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Durkheim Through the Eyes of Bourdieu

Derek Robbins

The title rightly suggests that I shall be attempting to give a view of Bourdieu’s perception of Durkheim. I shall not try to judge whether Bourdieu’s perception of Durkheim was correct, nor shall I seek to compare the validity of the positions adopted by Durkheim and Bourdieu. Instead, I shall concentrate on the general context of Bourdieu’s view of Durkheim and focus on Bourdieu’s references to Durkheim in two important texts – the first is an article entitled ‘Sociology and Philosophy in France since 1945: death and resurrection of a philosophy without subject’, published in Social Research in 1967, and the second a book published in 1968 with the title: Le métier de sociologue. It should also be noted that the article was written in collaboration with Jean-Claude Passeron and the book was written in collaboration with Jean-Claude Chamboredon as well as Jean-Claude Passeron (referred to throughout as Bourdieu et al.). I focus on Bourdieu’s view of Durkheim’s work, but one of the points which will become clear is that Bourdieu found it difficult to dissociate his judgement of Durkheim’s intellectual endeavour from his view of Durkheim’s social significance and from his view of the adverse influence of the Durkheimians. I shall make two asides which will suggest ways in which it is clear that the development of Bourdieu’s thinking and career was affected by the consequences of Durkheim’s influence rather more than by the substance of his writing.

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