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You will die when the storm blows in the rose gardens
When snow will have fallen
In the orchards
Die in whiteness and riches
Of snow and ripe fruit
While far up in the sky
Over the foolish, dwarfish, greenhaired nymphs
Who have never loved
On the distant tree line
The stags have belled
And how I love—oh season—your murmurings
The fruit falling with no one to gather it
The wind and the forest weep
All their tears in autumn leaf by leaf
‘Autumn ill and adored’, autumn adored because of its illness, because of its mortality. Is not Apollinaire, the poet of the flux of time, of the death of love, also the poet of the love of death, of the love of time passing, of the love of love as the terrain par excellence of this frailty?
The poet addresses autumn to announce its destiny, its final hour. He is the vates, the soothsayer, who says to autumn that it has had its moment, that its time has come or at least will come soon. There follows a series of antitheses: the wind and roses, the snow and the orchard, winter and spring, death and youth. From the future (you will die) Apollinaire shifts into the future anterior(when snow will have fallen), the future accomplished, that is the future already past, the tense of prophecy, which speaks of the future as if it had already happened.
The spring, the roses, the rose garden. Spring is the season of innocence, of hope and fragility. Autumn is the season of transition and decline, when the midday sun begins to set; the frailest of seasons, the most temporal of times. The wind is the west wind dear to Debussy, the wind that brings death to the rose gardens, a violent wind (underlined by the alliteration of ‘r’). Petals that blow away, roses that lose their flowers, the poem is like a dramatized version of Ronsard's elegy. This image of violence is redoubled: the snow, a mortal whiteness, a cruel coldness, which burns and destroys silently, without a sound as it falls, comes to complete the brutal and sudden onslaught of the wind.
Question: When did you start to familiarise yourself with the work of Max Weber? If I understand you correctly, this happened during your time in Algeria. What sort of texts were you reading at that time?
Pierre Bourdieu: I began with Die protestantische Ethik. During that time, I was working on a book which was intended to summarise my research on Algeria. In Die protestantische Ethik there was an abundance of things on the traditional, pre-capitalist ‘spirit’, and on economic behaviour – wonderful descriptions which were very useful and indeed quite impressive. I drew on Weber's work in order to understand the M'zab, a stretch of land in the Arabic desert, inhabited mainly by Kharijites, who are Muslims with a very ascetic – and almost ‘Puritan’ – lifestyle and whom we might want to call ‘the Protestants of Islam’, a religious current. This was really mind-boggling; this austerity with regard to sexual morals and self-discipline. At the same time, these are really prosperous and forward-looking traders; in fact, a lot of the small businesses in North Africa belong to them. I was astounded by the typically Weberian connection between religious asceticism and this very smooth adjustment to new conditions. By the way, similar to the Calvinist Puritans, these people are highly educated: they read a lot, they read the Qur'an, almost all of the children go to school, and most of them are bilingual in Arabic and French.
Television claims to report reality but largely creates its own reality. There is very little autonomy, largely because the competition for ‘market share’ is so intense. The pressure to fill the space is strong; hence, it must be something for everyone. Everyone is looking over their shoulder to see what their rivals are saying; to know what to say, you need to know what everyone else is saying. This leads to homogenization and political conformity. Politics and economics lead to an internal censorship. ‘News’ is selective, favouring the extremes, blood, sex, crime, riots, not what ordinary people experience. Television calls for dramatization and the exaggeration of the importance of events. In debate, the fast, superficial thinker is favoured over the original and profound. Can you refuse to talk on television? There is a desire to be seen that is exploited.
The fields of cultural production offer those who are engaged with them a space of possibilities (possibles) which tends to orient their research by defining the universe of problems, of references, of intellectual landmarks (often constituted by the names of guiding figures), and of “isms”, in short a whole system of coordinates which must be kept in mind – which is not to say in consciousness – in order to play the game. This is what marks the difference between, for example, professionals and amateurs, or, to speak the language of painting, “naifs,” such as the customs officer Rousseau, and a “painter object” who is constituted as a painter by the field. This space of possibilities is what makes the producers of a given epoch at once situated, dated (the problematic is the historical outcome of the field's specific history), and relatively autonomous with respect to the direct determinations of the economic and social environments. Thus, for example, in order to understand the choices made by contemporary directors, one cannot be content to relate them to the economic and social conditions affecting the theater, or to the availability of grants or conditions at the box-office, or even to the expectations of the public; one must refer to the entire history of stage direction since the 1880s, in the course of which there arose the universe of points under discussion, of those constitutive elements of the theater on which any director worthy of the name must take a position.
Outline of a Theory of Practice was first published in French in 1972 (Esquisse d'une théorie de la pratique). However, this English text incorporates most of the changes which Pierre Bourdieu has made since then. The argument is carried further, particularly as regards the concepts of practical logic and symbolic capital, the order of exposition is recast, and, partly for reasons of space, the ethnographic chapters with which the French edition opens have been curtailed.
