Thursday, July 3, 2014

Personal Notes on Bourdieu, Logic of Practice

These are personal notes I took in 2008 while reading Bourdieu's classic, Logic of Practice (1980). The number preceding the paragraphs are the pages of the book.

1. “In social sciences, the progress of knowledge presupposes progress in our knowledge of conditions of knowledge”
2. Move to reconcile theoretical and practical intentions, i.e., scientific and ethical/political.
4-5. Structuralism as the study of relationships; “Frazerian comparative culture which picks out decontextualized themes…” & colonialism; “good intentions so often make bad sociology”
8. Structural research, like scientific research, “continual retouching gives greater comprehensiveness and unity . . . whereas each detail of this picture, cut off and isolated from the whole, loses all meaning and no longer represents anything.”
10. The process of organizing facts is itself interpretive and an imposition on the system one is studying, thus showing the limits of the logic of practice. Bourdieu’s attempt to put into an organizing chart all of the oppositions and similarities was impossible, [since the habitus isn’t amenable to such logical formalizations] and is an inherent weakness of structuralism.
11. Bourdieu questions why we don’t radically critique all objectification, and therefore science. Our logical models are typically reified and we lose sight of the fact that they are simply economical ways of describing a set of data.
12. Practice (practical logic) isn’t the same as logical principles underlying practice. Most insiders do not rely on logical principles to make practice choices—they simply “do”. Practical logic is rarely entirely coherent
14. “Theory” implies social distance; the distance between the observer and the observed, [the insider and the outsider]
16. Bourdieu reconceptualizes the social scientist’s task of finding the logical meaning behind the practices (e.g., the ritualistic, traditional meanings behind marriage) and to see the benefit to the participants, specifically, the accumulation of economic and symbolic capital.
18. “Rites are practices that are ends in themselves, that are justified by their very performance; things that one does because they are ‘the done thing’, ‘the right thing to do’, but also because one cannot do otherwise.” The interpretive study of rites implies that the actors are intentionally seeking to accomplish these [subconscious, traditionalistic ends, rather than simply “doing what one does”]

25. One of the most destructive divides in social science is that between subjectivism and objectivism, and the fact that these dichotomies persist evidence the fundamental importance of them both.
26. Objectivism ignores the radical continuity between theory and practice, as if our perception of external structures can ever bring us to ontological reality. Qua Schutz, objective knowledge becomes “constructs of constructs produced by the actors on the social scene”
27. Bourdieu believes that social science must not only make the first break of questioning native experience and representations, but also questioning the presuppositions of the ‘objective’ observer who seeks to interpret native experience. The objective observer typically attempts to reduce exchanges (practice) to symbolic exchanges [see Nacirema]
27. He feels one of the most formidable barriers is the fact that scientific practitioners have constructed systems of power to protect their power over knowledge production, and delegitimize other ways of knowing. This power relationship is ignored

Ch. 1
33-34. Participant observation, dominant in anthropology, is one of the research methods that most disguises the distinction between subject and object, by allowing the researcher to believe she is truly understanding the world of the observed. “simply another way of avoiding the question of the real relationship of the observer to the observed and its critical consequences for scientific practice.”
36-37. “the ‘thinker’ betrays his secret conviction that action is only fully performed when it is understood, interpreted, expressed… Leads one to conceive action as something to be deciphered, … that a gesture or ritual expresses something, rather than saying, quite simply, that it is ‘sensible’.”
40. Structuralism and objectivism proposes the categories that create the rules for the behavior and culture of the observed, ignoring the fact that these behaviors have been made by social processes of production and reproduction, not from a priori rules

Ch. 2
42. Sartre greatly contributed to a theory of action built around strategies oriented towards ends, and anticipated reactions by others. [symbolic interactionism]
46. He further clarifies that the science of studying humans derives from humans, which is a core problem of the objectivist/subjectivist dichotomy. Objectivist understandings of humans are based in external or internal determinisms, while subjectivist understandings of humans based on the future intended outcome, or rather, the expectation of profit, which leaves out antecedent causes. In this sense, the subjectivist vision is the foundation for rational choice theory, essentially deterministic itself.
48. Pascal can be considered a forerunner of insight into the habitus, who talked about our justifications of our actions and beliefs based on our practice.
49. Logical paradox: one can choose to believe p. However, one cannot simultaneously believe p, and also to believe that the decision to believe p was based on a choice to believe p. The memory of the process must be obliterated.

