Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview

organizationally demonstrable rational properties of indexical expressions and indexical actions. Those ordered properties are ongoing achievements of the concerted commonplace activities of investigators. The demonstrable rationality of indexical expressions and indexical actions retains over the course of its managed production by members the character of ordinary, familiar, routinized practical circumstances. As process and attainment the produced rationality of indexical expressions consists of practical tasks subject to every exigency of organizationally situated conduct.

I use the term "ethnomethodology" to refer to the investigation of the rational properties of indexical expressions and other practical actions as contingent ongoing accomplishments of organized artful practices of everyday life.❖

Pierre Bourdieu ( 1930-) studied at the Lycée Louis le Grand in Paris, then at the École Normale Supérieure, where he was a student of philosophy. He came into sociology with the support of Raymond Aron and soon became one of the dominant forces in French sociology. Today, he is considered one of the world's leading social theorists and students of culture. For many years, Bourdieu has taught at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes. In 1975, he founded the journal he continues to edit-- Actes de la récherche en sciences sociales--in which appear the brilliant empirical studies of French culture Bourdieu does with coworkers like Monique de St. Martin. In 1982, Bourdieu was elected to a chair in sociology at the Collège de France. His many books include Outline of a Theory of Practice ( 1972), Distinction ( 1979), Homo Academicus ( 1984), and The Logic of Practice ( 1990). The selection is from the last of these. It presents Bourdieu's famous idea of habitus--that is, the notion that objective structures never work in the abstract but exert themselves in the habitual dispositions of individuals. In habits, subjective consciousness meets objective reality in practical human action that is both enduring and unique. This is clearly one of the most inventive attempts to work through the dilemma of modern social theory: How do structures affect actions? A comparison with earlier thinkers reveals just how far social thinking had advanced since Niebuhr and Keynes saw, in the 1920s and 1930s, that individuals and structures were not easy companions.


Structures, Habitus, Practices

Pierre Bourdieu ( 1974, 1980)

Objectivism constitutes the social world as a spectacle offered to an observer who takes up a 'point of view' on the action and who, putting into the object the principles of his relation to the object, proceeds as if it were intended solely for knowledge and as if all the interactions within it were purely symbolic exchanges. This viewpoint is the one taken from high positions in the social structure, from which the social world is seen as a representation (as the word is used in idealist philosophy, but also as in painting) or a performance (in the theatrical or musical sense), and practices are seen as no

____________________
Excerpt from Richard Nice, trans., The Logic of Practice ( Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), pp. 52-58. Reprinted with the permission of the publishers, Stanford University Press, Polity Press, and Basil Blackwell.

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