Hermeneutic Bourdieu

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Simon SUSEN, City University London, United Kingdom
The main purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which Pierre Bourdieu may be described as a ‘hermeneutic sociologist’.  Given his in-depth engagement with the interpretive facets of human existence, it should not come as a surprise that hermeneutics represents a constitutive component of Bourdieu’s undertaking.  Yet, in the literature, one finds little in the way of a systematic discussion of the place that hermeneutics occupies within Bourdieu’s oeuvre.  To the degree that the hermeneutic aspects of Bourdieu’s writings are overlooked, however, it is impossible to do justice to the epistemic complexity of his plea for a reflexive sociology.  As argued in this paper, Bourdieu may be regarded as a ‘hermeneutic’ – or, at least, ‘hermeneutics-inspired’ – thinker insofar as his work is marked by a profound interest in the nature of ‘interpretation’.  Bourdieu’s sustained concern with the interpretive facets of social life has major implications for his conception of human existence.  As a thorough examination of his writings reveals, Bourdieu conceives of ‘interpretation’ as a socio-cognitive process that is crucial not only to procedures of sociological investigation, conducted by experts, but also, in a more fundamental sense, to quotidian practices, performed by ordinary agents.  In order to illustrate this, the paper sheds light on ten significant elements underlying the ‘hermeneutic Bourdieu’.  As elucidated in this study, the hermeneutic spirit pervading Bourdieu’s research programme is reflected in the fact that he stresses the (1) socio-relational, (2) practical, (3) unconscious, (4) situational, (5) doxic, (6) contingent, (7) meaning-laden, (8) experiential, (9) resourceful, and (10) power-laden constitution of human existence.  By way of conclusion, the paper draws attention to some key questions arising from the critical analysis of these ‘hermeneutic’ elements, notably in terms of the pivotal role they play both in sociological enquiry and in everyday life.