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9 - Pierre Bourdieu and the Early Luc Boltanski (1960–1975): Collective Ethos and Individual Difference

from Part V - Luc Boltanski and Critical Sociology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2014

Derek Robbins
Affiliation:
Manchester University Press
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Summary

Introduction

In his Foreword to Richard Nice's translation into English of Bourdieu and Passeron's La Reproduction as Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977 [1970]), Tom Bottomore noted that the book expounded ‘the theoretical ideas which have guided the research on cultural reproduction over the past decade or so’ (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977 [1970]: v) of the Centre de Sociologie Européenne (CSE) in Paris. He recognized that the book was the product of the collective activity of a group of researchers and that it demonstrated ‘the continuous interplay between theory and research’ (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977 [1970]: v) as well as the overcoming of the division between ‘thinkers’ and ‘researchers’, which – in the view of some – was ‘a major failing of sociology as a science’ (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977 [1970]: v). He considered that it may well be that this division could be transcended effectively, not by the ‘intermittent launching even of large-scale research projects’ (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977 [1970]: vi) but, as he commented somewhat enviously,

by this kind of long-term involvement in the exploration of a particular broad domain of social life, by a group of researchers who acquire to some extent the qualities of a ‘school’ of thought.

(Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977 [1970]: v–vi)

For Bottomore, the secret of the success of the CSE as a ‘school’ lay in its concentration over a sustained period of time on clearly demarcated objects of analysis – those associated with education and culture. There are, however, alternative explanations, both of which emphasize, instead, the a priori affective or cognitive dispositions of the group, generating its particular categories of research objects. Leaving aside the undoubted ‘charisma’ of Bourdieu, the Weberian connotations of which Bourdieu would have been anxious to disown, there is the possibility that there existed an elective affinity between the members of the group and that its intellectual identity was collectively constructed.

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Information
The Spirit of Luc Boltanski
Essays on the 'Pragmatic Sociology of Critique'
, pp. 265 - 292
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2014

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