Bourdieu, Pierre (1930-2002)

A French sociologist, born in Denguin, a Béarn village (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), to a father who was an official at the Post Office and a mother from the same rural background as her husband. Excellent studies at the Lycée Louis-Barthou at Pau, then at Paris (Louis-le-Grand and Ecole normale supérieure) led him, after gaining a teaching certificate in philosophy, to begin a career as a teacher. But, obliged to do military service, he soon found himself in an Algeria in the grip of a war of independence. It is there, at Kabylie, that he carried out his first fieldwork studies, of an ethnological character, a practice he would never subsequently abandon, always seeking to equip with an unswerving scientific rigour his convictions as a deeply anchored militant. On his return to France there began an extremely full university career: Director of Studies at a ‘Ecole pratique des hautes études’ (since 1964), member of a research unit directed by Raymond Aron (up until 1968), Director of The Centre for the Sociology of Education and Culture (until 1988), director of the journal Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales (since 1975), and holder of the Chair of Sociology at the Collège de France (since 1981). A career background to which must necessarily be added a series of books which revitalised sociology, breathing into it a hypercritical thinking applicable to every domain of social activity and introducing into it an analysis of the mechanisms of the reproduction of dominant-dominated relationships: let us cite, amongst others, Les Héritiers (1964), La Distinction (1979), Ce que parler veut dire (1982), La Noblesse d'Etat (1989), La Misère du monde (1993), and Les Structures sociales de l'économie (2000). Within them are discovered several particularly fruitful new concepts: field, hiatus, cultural capital, symbolic violence, etc. In parallel with his work as a researcher, Bourdieu also carried out important activity as a publisher, first as director of the series ‘Le sens commun’ at the Editions de Minuit, then as the director of the series ‘Liber,’ which he founded at the Editions du Seuil. Finally, after his declared support for the striker of the November-December 1995 social movement, he created the series ‘Raisons d'agir’. Globally recognized, his work is that of a committed intellectual – essentially against neo-liberalism – whilst remaining attached to the fundamentals of democracy. As, he stated, ‘there is no effective democracy without a critical counter-power. The intellectual is one, and one of great importance.’