Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

Bourdieu and Literature

 | 
John R. W. Speller

4. Science and Literature

Texte intégral

  • 1 ’A science of works’ (trans. J.S.).

1If Bourdieu came to the defence of writers and artists in his political interventions, and even claimed that the sociologist can be the greatest ally of those engaged in the creation and conservation of literary and artistic culture, his analyses have been more often criticised as reductive and destructive of cultural values. A particular bone of contention has been his insistence on the word ’science’, which especially jars when it is used to describe Bourdieu’s approach to literature, in Les Règles de l’art and elsewhere, as ’une science des oeuvres’.1 In this relationship, scientific knowledge and rationality appear to be privileged at the expense of literary expression and imagination. This chapter examines Bourdieu’s claim to science in both its social and epistemological contexts, and the opposition he sets up between science and literature. First, it reads Bourdieu’s analysis of Flaubert’s L’Éducation sentimentale as a study of the differences between a scientific and a literary representation of social reality. Next, it assesses the charges of ’reductionism’ and ’iconoclasticism’ that have been levelled at Bourdieu, and ponders the extent to which they are justified. The chapter then explores the possibilities for ’cross-overs’ or exchanges between literature and sociology, as two distinct discourses which, however, still have much to learn from each other. Finally, the chapter compares Bourdieu’s position to contemporary post-modern and post-structuralist theories of the relations between literature, science, and reality.

L’Éducation sentimentale

  • 2 ’The arbitrage of the real’ (trans. J.S.).
  • 3 ’a generalized euphemism’ (Rules, 32).
  • 4 ’as if it did not speak of it’ (Rules, 3).
  • 5 ’a belief and an imaginary participation analogous to those that we ordinarily grant to the real w (...)

2Bourdieu draws on the principles of his theory of sociological knowledge to develop a series of parallels and oppositions between ’science’ and ’literature’. Both scientific and literary texts, Bourdieu argues, ’objectify’ (copy into an object) the social or psychological structures which regulate experience, usually unseen. Yet whereas scientific discourse agrees to accept what Bourdieu calls ’l’arbitrage du ”réel” ’,2 to submit to the stage of verification, literary fiction does not claim to refer to reality, in fact quite the opposite. According to Bourdieu, the literary work operates ’un euphémisme généralisé’ (RA, 69),3 which ’denegates’ (in the Freudian sense of Verneinung) the social reality to which it refers, ’mais comme s’il n’en parlait pas’ (RA, 20).4 In contrast, Bourdieu writes, ’la science tente de dire les choses comme elles sont, sans euphémismes, et demande à être prise au sérieux’ (RA, 541), that is, as an accurate representation of reality. Literature also reveals structures in a different way: not as systems of intelligible relations corresponding to the hidden structure of ’reality’ by way of analogy, by the use of demonstrations, exemplifications, or evocations, ’aptes à ”parler à la sensibilité” et à obtenir une croyance et une participation analogues à celles que nous accordons d’ordinaire au monde réel’ (RA, 68).5 Thus, while sociological theory symbolises the structure of relations that determine and orient our practices, investments, and interests, literature (most obviously, the literature we call ’realist’) shows these structures ’in action’, in the form of concrete characters, with emotions, friendships, ambitions, and desires.

  • 6 ’eluded the most attentive interpreters’ (Rules, 3).

3It is above all in his study and analysis of L’Éducation sentimentale that Bourdieu elaborates and explores these oppositions between literature and science. According to Bourdieu, Flaubert’s novel provides a very accurate (even ’quasi-scientific’) representation of the nineteenth-century French social world in which it was written, and even, in Frédéric, an ’objectification’ of the author Flaubert himself. Yet Bourdieu resists the temptation to read L’Éducation sentimentale either as an autobiography or as a sociological document (which might seem reasonable, given the vast amount of detail that went into Flaubert’s works). For Bourdieu, the ’homology’ between Frédéric’s fictional world and Flaubert’s social world is situated at the level of their structure. This structure is, however, only visible in the novel (as it is in our everyday reality) by its effects – which goes some way to explaining why it has (or so Bourdieu claims) ’échappé aux interprètes les plus attentifs’ (RA, 19).6

  • 7 ’In order to unveil completely the structure that a literary text could only unveil by veiling, th (...)
  • 8 ’generative formula’ (Rules, 13).
  • 9 ’in a necessary adventure all the implications of their respective ’formulas’ (Rules, 14).

4’Pour dévoiler complètement la structure que le texte littéraire ne dévoilait qu’en la voilant’, Bourdieu writes, ’l’analyse doit réduire le récit d’une aventure au protocole d’une sorte de montage expérimental’ (RA, 69).7 Taking note of who attends the various soirées, receptions, and reunions, and using the many details Flaubert provides as clues to his characters’ social positions, lifestyles, tastes, property and financial assets, etc., Bourdieu divides the twenty protagonists into overlapping groups, which he represents visually by means of a sociogramme. These two main groups are dominated by M. Arnoux and M. Dambreuse, the art dealer and the banker, who hold cultural-and-political power and economic-andpolitical power respectively, and who attract the weaker characters like the poles of a magnet (RA, 24-25). The reader will recognise the structure of the French field of power, with its opposition between cultural and economic poles. Where the characters are positioned in this structure will then determine their conduct in the narrative, each position, embodied as habitus, providing a sort of ’formule génératrice’,8 which orients where their interests lie, and circumscribes their probable attitudes and responses in any given social situation. The ’narrative’ then appears in the light of this model as a series of set-pieces, in which Flaubert experiments with different combinations of characters and scenarios: developing ’dans une aventure nécessaire toutes les implications de leurs ’formules’ respectives’ (RA, 37-38).9

  • 10 ’If Sentimental Education – necessarily a story of a group whose elements, united by an almost sys (...)
  • 11 ’What precludes the characters from having the abstract appearance of combinations of parameters i (...)

5Of course, this is not how one would usually read L’Éducation sentimentale. ’Si L’Éducation sentimentale, histoire nécessaire d’un groupe dont les éléments, unis par une combinatoire quasi systématique, sont soumis à l’ensemble des forces d’attraction ou de répulsion qu’exerce sur eux le champ du pouvoir, peut être lue comme une histoire’, Bourdieu writes, ’c’est que la structure qui organise la fiction, et qui fonde l’illusion de réalité qu’elle produit, se dissimule, comme dans la réalité, sous les interactions entre des personnes qu’elle structure’ (RA, 38).10 Just as in our ordinary experience we do not see the total system of relations between groups and individuals, who seem separated by geographical space and time, so the structure of L’Éducation sentimentale is hidden by the characters’ actual interactions, which attract our focus. ’Ce qui enlève aux personnages leur allure abstraite de combinaisons de paramètres’, Bourdieu continues, ’c’est aussi, paradoxalement, l’étroitesse de l’espace social où ils sont placés’ (RA, 38).11 In a closed social universe comprising closely connected networks, and within the confines of the centre of Paris, the protagonists have every possibility to meet, giving an appearance of chance to predictable probabilities.

  • 12 Roland Barthes, ’L’Effet de réel’, Communications, 11 (1968), 84-89.
  • 13 ’the work of writing thus creates a universe saturated with significant details, and therefore mor (...)
  • 14 ’Martinon’s neat ’beard along the line of the jaw’ announces all his subsequent behaviour, from th (...)

6According to Bourdieu, the extremely close analogy between the structure that propels the narrative, and that which co-ordinates social practices (with the unknowing ’complicity’ of agents), is the basis of the particularly intense ’effet de croyance (plutôt que réel)’ it produces. Bourdieu’s understanding of this ’belief effect’ is rather different from the ’reality effect’ of Barthes, for whom it is the ’détails ”inutiles”’ within a narrative description which, by their apparent contingency and superfluousness, strike the reader as realistic.12 Indeed, at least in the case of L’Éducation sentimentale, what Bourdieu calls ’le travail d’écriture crée (…) un univers saturé de détails significatifs et, par là, plus signifiant que nature’ (RA, 22),13 in which every detail – from Deslauriers’s beer to Dambreuse’s ’grands vins de Bordeaux’, passing by the ’vins extraordinaires’ served by Arnoux and the champagne at Rosannette’s –evokes a recognisable lifestyle and way of being-in-the-world, which makes their actions and responses in different social situations appear coherent and realistic. ’Ainsi’, Bourdieu writes, ’la ”barbe taillée en collier” de Martinon annonce toutes les conduites ultérieures, depuis la pâleur, les soupirs et les lamentations par où il trahit, à l’occasion de l’émeute, sa peur d’être compromis, ou la prudente contradiction qu’il apporte à ses camarades lorsqu’ils attaquent Louis-Philippe (…), jusqu’au sérieux qu’il affiche, tant dans ses conduites que dans ses propos ostentatoirement conservateurs, aux soirées des Dambreuse’ (RA, 37-38).14 According to Bourdieu, it is the ’travail d’écriture’ or work on form, which Flaubert took to new levels, which explains the appearance (albeit veiled) of deep social and psychological structures which usually escape conscious awareness. Bourdieu writes:

  • 15 ’Unless one sees as a sort of completely unintelligible miracle the fact that analysis can discove (...)

