Sociological discourse of the rel...
Sociological discourse of the relational: the cases of Bourdieu & Latour1 Willem Schinkel Abstract Pierre Bourdieu���s approach to sociology has been so widely recognized as being innovative that his innovations can be said to have been academically incorporated to the degree of having-been-innovative. On the other hand, the more recent work of Bruno Latour seems to offer a fresh innovative impetus to sociology.Over against Bourdieu���s relational sociology, Latour���s relationist sociology overcomes the subject-object dichotomy, and abandons the notions of ���society��� and ���the social���. In this contribution, a comparison is made between the ideas of Bourdieu and Latour on the question of what sociology should look like, specifically focusing on their respective ideas on what can be called the relational. A Latourian critique of Bourdieu is provided, as well as a Bourdieusian analysis of Latourian sociology. Rather than ending up with two different ���paradigms���, an attempt is made on the basis of Foucault���s archaeology of discourse to view Bourdieusian and Latourian sociology as distinct positions within a discourse on the relational. 1. Introduction In his Ways of Worldmaking, Nelson Goodman writes:���countless worlds made from nothing by use of symbols ��� so might a satirist summarize some major themes . . . integral to my . . . thinking.��� (Goodman, 1978: 1). Pierre Bourdieu could, without sharing Goodman���s ���radical relativist��� stance, go a long way with this statement. ���[symbolic power, WS] is a power of ���worldmaking��� ��� (Bourdieu, 1990a: 137).Though for Bourdieu there exists only one world, that world, and all the sub-worlds it contains, is to a large degree structured sym- bolically. In placing such high emphasis on the role of symbols in social life, Bourdieu stands in a long sociological tradition. Parsons, for instance, spoke of ���culture��� as ���patterned, ordered systems of symbols that are objects of the orientation to action, internalized components of the personalities of indi- vidual actors and institutionalized patterns of social systems��� (Parsons, 1964: 327). Similarly, Giddens emphasizes the role of symbols in ���codes��� and ���systems of signification��� (Giddens, 1979: 98). And Bourdieu���s ���praxeology��� is in fact a widening of the conventional and narrow economic perspective towards an The Sociological Review, 55:4 (2007) �� 2007 The Author. Journal compilation �� 2007 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review. Published by Blackwell Publishing Inc., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, 02148, USA.
understanding of all social practices.The qui bonum principle is, for Bourdieu, a primary question in all his studies of social fields. He says: Based on the knowledge acquired through the analysis of these phenom- enally very different social universes, which have never been brought together as such, I would like to try to extract the general principles of an economy of symbolic goods. (Bourdieu, 1994a: 92���3) And precisely because of statements such as the above, despite the fact that many praise the renewal of social science Bourdieu is said to have brought forth, some would call him a ���classical sociologist��� in a pejorative sense. ���Clas- sical���? Yes, since ���Classical sociology knows more than the ���actors��� it sees right through them to the social structure or the destiny of which they are patients��� (Latour, 1996a: 199). In Bruno Latour���s view, Bourdieu is a ���classical sociolo- gist��� and ���classical sociology��� clearly is the kind Latour dislikes. Moreover, as will become clear, Latour rejects those notions at the heart of basically all of modern social science, such as ���norm���, ���society���, ���social structure��� even the ���social��� is a term too ambiguous to him. And yet, Latour does have a concep- tion of what ���sociology��� should be. In this article, an analysis is made of the clash between the theoretical positions of two of the most innovative French sociologists of recent decades: Pierre Bourdieu and Bruno Latour. If Bourdieu pushed the borders of regular philosophy of social science and social philosophy, respectively in epistemo- logical and in ontological respect, then Latour���s efforts can be seen as a complete redefinition of those ���borders���. The social sciences are, in Latour���s view, clearly up for a rigorous redefinition. In order to critically examine the theoretical positions of both sociologies in question, this paper starts with a brief discussion of the main tenets of Bourdieu���s ideas, especially of those with which Latour is in dispute (�� 2 & 4). Latour���s position is developed taking its critique of Bourdieusian