The Sociological Challenge of Reflexivity in Bourdieusian Thought

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Simon SUSEN, City University London, United Kingdom
The main purpose of this paper is to examine Pierre Bourdieu’s conception of reflexivity.  The concept of reflexivity plays a pivotal role in Bourdieu’s attempt to develop a ‘critical sociology’ (sociologie critique), often referred to as ‘reflexive sociology’ in the Anglophone literature.  Based on a thorough textual analysis of his key works, the paper aims to demonstrate that the following twelve elements are particularly important to Bourdieu’s conception of reflexivity: (1) ‘science’, (2) ‘vigilance’, (3) ‘consciousness’, (4) ‘self-awareness’, (5) ‘critique’, (6) ‘self-objectification’, (7) ‘distance-taking’, (8) ‘rupture’, (9) ‘epistemology’, (10) ‘historicization’, (11) ‘understanding’, and (12) ‘emancipation’.  Although the concept of reflexivity constitutes a useful methodological tool for the construction of critical epistemologies and for the pursuit of social research, it raises a number of significant questions.  It is the task of the concluding section of this paper to address a number of controversial issues that arise when faced with the challenge of evaluating the merits of Bourdieu’s account of reflexivity.  In accordance with the structure of the foregoing enquiry, these issues will be synthesized on the basis of ‘twelve theses on Bourdieu’s conception of reflexivity’.