On the News of Pierre Bourdieu’s Death


The movements against neoliberal globalization and global militarism have had, so far, two extraordinary figures of contemporary thought – Pierre Bourdieu and Noam Chomsky; Bourdieu, the French sociologist and the heir to German philosophical tradition, probably the greatest sociologist of the second half of the 20th century; Chomsky, American linguist, the determined Cartesian , particularly sensitive to methodological misuses in the social sciences. Both these men were the representatives of specific intellectual atmosphere – European and Anglo-American. Many renowned scientists, like Jean Bricmont, have dreamed of the potential dialogue between these two scientists and engaged intellectuals and of their possible mutual work. However, the cultural distance between them allowed only for their joint participation in various petitions.

 

Today, the progressive world is an orphan, after Pierre Bourdieu died of cancer in his 71st year of age. Sensitive to the injustice of all the systems based on domination and social repression, which he used to expose in his work on both national and international scale, Bourdieu did not hesitate to devote himself to engaging on various fronts. Palestine cause was the last of these, where he tried to contribute to the cause by putting his signature to the appeal sent to the "Bisar Committee", aiming at liberating of Azmi Bisara.

 

His engagement at the Balkans has been under the sign of the petition known as the "Brussels Appeal" which he signed, together with Noam Chomsky in April 2000, surrounded by dissatisfaction of those left wing representatives who considered this document "too much inclined to Belgrade" on one hand, and on the other hand by others who asked for his resolute support to Belgrade politics of the time. Bourdieu, however, as a witness of the leftist movement’s superficial dogmatism of the 60s of the previous century, and as an acquaintance of former radicals who are today the intellectual managers of the neo-liberal globalization, abhorred hasty judgments and injudicious support. As for the topics such as Yugoslavia, Bourdieu left the talk to those much better acquainted with the subject, helping them only when his influence was needed. His sociological method detached him from the abstract Leninist-type explicative patterns, allowing him to encompass, by the viewpoint of an "scientific intellectual", the underlying structural processes, identifying the causes and limitations of emancipation, so as to be able to use them more effectively.

  

Pierre Bourdieu has refined the tastes of thousands of people regarding critical reflection, rejection of fatalism, adhering to the progressive enlightenment values, as opposed to current post-modernistic intellectual trends.

  

On the other end of the empty homage to the "great deceased professor", bestowed to him by the institutional structures he had despised, and which despised him in turn, there remains now and for a long time to come, Pierre Bourdieu’s intellectual and political message, readily accepted and passed on by many people, with the same enthusiasm and scientific eagerness he himself had had. There also remain his books and essays, waiting to be translated, as the cornerstones of the international collective project. These are the works that are never to be sacralized, but studied over again and adjusted, with a critical perspective, to new situations.

 

 

*Frédéric Delorca is a sociologist and a coordinator of the web site Infobalkans.com

 

* Andrej Grubacic is a historian and activist thinker from Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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