Pierre Bourdieu: From neo-Kantian to Hegelian critical social theory

Critical Horizons 6 (1):183-204 (2005)
Abstract
This paper challenges the commonly made claim that the work of Pierre Bourdieu is fundamentally anti-Hegelian in orientation. In contrast, it argues that the development of Bourdieu's work from its earliest structuralist through its later 'post-structuralist' phase is better described in terms of a shift from a late nineteenth century neo-Kantian to a distinctly Hegelian post-Kantian outlook. In his break with structuralism, Bourdieu appealed to a bodily based 'logic of practice' to explain the binaristic logic of Lévi-Strauss' structuralist analyses of myth. Effectively working within the tradition of the Durkheimian approach to symbolic classification, Lévi-Strauss had inherited Durkheim's distinctly neo-Kantian understanding of the role of categories in experience and action—an account that conflated two forms of representation—'intuitions' and 'concepts—that Kant himself had held distinct. Bourdieu's appeal to the role of the body's dispositional habitus can be considered as a retrieval of Hegel's earlier quite different reworking of Kant's intuition-concept distinction in terms of distinct 'logics' with different forms of 'negation'. Bourdieu commonly acknowledged the parallels of his analyses of social life to those of Hegel, but opposed Hegelianism because he believed that Hegel had remained entrapped within the dynamics of mythopoeic thought. In contrast, Durkheim and Lévi-Strauss, he claimed, by instituting a science of myth, had broken with it. This criticism of Hegel, however, relies on an understanding of his philosophy that has been rejected by many contemporary Hegel scholars, and without it, the gap separating Hegel and Bourdieu narrows dramatically.
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