Pierre Bourdieu is one of the most famous intellectuals in France, in fact he is considered one of the most cited, especially in the 1960s.
His way of seeing society, his critique of neoliberalism and the mainstream media have earned him the reputation of being a sociologist in favor of change, opposed to injustice and to the inspiring transformations of his country.
Below we will see the life of this particular French sociologist, in addition to highlighting his thought and work, through a biography of Pierre Bourdieu.
Biography of Pierre Bourdieu: a summary
Pierre-Félix Bourdieu was born in Denguin, France, on August 1, 1930. Not much is known about his childhood, but in his youth he studied philosophy in Paris, particularly at the École normale supérieure and the Sorbonne. At the University of Paris, he will read his thesis “Temporal structures of affective life” (Temporal structures of affective life)
since 1955 he taught in various parts of the French Empire at the time. He first taught at the Institut de Molins then in Algeria, between 1958 and 1960. He then worked in Paris and Lille.
Algeria and its impact on sociology
His stay in Algeria was the start of his research, This would give him great notoriety which will earn him a very important place in French sociology of the last century, as will be the case in this country and more precisely in 1958 when he published his book Sociologie de l’Algérie.
A few years later, in 1964, with Jean-Claude Passeron, two of his first texts relating to education were published: Students and their studies and The heirs. Students and culture. A little later, but the same year, he published “The functions of photography” and in 1965 Un medium art. Essays on the social uses of photography and communication and educational communication.
Professional repercussions and recent years
The years that followed Algeria were characterized by a prolific literary creation. In 1970, he published the foundations of a theory of symbolic violence. Cultural reproduction and social reproduction, also published with Passeron. In 1976 he published The Great School System and the Reproduction of the Dominant Class.
Among the many other works is The Distinction. Social Critique of Judgment (1979), what it means to speak. The economy of linguistic exchanges (1982), Homo academus (1984), The nobility of state. Grandes écoles et esprit de corps (1989), Les regles de l’art. Genesis and structure of the literary field (1992).
However, his greatest success was with La Misère du monde (1993). In this book denounces social suffering with a strong inspiration from Marxism and Michel Foucault. He shows in this book a combination of sociology and social anthropology, analyzing social exclusion, technological progress and globalization.
It should be noted that in his current of thought, Bourdieu’s speech had always been critical of society. However, it happened May 1968, a social phenomenon in France which would mark a before and an after in French society after the Second World War, Bourdieu is even more critical of his time.
At that time, he was already a critical advocate of neoliberalism and was a supporter of civil society, in which the same rights were offered to all citizens without exception. He is interested in unions, NGOs, emigrants and civic associations opposed to neoliberal positions.. Bourdieu was one of the founders of “Liber-Raisons d’Act”, the driving force behind the “Attac” movement.
Having acquired a certain fame in the world of sociology, he would enjoy important university positions. He was a professor at the École Normale Supérieure from 1964 to 1984 and, since 1981, director of the École Pratique d’Hauts Études and professor of sociology at the Collège de France. He became editor-in-chief of the journal “Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales” from 1975 until his death in Paris on January 23, 2002 from lung cancer.
Political and economic thinking
Bourdieu was one of the most important great sociologists of the second half of the 20th century. In fact, according to the Parisian newspaper “El Món”, it would become the most cited French intellectual in the world press of 1969. His ideas have been of great importance both in social theory and in its more empirical application, especially in the sociology of culture, education and ways of life.
His theory stands out as an attempt to overcome the traditional sociological duality between, on the one hand, social structures and objectivism, the source of social action, and, on the other hand, subjectivism. Bourdieu has two new concepts “habitus” and “field” as well as reinventing the already well-known one, capital.
From Bourdieu’s point of view, “habitus” is understood as the ways of thinking, feeling and acting that arise from a person’s position in the social structure, that is, from his social status. Bourdieu speaks of “field” in reference to the social space that is created around the valuation of facts such as science, art, politics or religion. These spaces are occupied by people with different “habits” and different capitals, who compete for material and symbolic resources on “the ground”.
He understands the term capital not only in its economic sense, But also referring to cultural capital, social capital and any other type of capital perceived as “natural” in this society, what he calls symbolic capital People are used to their own social position and their resources or capital “play” in different social domains. the fields. It is through this “game” that they contribute or reproduce what society was up to now or transform their social structure.
This idea of ”habitus” and “field” is extrapolated to the world of journalism. For Bourdieu, journalism acts as a place where people with different social status, journalists, can encourage changes in society through the transmission of certain information. This information may be objective or biased depending on the interests underlying it.
Thus, on the basis of the evil that Bourdieu thought the media were doing, he prefers to speak of “information society” rather than to speak of “information society”. The media, far from really communicating what was going on, seemed to want to compete to see which reached the highest audience.
On this basis, in the late 1990s, he made controversial statements about how the media influences politics in general and to some extent, they censored critics, especially writers. In fact, he proposed and was the founder of the “parliament of writers”, an organization intended to give intellectuals greater autonomy over their work, and thus be able to freely criticize society and its abuses on the fringes of cultural media. official.
As for his empirical work, he highlights, in particular, all his critical work towards culture, showing that cultural distinctions are nothing more than secret forms of domination. This is what he calls the ontological complicity between the field and the habit. It is not that he is cynical about manifestations of high culture, but that he believes that everyone should have the same right to access this culture.
- Bourdieu, Pierre (2004) Self-analysis plan: 109. Reasons to act.
- Alonso, LI (2002a) “Pierre Bourdieu in memoriam (1930-2002). Between the bourdieumanía and the reconstruction of European sociology” in Spanish Journal of sociological research, núm 97, January-March, pp 9-28.