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From False Premises to False Conclusions. On Pierre Bourdieu’s Alleged Sociological Determinism

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Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological determinism is a recurrent issue in French as well as in Anglo-Saxon sociology. Accusations of ‘determinism’ are very often coupled with the enunciation of a mechanistic and rigid structuralist vision of society which would result in a ‘reproductivist’ approach of social relations. In such a perspective, social change would be hardly possible. Without ignoring Bourdieu’s particular attention to structural constraints, in this article my intention will be to refute the accusations of social determinism by showing in a synthetic manner why it would be if not completely erroneous, but at least simplistic to define Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology as one only focusing on reproductive tendencies and thus being incapable of dealing with the possibility of social change.

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  1. Accusations that are far from being equally ungrounded sometimes rise from a partial and/or biased knowledge of Bourdieu’s work (Verdès-Leroux 1998, Gruel 2005, Verdrager 2010, Badouin 2012). For example the title of Louis Gruel’s book (2005) (Pierre Bourdieu, l’illusioniste) and the subtitle of JeanineVerdès-Leroux’s book on Bourdieu (Le terrorisme sociologique de Pierre Bourdieu [Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological terrorism]) both already anticipate an unfriendly tone, and in addition, Badouin (2012) calls Bourdieu on more than one occaison a ‘Leninist’.


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Correspondence to Agoston Faber.

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This research received funding from the INTERCO SSH (International Cooperation in the Social Sciences & Humanities) research project supported by the European Commission in Brussels

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Faber, A. From False Premises to False Conclusions. On Pierre Bourdieu’s Alleged Sociological Determinism. Am Soc 48, 436–452 (2017).

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