Sous peine de voir l’effet d’une sorte de miracle parfaitement inintelligible dans le fait que l’analyse puisse découvrir dans l’œuvre – comme je l’ai fait pour L’Éducation sentimentale – des structures profondes inaccessibles à l’intuition ordinaire (et à la lecture des commentateurs), il faut bien admettre que c’est à travers ce travail sur la forme que se projettent dans l’œuvre ces structures que l’écrivain, comme tout agent social, porte en lui à l’état pratique, sans en détenir véritablement la maîtrise (RA, 184).15

7Flaubert’s legendary attention to style enabled him to cut through stereotyped images and associations (’idées réçues’), automaticisms of speech, of rhythm, rhyme, etc., to produce a more penetrating vision of the real than can pass the censorship of ordinary language and representations. Yet it is as if Flaubert did not mean to represent these structures in his narrative: they only ’appeared’ as a sort of by-product of the work on form, which was the author’s sole focus.

  • 16 ’sometimes say more, even about the social realm, than many writings with

8Yet it is also through this ’denegated’ or ’veiled’ reference to reality, Bourdieu claims, that literature is able to ’parfois dire plus, même sur le monde social, que nombre d’écrits à prétention scientifique’ (RA, 68).16 The literary form enables the indirect expression and experience of truths which, if confronted in reality, could be ’insupportable’ (RA, 69). Perhaps the most striking example of this is the relation, often discussed, between Flaubert and Frédéric. Even by writing L’Éducation sentimentale, Bourdieu argues, Flaubert repressed the resemblances between himself and Frédéric, of whom a significant characteristic is his incapacity to write (RA, 57). Flaubert objectified his own previous ’indétermination’ in Frédéric, which Bourdieu explains by his paradoxical position in the field of power, split between the two poles. Yet Frédéric’s hankering for social ubiquity, which means he can never commit to a single woman or career, and so secure his social position and trajectory, Flaubert was able to satisfy in a form of art in which he could ’vivre toutes les vies’ (RA, 59-60). We can understand that Flaubert had needed fully to be reassured that his own writing was not simply another failed project, with the success of Madame Bovary (and, one supposes, Salammbô), before he was able to finish Frédéric’s story of failure, at the second attempt (RA, 57, n. 100).

  • 17 Jacques Leenhardt, ’Les Règles de l’art de P. Bourdieu’, French Cultural Studies, 4 (1993), 263-70
  • 18 ’suppress his desire to know’ (trans. J.S.).
  • 19 ’an activity which turns its back on knowledge’ (trans. J.S.).

9Bourdieu admits that his analysis of L’Éducation sentimentale, which can seem to reduce Flaubert’s characters and his narrative to bare bones, ’ait quelque chose de profondément désenchanteur’ (RA, 69). Several critics have gone further, and seen it and Bourdieu’s work on literature more generally as an ’attack’ on aesthetic theory, on aesthetic values, and even on the aesthetic itself. One of the more serious of these critiques (because it manages at least to reconstruct portions of Bourdieu’s argument), is an article by Jacques Leenhardt, director of studies at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), entitled, straightforwardly, ’Les Règles de l’art de P. Bourdieu’.17 Leenhardt picks up on Bourdieu’s use of semimystical vocabulary and his talk of beliefs (which is a reference in fact to Baudelaire), and by some free-association finds in Bourdieu’s analysis an implicit critique of literary knowledge. The ’belief’ literature engages becomes, in Leenhardt’s mind, a sort of ’opium’, the impact of which on the reader is ’d’endormir son désir de savoir’.18 Alchemy, incantation, and magic suggest ’les contours d’une activité qui tourne le dos à la connaissance’,19 and so on. Leenhardt concludes:

  • 20 Leenhardt, ’Les Règles de l’art’, p. 267. ’The position that Bourdieu takes with regard to literat (...)

la position que prend Bourdieu à l’égard de la littérature engage toute une théorie de la connaissance, et son combat pour la sociologie prend les allures d’un combat contre la littérature dans la mesure où ce qui est en jeu à ses yeux est la sauvegarde de la prééminence du savoir rationnel.20

  • 21 ’several tyles or modalities of knowledge’ (trans. J.S.).
  • 22 Leenhardt, ’Les Règles de l’art de P. Bourdieu’, p. 270. ’Literature should not be compared to sci (...)

10The question Leenhardt puts to Bourdieu is whether there are not ’plusieurs types ou modalités de savoir’21 – if human knowledge and experience cannot be expressed and communicated in many different ways, which it would be an impoverishment to deny ourselves. ’La littérature ne doit pas être comparée à la science’, Leenhardt insists, ’mais lui être juxtaposée, dans une analyse englobante de l’arsenal symbolique que se donnent les sociétés, et singulièrement les sociétés modernes qui tendent à la préférer aux représentations plus statiques que leur fournissaient les mythologies religieuses’.22 This is, in fact, Bourdieu’s position, whose own recourse to the ’symbolic arsenal’ of literature will be explored below.

’Le démontage impie de la fiction’

  • 23 ’not to see as an ’attack’ or a ’criticism’ (in the ordinary sense) what is intended to be an anal (...)
  • 24 ’a certificate of cultural virtue by denouncing loudly, in these days of restoration, the threats (...)
  • 25 ’Do not laugh, do not deplore, do not detest’, said Spinoza, ’just understand’ – or better, make i (...)

11We cannot blame Bourdieu’s critics and readers entirely for their misunderstandings and defensiveness, as Bourdieu himself tends to do. It is up to his reader, apparently, ’qu’il dénonce à voir une ”attaque” ou une ”critique”, au sens ordinaire, dans ce qui veut être une analyse’ (RA, 342)23 – when, that is, his critics are not trying to earn ’un brevet de vertu culturelle en dénonçant à grands cris, en ces temps de restauration, les menaces que feraient peser sur l’art (ou la philosophie) des analyses dont l’intention iconologique apparaît comme une violence iconoclaste’ (RA, 305).24 Bourdieu insists his aim is neither to diminish or destroy literary values and pleasures, but simply to ’understand’: in accordance with the maxim he cites often from Spinoza: ’Ne pas rire, ne pas déplorer, ne pas détester, disait Spinoza, mais comprendre’, ou, mieux, nécessiter, rendre raison’ (RA, 448).25 The problem is that Bourdieu’s ’distance objectivante’ is not the same as Spinoza’s serene detachment, as the bellicose talk of ’conquering’ scientific facts might already have suggested. Scientific knowledge can only be won by what Bourdieu calls (echoing Bachelard) ’la polémique de la raison’: by a generalised negation (contradiction and refutation) of ’errors’, ’beliefs’, ’preconceptions’, etc., supported by a social struggle to ensure that the ’truth’ wins out. It is difficult not to feel some defensiveness in the face of such an onslaught, especially when it is directed at a form of knowledge that neither claims nor aims for objectivity.

  • 26 ’a sort of epoche of the belief commonly granted to cultural things and to the legitimate ways of (...)
  • 27 far from a simple methodological overturning: it implies a veritable conversion of the most common (...)
  • 28 Ahearne, Between Cultural Theory and Policy, p. 49.

12Indeed, even if Bourdieu’s ’iconological’ intentions are good, we might well wonder if socio-analysis, which is first and foremost a method of ’dismantling’ (ana-lysis), may not weaken the strength and sincerity of the beliefs that hold the literary game together. Bourdieu, as we have seen, speaks of sociology requiring a sort of ’épochè’ (suspension) ’de la croyance communément accordée aux choses de la culture et aux manières légitimes de les aborder’.26 More than a simple ’renversement méthodologique’, he describes this as ’une véritable conversion de la manière la plus commune de penser et de vivre la vie intellectuelle’ (RA, 305).27 As Ahearne argues, however, ’it seems likely that some of the belief ’suspended’ for the purposes of understanding may not return, and that the ’credit’ accorded to the things of culture may thereby be diminished’.28

  • 29 ’Nous savons, captifs d’une formule absolue, que, certes, n’est que ce qui est. Incontinent écarte (...)
  • 30 Graw, ’Que Suis-Je?’ ’Mallarmé is usually used like Hölderlin to defend the idea that art has some (...)
  • 31 ’the collective belief in the game (illusio) and in the sacred value of its stakes which is both t (...)
  • 32 Ahearne, Between Cultural Theory and Policy, p. 52.

13Bourdieu addresses this issue in his discussions of a brief excerpt from Stéphane Mallarmé’s 1895 publication La Musique et les lettres.29 In an interview with Isabelle Graw, Bourdieu admits to having been ’très content d’avoir trouvé ce texte. C’est comme si j’avais trouvé chez Heidegger un passage où il dise que le monde social explique le conscient’.30 Mallarmé, he notes, ’est d’ordinaire utilisé comme Hölderlin pour défendre l’idée selon laquelle l’art est quelque chose de sacré’, following, we might add, examples set by Maurice Blanchot and Jacques Derrida. In this passage from La Musique et les lettres, however, Mallarmé appears to say (albeit in highly obscure language, especially as the text was originally presented in French at a conference in England) what Bourdieu attempts to prove in Les Règles, which is that the value and interest we think of as inherent to literary works are products of a social game founded on collective belief. Bourdieu calls this belief the field’s ’illusio, which he defines as ’la croyance collective dans le jeu (illusio) et dans la valeur sacrée de ses enjeux [qui] est à la fois la condition et le produit du fonctionnement même du jeu’ (RA, 376).31 This common agreement, even if there is little agreement on anything else, that the game is worth the time and effort it takes to play (but one should not be flippant: some have paid dearly, including with their lives, to defend a theory or for freedom of expression), is what keeps the game ’interesting’ – and of course, the game becomes more interesting with the more interest it attracts.32 Indeed, Bourdieu writes:

  • 33 ’The literary illusio, that originating adherence to the literary game which grounds the belief in (...)

l’illusio littéraire, cette croyance dans l’importance ou l’intérêt des fictions littéraires, est la condition, presque toujours inaperçue du plaisir esthétique qui est toujours, pour une part, plaisir de jouer le jeu, de participer à la fiction, d’être en accord total avec les présupposés du jeu; la condition aussi de l’illusion littéraire et de l’effet de croyance (plutôt qu’’effet de réel’) que le texte peut produire (RA, 538).33

  • 34 ’by a trick’ (cited and trans. in Rules, 274).
  • 35 ’to perform, in public, the impious dismantling of the fiction and consequently of the literary me (...)
  • 36 Ahearne, Between Cultural Theory and Policy, p. 49.
  • 37 ’he more than than anyone has been pressed into the service of the exaltation of ’creation’, of th (...)

