Pierre Bourdieu on social transformation, with particular reference to political and symbolic revolutions

Fowler, B. (2020) Pierre Bourdieu on social transformation, with particular reference to political and symbolic revolutions. Theory and Society, 49, pp. 439-463. (doi: 10.1007/s11186-019-09375-z)

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This article challenges what is now the orthodoxy concerning the heritage of Bourdieu (1930–2002): namely, the judgement that his distinctive sociological innovation has been his theory of social reproduction, and that he has failed to provide a necessary theory of social change. Yet Bourdieu consistently claimed to offer a theory of social transformation as well as accounting for continuities of power. Indeed, he provides two substantive keys for an understanding of historical transformation—first, a theory of prophets (religious or secular) as the authors of heresies or “symbolic revolutions” that dispel current doxa; second, a theory of the “corporatism of the universal”: the role of intellectuals or other educated professionals in pursuit of social justice and other universalistic goals. Moreover, Bourdieu fuses his theories of “symbolic revolutions” with a materialist analysis of their social preconditions, including a fresh account of social crises. Crises—war, famine, recession, and especially the intensified precarity of the educated—have, for him, a profound impact, both within differentiated fields and across fields. Conflicts that become effectively synchronized across fields acquire great resonance within the wider field of power, particularly due to hysteresis or “maladjusted habitus.” Indeed, the appearance of crises, together with new prophetic heresies, leads the subordinate classes to question the taken-for-granted order of things and to orchestrate their resistance. Alongside his corpus of published writings, this article draws widely on Bourdieu’s posthumously published lectures. These cast a distinctive new light on how his well-known conceptual instruments can aid us in the study of historical change. They also expand on how social science itself might be used to facilitate progressive social movements.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Fowler, Professor Bridget
Authors: Fowler, B.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Theory and Society
ISSN (Online):1573-7853
Published Online:06 February 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Author
First Published:First published in Theory and Society 49:439-463
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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