Notes about the critique of decolonizing social sciences 

Comments on “Beyond Reason, Postcolonial Theories and the Social Sciences, Oxford University Press 2021Sanjay Seth                      

Masterminds of critical thinking

  1. Bourdieu
  2. Stiglitz
  3. Focault
  4. Wallerstein
  5. Beck
  6. T. Kuhn
  7. Geertz


Masterminds 1: Bourdieu

Bourdieu’s “Forms of capital”[1] or: The “social energy” of the etceteras making capitalism work

  1. Introduction remarks about what Bourdieu is quoted for but not reflecting about

Bourdieu is one of the most influential social scientists, quoted across all disciplines. Namely with the notion he created, the “social capital”, he is quoted as a critic of capitalism standing up for the interests of the victims of capitalism, the poor.

His notion of a social capital, he indeed created against – as he phrases it – a one-sided view of only an economically conceptualized capital by economists, is generally interpreted, in the way, that he is saying, that people who are economically poor are only considered poor by this view of economical thinking, because this economically one sided concept of capital does not realize that these people do also own capital, their social capital. 

However, reading his famous and massively quoted essay “the forms of capital”, it turns out that his notion of social capital, is not at all arguing that economically poor people are after all also rich as owners of social capital. This is something all those people who refer to him read into his thoughts, and by quoting him for this interpretation are only reading such moral messages into his thought which made him worldwide famous, but what he is really thinking about is something else. 

Bourdieu is not interested in poverty or accusing the society for any poverty. He reflects on  capital and on what he calls “social capital”, but both capital and social capital for Bourdieu represent wealth he defines as reified “social energy”, not as the wealth that really matters in capitalism.  

Poverty is not his topic. When he reflects on his “Forms of capital”, what he is interested indeed in is this, writing this into his introduction to his thoughts:

„It is in fact impossible to account for the structure and functioning of the social world unless one reintroduces capital in all its forms and not solely in the one form recognized by economic theory. … A general science of the economy of practices, capable of reappropriating the totality of the practices which, although objectively economic, are not and cannot be socially recognized as economic, and which can be performed only at the cost of a whole labor of dissimulation or, more precisely, euphemization, must endeavor to grasp capital and profit in all their forms and to establish the laws whereby the different types of capital (or power, which amounts to the same thing) change into one another.[2]”   (p 1)

What Bourdieu is thinking about, is “to account for the structure and functioning of the social world” and to do this, “to account for the structure and functioning of the social world” one has “to grasp capital and profit in all their forms and to establish the laws whereby the different types of capital (or power, which amounts to the same thing) change into one another.[2] “  ( p 1)

That much is clear: The “forms” of capital – as he phrases it, saying that they are variations of capital, more precisely variations of what he says capital generally is, what he defines as capital,  the “forms” of “social capital” and “cultural capital”, capital “not solely in the one form recognized by economic theory”, forms of capital he in fact additionally created as a critique of “economic thinking”,  variations of capital needed “to account for the structure and functioning of the social world” , these additional forms of capital he did not create to attribute any value to these forms of capital, but in order to be able “to account for the structure and functioning of the social world”. His thought is a critique of economic thinking, critiquing it for not allowing him to do, what he thinks needs to be done as a sociologist, that is “to account for the structure and functioning of the social world” and this is not to attribute to the forms of capital he created a higher value, as most of the people read into his work and quoting him for this. Bourdieu is not a politically engaged advocate of the poor, a trade unionist, or socialist, he is a sociologist aiming at understanding the “functioning of the social world”. 

So, what then are his thoughts about how “to account for the structure and functioning of the social world”?

2.What is then the issue he does reflect about?

