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Pierre Bourdieu and Herman Dooyeweerd

There are many similarities between the thought of Pierre Bourdieu and Herman Dooyeweerd. Some are real, some are partial, and some are only at the surface because they rest on foundations that are very different. But each thinker can offer something to the other.

Here are some notes in tabular form. They are very incomplete, but scholars might find them useful as stimulants to further study. The table shows Bourdieu's idea in column 1, a similarity with Dooyeweerd in column 2, and differences, qualifications or disagreements in column 3. The main difference lies in the starting point (presuppositions) of the two thinkers, which also underlies many other specific differences.

Bourdieu Dooyeweerd similar Dooyeweerd different, qualifies or disagrees
Came from anthroplogy and Marxism, but wrote critical and social philosophy. Wrote critical and social philosophy, was preparing a philosophical anthropology before he passed on. Came from jurisprudence, and a Reformed Christian perspective
Takes 'practice' seriously,
writing Outline of a Theory of Practice [1977] and The Logic of Practice [1981]
Takes pre-theoretical attitude and 'na´ve experience' seriously Bourdieu's practice seems centred on social life; Dooyeweerd's interest is all of life, both social and pre-social
'Practical knowledge' precedes theoretical knowledge. Pre-theoretical attitude precedes theoretical attitude.
Science is not neutral, but is an activity of domination, of being external to what is researched. Science is not neutral, but is an activity of standing-against (Gegenstand) based on a presupposition about the Origin of Meaningfulness. See page on Science. Widens the non-neutrality of science beyond mere domination to many extra-theoretical aspects, especially the pistic aspect of deep belief.
'Impartial spectator' is condemned to see practice as a spectacle - which is bad. We can never be impartial spectators.
Recognises that we cannot reduce social relations to linguistic ones (critique Habermas' TCA?). Abhors reduction of one aspect to any other, including social to lingual.
Habitus - the mix of multiple engagements in the social world thoughout a person's life, which influences their engagements and activity now, and lends stability to a person's social life. All our engagements and activity now is a result of functioning within, and by response to, multiple spheres (aspects). See page on Functioning. Dooyeweerd differentiates two sides of this multiple mix - law side, which is that which enables all functioning and being, and fact side, which is all that occurs with time. Both exhibit diverse aspects and both influence what we do now. B's habitus, by contrast, seems to recognise explicitly only the fact side, though there are signs that Bourdieu was reaching for what Dooyeweerd saw as the law side. NOTE: By 'law', Dooyeweerd did not mean something deterministic, nor did he mean social norms, but something much deeper.
Field - the system of social rules etc. in which people operate (c.f. professions, classes, community norms). Fields are constructed according to underlying nomos, irreducibly distinct fundamental principles like the division between male and female.

Fields relate to each other and are hierarchically nested; e.g. judiciary and legislature in the legal profession. At the top are fields like power or class relations. However such top-level fields are 'horizontal', pervade all the others, which are 'vertical'. Fields are constructed according to underlying nomos, irreducibly distinct fundamental principles like the division between male and female.

Fields are social entities - that is entities whose existence arises from their meaningfulness in the social aspect. Field bears many resemblances to the subject-side reality in which a person finds themselves and tries to live, but limited to the (post-)social aspects thereof, and largely ignoring the pre-social aspects. However, B's idea contains an anomaly: the distinction between 'vertical' and 'horizontal' suggests a fundamental difference that has been labelled but not properly explored by B. Dooyeweerd might help: while 'vertical' fields seem to be more concrete systems of social relationships, 'horizontal' fields that pervade all others, such as power relations, seem to be abstractions centred on a particular aspect. See page on Power for more.
Nomos - the irreducibly distinct fundamental principles or laws that enable construction of fields, each seen as being a 'division' or duality between two contrasting poles, such as male and female, mind and body. Nomi are usually irreducibly distinct from each other. Each of Dooyeweerd's aspects could be likened to a Bourdian nomos, in that an aspect is a sphere of law that is irreducibly distinct from other law-spheres. A nomos seems to be a conceptualisation of the law of an aspect, expressed as a division or duality, rather than referring to the law itself. Male-female duality is within the biotic aspect. However, some of B's nomi seem to state the difference between two aspects; e.g. mind-body, the difference between sensitive and biotic aspects. It may be that B was reaching for Dooyeweerd's notion of the aspectual law-side, but failed to reflect on the difference in kind between some of the dualities.
Power At the top of the field-hierarchy are fields like power or class relations. However such top-level fields are 'horizontal', pervade all the others, which are 'vertical'. Power is a functioning mainly in the formative aspect (achieving something) and social (via social relations). Power, as 'horizontal' field seems to refer more to these aspects than to their concrete manifestations in actuality. See Reflections on Power and Power Relations. However, B's idea contains an anomaly: the distinction between 'vertical' and 'horizontal' suggests a fundamental difference that has been labelled but not properly explored by B. Dooyeweerd might help: while 'vertical' fields seem to be more concrete systems of social relationships, 'horizontal' fields that pervade all others, such as power relations, seem to be abstractions centred on a particular aspect.
Capital - the resources a person or group has at their disposal: cultural, symbolic, physical. Types of capital may be differentiated by aspect: that which makes them meaningful. However B conflates several aspects together especially cultural (social, aesthetic, juridical, ethical, pistic) and physical (physical, biotic, sensory, formative, economic).
Symbolic violence - when one person harms another, or exercises harmful power over another, by means of language or symbols. Bourdieu sees this as one of the primary normativities that he is concerned about. Symbolic: functioning in the lingual aspect.
Violence: going against the rights or nature of the other: juridical aspect.
Trying to bridge between subject and object, between agency and (social) structure:

