Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology and ‘spaces of points of view’: Whose reflexivity, which perspective?

Kenway, J., & McLeod, J. (2004). Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology and ‘spaces of points of view’: Whose reflexivity, which perspective? British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25(4), pp. 525-544.

Abstract: This paper considers Bourdieu’s concepts of perspectivism and reflexivity, looking particularly at how he develops arguments about these in his recent work, The Weight of the World (1999) and Pascalian Meditations (2000b). We explicate Bourdieu’s distinctive purposes and deployment of these terms and approaches, and discuss how this compares with related methodological and theoretical approaches currently found in social and feminist theory. We begin by considering three main ways in which ‘reflexivity’ is deployed in current sociological writing, distinguishing between reflexive sociology and a sociology of reflexivity. This is followed by a discussion of the main aspects of Bourdieu’s approach to ‘reflexive sociology’ and its relation to his concepts of social field, perspectivism and spaces of point of view. He argues that we need to interrogate the idea of a single ‘perspective’ and account especially for the particularity and influence of the ‘scholastic’ point of view. He characterizes this latter point of view as unaware of its own historicity and as largely concerned with contemplation and with treating ideas primarily as abstractions (Bourdieu, 2000b). Bourdieu’s intervention is to argue, as he has throughout his work, for a more reflexive account of one’s location and habitus, and for sustained engagement with ideas and social issues as practical problems. Bourdieu exhorts researchers to work with ‘multiple perspectives’ (Bourdieu et al., 1999, p. 3), the various competing ‘spaces of points of view’, without collapsing into subjectivism or relativism. We then consider recent feminist engagements with and critiques of Bourdieu’s notion of reflexivity and chart some of the main points of contention regarding its relevance and conceptual potential for theorizing gender identities and transformations in current times. We conclude with a brief outline of how we are working with a reflexive sociological approach in a cross-generational study of young women in difficult circumstances, ‘on the margins’ of education and work. (Abstract © Taylor & Francis, reprinted by special permission from Taylor & Francis Group, a division of Informa UK,

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