14The ability of books to attract our attention, and obtain the ’suspension of disbelief’ we accord willingly to works in anticipation of gratification, as well as the indissociable pleasure of taking part in the literary game (which is always also, to some extent, the pleasure of taking sides (of expressing preferences, outrage, etc.)), are all, Bourdieu explains, functions of the literary illusio, the fundamental belief in the value and importance of the game and of its stakes. If we follow Bourdieu’s argument, Mallarmé was aware of his own involvement in this social game, which ’elevates’ works and their authors, ’par une supercherie’,34 to the status of fetishes, endowed with quasi-magical properties. Mallarmé refused, however, in his own words, ’à opérer, en public, le démontage impie de la fiction et conséquemment du mécanisme littéraire’,35 in case this divulgation ’accuserait notre inconséquence, niant le plaisir que nous voulons prendre’ – in case, precisely, the statement and explanation of its rules would in Ahearne’s terms ’dis-credit (take belief from)’ the cultural game.36 Mallarmé only spoke the truth in such a way that it had little chance of being understood – and has not been, as is shown by the fact, as Bourdieu observes, that ’nul plus que lui n’a été mis au service de l’exaltation de la ”création”, du ”créateur” et de la mystique heideggérienne de la poésie comme ”révélation” ’ (RA, 455 n.101)37.

  • 38 ’a sort of deliberate fetishism’ (Rules, 275).
  • 39 the pleasure we want to take’ justifies the ’cheat’ (cited and translated in Rules, 274).
  • 40 ’faced with the pharisaical denunciations of my ’denunciations’, I have often regretted not having (...)
  • 41 ’To opt to keep the secret, or to unveil it only in a strictly veiled form, as Mallarmé does, is t (...)
  • 42 ’Champ intellectuel et projet créateur’, p. 871. ’Terrorism of taste’ (trans. J.S.).

15We might think all this more than a little hypocritical. Bourdieu’s interpretation of Mallarmé’s text is almost as obscure as the original. We might want also to find more and less enigmatic evidence that Mallarmé indeed shared something like Bourdieu’s sociological vision of the field, to avoid the suspicion that Bourdieu was projecting his own thoughts and theories into the mind of the poet. It is significant, however, in Bourdieu’s view, that Mallarmé himself kept playing along, despite having no illusions regarding the objective value and importance of literary works and authors (including himself). By what Bourdieu describes as ’une sorte de fétichisme décisoire’38 (we can notice the apparent oxymoron), Mallarmé chose to keep playing along – and not, as we might expect, half-heartedly or cynically, but ith the conviction that the ’plaisir que nous voulons prendre’ (italics added by Bourdieu) justifies ’le leurre’ (RA, 452).39Although Bourdieu admits that he had sometimes regretted ’devant les dénonciations pharisiennes de mes ’dénonciations’, (…) de n’avoir pas suivi les traces de Mallarmé qui, se refusant à ’opérer, en public, le démontage impie de la fiction’ (…) choisissait de sauver la fiction, et la croyance collective dans le jeu’ (MP, 15),40 he claims that he could not have been satisfied completely by following Mallarmé’s strategy. ’Prendre le parti de garder le secret, ou de ne pas le dévoiler que sous une forme strictement voilée, comme fait Mallarmé, c’est préjuger que seuls quelques grands initiés sont capables de la lucidité héroïque et de la générosité décisoire qui sont nécessaires pour affronter dans sa vérité l’énigme de la fiction et du fétichisme’ (MP, 15).41 Bourdieu’s wager is that Mallarmé was wrong not to trust the public’s capacity to choose their own cultural icons, once they understand the correct principles of judgement (for instance, the difference between ’autonomous’ and ’heteronomous’ producers). What Bourdieu describes in an early article as the ’terrorisme du goût’,42 which imposes unconditional recognition for consecrated works, would then give way to a more informed – and democratic – sort of delegation.

  • 43 Alfred Weber, History of Philosophy, trans. Frank Thilly (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908) (...)
  • 44 ’Society is God’ (trans. J.S.).

16If this changed relation to culture impacts at all upon our reading pleasure, Bourdieu claims it would only intensify it. Here, Bourdieu returns to Spinoza and his notion of an amor intellectualis dei, the intellectual love of God, conceived of by Spinoza not as an individual, a person like ourselves, but ’as the necessary order of things, as the eternal and involuntary cause of everything that exists’ (Alfred Weber).43 Spinoza saw amor intellectualis dei as the highest form of knowledge, and even as the key to human blessedness: when the philosopher becomes aware of his place in nature, and nature (God, or ’substance’) becomes aware of itself. Taking his cue from the Spinozist sociology of Durkheimians (whose motto ’la société, c’est Dieu’44 he cites in several places), Bourdieu adapts this notion of amor intellectualis dei to his theory of artistic perception and appreciation:

  • 45 ’scientific analysis, when it is able to uncover what makes the work of art necessary, that is to (...)

l’analyse scientifique, lorsqu’elle est capable de porter au jour ce qui rend l’œuvre d’art nécessaire, c’est-à-dire la formule informatrice, le principe générateur, la raison d’être, fournit à l’expérience artistique, et au plaisir qui l’accompagne, sa meilleure justification, son plus riche aliment. À travers elle, l’amour sensible de l’œuvre peut s’accomplir dans une sorte d’amor intellectualis rei, assimilation de l’objet au sujet et immersion du sujet dans l’objet littéraire (qui, en plus d’un cas, est lui-même le produit d’une semblable soumission) (RA, 15).45

  • 46 Bourdieu, ’Champ intellectuel et projet créateur’, p. 871. ’What is beautiful is that which corres (...)

17When we understand the logic and history behind an author’s habitus, and the space of possibilities from which his work was composed, we can also see the necessity objectified in his work, which in turn appears necessary to us. And as we know from the artist Wassily Kandinsky’s saying (also quoted by Bourdieu), ’est beau ce qui correspond à une nécessité intérieure’.46

  • 47 It is not only in literary and art criticism that this amor intellectualis can be felt, according (...)

18Clearly, the question of the impact that socio-analysis exerts on cultural life is more complex than the frequent accusations of Bourdieu’s ’reductionism’ and ’scientism’ suggest. If it seems likely that something is lost in the ’translation’ of the structure of the literary field (and of literary works) into sociological concepts and principles, Bourdieu holds out the prospect of a sort of compensation, in the form of a less alienated relation to ’legitimate’ culture, and of an amor intellectualis, which promises to deepen our sense of participation in literary life, and sense of ownership over works, which will correspond more closely and at several levels to our (perhaps as yet unformulated) expectations.47 Yet there is also a process of ’dismantling’ that goes on before, which can be disenchanting, and provoke resistances. We need perseverance, and not a little courage, see it though, against the grain of both ritualistic celebrations and the barbarian rage to reduce and destroy (which is to say, frequently against our own spontaneous dispositions). In this sense, Bourdieu can justifiably

  • 48 ’heroic lucidity’ (Meditations, 15).

19speak of ’lucidité héroïque’ (MP, 15).48

Cross-overs

20So far, we have kept social science and literature relatively distinct, in our effort to define them. What we can now explore, are the possibilities for what I will call ’cross-overs’ between literature and sociology. Bourdieu advises sociologists to avoid trying to compete with writers on their own ground. Not being adequately aware of the exigencies and potentialities inscribed in the logic of the field and the literary heritage, would expose sociologists to the risk of appearing as ’naïve’ writers (in the sense that Douanier Rousseau was a naïve painter, who did not really understand the artistic game that was being played with him by Duchamp and his other artist friends). Sociologists can, however, Bourdieu says, ’find in literary works research clues and orientations that the censorship specific to the scientific field tend to forbid to them or to hide from them’ (IRS, 206). Sociologists can appropriate instruments from literature’s ’symbolic arsenal’ to help with specific scientific problems. Bourdieu remembers how, for instance, in his work on Flaubert he had ’stumbled upon many problems – and solutions – that he [Flaubert] had himself encountered, such as that of the combined use of direct style, indirect style, and free indirect style which lies at the heart of the problem of transcription and publication of interviews’ (IRS, 208). We can find a good example of Bourdieu’s use of these techniques in his report on his interview with ’un jeune cadre qui ”sait vivre” ’ in La Distinction, in which he switches skilfully between direct citation, reported speech, and periphrasis (D, 340-44). Bourdieu’s writing style (not often noted for its literary elegance), seems also to have drawn inspiration from Proust, whose complex sentence structures are also crafted to reflect the complexity of reality:

  • 49 ’I think that, literary and stylistic qualities apart, what Spitzer says about Proust’s style is s (...)