Ch. 3.
52. Objectivism allows the researcher to see the entire social world as an object of study, as theater, and every action is filled with symbolic meaning. … In contrast, the “theory of practice as practice”, assumes that actions are constructed out of a system of dispositions/habits/practices (habitus) that have some practical function.
53. The habitus is a system of durable practices that allow agents in a particular class of conditions to adapt and accomplish a certain outcome. However, there is no assumption of intentional aims in such agents, or an overarching set of principles or orchestrator. … The agent, working within this habitus, is acting in a “world of already realized ends—procedures to follow, paths to take…”
54. Contrary to scientific experimentation that gives preference to recently gained knowledge, habitus gives preference to early experiences. … The habitus therefore is a product of history, and the schemes become engrained in human practice and interpretation. In this way it tends to guarantee consistency in continued practice to anything that does not conform to the history of accepted practices.
55. The habitus is not deterministic in a mechanical way—it allows freedom of thought and action. However, limitations exist based on the range of past experiences, and in this way makes habitus seem deterministic. Further, because we depend so heavily on habitus to accomplish our outcomes, it is difficult to think and act outside of the habitus, both theoretically, and practically, since the habitus is social and other agents actively limit our expressive capacity.
55-56. habitus is circumscribed by each particular class, and tends to generate behaviors that we see as “reasonable” and “common-sense”, and “that are likely to be positively sanctioned,” while at the same time limiting behaviors that would be “negatively sanctioned because they are incompatible with objective conditions”—i.e., the other agents believe such behaviors are not productive or destructive.
56-58. Practices cannot be deduced from current conditions, but can only be understood within the historical context in which that habitus emerged. The habitus is “embodied history”. … It brings together two objectifications—bodies and institutions. The practices of our bodies to accomplish objectives match the institutions that have become established in our habitus. Both reinforce the other, and what make both seem “natural.” … Institutions aren’t viable if they are simply logical or functional, but they most also match the dispositions of our bodies.
59-60. All individuals that come from a particular social class [habitat] will share exposure to similar beliefs and practices, i.e., they will have the same habitus. “Personal style”, is the stamp of a group’s habitus.
62. The habitus is the solution to the objectivist, subjectivist paradox—it gives us strategies for action, yet we need not have subjective intentions to act. Our complex series of behaviors and routines are structured by the habitus. [Part of what Bourdieu also wants to do here is subvert rational choice theory]

Ch. 4
66. Practical sense is our bodily involvement in the world. It is like having a “feel for the game” for any given field using one’s habitus. Practical sense is what gives us our sense of subjective experience—the meaning, investment and predictability for our actions. Native membership in a field is what makes everything within that field “make sense”, or seem sensible.
67-68. In contrast to game fields, one doesn’t choose one’s social field, one is born into it, and one learns it through years of slow processes of autonomization. This makes one’s involvement in the game seem all the more unconditional and unconscious. … Just as a child learns to speak by doing, not by learning fundamental rules of speech, we learn to act by doing, not by learning the symbolic meaning of our actions. … This makes it as difficult to understand another habitus as it is to become a native speaker of a foreign language, since many of these patterns must be incorporated when very young. (see also pg. 74)
70-72. Oppositions between male and female bodies in the Kabyle people are fundamental, and reflect both the social and sexual divisions of labor. These dichotomies are also a fundamental part of the habitus.
73. Mimesis is the process acquisition of embodiment. It is more than simply imitation, which implies mechanization and the precise reproduction of specific gestures in every specific situation, as well as the conscious intention to memorize. Mimesis implies a generative schema that is unconsciously learned through socialization. Reproduction is the “practical reactivation which is opposed both to memory and knowledge”, and takes place below the level of consciousness. Further, “the body believes in what it plays at”—it is not simply mimicking actions, but the holistic embodied experience “makes sense”. Our bodies “do not memorize the past, it enacts the past, bringing it back to life. What is ‘learned by the body’ is not something that one has, like knowledge that can be brandished, but something that one is.”

