The future of Pierre Bourdieu’s politics: keeping the promise of reflexive sociology




Conlon, Michael B.

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The novelty of Pierre Bourdieu's theory of literature is a product of the ethical and political demands he makes of art and literature. Though Bourdieu's work ranges from research in social housing to a book length study of Heidegger, this project makes the argument that his investment in aesthetic practice is the constant that holds his political project together. Bourdieu's political reading of art and literature is, in turn, informed by a comprehensive theory of intellectual work. Bourdieu relentlessly demonstrates that intellectual work arbitrarily marks itself off from other work and constantly ratifies that privilege or distinction by monopolizing the tools needed to construct and justify a worldview. The measure for any intellectual or political project is determined by the degree to which that project works to universalize access to the social conditions necessary to produce and consume cultural capital. This is the political and ethical challenge that defines Bourdieu's work and informs his theory of art. This study makes the case that the power of Bourdieu's work can only be properly assessed when his theory of intellectual work is read in concert with his political and sociological interpretation of art and literature. These dual elements in Bourdieu's thought are applied in a critical reading of the Charles Altieri's work. This project culminates in a critical assessment of Bourdieu's political thought in light of Jacques Derrida's theories of ethics, politics, and justice. Derrida's concept of undecibability and his theory of political and ethical decision as perpetually “to come” complicates Bourdieu's political vision and offers a promising avenue for extending Bourdieu's work in ways not inimical to his original project.



Sociology, Reflexive sociology, Politics, Social sciences