“The social world is accumulated history, and if it is not to be reduced to a discontinuous series of instantaneous mechanical equilibria between agents who are treated as interchangeable particles, one must reintroduce into it the notion of capital and with it, accumulation and all its effects. Capital is accumulated labor (in its materialized form or its ‘incorporated,’ embodied form) which, when appropriated on a private, i.e., exclusive, basis by agents or groups of agents, enables them to appropriate social energy in the form of reified or living labor. It is a vis insita, a force inscribed in objective or subjective structures, but it is also a lex insita, the principle underlying the immanent regularities of the social world. It is what makes the games of society – not least, the economic game – something other than simple games of chance offering at every moment the possibility of a miracle. Roulette, which….“

What makes such thought, a concept of capital as “accumulated” and “appropriated social energy”, “underlying the immanent regularities of the social world” a bit bizarre and slightly  difficult to understand is not only Bourdieu’s way of conceptualizing his object of thinking, but also his way of thinking about this object, but it is sociology in general, which is about understanding how societies work, how they function, more precisely, about what makes the relatedness of individuals and the society as a whole work.

One may very well raise the question, how a society works, how does capitalism or feudalism or any other society work. The difficulty to understand sociological thinking, such as Bourdieu’s thinking, and the theoretical mistakes of sociological thinking start when sociology constructs it’s object of reflections about how society functions, by raising this question about how society works or how it functions, not as how a particular society works, but how any society works, how societies generally function and do this though by analyzing “forms of capital” , they thus do not consider as the forms of the society we are living in, capitalism, but as a variation of society as such, they look at the immanent structure of the social world.” (p 1)

This is why one finds irritating sentences in his reflections about his three forms of capital, presenting subjects which are representing feudal societies, as the representations of social capital: “The noble is the group personified. He bears the name of the group to which he gives his name (the metonymy which links the noble to his group is clearly seen when Shakespeare calls Cleopatra ‘Egypt’ or the King of ‘France,’ just as Racine calls Pyrrhus ‘Epirus’). It is by him, his name, the difference it proclaims, that the members of his group, the liegemen, and also the land and castles, are known and recognized. “ (p 9)  

This example shows that sociologist as Bourdieu they look at the ways societies as such work, abstracted from what the particular nature of societies is, abstracted from what they are aiming at and what and how they are doing this.  The question Bourdieu is raising finding out the “underlying the immanent regularities of the social world” phrases this abstraction constituting his object of thinking as this abstraction from the essential nature of what they are though theorizing about, the “forms of capital”. And this thinking, abstracting from any essential nature of societies can only end up, as we will see, in meaningless thought, though pursuing some fundamental ideological messages, mainly the naturalization of the particular society system they create their thought about, they present as the nature of how any societies work. This is why Bourdieu discusses his forms of capital, as if this, capital, was not a social construct, shaping the rationale of societies, therefore called capitalism,  a particular society system, but as if this was the nature of societies across history – and this implies, as we will see, a conceptualization of capital, which is in fact as meaningless as this abstraction inevitably must be and has nothing to do with what capital as the rationale imposed on the society system therefore called capitalism is.  

And, before showing this along Bourdieu thoughts, this very fundamental affirmation naturalizing capitalist societies by presenting their way of functioning as “underlying the immanent regularities of the social world”, is already done by the way sociological thinking  – and thus does Bourdieu – constructs its object of thinking before they even start thinking about it. That this abstraction from any societies objectives and the rationales ruling these societies, constructing their “social world” ignoring any historical particularities of the societies across history does then think about any ahistorical social world as such, suggests that this thinking “must reintroduce into it the notion of capital” in its three forms, to then consider capital as the category to understand the “social world” as such across the historical societies, including those in which no such thing like capital even existed, this is for sociological thinking and for Bourdieu no contradiction, since he conceptualizes capital as nothing but “social energy”.   

So again, the trickiness understanding  this question about functioning of societies and what it means for sociological thinking is that Bourdieu constructs his object of thinking as this ahistorical “social world” and though discretely operates with assumptions about his “social world”, which show in his use of the notion of capital, a category naming the society system of capitalism, that he is indeed thinking about capitalist societies, but constructs their nature as the nature of the “social world” as such, thus naturalizing the nature of capitalist societies presented as the nature of any sociality. How this works, will be shown later, while talking about how he conceptualizes what capital is for him. As I will also show later, while discussing his concept of capital, the confusion to advocate the need for the introduction of capital, that is the concept that constitutes the society system of capitalism as a category to understand how any society system is functioning resolves in a concept of capital, in which the nature of capital is dissolved in what he characterizes as “social energy”.