Je pense que, la qualité littéraire du style mise de côté, ce que Spitzer dit du style de Proust, je pourrais le dire de mon écriture. Il dit que, premièrement, ce qui est complexe ne se laisse dire que de façon complexe; que, deuxièmement, la réalité n’est pas seulement complexe, mais aussi structurée, hiérarchisée, et qu’il faut donner l’idée de cette structure: si l’on veut tenir le monde dans toute sa complexité et en même temps hiérarchiser et articuler, mettre en perspective, mettre au premier plan ce qui est important, etc., il faut recourir à ces phrases lourdement articulées, que l’on doit pratiquement reconstruire comme les phrases latines; que, troisièmement, cette réalité complexe et structurée, Proust ne veut pas la livrer telle quelle, mais en donnant simultanément son point de vue par rapport à elle, en disant comment il se situe par rapport à elle, en disant comment il se situe par rapport à ce qu’il décrit (CD, 67).49

  • 50 ’antitheses between parallel things and parallels between antithetical things’ (Rules, 29).

21Bourdieu’s writing style and syntax enable him to integrate multiple voices and perspectives, including that of the author, and to symbolise the complexity of the social structures he analyses (the tension between positions, their implication in multiple causal series, the over-determined nature of practices (which do and signify more than we think), etc.), through the associations between words; the layering of thought; 180-degree turns; ’antithèses entre choses parallèles et parallèles entre choses antithétiques’ (the formula is one Bourdieu applies to Flaubert, but Bourdieu must have seen it applied equally to himself) (RA, 64).50

  • 51 ’this is why it is logical to ask assistance from those who have broken with this tradition on the (...)

22Literary authors seem also to have inspired Bourdieu’s use of ’polyonomasie’, the plurality of perspectives on the same person or object, which, especially in Modernist literature (Bourdieu mentions in various places Virginia Woolf, Faulkner, Joyce, Flaubert, but also Cervantes, who in some ways anticipated Modernism), shatters the fixed and unitary gaze of the observer, and according to Bourdieu brings us closer to the reality of co-existing, and sometimes directly competing, points of view (MM, 9-10; HA, 42-43). Similarly, Bourdieu came to see the non-linear narratives of Woolf, Faulkner, Claude Simon, and Robbe-Grillet, as ’closer to the truth of temporal experience’, and ’anthropologically more truthful’, than the ’lifestories’ used usually by sociologists and anthropologists, the conventions of which have themselves been reinforced by the literary tradition (IRS, 207). Literary writers are in a sense ahead of sociologists, in that they have already broken with chronology, the logical ordering of events, and with unilinear narratives, which, in our subjective memory and experience, can be blurred and ambiguous. ’C’est pourquoi’, Bourdieu writes, ’il est logique de demander assistance àceux qui ont eu àrompre avec cette tradition sur le terrain même de son accomplissement exemplaire’ (RP, 83).51 Writers can give sociologists the tools to listen to and document more accurately actor accounts of memory and experience.

  • 52 ’evocatory magic’ (cited and trans. in Rules, 32; 107; 108; 109).

23Literature can also provide the sociologist with a fresh view of his object, an example of which is Bourdieu’s use of Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse to elucidate the structures of domination within families in La Domination masculine. As we have seen, Bourdieu’s reading of Woolf makes no attempt to analyse Virginia Woolf’s ’point of view’, position, and trajectory. Indeed, the ’epistemological vector’ appears to go in the opposite direction: it is not sociological theory that provides new insight into the literary text, but the literary text that gives the sociologist a fresh perspective on his object. Again, Bourdieu attributes this fact to the strange ’sorcellerie évocatoire’ (Baudelaire)52 of the writer’s work on form:

  • 53 ’It took all the insight of Virginia Woolf and the infinite refinement of her writing to pursue th (...)

Il fallait toute l’acuité de Virginia Woolf et l’infini raffinement de son écriture pour pousser l’analyse jusqu’aux effets les mieux cachés d’une forme de domination qui est inscrite dans tout l’ordre social et opère dans l’obscurité des corps, à la fois enjeux et principes de son efficacité (DM, 113).53

24Woolf’s formalist research enabled her to break through stereotyped representations (not least the simplistic polemics and slogans about gender that still blight much feminist criticism, including Woolf’s own theoretical texts), and to reveal structures of symbolic power and violence that usually remain hidden, misrecognised or denied. As Bourdieu notes, Woolf was aware of this paradox, writing, ’I prefer, where truth is important, to write fiction’, or again, ’fiction here is likely to contain more truth than fact’ (DM, 98 n. 20).

  • 54 Alain Caillé, ’Esquisse d’une Critique de l’Économie Générale de la Pratique’, Cahiers du LASA, 12 (...)
  • 55 Gérard Mauger, ’Lire Pierre Bourdieu’, Politis, 686 (2002), 26-27 (p. 25). ’The same long phrases, (...)
  • 56 Lane, Bourdieu’s Politics, p. 136.

25Several critics have also made comparisons between Bourdieu’s work and that of literary authors. Alain Caillé considers Bourdieu’s work to be a sort of sociological continuation of Balzac’s Comédie Humaine.54 Gérard Mauger makes a comparison with Claude Simon: ’même longueur des phrases, même multiplication des incises – digressions, associations, homologies – même recherche du mot juste et de l’énoncé ’ajusté au plus près’.’55 And Jeremy Lane likens Bourdieu’s technique of ’discursive montage’ (exemplified in La Distinction, but often used in his journal Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales) – which incorporates different forms of documents, photographs, advertisements, interview transcripts, statistics, reproductions of artworks, snippets from a play – to Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the ’polyphonic’ novel, which in Lane’s words juxtaposes ’competing voices and speech genres, each expressing conflicting social, cultural, and political values’.56

  • 57 Swartz, Culture and Power, p. 13.
  • 58 ’although truth has no intrinsic force, there is an intrinsic force of belief in truth, of belief (...)

26Literature lovers may shudder at such comparisons, and there are counter-arguments. David Swartz sees Bourdieu’s prose style as a reaction ’designed to shatter the notion of excellence as a sort of natural ability’ in a country ’where clarity of expression (la clarté) is elevated to a national virtue, where it is seen as truly a mark of natural talent and intelligence’.57 According to this interpretation, Bourdieu’s writing style contains an implicit rejection of the politically-laden ’belle prose’ taught at the École Normale Supérieure. We can also see Bourdieu’s writing style (perhaps more convincingly) as an attempt to demarcate his work from literature, to give it an appearance of scientific rigour and seriousness. This suggestion is supported by an analysis in Homo academicus, in which Bourdieu charts reflexively ’l’espace des styles’ available to the scientist, historian, philosopher, etc., and in which literature is a central point of reference (HA, 45-46). As Bourdieu often cited Spinoza (again) to say, ’bien qu’il n’y ait pas de force intrinsèque de la vérité, il y a une force de la croyance dans la vérité, de la croyance que produit l’apparence de la vérité’ (HA, 44).58 Bourdieu felt he needed the legitimacy and recognition that ’science’ can provide to give symbolic force to his research, so that it would be treated with the attention and seriousness it requires.

  • 59 Graw, ’Que Suis-Je?’ ’The reader absorbs almost without noticing the instruments of sociology to u (...)

27In the later phases of his career, when his position was established as a professor at the Collège de France and an international researcher, Bourdieu felt secure enough to experiment with more obviously ’literary’ forms and language. The most obvious example is the multi-authored work La Misère du monde, published in 1993, in which interview transcripts are interspersed with short analyses presented as short stories, in which the authors ’set the scene’ for the interviews that follow. Written in plain prose, with few mentions of concepts or theories, these brief introductions read like works of realist fiction, and manage to evoke concrete and sometimes shocking realities, which may have been drained of their impact by more abstract analysis. Bourdieu insists, however, that they were informed by sociological theory and analysis, which sensitised the authors to important details (the description of the décor in their houses, their clothing and body language, as well as what they say) that provide the pertinent background information on the interviewees. Bourdieu, at least, was happy with the result, which encourages and enables the reader to reflect back on his own experience: ’Le lecteur absorbe presque sans un bruit les instruments de la sociologie pour se comprendre lui-même’.59

  • 60 ’a dramatic intensity and an emotional force close to those of a literary text’ (Weight of the Wor (...)
  • 61 ’That place is frustrating you know [sniffing more cocaine and shaking his head]’ (Weight of the W (...)
  • 62 ’Being able to touch and move the reader, to reach the emotions, without giving in to sensationali (...)
  • 63 ’it is not sympathy which leads to true understanding, but true understanding which leads to sympa (...)