This text is the cornerstone of an oeuvre which encompasses numerous major works in both anthropology and sociology – which crosses and challenges the boundary dividing their objects, tasks, and theories, and forces attention to the social conditions in which such sciences are possible.
The fieldwork in Kabylia which provided the ethnographic basis for this text and the starting-point for its reflections was carried out amid the tragic circumstances of the Algerian war, which brought to a head the contradictions inherent in the ethnologist's position. This was one factor in Bourdieu's subsequent move into the field of sociology, where the separation which is the hidden condition of all academic activity – most insidiously so in the behavioural sciences – could itself be grasped scientifically in the course of inquiry into the social functions of scholarship and the mechanisms of cultural and social reproduction.
Methodological objectivism, a necessary moment in all research, by the break with primary experience and the construction of objective relations which it accomplishes, demands its own supersession. In order to escape the realism of the structure, which hypostatizes systems of objective relations by converting them into totalities already constituted outside of individual history and group history, it is necessary to pass from the opus operatum to the modus operandi, from statistical regularity or algebraic structure to the principle of the production of this observed order, and to construct the theory of practice, or, more precisely, the theory of the mode of generation of practices, which is the precondition for establishing an experimental science of the dialectic of the internalization of externality and the externalization of internality, or, more simply, of incorporation and objectification.
A false dilemma: mechanism and finalism
The structures constitutive of a particular type of environment (e.g. the material conditions of existence characteristic of a class condition) produce habitus, systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles of the generation and structuring of practices and representations which can be objectively “regulated” and “regular” without in any way being the product of obedience to rules, objectively adapted to their goals without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary to attain them and, being all this, collectively orchestrated without being the product of the orchestrating action of a conductor.
The opposite gesture, that of inverting a spoon, should automatically, as it were, provoke a contrary action. This is what the wife of a fqih does, among the Mtougga, to ward off imminent rainfall.
E. Laoust, Mots et choses berbères
“I think I've made a new theological discovery…”
“What is it?”
“If you hold your hands upside down, you get the opposite of what you pray for!”
Charles M. Schulz, There's No One Like You, Snoopy
Man differs from other animals in that he is the one most given to mimicry (mimetikotaton) and learns his first lessons through mimesis (dia mimeseos).
Aristotle, Poetics, 1448b
Objectivism constitutes the social world as a spectacle presented to an observer who takes up a “point of view” on the action, who stands back so as to observe it and, transferring into the object the principles of his relation to the object, conceives of it as a totality intended for cognition alone, in which all interactions are reduced to symbolic exchanges. This point of view is the one afforded by high positions in the social structure, from which the social world appears as a representation (in the sense of idealist philosophy but also as used in painting or the theatre) and practices are no more than “executions”, stage parts, performances of scores, or the implementing of plans.
There is, perhaps, no better way of making felt the real function of classificatory systems than to evoke as concretely as possible the abrupt and total transformation of daily life which occurs on “the return of azal”. Everything, without exception, in the activities of the men, the women, and the children, is abruptly altered by the adoption of a new rhythm: the movements of the flock, of course, but also the men's work and the domestic activities of the women, the place where the cooking is done, the rest periods, the food eaten, the times and the itinerary of the women's movements and outdoor work, the rhythm of the men's assembly meetings, of the ceremonies, prayers, markets, and meetings outside the village.
In the wet season, in the morning, before eddoḥa, all the men are in the village; with the exception of the meeting sometimes held on a Friday after collective prayer, this is the time of day for meetings of the clan assembly and all the conciliation committees (before a divorce, or to prevent a divorce, before division of an estate or to avoid division); this is also the time when announcements concerning all the men are made from the top of the minaret (summoning them to participate in collective work, repairing roads, digging drains, transporting flagstones, etc.).
The practical privilege in which all scientific activity arises never more subtly governs that activity (insofar as science presupposes not only an epistemological break but also a social separation) than when, unrecognised as privilege, it leads to an implicit theory of practice which is the corollary of neglect of the social conditions in which science is possible. The anthropologist's particular relation to the object of his study contains the makings of a theoretical distortion inasmuch as his situation as an observer, excluded from the real play of social activities by the fact that he has no place (except by choice or by way of a game) in the system observed and has no need to make a place for himself there, inclines him to a hermeneutic representation of practices, leading him to reduce all social relations to communicative relations and, more precisely, to decoding operations. Charles Bally remarked that linguistic research takes different directions according to whether it deals with the researcher's mother tongue or with a foreign language, emphasizing in particular the tendency to intellectualism implied in observing language from the standpoint of the listening subject rather than that of the speaking subject, that is, as a “means of action and expression”: “the listener is on the side of the language, it is with the language that he interprets speech”.
