Why I Avoid Bourdieu: #2,538 in a Series

1 April 2012 at 12:13 am 13 comments

| Peter Klein |

I have little to add to this press release, summarizing a call by sociologists to treat the individual and social disease of failing to take climate change seriously:

LONDON — (March 26, 2012) — Resistance at individual and societal levels must be recognized and treated before real action can be taken to effectively address threats facing the planet from human-caused contributions to climate change.

That’s the message to this week’s Planet Under Pressure Conference by a group of speakers led by Kari Marie Norgaard, professor of sociology and environmental studies at the University of Oregon. . . .

“We find a profound misfit between dire scientific predictions of ongoing and future climate changes and scientific assessments of needed emissions reductions on the one hand, and weak political, social or policy response on the other,” Norgaard said. Serious discussions about solutions, she added, are mired in cultural inertia “that exists across spheres of the individual, social interaction, culture and institutions.”

“Climate change poses a massive threat to our present social, economic and political order. From a sociological perspective, resistance to change is to be expected,” she said. “People are individually and collectively habituated to the ways we act and think. This habituation must be recognized and simultaneously addressed at the individual, cultural and societal level — how we think the world works and how we think it should work.”

In their paper, Norgaard and co-authors Robert Brulle of Drexel University in Philadelphia and Randolph Haluza-DeLay of The King’s University College in Canada draw from the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) to describe social mechanisms that maintain social stability or cultural inertia in the face of climate change at the three levels. . . .

I note that the lead author recently published Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life (MIT Press, 2011), which sounds like a reasonable, balanced, and objective look at the climate-change debate.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Cultural Conservatism, Myths and Realities, Pomo Periscope.

CFP: Bricolage in Art and Entrepreneurship And If You Can’t Teach, Teach Gym

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rafe  |  1 April 2012 at 6:54 am

    Pete, beware of how a book sounds! I have some doubts about the contents, given this lead in to the blurb “Global warming is the most significant environmental issue of our time, yet public response in Western nations has been meager. Why have so few taken any action?”

    What planet is she living on? Spain and Portugal have blown their budgets on renewable energy projects, in Australia we are going hand out 10 Billlion for Greens to play with, in addition to a carbon tax at $23 per ton. ETc

    Just for fun, check out how the IPCC operates.


  • 2. Michael Bishop  |  1 April 2012 at 9:54 am

    cheap shot at Bourdieu.

  • 3. Peter Klein  |  1 April 2012 at 11:50 am

    You noticed?

  • 4. Renaud Fillieule  |  2 April 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Cheap, maybe, but well deserved! The habitus theory of Bourdieu is unconvincing, and the great French sociologist Raymond Boudon (who was my PhD director back then) has shown that it is in fact tautological.

  • 5. David  |  2 April 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Environmentalists from around the world flew to Rio de Janeiro to discuss how the rest of the world isn’t taking climate change seriously. Guess they don’t have Skype…

  • 6. Peter Klein  |  2 April 2012 at 9:40 pm

    That’s almost as funny as the carbon footprint of Al Gore’s house.

  • 7. joshmccabe  |  3 April 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Peter, I don’t see the issue here. It’s the same sort of thing Caplan does in his book on the Myth of the Rational Voter. I’m pretty sure you don’t think that governments make policy based on the merits of the evidence either. The conference simply looks to explain why specific state actions haven’t been taken in regard to climate change. What the authors of the paper believe is as irrelevent to their explanation as our ideology is when we seek to explain social phenomena. No? What is your specific objection?

  • 8. FC  |  3 April 2012 at 10:33 pm

    “What the authors of the paper believe is as irrelevent to their explanation as our ideology is when we seek to explain social phenomena.”

    If you say so, but your work must be unlike any social science class or text I have ever experienced.

  • 9. Peter Klein  |  4 April 2012 at 9:03 am

    “The conference simply looks to explain why specific state actions haven’t been taken in regard to climate change.” That may be an interesting research question. But of course it presupposes that particular actions — in this case, massive state actions — are warranted. My guess it that this presupposition is not to be discussed at the conference. Indeed, the undertone of this entire project is that individuals and society as a whole have been somehow deluded — by the oil industry, I guess — into a kind of social and cultural denial, which must be tackled by a Platonic elite of sociologist-kings. If I can’t make fun of that sort of thing, then what’s the point of blogging?

  • 10. Graham Peterson  |  1 January 2013 at 2:09 am

    Where’s the little thumbs-up “good” button for Peter’s last comment there?

  • 11. Peter Klein  |  1 January 2013 at 10:43 am

    We need one of those!

  • 12. Emmet Fox  |  6 June 2014 at 4:46 am

    Lizardo’s solid interpretation of Bourdieu’s habitus goes some way towards solving the puzzle: of the habitus describing it as not just conceptual but a concrete structure: a “psycho- motor and cognitive- motivational system” (Lizardo, 2004: 26- 7). Too often do I see sociologists dismissing habitus through conflating the concept as “Bourdieu’s version of the first-person phenomenological perspective” (Lizardo, 2004: 26).. Habitus is capacity as much as it is the restriction of agents but it is not the agent itself (the economist and his freedom to speak the language of economics but yet restrained at the same time by the narrow window of his discipline). I think that although sociologists are well aware of the freedom determinism dichotomy they have a tough time seeing beyond the polarity.

  • 13. Rafe Champion  |  2 July 2014 at 9:13 pm

    In brief, economists should have bigger windows, especially if they are male.

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