The Sociologist and the Historian
The Sociologist and the Historian
My first impression on reading these interviews conducted with Pierre Bourdieu in 1988 was to find him just as he had remained in my memory from these five broadcasts: energetic, humorous, impassioned. The merit of this little book, I believe, is that his way of thinking can be followed particularly closely in this lively exchange, freed from the shrouds that sometimes cover it, whether the magisterial authority conferred by his chair at the Collège de France 1 or the polemical debates of the sociologist deeply engaged in his era. Without obscuring the continuity and coherence of a work based from its beginnings on the same categories of analysis and the same demand for critical clarity, these five interviews introduce us to a rather different Bourdieu, less imprisoned by the roles that he subsequently chose, or that were imposed on him. A Bourdieu joyful, vivacious, ironic with others but also with himself; a Bourdieu confident about the scientific breaks that his work effected, but also ever ready for dialogue with other disciplines and other approaches.
These conversations should not be read without recalling the difference in time; rather, their specific date should be borne in mind. In 1987, France Culture, of which Jean-Marie Borzeix 2 was then director, wanted to include Bourdieu in its series À voix nue ('With Bare Voice'). If the choice of his interlocutor fell on a historian who was neither a beginner nor one of the most visible, this was certainly because the admiration and intellectual friendship that I felt for Bourdieu had already been expressed by his presence on several of the programmes I produced - and still produce - one Monday a month for Les lundis de l'histoire . 3 One programme, devoted to his two books that appeared within a short timespan - La Distinction and Le Sens pratique 4 - had him in dialogue with Patrick Fridenson and Georges Duby, with whom he enjoyed a bond of mutual esteem. 5 This remains for me one of the strongest memories of these broadcasts. At a time when Distinction had been the target of fierce attacks from certain historians, who either could not understand it or did so all too well, this exchange showed, conversely, that both historian and sociologist had to understand struggles over classification as being just as real as class struggles (if indeed they could be separated from one another), and that conflicting representations of the social world produced it at the same time as they expressed it.
The Bourdieu of 1987 was for many people the author of Distinction . Polemic and media attention to this book had brought the sociologist to the front of the intellectual and public stage. 6 But before the publication of Distinction , Bourdieu already had a long past as a researcher and a strong and substantial body of work, 7 marked by his ethnological publications on Kabylia, 8 his analyses of the French educational system, 9 his collective investigations of the social uses of photography 10 and of museum visiting, 11 and his theoretical reflections on the logics of practice. These main lines in no way exhaust the astounding vitality of a research that was always open to new topics, and that also focused on such varied objects as opinion polls, 12 matrimonial strategies, 13 haute couture, 14 the practices of sports, 15 and the sociology of employers 16 and of French bishops. 17 A number of these analyses, often presented in the form of interviews or lectures, were brought together in a short volume, Questions de sociologie . 18 In the 1980s, three books were milestones in Bourdieu's intellectual development as a sociologist after he had been appointed professor at the Collège de France: in 1982, Ce que parler veut dire ; 19 in 1984, what was undoubtedly the most