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  Pierre Bourdieu


sociologue énervant



Décès de Pierre Bourdieu :(



Pierre Bourdieu

  Sartre's successor retires from battle.

Douglas Johnson, The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney-AUS), February 1st, 2002.



Pierre Bourdieu, French intellectual, 1930-2002.

ierre Bourdieu, who has died at 71, was, for many, the leading intellectual of present-day France. The author of more than 25 influential books, including a crucial study of Algeria, Sociologie de L'Algérie (The Algerians), Bourdieu launched a new European review, Liber, in 1989 to coincide with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of a new era. Most importantly, he considered that those lucky enough to have spent their lives, as he had, in studying the social world, could not be neutral or indifferent to struggle.

When French railway workers went on strike in 1995, he supported their protests against the Juppe government's reform of the social security system which, he claimed, sought only to give the government authority in the world financial markets. He was critical of Juppe's successor, Lionel Jospin, and his coalition of false socialism, attacking "le neo-liberal troika" of Blair-Jospin-Schroder. He also defended those immigrants, les sans papiers, who were present in France but who could not legally justify their presence. He attacked globalisation.

It became common practice for officials of the French socialist party to talk of la gauche bourdieusienne, their enemies on the Left. The communists attacked this Left, which was anti-political rather than non-political.

Bourdieu was born in the south of France and educated in Pau, then the lycee Louis-le-Grand and Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. He studied philosophy with Louis Althusser and became a teacher.

In 1958 he took up a post as lecturer in Algiers. To go there at a time when the future of Algeria and France's involvement there were dangerously uncertain was courageous. Algeria was, without doubt, the outstanding problem faced by France at the time.

For Bourdieu, the clash between the Algerians and French colonialism could only be understood by constructing the original economic and social forms of the indigenous civilisations, and he chose the Berbers. The Algerians immediately established his importance in France. 

He returned to Paris and taught at the University of Paris in the early '60s, then he took up a post at the Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, where he created the Centre for the Sociology of Education and Culture. In 1981 he was appointed to the chair of sociology at the College de France. From 1975 he directed the publication Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales, in which many of his articles appeared. 

His sociological work covered a range of subjects, starting with an examination of the peasantry in the Bearn, where he had been brought up and studied farming. In it he warned all sociologists: "Observation of reality puts us on our guard against the temptation to construct over-simple models."

Bourdieu was preoccupied with detail but also concerned to produce a wide and more general system of ideas. Although he is always seen as a supporter of the student revolutionaries of 1968, he was, in fact, highly critical of their ideas. 

In 1999 he spoke to 70 leading patrons of the audio-visual arts in Paris. "Masters of the world, do you know what you are doing?" was his question. His answer was that, since they obeyed the law of maximum profits in the shortest possible time, they were killing culture.

He is survived by his wife, Marie-Claire, and his three sons.

Stuart Jeffries writes (The Guardian):

Last year a documentary film about Bourdieu - Sociology is a Combat Sport - became an unexpected hit in Paris. Its very title stressed how politically engaged Bourdieu was, taking on the mantle of Emile Zola and Jean-Paul Sartre in French public life, and slugging it out with politicians. 

His Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste was named as one of the 20th century's 10 most important works of sociology by the International Sociological Association. His On Television attacked presenters for delivering what he called "cultural fast food". He accused many fellow intellectuals of abusing their privileged status in France by commenting on issues about which they knew little, and his 1999 book Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market, stressed the duty of the intellectual in fighting against creeping globalisation. His death deprives France of one of its great postwar intellectuals, a thinker in the same rank as Foucault, Barthes and Lacan. [more]

Pierre Bourdieu


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