 Indeed, in thoughts constituting the object of sociological thinking, the society as such, this thinking departs from the implicit assumption of a naturalized opposition between individual and society, an opposition that is constitutive for citizen societies, or put it that way, that is constitutive for capitalist societies, sociological thinking abstracts from what constitute their nature of their objectives, hence, interprets this as the nature of any society. A society, which creates its communal objectives as the decision of its members, does not have this naturalized opposition of individual and society, this opposition of individual and society is the nature of a society, in which their communal objectives are made by a subject beyond the society, their nation state with its decision monopole and which imposes these objectives on the society it rules with it’s power monopole. It is this nature of citizen societies with their nation state, sociological thinking notices while thinking about their question how societies function, when their thinking operates with this opposition between individual and society, but which they already in the way they are constructing their object of thinking construct as the nature of their society as such, thus falsely abstracting from the nature of the society they reflect upon.     

Hence, operating with this false assumption of how societies as such work,  due their – falsely naturalized opposition between the individual and the society – Bourdieu has the  accordingly false answer to this false abstraction of how societies as such work, which is his accordingly abstract notion of social energy, a synonym for capital and the variations of it in his forms of capital, also all abstracting from any contents of what the society really does to thus find out that thanks to this abstraction considering whatever people do as a variation of in this way constructed  capital as social energy, which is a category conceptualizing a force that represents precisely what sociology inserts into everything whatever people do via their forms of capital, that is those three variations of social energy, so that everything is connected thanks to this sociological implanted invention, it is thanks this invented force, this social energy, which makes societies function. 

Thus, thanks to this invented social energy, sociological thinking while thinking about functioning thinks about the relatedness between individuals and the society, is thinking about this abstraction in this category explaining everything as nothing but expending social energy whatever people’s objectives are, whatever they do and how to achieve them, they think about the functioning as such and if they thus find out via their social energy how they function, they certify societies that they function. Mission completed. Functioning for the sake of functioning, for sociologist this is what societies are all about, their sociological mission, sociality is what sociology is about and what sociologists believe humankind is all about, their religious like mission. [2]

Having abstracted away all contents from any social action, one has thus created the space to implant into all activities as their real content and purpose, which in all things is nothing but the concern of sociologists, in Bourdieu’s world, his “vis invita” which solidifies into a rule a “lex insita”, his social energy, so that everything and everyone is about nothing else but answering the puzzle that only sociologists have thanks to their false abstractions about the enigmatic functioning of society, after they have thought away all contents from what societies are really doing. Instead of criticizing the abstractions that capital, with its real abstractions from all human needs imposes on the citizens of these citizen societies, Bourdieu makes use of them and turns these real abstractions into a conceptual vehicle for imposing his equally abstract answer on the false question of how society functions, false because it is abstracted from all the contents of life, as people’s exclusive interest in life.

This is how Bourdieu defines all social activities as variations of social energy in his later elaborations about cultural and social capital as nothing but executions of his three forms of capital, three forms of social energy. 

So, though in principle everything has been said about his theory about his three forms of capital as, whatever people do, expending social energy, it is worth is to still elaborate this towards his theory about both what for him is his cultural and social capital as about what is capital and labor. As I will show, though all constructed as these variations of expending social energy, by doing this, they are though very telling about what he is telling us about the real world of capitalism.

3.What are in Bourdieu’s theory capital and labor, cultural and social capital?

In order to understand what “cultural capital” and “social capital” are, it is in fact necessary to discuss what capital and also what labor for Bourdieu is. 

3.1 What is capital?

For Bourdieu capital is, as he phrases it, accumulated and appropriated social energy “underlying the immanent regularities of the social world. It is what makes the games of society …”

But what does he then want to say, saying that capital , this “appropriated social energy “is a vis insita, a force inscribed in objective or subjective structures, but it is also a lex insita, the principle underlying the immanent regularities of the social world.”

Capital for Bourdieu, his reified social energy, is the making of sociality, it is the substance his “vis invita” and the rule, his “lex insita” to create relatedness. 

