Bourdieu facing himself

Sociology, P. Bourdieu professed, contains within itself the power to reflect on itself and in particular to reflect on its own scientificity. Four rare or unpublished texts illustrate this doctrine, the implications of which remain debatable.

It has already been twenty years since Pierre Bourdieu died and, for the occasion, works have been published intended to recall the topicality of his reflections on sociology, the discipline of which he became in some ways the leading figure. the initiative of Jrme Bourdieu and Johan Heilbron appears Return to reflexivity, bringing together in a short work four little or unknown texts by this author on reflexivity. The collection opens with an unpublished text from 1967, pistmology and sociology of sociologyfrom an oral intervention during a debate held at the Sorbonne with the title Humanities for what? (Formalization and models). It is followed by an article originally published in German and, therefore, difficult to access for French-speaking readers to know the distinction established by Bourdieu between Narcissistic reflexivity and scientific reflexivity. Readers find further on another manuscript never published: Social History of Social Sciences Projectcorresponding in fact to Bourdieu's largely improvised oral presentation as an introduction to the second year of his seminar entitled Social history of social sciences. It matches the final text, The cause of science. How the social history of the social sciences can serve the progress of these sciences?first delivered orally, then formatted and written for publication as an introduction to the two issues of Proceedings of social science research dedicated The social history of the social sciences.

Sociology of science and sociology of sociology

The collection, particularly well presented by its editors, has as its common thread the requirement of reflexivity, which has established itself as an essential principle in the human and social sciences and is one of the major contributions of Pierre Bourdieu (p. 9) sociology. To be brief, it is essentially a question in Return to reflexivity of the epistemological vigilance which must constrain sociologists, beyond the logical instruments that certain philosophers of science or “methodology” defend (p. 13) put forward in order to demonstrate objectivity. In Bourdieu's eyes, it is appropriate to recognize that, in relation to the natural sciences, sociology contains within itself the power to reflect and in particular to reflect on its own scientificity (p. 34). Sociological theory allows scholars, and primarily sociologists, to

escape from the social conditions of which they are, like everyone else, the product () (the) condition of arming themselves with the knowledge of the social determinations which can weigh on them and, very particularly, with the scientific analysis of all the constraints and all the limitations linked to a determined position and trajectory in a field, in an attempt to neutralize the effects of these determinations (p. 57).

Reflexivity is therefore essential, in science as in sociology and, for Bourdieu, goes through a process of objectification (p. 67) m in this case by the sociological theory, we guess, the one that he worked to develop (see Gingras, 2004).

If we limit ourselves to stating it succinctly, our author's theory seeks to determine the social position of an individual, for example, in the light of capital that it possesses, that is to say the resources and the powers with which it is endowed, and the mobilization which is made according to thehabitusthe dispositions work within him in the form of mental and bodily patterns of perception, appreciation and action (Bourdieu, 1992, p. 24), born from the constraints underlying the relationships in which he found himself throughout his biographical trajectory. On this register, that of theory, the combination of capital and habitus determines the position occupied in the fieldconceived under various banners (economic, political, cultural, scientific, academic, etc.) as a space of objective relations. The theory, conceived as a type of social geometry (see Crozier, 2002 and Gauthier, 2012), is therefore objectively developed under the formula capital habitus position/field, capable of determining the position occupied by situating it in relation to other positions identifiable by points, between which establishes the play of objective relations that Bourdieu associates with the field. In terms of analysis, here of the scientific field, the distribution of points makes it possible to establish that certain individuals, theorists or researchers in this case, are in a dominant position, while others occupy a dominated position, the first therefore holding a power of domination. on the latter, a power by virtue of which the dominant can impose a biased conception of objectivity due to lack of being in the social position required to show their credentials.

The objectification of the objectifying subject by means of a sociological self-analysis

Reflexivity focuses on the objectification of the scholar, alias the objectifying subjectis based in this way on the exercise of epistemological vigilance that Bourdieu sees as a self-analysis Who, applies itself, the knowing subject, and more precisely the social universe in which this subject is inserted (p. 67), thus brings to light the generative social determinations, for example scholastic biases (p. 55), conscious or unconscious, likely to compromise the objectivity of the enterprise intended to explain in scientific terms in which sociology wishes to recognize itself.

However, to move quickly, self-analysis conducted on an individual scale risks quickly turning into a fairly complacent exercise. THE objectifying subject can, deliberately or not, orchestrate reflexivity by showing, key theory, that is to say the light of the analysis of the types of capital with which it is endowed and according to its dispositions in the form of the habitus implemented, that it is in perfect position to give the sociological knowledge it produces the luster of objectivity. The analysis that Bourdieu quickly carried out on himself shortly before his death, published in Science of science and reflexivity (2001) and in Sketch for self-analysis (2004), illustrates this possibility to a certain extent.

