Luc Boltanski’s programme of pragmatic sociology, now gaining substantial attention among English-speaking sociologists, was forged in opposition to the supposed excesses and blind spots of Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘critical sociology’. After outlining the main lines of development of Boltanski’s project and emphasizing the major points of difference with Bourdieu, the article offers a critical Bourdieusian response to pragmatic sociology. It highlights a number of ways in which Boltanski’s position is based on a misreading or distortion of Bourdieu’s ideas, is less unlike Bourdieu’s position than he claims and suffers from analytical shortcomings. This is not to say there is nothing of value in Boltanski’s work, but overall it offers useful pointers to be accommodated rather than a thoroughgoing conceptual revolution.
- critical sociology
- pragmatic sociology