28The interviews in La Misère du monde are reproduced at length, if not in entirety, with few corrections or re-workings: a practice that was quite exceptional in contemporary French sociology. Expressing in direct speech the often brutal experiences and poor living conditions of the interviewees, they can reach, as Bourdieu writes, ’une intensité dramatique et une force émotionnelle proche de celle du texte littéraire’ (MM, 922).60 Indeed, the format is strongly reminiscent of theatrical scripts. In one of the interviews, ’Avec un dealer portoricain de Harlem’ (MM, 211-17), there are even what seem like stage directions: ’ce coin en plus est frustrant, tu sais [aspirant alors de la cocaïne et secouant la tête]’.61 Bourdieu claims that hearing, as it were ’directly’, from these individuals, whose real voices are rarely heard in published material, can be a first step towards empathy and understanding their situations, by weakening our preconceptions, resistances and hostilities. ’Capables de toucher et d’émouvoir, de parler à la sensibilité, sans sacrifier au goût du sensationnel, [les entretiens transcrits] peuvent entraîner les conversions de la pensée et de regard qui sont souvent le préalable de la compréhension’ (MM, 922).62 Bourdieu seems to have reversed his position here since Les Règles where he writes: ’ce n’est pas la sympathie qui conduit à la compréhension véritable, c’est la compréhension véritable qui conduit à la sympathie’ (RA, 494).63 We should probably dialecticise (set up a to-andfro, backwards-and-forwards) between these two positions: empathy and understanding being complementary, as we have been seeing, through amor intellectualis.

  • 64 Pierre Bourdieu and Günter Grass, ’La tradition ”d’ouvrir sa gueule”’, Le Monde, 3 December 1999.
  • 65 Samuel Beckett, Watt (New York: Grove, 1959), p. 48.
  • 66 Bourdieu and Grass, ’La tradition ”d’ouvrir sa gueule”’.

29La Misère du monde remains, for all that, rather a flat read. As Günter Grass remarked to Bourdieu when they met in 1999,64 ’il n’y a pas d’humour dans ce genre de livre. Il manque le comique de l’échec, qui joue un grand rôle dans mes histoires, les absurdités découlant de certaines confrontations’. Grass does not suggest we should make light of the situations depicted and analysed in La Misère du monde, which represent very real human tragedies. Yet Grass argues that tragedy is not incompatible with comedy. Grass cites as examples from the literary tradition Voltaire’s Candide or Diderot’s Jacques le Fataliste. ’ [Ce] sont des livres où les conditions sociales décrites sont également affreuses. N’empêche que même dans la douleur et l’échec, la capacité humaine d’être comique et, dans ce sens, victorieux s’impose’. Laughter in the face of tragedy (what Beckett calls the ’risus purus (…) the laugh that laughs – silence please – at that which is unhappy’65) is also a form of defiance. Bourdieu, however, appears to resist this idea of employing comic effects in his writing, even implying that it is a sign of the times – and of the ’révolution conservatrice’ he believed was in full swing – that intellectuals (including Grass) felt the need to be ’entertainers’, as if they had been reduced to the status of court jesters. ’On nous dit: vous n’êtes pas drôles. Mais l’époque n’est vraiment pas drôle ! Vraiment, il n’y a pas de quoi rire’.66

  • 67 Slavoj Žižek, Organs Without Bodies (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 58.

30Bourdieu’s repeated insistence on the scientist’s sérieux no doubt gives an unduly severe image of his writing, which is not without its amusements: literary puns and plays on words, pervasive irony, paradoxes, and 180-degree turns (as Slavoj Žižek cites Bertolt Brecht to say, ’there is no dialectics without humour: the dialectical reversals are deeply connected to comical twists and unexpected shifts of perspective’67). Even Bourdieu’s field analyses have a certain – malign? – comedy, for instance when he tracks the exchanges of symbolic capital between writers and intellectuals:

  • 68 Pierre Bourdieu, ’Les Conditions Sociales de la Ccirculation internationale des idées’, Romanistis (...)

Mauriac écrivant une préface à un livre de Sollers: l’aîné célèbre écrit une préface et transmet du capital symbolique, et en même temps, il manifeste sa capacité de découvreur et sa générosité de protecteur de la jeunesse qu’il reconnaît et qui se reconnaît en lui (…) Lévi-Strauss écrit une préface à l’œuvre de Mauss par laquelle il s’approprie le capital symbolique de l’auteur de l’Essai sur le Don. Je vous laisse réfléchir sur tout ça.68

  • 69 ’Thanks to me, and with me, ”Homo classifier” has fallen into his own classifications. I find this (...)

31Bourdieu also saw a comedic effect in his reflexive analysis in Homo academicus, which puts the author himself on display (like the central character in David Garnett’s short story A Man in the Zoo, evoked by Bourdieu to illustrate the strange situation of the analyst, who after an argument with his girlfriend offers himself as an exhibit in the local zoo, and is put in a cage with a chimpanzee and with a sign asking visitors ’not to tease the man with personal remarks’). ’Grâce à moi, avec moi’, Bourdieu writes, l’Homo classificateur est tombé dans ses propres classements. Je trouve ça plutôt comique. Je crois que mon livre devrait faire beaucoup rire’ (I, 192).69 Indeed, in a 1989 interview Bourdieu’s first – and perhaps best – piece of advice to any aspiring sociologists is to ’have fun!’

  • 70 Wacquant, ’Towards a Reflexive Sociology’, p. 54.

The craft of the sociologist is one of the most pleasant and enriching activities one can indulge in, spanning the whole gamut of intellectual practices and skills, from those of the novelist laboring to create emotions and character to those of the mathematician striving to capture the world in abstract models and equations. We must repel any unilateral, unidimensional and monomaniacal definition of sociological practice and resist all attempts to impose one.70

32Nonetheless, we have seen that Bourdieu tried consistently to distance himself from writing ’too well’, or from giving ’too much’ pleasure, in order to conform to certain conventions by which we recognise ’serious’ and ’scientific’ thought. As Bourdieu commented to Hans Haacke, if philosophers and social scientists make too many jokes, evoke too much pathos, use too colourful language, or make too many references to popular culture, etc., they are immediately assumed (quite often correctly) to be chasing success at the expense of academic standards (cf. LE, 111-12).

  • 71 Annie Ernaux, ’Bourdieu: le chagrin’, Le Monde, 5 May 2002. ’Bourdieu’s texts have been an encoura (...)
  • 72 Annie Ernaux, ’La Preuve par Corps’ in Bourdieu et la littérature, ed. Jean-Pierre Martin, pp. 23- (...)

33It is not only that Bourdieu’s sociology drew inspiration from literature. Writers have also been inspired by Bourdieu’s sociology. Several of the interviews in La Misère du monde were indeed adapted for the stage in 1998, by Didier Bezace in Le Jour et la nuit. Günter Grass also admits to a temptation to mine La Misère du monde for raw material, suggesting that sociological research can form the basis for literary works. If there is a ’Bourdieusian’ literary writer, however, it is undoubtedly Annie Ernaux, author of (among other works) Les Armoires vides, La Honte, and La Place. Ernaux has spoken frequently of Bourdieu’s influence on her writing, including in the obituary she wrote for Le Monde: ’les textes de Bourdieu ont été pour moi un encouragement à persévérer dans mon entreprise d’écriture, à dire, entre autres, ce qu’il nommait le refoulé social’.71 This was not a case of direct inspiration, Ernaux explains in a later essay. Her desire to write preceded her reading of Bourdieu. Instead, she says, ’ce que je dois à Bourdieu, (…) c’est une injonction à prendre comme matière d’écriture ce qui jusque-là m’avait paru ”au-dessus de la littérature”’.72 It is as if Bourdieu legitimated the subject-matter and style of Ernaux’s books, at a time when she had been drawn to writing an ’experimental’ novel, in the genre of the then fashionable Nouveau Roman.

  • 73 Annie Ernaux, La Place (Paris: Gallimard, 1983), p. 46.
  • 74 Annie Ernaux, ’La Preuve par corps’, p. 27. ’He helped me to conceive of what I call ”writing from (...)
  • 75 See Isabelle Charpentier, ’ ”Quelque part entre la littérature, la sociologie et l’histoire…”’, Co (...)
  • 76 Lettres en première autobiographie: Ernaux’, in L’École des Lettres, 9 (2002-03), ed. Thierry Poy (...)

34In an interview with the sociologist Isabelle Charpentier, Ernaux speaks of discovering what Bourdieu means by ’distance objectivante’ during the writing of La Place. We can see what she means when Ernaux reflexively discusses her writing practice, taking care, for instance, not to slip into either nostalgia or pathos for her working class origins.73 In the later essay, she further elaborates that Bourdieu ’m’a aidée à concevoir ce que j’appelle ’l’écriture distanciée’ (plutôt que ’plate’)’.74 Ernaux goes so far as to describes her genre of writing as ’autosociobiographie’; and on writing La Place, she comments: ’j’ai voulu travailler comme un ethnologue’.75 Ernaux even uses sociological terms such as ’domination’ or ’violence symbolique’ in her writing, although she stresses that her works are very much rooted in ’des scènes vécues, des choses vues, des phrases entendues’, and are not abstract analyses.76

  • 77 Ernaux, La Place, pp. 58-61. ’Don’t have an overly high view of yourself’ (trans. J.S.).