Sensitive nonetheless to this difficulty, not to say this problem, particularly for sociologists, Bourdieu pertinently notes on this subject that he It is necessary to establish the conditions for a collective socio-analysis, each researcher being able only in an illusory manner to carry out the sociology of his own sociology in order to go beyond a “self-socio-analysis” which would risk being nothing more than another way of putting oneself in a state of readiness. social impeccability (p. 41) to demonstrate objectivity in the conduct of sociological study. In pictorial words, socio-analysis in the sense in which it is understood operates under the supervision ofcollective intellectualbringing together researchers resolutely inclined to have their counterparts point out to them, among other things, the prejudices, biases and categorizations likely to distort theobjectification of the social world failing to conform to the ideally required position from a sociological point of view. Now, here, is objectification a problem only because said social position is not consistent, or can it also be due to the lack of rigor in the use of instruments of logic?

Opposition lpistmocentrism: limits and rats of socio-analysis

The return to oneself that reflexivity implies is conceived by Bourdieu, we see, in purely sociological terms. His considerations on the matter contrast with ethnomethodology or geological point of view defended his era by Alvin Gouldner (1970), according to whom he suffices to explain the “lived experience” of the knowing subject (p. 46), in this case that of sociologists when producing sociological explanations. It is necessary beyond objectify the social conditions of possibility of this lived experience and, more precisely, the act of objectification (p. 46).

If this position – theoretical and political – that social determinations play an influence in the development of science, of all sciences, including obviously sociological theory, is undoubtedly relevant, on the other hand it is difficult to understand Bourdieu's opposition to epistemology. under the rather caricatured features of “epistmocentrism”, repeated many times in the 125-page work. The trend, the blind spot of scientific activity, is in fact a kind ofscholarly ethnocentrism consisting ignore everything that makes the specific difference between theory and practice, and project into the description and analysis of practices the representation that the analyst may have because he is external to the object, and observes it from afar and from above (p. 54). This pistmocentrism relates according to Bourdieu, as we have seen, to the sole emphasis placed on methodology and on the logical instruments that certain philosophers of science defend.

However, on the subject, nuances are required. Epistemology, represented in particular by Gilles-Gaston Granger, considers science as knowledge by concept (and method) intended to produce a distinct representation of the object we seek to know (Granger, 1986, p. 120). In other words, science corresponds to an activity, not to say a workcertainly relative to social determinations, but in no way reducible to them due to the fact that the representation produced with this intention mobilizes means – theoretical and methodological – whoseexplanation allows us to demonstrate its objectivity on the spot, without regard to the social position of the researchers. This work having in fact been clearly stated and made public, it therefore becomes possible, under these conditions, to ratify its rigor and at the same time to give the explanation thus formulating its objective value. The representation that the sociological analyst can have of the practice is certainly exterior to the objectnot because we observe it from afar and from abovebut because we consider it for another reason and according to another aims: produce it distinctly from actual practice in order to explain it by means of concepts and methods whose implementation requires to be explicit, in order to ensure its accuracy and its possibilities to account for what we seek to know and explain. If we want to subscribe to this characterization of science, it is difficult here to reduce the reflection on the work it underlies from pistmological blabla (p. 86) to define reflexivity.

In this, Bourdieu seems paradoxically a victim of his conception of reflexivity useful to scholars in becoming aware of the social conditions of which they are the product by arming knowledge of the social determinations that can weigh on them. By adopting it and limiting ourselves to it, we can certainly think – in the terms of its theory – that sociology is certainly in a good position to bring to light the social conditions of the act of objectification in relation to philosophy (see p. 86 et seq.), the philosophy of science, but it is certainly abusive to consider epistemology as BLA bla likely to compromise or, worse, reduce to zero the reflexivity necessary to give science (including sociology) its objectivity and the rigor that we expect from the explanations formulated in its name. Sociology may well be in a good position to develop reflexivity from the angle of the social determinations that weigh on scholars when developing their analyses, but it nonetheless remains necessary to reflect on the work according to which their theories take shape in the light of epistemology remains essential beyond Bourdieu's sociological considerations on reflexivity, because occupying the right social position is not enough for scholars to explain objectively. They can certainly be state of social impeccability without at the same time conforming to the theoretical and methodological rigor which also gives rise to epistemological vigilance resulting from reflexivity.