Outline of a Theory of Practice is recognized as a major theoretical text on the foundations of anthropology and sociology. Pierre Bourdieu, a distinguished French anthropologist, develops a theory of practice which is simultaneously a critique of the methods and postures of social science and a general account of how human action should be understood. With his central concept of the habitus, the principle which negotiates between objective structures and practices, Bourdieu is able to transcend the dichotomies which have shaped theoretical thinking about the social world. The author draws on his fieldwork in Kabylia (Algeria) to illustrate his theoretical propositions. With detailed study of matrimonial strategies and the role of rite and myth, he analyses the dialectical process of the 'incorporation of structures' and the objectification of habitus, whereby social formations tend to reproduce themselves. A rigorous consistent materialist approach lays the foundations for a theory of symbolic capital and, through analysis of the different modes of domination, a theory of symbolic power.
Né de l'effort pour présenter le bilan d'un ensemble de recherches sur le symbolisme dans une situation scolaire d'un type particulier, celle de la conférence dans une université étrangère (Chicago, avril 1973), ce texte ne doit pas être lu comme une histoire, même scolaire, des théories du symbolisme, ni surtout comme une sorte de reconstruction pseudo-hégélienne de la démarche qui aurait conduit, par dépassements successifs, vers la « théorie finale ».
Si « l'immigration des idées », comme dit Marx, se fait rarement sans dommage, c'est qu'elle sépare les productions culturelles du système de repères théoriques par rapport auxquels elles se sont définies, consciemment ou inconsciemment, c'est-à-dire du champ de production balisé par des noms propres ou des concepts en -isme qu'elles contribuent toujours moins à définir qu'il ne les définit.
« Le bénéficiaire du majorat le fils premier-né, appartient à la terre. Elle en hérite. »
K. Marx, Ébauche d'une critique de l'économie politique.
Le fait que les pratiques par lesquelles les paysans béarnais tendaient à assurer la reproduction de la lignée en même temps que la reproduction de ses droits sur les instruments de production présentent des régularités évidentes, n'autorise pas à y voir le produit de l'obéissance à des règles..
Par un paradoxe tout à fait conforme à la théorie webérienne de la relation entre Ies intentions des agents et le sens historique de leurs actions, la contribution la plus importante que Max Weber ait apportée à la sociologie de la religion se situe sans doute sur un tout autre terrain que celui qu'il a choisi pour son affrontement de toute une vie avec Marx. Si, dans son effort obstiné pour établir l'efficacité historique des croyances religieuses contre Ies expressions Ies plus réductrices de la théorie marxiste, Max Weber est parfois conduit à une exaltation du charisme qui, comme on l'a remarque, n'est pas sans évoquer une philosophic «héroique» de l'histoire a la manière de Carlyle, par exemple lorsqu'il désigne le chef charismatique comme « la force révolutionnaire spécifiquement ‘créatrice’ de l'histoire » (I), il reste qu'il fournit lui-même le moyen d'échapper à l'alternative simpliste dont ses analyses Ies plus incertaines sont le produit, c'est-à-dire à l'opposition entre l'illusion de l'autonomie absolue portant à concevoir le message religieux comme surgissement inspiré et la théorie réductrice qui en fait le reflet direct des conditions économiques et sociales: il met en effet en lumière ce que Ies deux positions opposées et complémentaires ont en commun d'oublier, à savoir le travail religieux que réalisent Ies agents et Ies porte-parole spécialisés, investis du pouvoir, institutionnel ou non, de répondre, par un type déterminé de pratiques ou de discours, à une catégorie particulière de besoins propres à des groupes sociaux déterminés.
Cette recherche s'inspire de l'intention de récuser les dualismes qui dominent encore certaine tradition méthodologique, en tâchant de saisir méthodiquement, par les techniques les plus objectives, les valeurs les mieux cachées, parce que les plus inconscientes, que les agents engagent dans leur pratique, et les critères en apparence les plus subjectifs qui servent à définir, dans un univers scolaire déterminé, comme d'ailleurs en toute société, le modèle de l'homme accompli, c'està- dire de l'excellence, comme manière inimitable et indéfinissable d'obéir aux modèles.
Les sociologues mettent-ils toujours un sens sous le mot structure lorsqu'ils parlent de « structure sociale » (1) ? Il faut pourtant se demander si et dans quelle mesure les parties constitutives d'une société stratifiée, classes ou groupes de statut, forment une structure, c'est-à-dire, pour s'en tenir provisoirement à une définition minimale, si et dans quelle mesure elles entretiennent des relations autres que de simple juxtaposition et, en conséquence, manifestent des propriétés qui résultent de leur appartenance à la totalité ou, plus précisément, de leur position dans le système complet des relations qui commande le sens de chaque relation particulière.
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