Conclusion
philip s. gorski
BOURDIEUSIAN THEORY AND HISTORICAL ANALYSIS
Maps, Mechanisms, and Methods
The preceding chapters have given ample proof that it is both possible and
fruitful to analyze sociohistorical change in Bourdieusian terms. The purpose
of this conclusion is to elaborate, systematize, and reflect on the larger project
of which these chapters are a part: the development of a Bourdieusian ap-
proach to historical analysis. I will divide these reflections into three parts. In
the first and longest, entitled ‘‘Maps,’’ I will show that Pierre Bourdieu’s three
master concepts, field, capital, and habitus, can be elaborated into a more
general framework for describing sociohistorical change and tracing out
causal interconnections. In the second and shorter part, entitled ‘‘Methods
and Mechanisms,’’ I will identify some of the basic methodological principles
that underlie Bourdieu’s explanatory practice, and I will do so via some re-
verse engineering on what is surely Bourdieu’s most sophisticated piece of
historical analysis and arguably his most methodologically sophisticated work
tout court: The Rules of Art (Bourdieu 1996a). I will argue that Bourdieu’s
approach to sociological explanation is dialectical and dialogical and that his
approach to historical transformation is conjunctural and mechanismic. In
the third and final section I consider the relative advantages and disadvantages
of Bourdieusian theory vis-à-vis rival theories and explanatory practices, par-
ticularly rational choice theory and cultural Marxism.
The emphasis in this conclusion on system and method will perhaps strike
some readers as un-Bourdieusian. After all, wasn’t Bourdieu a sworn enemy of
‘‘theoretical theory’’ and ‘‘methodologism,’’ one who insisted that the best way
to develop a theory was to confront it with new objects, and that we should
choose our methods to fit our objects rather than the other way around?
Indeed, he was and he did! But he was not a naïve historicist or empiricist who
abjured theoretical and methodological reflection. On the contrary, two of his
most influential books, Outline of a Theory of Practice and The Logic of Prac-
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