Live Blogging: PhD Theory Class #6

If sociology has a claim, it needs to be responsible to this question:

“What have you told me about my world?”

I live here, I have general and specific problem. General problems of understanding, and specific problems in the sense of someone is doing a redevelopment in my back yard, schools are lousy… etc.

Sociology is looking at both. See Dorothy Smith, who helps people understand where they are. Sociology as a “martial art” – seeing people who are in various kinds of trouble, and they need sociology to understand as a form of resistance. We need knowledge in order to free ourselves of oppressive systems.

Plato wouldn’t see it that way. For Plato – one can liberate the mind. That is compatible with an autocratic state. The democratic sense of liberation doesn’t go along with liberation in the sense that Plato sees us being freed from the cave. This doesn’t come around until Kant to preserve a deal – the last vestige of Plato’s separation. This has nothing to do with political separation. We get this idea that the truth will set you free of the cave, but also in practical political and economic terms (Marxism). This is a new idea at this point.

Foucault might say – freeing the body and the mind.

What we see in Sociology are two forms of utility about my world. Some people just study “society” – the Functionalists. No practical solutions. Seeing the world as a system to be contemplated, like the world of particals that physics studies. Until the conflict theorists who understood things in an activist way.

By the time we get to Bourdieu, these things are joined. How do we understand society, tied to the liberation of groups, and people as members of these groups. Ways they can understand how the world works, without employing alienation. Bourdieu sees society as unequal, but what we find isn’t alienation – misery, yes.

As a Pascalian, everything is custom, convention. All law is arbitrary. The idea of realizing ones true self in production doesn’t fly.

If Foucault explains the institutions in which I have become a subject, and how I could go to secondary school to the barracks. He helps me understand Universities which are organized less around creating scholarship, and more about handling workforce issues. Normalizing judgement, surveillance, exams and timetables. That activity is an end of itself. It is not for someone else. It isn’t about the content; it is about control.

What about Bourdieu?

Here we get to Latour’s problem. Latour blasts Bourdieu; you can’t lose with Bourdieu. The problem is that how can you fail to find habitus and forms of capital. Why do people do something? They have the Habitus to do it! There is no hypothesis to be tested.

That being said, the thing to counter this with is: “So what?” Which gets us to this question of “why theory?”

In one sense, theory was the logical accumulation of prediction and control of society. Social theory in the 1950’s. On the other hand, Parsonian theory (also subject to Latour’s critique). If you are looking to organize observations, they work very well.

Bourdieu starts off as an ethnographer. No longer concerned with Parsonian categories. No longer concerned with a metamap. Instead, we are concerned with explaining the way I am.

If Foucault examies the institutions, Bourdieu explains my taste. Which is really what I am all about.If you can’t lose – it is because it has a universality to it. Thus, it has more of a truth value. Life becomes social, groups form, as people make descisions (who they are going to marry, hire, etc).

This gets us to our principles of vision and division; what do we see, how do we divide it up. Assessing the other vs. me.

Illusio is the key to structural inequality. Some ways, they aren’t making it, and they are doing it themselves. It just isn’t there for them – they aren’taking the stakes seriously.To understand ones habitus and illusio is to forgive. That is the stakes of the game for them. If everything is forgivable, what is culpable? Tautological.

It is only when you have accepted and forgiven everything that you can make change.

He is right; but none of this is social science.

If you start with a Pascalian position: “everything is convention” – and you can trace the evolution of this custom in certain places. Trace the networks of customs that created those standards. The problem is that once you have said this, you lose any place to stand.

Relativity (the recognition of different customs, the more we walk around something, the more we can see it) vs. Realtivism (none of it makes any difference). Pascals way out is faith. This is indefensable. This makes the world more dangerous when one group of people is trying to defend their god against another.

In some ways it is about the rejection of “revelation” – you just make an extisential descision. His way out is to grant science a get out of jail free card. Once we see that game is to have one point that isn’t in motion. There is no basis for preferring one form of art vs. another. There is no intrinsic value – it is that this is what people are buying.

So where do we find something outside custom? Science!

Situational science man sounds a lot like Latour… this is what Bourdieu is concerned with.

Class is siezing the high ground in terms of what the most valuable forms of capital are. Position is the comparative ability to accrue more of the capital that is valuable. The more you have, the more you can get. Differential ability to accrue more resources.

All about structuaral inequality. The structures are how dispositions are communicated intergenerationally. People can aquire dispositions that allow them to move into different fields… statistically, that is the exception.


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