sociology as a starting point (�� 3 & 5).I will show how, in the end, Latour would appear to be more effective in explaining Bourdieu���s views than vice versa (�� 7). This, however, is due in part to the fact that Bourdieu never really put his theory to work in analyzing the emergence of Latour-styleActor NetworkTheory.In �� 8,I therefore sketch the outlines of such an analysis. Paragraph 9 concludes by investigating the possibility of Bourdieu and Latour occupying two positions in a discourse converging on the concept of the relational. Hence, I will argue that the archaeological analysis of discursive formations put forward by Michel Foucault may provide a way of transcending the conflict between two sociologies unable to ���take the role of the other���. 2. Bourdieusian sociology Despite their major aims in social science, both authors under examination here started off as philosopher. Bourdieu, after finishing his philosophical Willem Schinkel 708 �� 2007 The Author. Journal compilation �� 2007 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review
studies at the ��cole Normale Sup��rieure, started doing ethnological fieldwork amidst the Kabyles, a berber tribe in the northern mountains of Algeria.After an initial structuralist period, Bourdieu started to feel ill at ease with L��vi- Strauss���s structuralist anthropology. He began to develop an alternative framework in which to order his findings ��� on the Kabyles (Bourdieu, 1963), but also on the arts (Bourdieu, 1969), on students and education (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1964 1970), thus gradually broadening his empirical work ��� without falling back into L��vi-Strauss���s ���objectivism���. Bourdieu opposes his own theory of action to ���the more extreme theses of a certain structuralism by refusing to reduce agents, which it considers to be eminently active and acting (without necessarily doing so as subjects), to simple epiphenomena of struc- ture��� (Bourdieu, 1994a: viii). To escape ���objectivism��� without relapsing into ���subjectivism, taken to its outer limits by Sartre��� (Bourdieu, 1997) means nothing else than to overcome the structure & agency dichotomy. Bourdieu wants to gain a view of ���the dialectic of the internalization of externality and the externalization of internality��� (Bourdieu, 1977: 72). Precisely in order to do this,Bourdieu coins his own meaning of the concept of habitus, the most immediate source of which was, for Bourdieu, Panofsky���s study on gothic architecture (Panofsky, 1967). For Bourdieu, the habitus is an embodied part of the social structure. It consists of ���durable, transpos- able dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures��� (Bourdieu, 1977: 72). The habitus is a system of dispositions that is acquired through socialization (though Bourdieu usually uses the term ���internalization���). He thus stands in a line of social science emanating from Durkheim.2 Bourdieu���s homo duplex is not a passive recipient, a Tr��ger of the social structure. Rather, it incorporates the dispositions of the habitus through action, whilst at the same time action is what is structured by the habitus. The habitus is thus ���an acquired system of generative schemes objectively adjusted to the particular conditions in which it is constructed��� (cited in Jenkins, 1992: 74). The habitus generates action, just like it interprets the conditions of the social space in which an agent is situated.These interpretations correspond to doxa, the na��ve mode of experience characteristic of an agent immersed in the social space.The way the habitus is constructed is dependent on the ���objective conditions��� of the field of positions. Bourdieu���s La distinction (1996 ) is an effort to show that the different objective conditions of the classes in society make for a different class-habitus in each class, and vice versa,since the habitus is, through the actions it generates, constitutive of the objective conditions, the social space of positions.That space of positions is an arena of power-struggles over legitimate classifications and over what Bourdieu calls symbolic capital. In each field of positions, a belief exists in the legitimacy of the symbolic capital specific to that field. This belief exists in the form of a field logic Bourdieu calls illusio.Alongside cultural, social and economic capital as main forms, Bourdieu sees symbolic capital as especially indicative of power and position. Symbolic capital often exists as a form of capital that is not recogn- ised as such (Bourdieu, 1993b), and each field has its preferred form of capital, Sociological discourse of the relational 709 �� 2007 The Author. Journal compilation �� 2007 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review