Overdue Analysis of Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice

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Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice is an unsung classic of contemporary social philosophy. It combines the first analysis by a social theorist of the practical intelligibility governing action with an exciting perspective on how the structure of social phenomena determines and is itself perpetuated by action. Bourdieu, however, misinterprets his own theory of intelligibility as a theory of the causal generation of action. Moreover, he attempts to analyze the underlying structure of intelligibility with a set of fundamental oppositions that at the same time structure the social phenomena found in the worlds through which people live. It is argued that practical intelligibility has no underlying structure, that the fundamental oppositions apply at best to traditional societies alone, and that these oppositions do not even structure intelligibility in such societies but, instead, are only a descriptive scheme with which a social scientist can reconstruct social phenomena in them. The outline of a more adequate account Of practical intelligibility is also presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-135
Number of pages23
JournalInquiry (United Kingdom)
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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