Thus, capital and it’s variations are variations of the accumulation of social energy, the collected sociality, so to speak, one could also say a kind of concentrate of collectivism, the substrate of the common will of a society, which is to be what sociologists consider as the mission of humanity, being social regardless what humans in reality do. This is what the master of sociology makes of capital, the private appropriation of socially acquired wealth, the accumulation of social energy. If capital is the embodiment of social energy, then capital can no longer be distinguished from a dance club or a painting, as we will also see when taking about cultural capital and a proletarian cannot be distinguished from a capitalist and the noble from a citizen. And it is precisely this theory, emptied of all content, de-historized from any historic forms of societies and humans, that Bourdieu offers us as an explanation of how societies throughout history work in and of itself, the – as he likes to put it – doing nothing but the transubstantiation of one form of social energy by another. This is how societies function!

Anywhere a word of critique of what capital is, what the accumulation of wealth counted in money is, and what and how capital rules the living conditions of citizens for this wealth. Nothing of the sort. Everything works fine, its functioning perfectly, is what the sociologist celebrated as a world leading critical thinker knows to say about capital.

3.2 And what is paid labor? 

For Bourdieu anything what humans do is labor, the execution of social energy no matter if its labor in your garden or paid labor for a capitalist or writing a book.  Thus, also paid labor as any labor becomes this: the “transubstantiation” of social energy into capital, any of his three forms of capital.

And what is this, a “transubstantiation”?

“Transubstantiation (Latin: transubstantiatio; Greek: μετουσίωσις metousiosis) is, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, “the change of the whole substance of bread into the substance of the Body of Christ and of the whole substance of wine into the substance of the Blood of Christ.”[1][2

Transubstantiation – for a sociological thinker like Bourdieu paid labor as any labor is a religious like activity, described with this term of a transubstantiation, thus obscuring with the deep, educated wisdom of what actually happens for this thinker when someone goes to a factory or an office every day throughout his life and carries out any ordinary job to get some money. What is this, what any worker is doing day by day, throughout his life, to get money needed to exist, what is this transubstantiation: it is for Bourdieu what human life is all about, the incarnation of the “the change of the substance” of work,  of social energy, in to the substance of capital, it is the “vis insita, a force inscribed in objective or subjective structures, but it is also a lex insita, the principle underlying the immanent regularities of the social world”. 

A sociologist who appreciates to be misunderstood as a Marxist and as a theorist in the fight against poverty explains what paid labor is: for Bourdieu’s sociology, a kind of sacred act. The proletarian as a kind of high priest who celebrates the spinning of a self-worshipping sociological thinker elevated to the status of sainthood. Anywhere any critical word about what this means, working for money? Paid labor is the secret holy ingrediency, discovered by a sociological priest as the “vis insita”, a secret about what makes societies functioning. 

This kind of glorification of work as a religious like act is otherwise only known from fascism. 

3.3 What is cultural capital?

„Cultural capital can exist in three forms: in the embodied state, i.e., in the form of long-lasting dispositions of the mind and body; in the objectified state, in the form of cultural goods (pictures, books, dictionaries, instruments, machines, etc.), which are the trace or realization of theories or critiques of these theories, problematics, etc.; and in the institutionalized state, a form of objectification which must be set apart because, as will be seen in the case of educational qualifications, it confers entirely original properties on the cultural capital which it is presumed to guarantee.” p 2

Cultural capital: cultural capital is simply everything humans mind create, not to forget “etc”.

One should not dismiss this crude, indistinguishable lists of “pictures, books, dictionaries, instruments, machines, etc.” and above all the latter, his  “etc”, which no longer even considers it worthwhile to call anything what it means, but presents everything as the same thing with an “etc”, one should not dismiss all of these insinuations as confusing stuff, put it aside and by doing this allow to prevent oneself from wanting to understand which intellectual lines are necessary in order to be able to make all these equations, machines pictures and books are all the same. What are the thoughts making such equations possible?

