Study Guide

Pierre Bourdieu - The French Critics Mixed Political Bag Group

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The French Critics Mixed Political Bag Group

Not all of the members agree on which political system is best—but that's the point. Real critics shouldn't be afraid of defending their positions, so they all get together and just share… and argue a lot, but in a productive way. Some of them think differences are innate; others say they are all socially constructed; but they all agree on one thing—life is rough.

Michel Foucault

Michel was a shoe-in for prez because he holds on to ideas like a junkyard dog. He thinks all institutions and systems of power are out to control the people. He is obsessed with power—he sees it everywhere. He and Bourdieu agreed on that much, though Bourdieu talked about power as something invisible, and Foucault was all about the visibility of power. Just think of that wacky panopticon idea of his.

Noam Chomsky

Look, Noam thinks toilet paper is political, so he always brings his hawk-eye point of view to the table. He likes to go on about corporate this and anarchy that, so he definitely represents for the left.

Bernard Henri-Lévy

This guy really gets on Bourdieu's nerves—and everyone else's, for that matter—but the group had to have someone who thinks the right wing isn't Satan's personal militia, so they've got Bernard. He's been making critics red in the face since 1977, when he wrote his book Barbarism with a Human Face, in which he kind of suggests that European lefties love fascists. Love him or hate him, he's super annoying.

Academics Who Hate Academic Writing

Needless to say, this is a small group—that is, when anyone bothers to attend it at all. The problem is that most academics love academic writing and don't care that it is obscure and alienating. It's part of their whole cultural capital repertoire. This group gets together and talks about how the institution of education isn't trying to educate people; it's just a tool of class oppression.

Oh, and they also read favorite examples of horrendous academic "prose."

Émile Durkheim

The group just loves this French sociologist. Durkheim makes sure that members know they don't need to remain aloof scientists gazing at their subjects from above. They've had endless conversations about how they like to be part of what we are studying; academic research doesn't have to be totally opposed to ordinary experience.

Émile Zola

Bourdieu almost blushed when people compared him to this extraordinary French realist. Zola was a great example of how you could be a super important thinker and still care about politics and public life. Just think of that time he got his hands dirty with that infamous Dreyfus affair. Bourdieu was always totally impressed by that.

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