Pierre bourdieu’s critique of scholarly reason

Philosophy and Social Criticism 31 (1):89-107 (2005)
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Abstract

This paper investigates the implications of Pierre Bourdieu’s recent reformulation of his social theory as a critique of ‘scholarly reason’. This reformulation is said to point towards a definition of social theory as a sociologically informed version of the Kantian concept of ‘critique’. It is argued that, by this means, Bourdieu is able to extend and develop the critique of ‘intellectualism’ in the philosophies of Wittgenstein and Merleau-Ponty and, furthermore, to ground this critique by showing how the intellectualist error arises from a failure to reflect on the ‘social conditions of possibility’ of reason. The three forms of the critique of scholarly reason (pertaining to the theoretical, the moral-practical and the aesthetic forms of reason) are then briefly presented. In the final section, the critique of scholarly reason is shown to provide the basis for a convincing response to critiques of Bourdieu’s work from critical theorists drawing on Habermas’s conception of discursive rationality. In particular, it is argued that critical theorists influenced by Habermas typically confuse ‘practical reflexivity’ with ‘intellectual reflection’ - the standpoint of ‘scholarly reason’. Finally, it is shown that Bourdieu’s own account of the unity of theory and practice is nonetheless deficient, and must be supplanted with an account centred on the idea of existential clarification. Key Words: Bourdieu • critical theory • Habermas • intellectualism • reflexivity.

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