I, Bourdieu's “theory of practice” can be traced back to the intellectual tradition and contemporary climate in which he found himself. It can also be connected with his early field work experiences. In the previous chapters, we addressed the way that dominant French intellectual thought, in the 1940s and 1950s at least, was characterized by two opposing traditions – structuralism and existentialism – which respectively might be seen as representing the objectivist and subjectivist traditions. The former came from a background of anthropology and was exemplified in the work of Lévi-Strauss who was preoccupied with the workings of diverse, often exotic cultures. The latter subjectivist tradition was more philosophically grounded, rooted in the German philosophy of Kierkegaard, Husserl and Heidegger, and was more concerned with issues of personal freedom – a theme intensified by what French men and women had experienced in the Second World War.