Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) from “The Field of Cultural Production, Or: The Economic World Reversed,” The Field of Cultural Production (1983)

  • Lee Morrissey


Few areas more clearly demonstrate the heuristic efficacy of relational thinking than that of art and literature. Constructing an object such as the literary field1 requires and enables us to make a radical break with the substantialist mode of thought (as Ernst Cassirer calls it) which tends to foreground the individual, or the visible interactions between individuals, at the expense of the structural relations—invisible, or visible only through their effects—between social positions that are both occupied and manipulated by social agents, which may be isolated individuals, groups or institutions.2 There are in fact very few other areas in which the glorification of “great men,” unique creators irreducible to any condition or conditioning, is more common or uncontroversial—as one can see, for example, in the fact that most analysts uncritically accept the division of the corpus that is imposed on them by the names of authors (“the work of Racine”) or the titles of works (Phèdre or Bésrénice).


Cultural Production Social Agent Artistic Production Substantialist Mode Specific Capital 
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  1. 2.
    Since it is not possible to develop here all that is implied in the notion of the field, one can only refer the reader to earlier works which set out the conditions of the application in the social sciences of the relational mode of thought which has become indispensable in the natural sciences (Pierre Bourdieu, “Structuralism and Theory of Semiological Knowledge,” Social Research, 35: 4 (1968), pp. 681–706Google Scholar
  2. Pierre Bourdieu, “Une interpretation de la sociologie religieuse de Max Weber,” Archives europésenes de sociologie, 12: 1 (1971), pp. 3–21).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Lee Morrissey 2005

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  • Lee Morrissey

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