The Sociologist and the Historian
June 2015, Polity
In 1988, the renowned sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and the leading historian Roger Chartier met for a series of lively discussions that were broadcast on French public radio. Published here for the first time, these conversations are an accessible and engaging introduction to the work of these two great thinkers, who discuss their work and explore the similarities and differences between their disciplines with the clarity and frankness of the spoken word.
Bourdieu and Chartier discuss some of the core themes of Bourdieu’s work, such as his theory of fields, his notions of habitus and symbolic power and his account of the relation between structures and individuals, and they examine the relevance of these ideas to the study of historical events and processes. They also discuss at length Bourdieu’s work on culture and aesthetics, including his work on Flaubert and Manet and his analyses of the formation of the literary and artistic fields. Reflecting on the differences between sociology and history, Bourdieu and Chartier observe that while history deals with the past, sociology is dealing with living subjects who are often confronted with discourses that speak about them, and therefore it disrupts, disconcerts and encounters resistance in ways that few other disciplines do.
This unique dialogue between two great figures is a testimony to the richness of Bourdieu’s thought and its enduring relevance for the humanities and social sciences today.
1. The Sociologist’s Craft 1
2. Illusions and Knowledge 19
3. Structures and the Individual 36
4. Habitus and Field 51
5. Manet, Flaubert and Michelet 67
Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) was one of the most influential sociologists and anthropologists of the late twentieth century. He was Professor of Sociology at the Collège de France and Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales. His many works include Outline of a Theory of Practice, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, The Rules of Art, The Logic of Practice and Pascalian Meditations.
Roger Chartier is Professor of History at the Collège de France, Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include The Order of Books, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution and Cardenio Between Cervantes and Shakespeare.