35Of course, we could (rather cynically) see a strategy by Ernaux to distinguish her work – with its ’true life’ subject-matter and self-conscious ’écriture plate’ – from run of the mill ’confessional’ autobiographies and from the memoirs of childhood misery which proliferated in the 1990s: much as we have seen Zola try to avoid the suspicion of vulgarity by associating the gaze of the ’romancier expérimental’ with the clinical gaze of the physician (cf. RA, 197-98). Nevertheless, Ernaux’s works and personal biography (which provides its subject matter), resonate strongly with those of Bourdieu, and can complement his more abstract analyses. See for example the characterisation of Ernaux’s working-class father in La Place – his shame at his accent, his constant fear ’d’être déplacé’, his leitmotiv ’il ne faut pas péter plus haut qu’on l’a’:77 a perfect illustration of Bourdieu’s theory of how ’les limites objectives deviennent sens des limites, anticipation pratique des limites objectives acquise par l’expérience des limites objectives, sense of one’s place qui porte à s’exclure (biens, personnes, lieux, etc.) de ce dont on est exclu’ (D, 549).

Fiction and realism

36The question of the relation between literature and science was one of the major problems facing French intellectuals from the mid-1960s. This question was brought into focus by changes in the hierarchies and relations between the scientific and humanistic disciplines in the French university field, and by a general educational shift in favour of more ’technological’ studies, which were deemed to offer greater employment prospects. At first, the tipping balance of power towards the natural sciences, which were becoming the ideal of academic excellence, inspired scholars in the faculty of letters to try to give their work an air of scientific rigour and legitimacy. According to Bourdieu, this was the explanation behind the popularity of what he calls ’l’effet -logie’: as philosophers, literary scholars, and historians began to borrow the techniques and lexicons of the nearby social sciences, inparticular structural linguistics and anthropology, and to adopt a scientific-sounding nom de guerre ending in -ique, -isme, or -logie (CD, 16). In 1967 Derrida published De la Grammatologie, in 1969 Foucault published L’Archéologie du Savoir, Barthes launched his ’semiology’, and so on. Indeed, for a time the theories grouped loosely under the banner of ’structuralism’ were able to postpone the subordination of literary culture to that of science, by combining the prestige and profits (for a long time considered irreconcilable) of the appearance of scientific rigour with those of philosophical hauteur and fine writing (HA, 160-61).

  • 78 Roland Barthes, ’De la Science à la Littérature’ in Le Bruissement de la langue (Paris: Éditions d (...)
  • 79 ’is ignorant of itself’ (trans. J.S.).
  • 80 ’there is certainly no scientific subject which has not been treated ant some time by universal li (...)
  • 81 ’science will become literature, insomuch as literature (…) is already, and has always been, scien (...)

37The strategy of accumulating both literary capital and scientific capital was matched at the theoretical level by attempts to produce a ’synthesis’ of literature and science. Encouraged by academic routines of reading, and by a mechanical transposition of the linguistic structuralism of Ferdinand de Saussure, semiology and structuralism treated any system of signs (for example, the garment system, the food system, the car system, the furniture system) as if it were a ’language’. It was only a small step for Barthes (and other theorists associated with the ’linguistic turn’, who, around the time, began to say that the ’world is text’) to conclude that there ’is’ only writing (écriture). Indeed, Barthes explains in an article first published in 196878 that because literature assumes its ’Being’ as language, while scientific language is a language ’qui s’ignore’,79 and because literature already englobes everything that science has ever said (’il n’est certainement pas une seule matière scientifique qui n’ait été à un certain moment traitée par la littérature universelle’80), it follows that literature must be more scientific than science. According to what would become a standard post-structuralist position, the science of ’literature’ must therefore become with its object if it wishes to remain a science, that is, ’la science deviendra littérature, dans la mesure où la littérature (…) est déjà, a toujours été, la science’.81

  • 82 ’postmodern ” rantings’ (Science, 1).
  • 83 Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts (Princeton, (...)
  • 84 Ibid, p. 261.

38As we have seen, Bourdieu avoided involving himself in structuralist and post-structuralist debates, as he worked to establish his own position. It was only in his last course of lectures at the Collège de France in 2001, published as Science de la science et réflexivité, that he finally struck out at what he calls the ’délires ”post-modernes” ’82 which, he warned, were sapping public confidence in science, and in social science in particular (SSR, 5-6). Bourdieu singles out for criticism a book published in 1979 by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts,83 which had achieved some prominence in the sociology of science. Citing as authorities Foucault and Derrida, and drawing on Greimas’s semiology, Latour and Woolgar present their book as ’a first tentative step towards making clear the link between science and literature’,84 this link being that science is a discourse (and a fiction) among many.

  • 85 Ibid., p. 88.
  • 86 Ibid., p. 245.
  • 87 Ibid. p. 257. The authors also explain that a previous version had admitted that their analysis is (...)

39Latour and Woolgar describe scientific facts as ’literary inscriptions’ (with reference to Derrida), and ’statements’ (with reference to Foucault), with no referent’ ’out there’’ in external or objective reality, but which only lead to other ’texts’, from which they have also been generated. In this sense, they argue, science is a form of ’literary production’; scientists are ’writers and readers in the business of being convinced and convincing others’;85 their works are ’fictions’ in the sense that they do not refer to ’reality’; and ’between scientists and chaos, there is nothing but a wall of archives, labels, protocol books, figures, and papers’.86 Needless to say, in good ’reflexive’ method Latour and Woolgar include their own work in this endless proliferation of texts, concluding that their ’own account is no more than fiction’.87

  • 88 Ibid, pp. 64-65.
  • 89 ’In short, the researchers’ naïvely realist belief in a reality external to the laboratory is a pu (...)
  • 90 Pierre Bourdieu, Leçon sur la Leçon (Paris: Éditions du Minuit, 1982), p. 49.
  • 91 Bourdieu, ’Structuralism and Theory of Sociological Knowledge’, p. 705.

40In making this case, Latour and Woolgar seem to be denying the existence of any objective reality beyond or ’outside’ text (understood as a tissue or web of signifiers referring only to each other). This is what they say: ’the artificial reality, which participants describe in terms of an objective entity, has in fact been constructed by the use of transcription devices’. ’It is not simply that phenomena depend on certain material instrumentation; rather, the phenomena are thoroughly constituted by the material setting of the laboratory’. For example, ’the molecular weight of proteins could hardly be said to exist except by virtue of the centrifuge’.88 ’Bref’, Bourdieu summarises, with characteristic irony, ’la croyance naïvement réaliste des chercheurs en une réalité extérieure au laboratoire est une pure illusion dont seule peut les débarrasser une sociologie réaliste’ (SSR, 57).89 Yet if Bourdieu was concerned in his last series of lectures to affirm the existence of an independent, ’objective’ reality, he had himself come dangerously close in the past to affirming a radical constructivist position. When Bourdieu resorts to ’as if thinking’ (cf. MS, 72), states that ’les fonctions sociales sont des fictions sociales’ (LL, 49),90 or writes that ’ultimately, objective relations do not exist and do not really realise themselves except in and through the system of dispositions of the agents, produced by the internalisation of objective conditions’,91 we might well mistake him (as we have seen Vandenberghe does) for a constructivist.

41In fact, we can explain Bourdieu’s strong and sometimes exclusive emphasis on the ’constructedness’ of scientific knowledge in light of the opposition he was up against. Bourdieu indicates with reference to Gaston Bachelard that ’epistemology is always conjunctural: its propositions and thrust are determined by the principal scientific threat of the moment’ (IRS, 174). In 1968, that threat came from positivist empiricism. ’En sociologie’, Le Métier de sociologue states, ’l’empirisme occupe, ici et maintenant, le sommet de la hiérarchie des dangers épistémologiques’ (MS, 95-96). Bourdieu was brought therefore to stress (and sometimes over-emphasise) the steps of ’rupture’ and ’construction’, against empiricist positivism, which does not operate the break with direct experience. Similarly, in the context of the rising supremacy of radical constructivism and post-modernism, Bourdieu was brought more strongly to affirm the relation between the ’model’ and ’reality’, the existence of which, he claims, is so integral to their undertaking that it forms part of ’l’attitude naturelle’ of scientific researchers (SSR, 137), which need hardly be stated. ’Ce postulat ontologique en suppose un autre’, Bourdieu writes:

  • 92 ’This ontological postulate presupposes another one, the idea that there is meaning, an order, a l (...)

l’idée qu’il y a du sens, de l’ordre, une logique, bref, quelque chose à comprendre dans le monde, y compris dans le monde social (contre ce que Hegel appelait ’l’athéisme du monde moral’); que l’on ne peut pas dire n’importe quoi à propos du monde (’anything goes’, selon la formule chère à Feyerabend), parce que tout et n’importe quoi n’est pas possible dans le monde. Ce n’est pas sans quelque étonnement que l’on trouve une expression parfaite de ce postulat chez Frege: ’Si tout était dans un flux continu et que rien ne se maintenait fixé pour toujours, il n’y aurait pas de possibilité de connaître le monde et tout serait plongé dans la confusion (SSR, 137-38).92

42Against the idea we have found in Laboratory Life that there is only ’chaos’ beyond the ordering system of language, for Bourdieu the social world, like the natural world, has its own order and sense, and constant patterns in its changes, of which it is the scientist’s role to discover the invisible structures, laws, and principles.

  • 93 Bourdieu, ’Structuralism and Theory of Sociological Knowledge’, pp. 683; 689.