"we shall escape from the ritual either/or choice between objectivism and subjectivism in which the social sciences have so far allowed themselves to be trapped ..." [OTP:4]

Sees objectivism and subjectivism as aligned with poles of the Nature-Freedom Ground-motive, which is a false dichotomy, arising from the Immanence Standpoint. Bourdieu might not really escape this because he himself remains trapped in the Immanence Standpoint. See King's [2000] critique of Bourdieu, where he argues that B's notion of habitus veers too much towards objectivism. I believe that B truly wanted to escape the subjective-objective dichotomy and recognise both together, but in the end did not fully succeed. Dooyeweerd, however, does succeed because he maintains an Transcendence Standpoint. Dooyeweerd's novel law-subject-object relationship makes them inseparable, with a basis to understand how supposed subjectivity is 'objective' while supposed objectivity is 'subjective'.
"...only if we are prepared to inquire into the mode of production and functioning of the practical mastery which makes possible both an objectively intelligible practice and also an objectively enchanted experience of that practice; ..." [No comment; but see next one ...] [Here we might detect his Marxist roots.]
"... more precisely, that we shall do so only if we subordinate all operations of scientific practice
to a theory of practice and of practical knowledge (...)"
Dooyeweerd likewise recognised that 'operations of scientific practice' are practical human social activity, but he went even deeper and inquired into the transcendental conditions that make theoretical attitude of thought possible (as in science and philosophy). Dooyeweerd did not want to subordinate anything to theory, but rather wanted to understand theory as within the ambit of pre-theoretical life.
"... and inseparably from this, to a theory of the theoretical and social conditions of the possibility of objective apprehension - and thereby to a theory of the limits of this mode of knowledge." This sounds like transcendental critique, revealing the necessary and universal conditions that make something possible. Dooyeweerd likewise attempted a transcendental critique to reveal the conditions of theoretical thought. See Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique. Unlike most, Dooyeweerd tried to understand the theoretical by reference to the pre-theoretical, rather than the pre-theoretical by reference to the theoretical. He begins his transcendental critique by posing the question, "What is the difference between the theoretical and pre-theoretical attitudes of thought?" See also page on Everyday life.
Bourdieu [1979] studied the Kabyle people in Algeria, and wrote about their sense of honour etc., trying to bring out multiple aspects and to account for social reproduction. Dooyeweerd's idea of aspects as law-spheres attempts to account for all activity especially social, including social reproduction. While B discussed a few aspects, D discusses more. Moreover, Dooyeweerd courageously provides a provisional suite of aspects of reality, in which all, human and non-human, and of every culture, function, and which enable this functioning.

I believe that if Pierre Bourdieu had read and understood Herman Dooyeweerd, he would have found him extremely interesting and produced a rather different theory of practice. It is a shame he did not, and in fact was unlikely to, do so; Dooyeweerd's work was, at that time, unknown in sociological circles. Today, may that change, so that Dooyeweerd's work can enrich and perhaps critique that of others.

References

Bourdieu, P. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Tr. Richard Nice. Cambridge University Press.

Bourdieu, P. 1979. Algeria 1960. Cambridge University Press.

King, A. 2000. Thinking with Bourdieu Against Bourdieu: A practical critique of the habitus. Sociological Theory, 18(3), 417-33.


This page is part of a collection of pages that links to various thinkers, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Copyright (c) all dates below Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Created: 2 July 2009 (but not uploaded) Last updated: 15 October 2014 new material and filled out table cells more. 25 August 2015 added speculative ending. 26 August 2015 added field, nomos, capital, symbolic violence; moved labels inside the rows.