In 1993, at the end of La Misère du Monde, Pierre Bourdieu writes of the need “to go beyond appearances”, “to get to the real economic and social determinants” of attacks on individuals' freedom to be happy and self-fulfilled, and to break through the “odious projections” which mask social suffering. He then offers his own “method” as a way for individuals to understand the social causes that feed their malaise; knowledge which itself might contribute to “undoing” what the world has “done”. Indeed, any political programme, he argues, that does not make use of what science has discovered is guilty of “non-assistance to a person in danger”. In other words, and contrary to many who argue for the opposite, the intervention of social science into politics is a necessary part of its whole raison d'être. He counterposes “dogmatic rationalism” at one extreme and “nihilistic irrationality” at the other (two dominant intellectual trends), to argue a place for the “partial and temporary truths” that can secure the “only rational means for using fully the margin of maneuver left to liberty, that is political action” (Bourdieu & Wacquant 1999a: 629).
That statement could have been written at any stage of his career, and that claim itself is rather ironic given that, for much of it, he was seen as the distant Parisian academic, content to research and publish with little regard for the “real world”. When he intervened in the mass strikes that swept though France in 1995, he was accused of “coming late” to politics.