43Yet as we have seen Bourdieu suggest in his reply to Vandenberghe, we can also find this ’realist’ position in Bourdieu’s earliest metascientific writings. In ’Structuralism and Theory of Sociological Knowledge’ (1968), for instance, Bourdieu already cites the introduction to Hegel’s Philosophy of Right against those who would ’deny the social world the immanent necessity they recognize in the natural one’, and the quantum physicist Gustave Juvet, this time, to say: ’in the rushing flux of phenomena, in the ever changeable reality, the physicist observes something permanent’.93 Like a sort of social physicist, the sociologist’s task, as Bourdieu sees it, is to ’translate’ or objectify the structures of reality into systems of intelligible relations and their explicatory principles, through the lens of which we should be able understand and predict observable phenomena.

  • 94 ’the arbitration of the real’ (Science, 70).

44For all his interest in the ’relations’ and ’cross-overs’ between literature and science, then, Bourdieu insists that they should not be simply conflated or folded into one another. The crux of their difference is in their relation to the structural or relational reality ’beyond’ or ’behind’ experiential ’reality’. Whereas in the case of literature this reference is ’denied’, ’euphemized’ and ’veiled’ (in the terms Bourdieu uses), and is given in the form of demonstrations and exemplifications, or better ’evocations’, science, Bourdieu writes, ’ne vise pas à donner à voir, ou à sentir, mais à construire des systèmes de relations intelligibles capabes de rendre raison des données’ (RA, 14), which it accepts to submit to ’l’arbitrage du réel’ (SSR, 137).94 Bourdieu writes:

  • 95 ’Scientific discourse is distinct from the discourse of fiction – from the novel, for instance, wh (...)

Le discours scientifique se distingue du discours de fiction – du roman, par exemple, qui se donne plus ou moins ouvertement pour un discours feint et fictif – en ce que, comme le remarque John Searle, il veut dire ce qu’il dit, il prend au sérieux ce qu’il dit et accepte d’en répondre, c’est-à-dire, le cas échéant, d’être convaincu d’erreur (HA, 43).95

45In order for this distinction to hold, we need to maintain a conception of external reality, which has been lost by post-modern and poststructuralist theories, with the result that it has seemed logical to conflate literary and scientific discourses, since texts only referred to each other. This does not mean that Bourdieu falls into the trap of naïve realism or positivism. For Bourdieu, all scientific knowledge is constructed, and our experience of the ’real’ is always mediated by the theory (which can continue to develop and progress over time). Nor does Bourdieu’s conception of the difference between literature and science lead him to privilege scientific knowledge over the specific form of knowledge that literature can produce and provide. Bourdieu sees a ’resemblance in difference’ between literature and science, which are able to reveal the patterns and structures of reality in different ways. Bourdieu thus brings a non-reductive response to a problem that, at both the conceptual and institutional levels, had defined his intellectual generation, and which we will see him again confront in his cultural policy proposals for the reform of the education system (see Chapter 6).

Notes

1 ’A science of works’ (trans. J.S.).

2 ’The arbitrage of the real’ (trans. J.S.).

3 ’a generalized euphemism’ (Rules, 32).

4 ’as if it did not speak of it’ (Rules, 3).

5 ’a belief and an imaginary participation analogous to those that we ordinarily grant to the real world’ (Rules, 32).

6 ’eluded the most attentive interpreters’ (Rules, 3).

7 ’In order to unveil completely the structure that a literary text could only unveil by veiling, the analysis should reduce the story of an adventure to the protocol of an experimental montage’ (Rules, 32).

8 ’generative formula’ (Rules, 13).

9 ’in a necessary adventure all the implications of their respective ’formulas’ (Rules, 14).

10 ’If Sentimental Education – necessarily a story of a group whose elements, united by an almost systematic set of combinations, are subjected to an ensemble of forces of attraction or repulsion exercised over them by the field of power – may be read as a history, it is because the structure which organizes the fiction, and which grounds the illusion of reality it produces, is hidden, as in reality, beneath the interactions of people, which are structured by it’ (Rules, 14).

11 ’What precludes the characters from having the abstract appearance of combinations of parameters is also, paradoxically, the narrowness of the social space in which they are placed’ (Rules, 14).

12 Roland Barthes, ’L’Effet de réel’, Communications, 11 (1968), 84-89.

13 ’the work of writing thus creates a universe saturated with significant details, and therefore more signifying than true life’ (Rules, 5).

14 ’Martinon’s neat ’beard along the line of the jaw’ announces all his subsequent behaviour, from the pallor, sighs and lamentation by which he betrays, on the occasion of the riot, his fear of being compromised, or the prudent contradiction which he offers to his comrades when the attack Louis-Philippe (…) right down to the serious face he puts on, both in his behaviour and in his ostentatiously conservative speeches at the Dambreuse soirées’ (Rules, 14).

15 ’Unless one sees as a sort of completely unintelligible miracle the fact that analysis can discover in the work – as I have for Sentimental Education, profound structures inaccessible to ordinary intuition (and to the reading of commentators), it must be acknowledged that it is through this work on form that the work comes to contain those structures that the writer, like any social agent, carries within him in a practical way, without having really mastered them’ (Rules, 108).

16 ’sometimes say more, even about the social realm, than many writings with

scientific pretensions’ (Rules, 32).

17 Jacques Leenhardt, ’Les Règles de l’art de P. Bourdieu’, French Cultural Studies, 4 (1993), 263-70.

18 ’suppress his desire to know’ (trans. J.S.).

19 ’an activity which turns its back on knowledge’ (trans. J.S.).

20 Leenhardt, ’Les Règles de l’art’, p. 267. ’The position that Bourdieu takes with regard to literature engages a whole theory of knowledge, and his combat for sociology takes the appearance of a combat against literature insofar as that is at stake in his eyes is to safeguard the preeminence of rational knowledge’ (trans. J.S.).

21 ’several tyles or modalities of knowledge’ (trans. J.S.).

22 Leenhardt, ’Les Règles de l’art de P. Bourdieu’, p. 270. ’Literature should not be compared to science, but juxtaposed, in an analysis that englobes the symbolic arsenals that societies have developed, particularly modern societies which tend to prefer it to the more static representations of religious mythology’ (trans. J.S.).

23 ’not to see as an ’attack’ or a ’criticism’ (in the ordinary sense) what is intended to be an analysis’ (Rules, 207).

24 ’a certificate of cultural virtue by denouncing loudly, in these days of restoration, the threats made against art (or philosophy) by analyses whose iconological intention looks to them like iconoclastic violence’ (Rules, 185).

25 ’Do not laugh, do not deplore, do not detest’, said Spinoza, ’just understand’ – or better, make it necessary, give it reason’ (Rules, 272).

26 ’a sort of epoche of the belief commonly granted to cultural things and to the legitimate ways of approaching them’ (Rules, 185).

27 far from a simple methodological overturning: it implies a veritable conversion of the most common manner of thinking and living the intellectual life’ (Rules, 185)

28 Ahearne, Between Cultural Theory and Policy, p. 49.

29 ’Nous savons, captifs d’une formule absolue, que, certes, n’est que ce qui est. Incontinent écarter cependant, sous un prétexte, le leurre, accuserait notre inconséquence, niant le plaisir que nous voulons prendre: car cet au-delà en est l’argent, et le moteur dirais-je si je ne répugnais à opérer, en public, le démontage impie de la fiction et conséquemment du mécanisme littéraire, pour étaler la pièce principale ou rien. Mais, je vénère comment, par une supercherie, on projette, à quelque élévation défendue et de foudre ! le conscient manque chez nous de ce qui là-haut éclate. À quoi sert cela – À un jeu’. Stéphane Mallarmé, La Musique et les lettres (Paris: Didier, 1895), pp. 44-45. ’We know, captives of an absolute formula that, indeed, there is only that which is. Forthwith to dismiss the cheat, however, on a pretext, would indict our inconsequence, denying the pleasure we want to take: for that beyond is its agent, and the engine might say were I not loathe to perform, in public, the impious dismantling of the fiction and consequently of the literary mechanism, display the principal part or nothing. But I venerate how, by a trick we project to a height forfended – and with thunder! – the conscious lack in us of what shines up there. What is it for? A game’ (cited and trans. in Rules, 274).

30 Graw, ’Que Suis-Je?’ ’Mallarmé is usually used like Hölderlin to defend the idea that art has something sacred about it (...) I was very happy to have found this text. It is as if I had found in Heidegger a passage in which he explains that the social explains the conscious’ (trans. J.S.).

31 ’the collective belief in the game (illusio) and in the sacred value of its stakes which is both the condition and the product of the functioning of the ’literary mechanism’ (Rules, 230).

32 Ahearne, Between Cultural Theory and Policy, p. 52.

33 ’The literary illusio, that originating adherence to the literary game which grounds the belief in the importance or interest of literary fictions, is the precondition – almost always unperceived – of the aesthetic pleasure which is always, in part, the pleasure of playing the game, of participating in the fiction, of being in total accord with the premises of the game. It is also the precondition of the literary illusion and of the belief effect (rather than the ”reality effect” which the text can produce’ (Rules, 334).

34 ’by a trick’ (cited and trans. in Rules, 274).

35 ’to perform, in public, the impious dismantling of the fiction and consequently of the literary mechanism’ (cited and trans. in Rules, 274).

36 Ahearne, Between Cultural Theory and Policy, p. 49.

37 ’he more than than anyone has been pressed into the service of the exaltation of ’creation’, of the ’creator’ and the Heideggerian mystique of poetry as ’revelation’ (Rules, 390).

38 ’a sort of deliberate fetishism’ (Rules, 275).

39 the pleasure we want to take’ justifies the ’cheat’ (cited and translated in Rules, 274).