For Bourdieu, cultural capital, that is all products of intellectual activities, of reason and feeling, of humans mind, are all nothing but the very same objectifications of social energy, products of a kind of social fanaticism that dissolves every form of individual objectives, of intellectual activities, into nothing else but the need to objectify itself in sociality. This, too, is an idea that contains fascist ideas: for Bourdieu, the individual human being and the products of his intellectual activities, cultural products, dissolve into nothing but objectifications of sociality through the transubstantiations of his intellectual activities into sociality. It is this totalitarianism that does not distinguish paintings, scientific knowledge, machines and the “etc”, i.e. all cultural human achievements dissolve their products into nothing but what they all are for Bourdieu, objectifications of social energy. 

3.4 What is social capital?

Social capital is the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition – or in otherwords, to membership in a group[11] – which provides each of its members with the backing of the collectivity-owned capital, a ‘credential’ which entitles them to credit, in the various senses of the word. …..

The volume of the social capital possessed by a given agent thus depends on the size of the network of connections he can effectively mobilize and on the volume of the capital (economic, cultural or symbolic) possessed in his own right by each of those to whom he is connected.[13]” p 6

„The existence of a network of connections is not a natural given, or even a social given, constituted once and for all by an initial act of institution, represented, in the case of the family group, by the genealogical definition of kinship relations, which is the characteristic of a social formation. It is the product of an endless effort at institution, of which institution rites – often wrongly described as rites of passage – mark the essential moments

and which is necessary in order to produce and reproduce lasting, useful relationships that can secure material or symbolic profits (see Bourdieu 1982). In other words, the network of relationships is the product of investment strategies, individual or collective, consciously or unconsciously aimed at establishing or reproducing social relationships that are directly usable in the short or long term, i.e., at transforming contingent relations, such as those of neighborhood, the workplace, or even kinship, into relationships that are at once necessary and elective, implying durable obligations subjectively felt (feelings of gratitude, respect, friendship, etc.) or institutionally guaranteed (rights). “ p 6

Again, reading such enumeration of meaningless abstractions, such as “neighborhood, the workplace, or even kinship” or , “feelings of gratitude, respect, friendship, and again his “etc”, again saying simply everything reading one pleonasm after another, how can one avoid to argue about such an orgy of pleonasms and tautologies other than with irony! Sure, if capital is the incarnation of social energy, the labor creating capital, what is normally called paid labor, for people who do this work day by day, the only way to exist in this world of capitalism, for Bourdieu this  is the very catholic-sociological act of transubstantiations, then if capital is nothing but an incarnation of social energy, then, what a logic, social relations are also capital, social capital,  “collectivity-owned capital” or a ‘credential’ which entitles them to credit, in the various senses of the word”. And then, as those criticized economist do, ignoring social capital results in preventing thinking, that is only looking at economic capital, from understanding the true rationale making societies function, its “vis insita” as social energy. It does not matter, that it does not make any sense, because, if capital is nothing but the incarnation of social energy, then capital is the same as social capital. However, not insisting on all forms of capital, no matter that they are all the same, would not allow to introduce Bourdieus catholic-sociological theory as the only way to understand what makes societies function, at least not in the way as Bourdieu wants to see how they function.

And it is of course also as logical, if one defines capitalist wealth as the wealth of social relations, than social relations, though nobody can get anything in the reality of capitalist societies of what counts in this society, money, for being a member – let’s say – of a football club , members of such social relations are for Bourdieu the real wealth holders, meaning those who own nothing, those who therefore must go to work for the growth of the wealth of others, those nothing owning workers are thanks to being a member of a working class, meaning a member of a “network of connections”, they are the real capitalists – given one defines capital as the reification of social energy. 

And then it is as logic, that economic theories entirely uninspired by the catholic-sociologist inspiration, not being able to seeing work as the “transubstantiation” of social energy, are of course unable to understand capitalism or, what is the same for Bourdieu, any social structures.

