Watching: Bourdieu [Vid]

Wembley White

Relax this Sunday with something smart.

Sociology is a Martial Art  ( La sociologie est un sport de combat ) is a fascinating insight into the day to day mental life of Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist at the forefront of Post-structuralist theory until is death in 2002.

Following him from various claustrophobic meetings with academic heads, to fractious workers, to enabling a revolutionary discussion in one of Paris most neglected slums the viewer is drawn into a portrait that by degrees reveals a complex intellectual who measures the depth of his considered isolation against a broader openness to humanity and injustice.

As a reader of Bourdieu’s work it’s fascinating to see that despite the attention paid to dynamic systems encompassing fields, habitus, agency and dominion his attention (at least in the film) focusses on decoding why power persists. In this light the massive changes in the world, from the industrial revolution to the tumescence of the information age, allows us to question why power has remained with the same elites rather than becoming socially suffuse? Why is it that social inequality in the West has increased in the last 30 years? What socio-political forces are at play and how can sociology be used by as a means of defence against those forces that would preach powerlessness – intellectualism, Bourdieu argues, is a martial art.

Despite threatening to be heavy going the film has a light touch and the many clever humorous moments give that mental lift not often found in Sunday papers nor videos of musical kittens.

As a polemic appetiser, a joke:

Two sociologists came upon a man lying distraught in the gutter after being beaten and robbed. As they looked down upon the battered and bleeding body one of them remarked- “we must find the people responsible for this terrible attack, they’re obviously in desperate need of our help”.

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