For all his critics against Marxism, Bourdieu’s work shows intimate familiarity with the work of Marx, whose ideas pop up in several writings. Bourdieu’s Marx is first and foremost the early Marx of The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and The German Ideology. One of the key concepts Marx provides for Bourdieu’s thinking is surely alienation, but there is something more. The aim of this contribution is to highlight the still partially neglected couple theodicy/sociodicy, which also has its roots in the same writings of Marx. The first paragraph contains an analysis of the relationship between the two terms as established by Bourdieu. Then I will show how this terminological pair becomes salient only by granting Marx the primacy in the triad that he composes with Weber and Durkheim, and which represents Bourdieu’s constant dialectical reference. Once foregrounded these two aspects, religion will appear not just as an essential element in the definition of Bourdieu’s notion of field, but also as an object of permanent critique because it is the foundation of every critique of society and its structures.
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I am grateful to Bridget Fowler and Emiliano R. Urciuoli for helpful comments on a previous draft.
Actually, as far as I know, the very first attestation of the term is found in an article’s title published by Daniel Bell (1966). However, the author does not develop the concept further, taking its meaning for granted. It is therefore difficult to argue that Bell produced the seminal essay on sociodicy that the title seemed to announce (Giner 2014: 292). I am grateful to Vincenzo Romania for drawing my attention to Bell’s article.
‘IQ racism is a racism of the dominant class that differs in a host of ways from what is generally called racism, that’s to say the petit-bourgeois racism which is the central target of most classic critiques of racism, including the most vigorous of them, such as that by Sartre. This racism is characteristic of a dominant class whose reproduction depends to a large extent on the transmission of cultural capital, an inherited capital that has the property of being an embodied, and therefore apparently natural, innate, capital. […] It is what causes the dominant class to feel justified in being dominant: they feel themselves to be essentially superior’ (Bourdieu 1993: 177).
‘It is by arming itself with mathematics (and media power) that neo-liberalism has become the supreme form of the conservative sociodicy that has been announcing itself, for the past 30 years, under the name of ‘the end of ideologies’, or, more recently, of ‘the end of history’ (Bourdieu 1998: 1; translation is mine).
‘The particular strength of the masculine sociodicy comes from the fact that it combines and condenses two operations: it legitimates a relationship of domination by embedding it in a biological nature that is itself a naturalized social construction’ (Bourdieu 2001: 23).
‘One could say—without forcing the issue, I think—that Weber very consciously took historical materialism to the areas where historical materialism was particularly weak, that is, to the area of the symbolic. Where, in Marx, we had a sentence that was both fundamental and a bit simple (‘Religion is the opium of the people’), and a few analyses of the superstructure, Weber did the whole construction of the theory of religion and of the priesthood, which—it seems to me—consisted in pushing to its last consequences a materialist theory of symbolic forms’ (Bourdieu 2016: 771; translation is mine). But the relationship between Marx and Weber had already come into focus a few years earlier, for example: ‘I must say that, on this decisive point, my reading of Max Weber—who, far from opposing Marx, as is generally thought, with a spiritualist theory of history, in fact carries the materialist mode of thought into areas which Marxist materialism effectively abandons to spiritualism—helped me greatly in arriving at this kind of generalized materialism; this will be a paradox only to those who have an over-simple view of Weber’s thought, owing to the combined effect of the rarity of translations, the one-sidedness of the early French and American interpretations, and the perfunctory anathemas pronounced by ‘Marxist’ orthodoxy’ (Bourdieu 1990: 17).
‘To understand how ideologies dominate, the process of universalization is very important. It consists in transforming a discourse valid for a few into a universal discourse, valid for all’ (Bourdieu 2016: 795; translation is mine).
Indeed, Marx also maintains something similar, when he writes that ‘the production of the ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men—the language of real life’ (Marx and Engels 1998: 42).
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Alciati, R. (2022). If Theodicy is Always Sociodicy: Bourdieu and the Marxian Critique of Religion. In: Paolucci, G. (eds) Bourdieu and Marx. Marx, Engels, and Marxisms. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-06289-6_14
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