Ch. 5
81. “because it is entirely immersed in the current of time, practice is inseparable from temporality. Science has a time which is not that of practice. For the analyst, time disappears. …it tends to ignore time and so to detemporalize practice.”
86. “Practice has a logic which is not that of the logician.” Over-analysis of practice leads to “the theorization effect”—the construction of false theories based on the use of data in ways other than its milieu allows.
90. “The logicism inherent in the objectivist viewpoint inclines one to ignore the fact that scientific construction cannot grasp the principles of practical logic without forcibly changing their nature. Objectification converts a practical succession into a represented succession.”
96. “The Kabyle woman setting up her loom is not performing an act of cosmogony; she is simply setting up her loom to weave cloth intended to serve a technical function.”

Ch. 6
103. “The motor of the whole dialectic of challenge and riposte, gift and counter-gift, is not an abstract axiomatics but the sense of honour, a disposition inculcated by all early education and constantly demanded and reinforced by the group, and inscribed in the postures and gestures of the body as in the automatisms of language and thought, through which a man asserts himself as a real, manly man.”
108-109. “Officialization [creating laws, explicating norms] is the process whereby the group (or those who dominate it) teaches itself and masks from itself its own truth, binds itself by a public profession which sanctions and imposes what it utters, tacitly defining the limits of the thinkable and the unthinkable and so contributing to the maintenance of the social order from which it derives its power.” … “Politics is the arena par excellence of officialization strategies.”

Ch. 7
115-116. Arranged marriages are initiated by prestigious family members being present, utilizing the symbolic capital of the importance of the family in the negotiations.
118. Where economic capital accumulation is not possible, religious and symbolic capital may be the only forms of capital accumulation.
119-120. Economic and symbolic capital are inextricably linked: the trust necessary for engaging in market transactions are supported by the symbolic capital of the trading parties. Dealers (or royalty) frequently make a large show of their symbolic capital to increase trust in their product and services. This includes marriage transactions. … “Symbolic capital is credit”
121. The hypersensitivity of families to slurs and innuendo is because it reduces their symbolic capital and thus their economic viability.

Ch. 8
124. Neither economic wealth nor cultural competence can be converted into capital unless the exchanges take place in a specific field relevant to that wealth and competence.
125. The tribal chief is like the head banker, who accumulates power, respect, obligations and service by lavishing gifts and food to the villagers.
131. “The accumulation of material wealth is simply one means among others of accumulating symbolic power—the power to secure recognition of power.” … Duby suggests that the accumulation of economic capital was not possible until symbolic capital could be reproduced durably.
132. Certification, licensure, diplomas, etc (credentials) separate the individual from having to prove her symbolic capital to each new person. Credentials are institutionalized forms of making symbolic capital permanent, objectifying it. Like law, credentials “symbolically consecrate” the power structures and classes that exist and reproduce the system of domination, guaranteeing the continuation of the structures of power.

Ch. 9
135. “The established order, and the distribution of capital which is its basis, contribute to their own perpetuation through their very existence, through the symbolic effect that they exert as soon as they are publicly and officially declared and are thereby misrecognized and recognized.” Social science can therefore not treat social realities as things (Durkheim), but must understand the symbolic value of the social realities. In doing so, social science must reintroduce the subjective meaning into the objective reality it has described, which originally destroyed the subjective meaning. Social science must then take into account both the quantifiable characteristics, as well as the meanings attached to them. Social science must therefore move beyond the debate between social physics (quantitative) and social phenomenology (qualitative).
136. The objectivist vision provides great numerical data about power differentials, but in doing so it destroys that which gives meaning to the exploitative relations, and thus which gives those relations power. Even though these symbolic meanings of power are “misrecognitions”—i.e., constructed hierarchies of meaning with little relationship to objective reality—within the habitus and field, their exploitative power remains when left unchallenged and misunderstood.
141. Subversive action helps us correctly recognize the exploitative nature of modes of domination and the previously misrecognized meanings of the symbols of power.

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