40 ’faced with the pharisaical denunciations of my ’denunciations’, I have often regretted not having followed the example of Mallarmé, who, refusing to ’perform, in public, the impious dismantling of the fiction (…), chose to save the fiction, and the collective belief in the game’ (Meditations, 6).

41 ’To opt to keep the secret, or to unveil it only in a strictly veiled form, as Mallarmé does, is to pre-judge that only a few great initiates are capable of the heroic lucidity and willed generosity that are necessary in order to confront the enigma of fiction and fetishism’ (Meditations, 15).

42 ’Champ intellectuel et projet créateur’, p. 871. ’Terrorism of taste’ (trans. J.S.).

43 Alfred Weber, History of Philosophy, trans. Frank Thilly (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908), chapter 55

44 ’Society is God’ (trans. J.S.).

45 ’scientific analysis, when it is able to uncover what makes the work of art necessary, that is to say, its informing formula, its generative principle, its raison d’être, also furnishes artistic experience, and the pleasure which accompanies it, with its best justification, its richest nourishment’ (Rules, xix).

46 Bourdieu, ’Champ intellectuel et projet créateur’, p. 871. ’What is beautiful is that which corresponds to an inner necessity’ (trans. J.S.).

47 It is not only in literary and art criticism that this amor intellectualis can be felt, according to Bourdieu. He claims to have experienced it when trying to understand the problems and points of view of his interviewees, especially in La Misère du monde (MM, 914; RA, 494 n. 25). Here, however, it would seem to intensify one’s empathy, rather than one’s aesthetic pleasure. In the case of literature, however, aesthetic pleasure and empathy (identification with the author, or with the characters in a narrative) are perhaps not unrelated.

48 ’heroic lucidity’ (Meditations, 15).

49 ’I think that, literary and stylistic qualities apart, what Spitzer says about Proust’s style is something I could say about my own writing. He says, firstly, that what is complex can only be said in a complex way; secondly, that reality is not only complex, but also structured, hierarchically ordered, and that you have to give an idea of this structure: if you want to hold the world in all its complexity and at the same time order and articulate it, show it in perspective, bring what’s important into the foreground and so on, you have to use heavily articulated sentences that can be practically reconstructed like Latin sentences; thirdly, he says that Proust does not want to reveal this complex structured reality just as it is, but to present us simultaneously with the point of view from which he sees it, telling us where he locates himself in relation to what he is describing’ (Other Words, 51).

50 ’antitheses between parallel things and parallels between antithetical things’ (Rules, 29).

51 ’this is why it is logical to ask assistance from those who have broken with this tradition on the very terrain of its exemplary accomplishment’ (trans. J.S.).

52 ’evocatory magic’ (cited and trans. in Rules, 32; 107; 108; 109).

53 ’It took all the insight of Virginia Woolf and the infinite refinement of her writing to pursue the analysis into the best-concealed effects of a form of domination which is inscribed in the whole social order and operates in the obscurity of bodies, which are both the stakes and the principles of its efficacity’ (Masculine Domination, 81).

54 Alain Caillé, ’Esquisse d’une Critique de l’Économie Générale de la Pratique’, Cahiers du LASA, 12-13 (1992), 109-220 (p. 113).

55 Gérard Mauger, ’Lire Pierre Bourdieu’, Politis, 686 (2002), 26-27 (p. 25). ’The same long phrases, the same multiplication of parenthetical clauses – digressions, associations, homologies – the same search for the perfectly appropriate word or phrase for the situation’ (trans. J.S.).

56 Lane, Bourdieu’s Politics, p. 136.

57 Swartz, Culture and Power, p. 13.

58 ’although truth has no intrinsic force, there is an intrinsic force of belief in truth, of belief which produces the appearance of truth’ (Homo Academicus, 29).

59 Graw, ’Que Suis-Je?’ ’The reader absorbs almost without noticing the instruments of sociology to understand himself’ (trans. J.S.).

60 ’a dramatic intensity and an emotional force close to those of a literary text’ (Weight of the World, 623).

61 ’That place is frustrating you know [sniffing more cocaine and shaking his head]’ (Weight of the World, 433).

62 ’Being able to touch and move the reader, to reach the emotions, without giving in to sensationalism, they [the interview transcripts] can produce the shifts in thinking and seeing that are often the precondition of comprehension’ (Weight of the World, 623).

63 ’it is not sympathy which leads to true understanding, but true understanding which leads to sympathy’ (Rules, 303).

64 Pierre Bourdieu and Günter Grass, ’La tradition ”d’ouvrir sa gueule”’, Le Monde, 3 December 1999.

65 Samuel Beckett, Watt (New York: Grove, 1959), p. 48.

66 Bourdieu and Grass, ’La tradition ”d’ouvrir sa gueule”’.

67 Slavoj Žižek, Organs Without Bodies (London: Routledge, 2004), p. 58.

68 Pierre Bourdieu, ’Les Conditions Sociales de la Ccirculation internationale des idées’, Romanistische Zeitschrift für Literaturgeschichte / Cahiers d’Histoire des Littératures Romanes 14 (1989), 1-10; also published in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 145 (2002), 3-8. ’Mauriac writing a preface to a book by Sollers: the famous elder writes a preface and transmits symbolic capital, and at the same time, manifests his talent as a discoverer and generosity as a protector of young writers whom he recognises and who recognise themselves in him (…) Lévi-Strauss writes a preface for a work by Mauss by which he appropriates the symbolic capital of the author of The Gift. I leave you to reflect on all that’ (trans. J.S.).

69 ’Thanks to me, and with me, ”Homo classifier” has fallen into his own classifications. I find this somewhat comic, and I believe that my book should raise a good laugh’ (Political Interventions, 150).

70 Wacquant, ’Towards a Reflexive Sociology’, p. 54.

71 Annie Ernaux, ’Bourdieu: le chagrin’, Le Monde, 5 May 2002. ’Bourdieu’s texts have been an encouragement to persevere in my writing project, to speak, amongst other things, what he called the social unconscious’ (trans. J.S.).

72 Annie Ernaux, ’La Preuve par Corps’ in Bourdieu et la littérature, ed. Jean-Pierre Martin, pp. 23-27 (p. 26). ’What I owe to Bourdieu (…) is an injunction to take as my writing-matter what had previously seemed to me ”beyond literature’’’ (trans. J.S.).

73 Annie Ernaux, La Place (Paris: Gallimard, 1983), p. 46.

74 Annie Ernaux, ’La Preuve par corps’, p. 27. ’He helped me to conceive of what I call ”writing from a distance” (rather than ”flat”)’ (trans. J.S.).

75 See Isabelle Charpentier, ’ ”Quelque part entre la littérature, la sociologie et l’histoire…”’, Contextes, 1 (2006) at http://contextes.revues.org/index74.html consulted on 26/08/11.

76 Lettres en première autobiographie: Ernaux’, in L’École des Lettres, 9 (2002-03), ed. Thierry Poyet and Fabrice Thumerel, p. 25.

77 Ernaux, La Place, pp. 58-61. ’Don’t have an overly high view of yourself’ (trans. J.S.).

78 Roland Barthes, ’De la Science à la Littérature’ in Le Bruissement de la langue (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1984), 13-20.

79 ’is ignorant of itself’ (trans. J.S.).

80 ’there is certainly no scientific subject which has not been treated ant some time by universal literature’ (trans. J.S.).

81 ’science will become literature, insomuch as literature (…) is already, and has always been, science’ (trans. J.S.).

82 ’postmodern ” rantings’ (Science, 1).

83 Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979).

84 Ibid, p. 261.

85 Ibid., p. 88.

86 Ibid., p. 245.

87 Ibid. p. 257. The authors also explain that a previous version had admitted that their analysis is ’ultimately unconvincing’, but that the publishers had insisted this sentence be removed, because they ’were not in the habit of publishing anything that ”proclaimed its own worthlessness’’’ (p. 284).

88 Ibid, pp. 64-65.

89 ’In short, the researchers’ naïvely realist belief in a reality external to the laboratory is a pure illusion, from which only a realist sociology can rid them’ (Science, 27).

90 Pierre Bourdieu, Leçon sur la Leçon (Paris: Éditions du Minuit, 1982), p. 49.

91 Bourdieu, ’Structuralism and Theory of Sociological Knowledge’, p. 705.

92 ’This ontological postulate presupposes another one, the idea that there is meaning, an order, a logic, in short something to be understood in the world, including the social world (as opposed to what Hegel called ’the atheism of the moral world’); that one cannot say whatever one likes about the world (’anything goes’, in Feyerabend’s phrase), because ’anything and everything’ is not possible in the world. Not without some surprise, one finds a perfect expression of this postulate in Frege: ’If everything were in continual flux, and nothing maintained itself fixed for all time, there would no longer be any possibility of getting to know anything about the world and everything would be plunged in confusion’ (Science, 69).

93 Bourdieu, ’Structuralism and Theory of Sociological Knowledge’, pp. 683; 689.

94 ’the arbitration of the real’ (Science, 70).

95 ’Scientific discourse is distinct from the discourse of fiction – from the novel, for instance, which passes itself off more or less openly as a feigned and fictitious discourse – in that, as John Searle remarks, it means what it says, it takes seriously what it says and accepts responsibility for it, that is, if the case arises, for its mistakes’ (Homo Academicus, 28).

Acheter