4. Finally: What are citizens/humans in this theory? 

The totalization of Bourdieu’s capitalist rationality, that is what he interprets as the nature of capital, incorporations of his “social energy”,   he inserts into any human activity, products of any labor beyond all historically different social forms are for Bourdieu all what he calls economic capital, incorporations of his “social energy; all products of the mind are cultural capital, and any relations between people (family, friendship, union, dance club, whatever, no matter what it is about,”etc”) everything social is nothing but social capital for Bourdieu, and these three forms of capital are elaborated by Bourdieu in his article to all social activities as nothing but modes of functioning of these three forms of capital, all defined as variations of the same accumulated social energy that perform the functioning of sociality. In this sociological view, the citizen, the subject of capitalist societies, which for him is the same as any human being, is nothing but the functionary of the ratio of Bourdieus’s concepts of capital, thus nothing but the embodiments of Bourdieu’s vis insita, the “force inscribed in objective or subjective structures” and what these humans do, whatever they do, is nothing but transformations of his variations of reified social energy from one form of capital into the other. 

The abstractions from the interests of capitalist subjects forced upon them through the regime of money, Bourdieu translates into successful acts of the constitution of social relations, the rationality of the negation of any material needs are translated in his theory into the constitution of sociality.  The negation of the material interests of the subjects of citizen societies imposed on citizens through their monetary relations become, for Bourdieu, the production of jointly pursued communality, their demand for sociality.

In fact, capital makes all these abstractions. From the point of view of the regime of abstract wealth that everything counts as money meaning anything that cannot be counted via money in capitalist societies is nothing, according to this capitalist abstraction all differences actually are practically irrelevant and thus demonstrate the indifference of the rationality of a society committed to the rationale of the increase of abstract wealth to the material living interests of people. To then present the rationale of the regime of this abstraction of capitalism as the ingredient of sociality in general, i.e. as the elixir of life for humanity, can no longer be surpassed in terms of theoretical preoccupation and the political cynicism and the material life needs towards those who have to live this rationality and who are actually a nothingness, those are those human etceteras, if they are without money.

For Bourdieu, people and what they do actually consists of nothing other than the need to function as members of society and thus to make societies function. In everything that people do and think, they do and think nothing other than to make the sociological question of how society functions their own and to practice the answer to this question in everything they do and think as the real mission of human life.  It is well known that sociologists therefore also see political nationalism as an expression of the striving for sociality; the totalitarianism of the dissolution of individuals in all products of their intellectual activities and their work into sociality has a certain neighborhood  with a fascist ides represented in the German concept of “Volk”. 

5. What is the state ?

Finally it should be noticed, in this logic, no wonder that any reflections about the real subject of sociality in citizen societies, the nation state, do not exist in his theory. The reason is simple, this is the topic of political science, and sociological thinking is not about politics.  This is why   Bourdieu’s theory  about how societies function, the subject that really makes these societies function, the nation state does not appear, it becomes an kind of mere agency, that transforms the masses, in which subjects that for Bourdieu dissolve into nothing but monsters of functionaries of the representation of sums of his concept of value, that is of social energy, the political subject that really forms its sociological social structure, the political body of citizen societies, is transformed in his theory into another sociological monster without any political objectives, a nation state which is nothing but a kind of value certification agency. An agency for the regulation of the social value-representative creatures, which loses in this view as a mere certification agency both any ruling power and any difference to the citizen it rules and thus, the ruling power disappears into a mere service provider for these monstrous social subjects. But, even if one does not understand all the monstrous constructs of this functioning of sociality as such, especially the role the nation state plays, or better not plays in this theory – regarding any human activities as regarding the historical different ways to construct societies as all the same – the nation state in this view is dissolved into a kind of service provider, albeit a rather simplistic one, but in any case, and this is what matters, as elsewhere in sociological thinking, the nation state is here as well a service provider for the citizens.

6. What is the “vis insita” what makes “the games of society” exist and work, this “social energy” ?

And last but not least: What then is this social energy, this inner force that is inherent in all actions, all products of actions as well as all of spiritual activities and their products, and which generates and regulates the social? It is first of all a mysterious force, mysterious because, firstly, it lies beyond any human act of will, but nevertheless miraculously directs any will and because every content of these human activities is taken from it beyond what they really are and it is this contentless force, this energy driving any human activity towards being social, that is supposed to ultimately constitute all human thought and action. A kind of driving force,  deeper will that lies beyond the human will and which determines what it is really aiming at. A kind of divine power whose entire content is the fulfillment of the sociological mysterie, answering the riddle invented by sociological thinking with its naturalized opposition of the individual and society, implanted into the nature of society, as to how society then though functions, a kind of divine power that solves this invented sociological riddle. However, at the expense of all the contents of human activity, which is why these contents must be redefined, as with Bourdieu, as nothing other than all incorporations of this god-like force.

Social energy is a force working beyond people’s will in people making what their will is all about, i.e. the creation of that which is to be explained, i.e. the production of that which, as this active agent freed from all content and purpose, is inherent in all pursuits of purpose and makes them into that which drives is the very sociologist question, i.e. what it is that creates sociality. That one goes to work to earn money, that one plays soccer, writes a book or paints a picture, everything is done by man driven by his social energy with the ultimate purpose of creating sociality, i.e. that as a human being one does everything that answers the sociologist’s question of how sociality arises and is maintained. And so, with this power liberated from all content and all purposes, it is explained by Bourdieu how sociality, i.e. communal action, comes about in whatever society. 

How about raising the question why, for example, a worker goes to a factory, meets his employer there and then works with other colleagues to do the work that his boss tells him to do? According to Bourdieu, people do this ultimately because their social energy pushes them towards the sociality of factory work. A young person goes to university to study sociology with other fellow students. According to Bourdieu he does this because his vis insita has made him see in his professor and his fellow students the possibilities of an objectification of this vis insita. Man and women arrange to meet up for a nice weekend. Why? Because they feel the urge to offer their social energy a tete a tete? Social energy is therefore a force at work in people which, through the assignment of the adjective “social”, is given the attribute of realizing the mission that sociological thinking needs to answer its false question, because it is abstracted from all content, about what creates and maintains sociality. And what is society then? The sheer being together of individuals for the purpose of being together, a collective in which no one knows what the others want, in other words something that cannot be distinguished from individuals in the mere accumulation of individuals, except that it is more than one.

7. What makes Bourdieu so attractive for critical thinkers, even for critics of capitalism

It is his interpretation of humans according to Bourdieu finally aiming whatever they do at sociality that makes these sociological thoughts appealing to thinkers inspired by what the Historical Materialism considers as their view on the working class. It is their celebration of what they see a practiced collectivisms, the communality of workers they practice while producing anything as well as the necessity of workers to be only able to jointly fight for their material interests, their solidarity, which this Marx interpretations see as the anticipation of their vision of a concept of sociality beyond the society of competing individuals. It is this negation of pursuing the material life interests of humans as competing individuals that creates this ideal of humans pursuing sociality as their life interest, thus also omitting their materialism, which makes Bourdieu’s catholic inspired theory about “the functioning of the social world” attractive for thinkers in the tradition of the historical materialism.        

Whoever now still wants to look at all Bourdieu’s declinations of all the institutions and instruments of state-constructed societies, that is of capitalist societies, from the family, education, schools to universities, from trade unions to castles, from money, to certificates, from mothers, feudal lords, painters, poets and nobles, all of them institutions or agents of the transformations between all the identical forms of capital from one form to another, all of which are substantially objectivications of the same social energy, whoever wants to read these exercises by Bourdieu, to interpret the real world of capitalism as being made for the realization of Bourdieu’s invented world of his sociological transubstantiations between all his eceteras, adorned with the proof of his knowledge of Latin and Greek language, should enjoy reading Bourdieu’s whole paper.

[1] Bourdieu, Pierre, The Forms of Capital, 1968

[2] That is why they sociologists see any interests of society members as a risk for this functioning. (See Becks “risk society”, another global sociological superstar. Beck will be discussed in Masterminds 4) The always critical view on societies, especially on any material egoism, is that there might be anything that questions the functioning of societies. Though very different in the motivation that societies must function, for sociologist, this is what humankind is all about, humans being a society, this sociological concern about the functioning of societies coincides with the concerns of the state view on the society, that is that the conflicts states impose on the societies they rule might make them unrulable.