Notes on Bourdieu's Conception of Social Science: Between Positivist and Hermeneutic Knowledge
School of Geography, Politics and Sociology; Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Newcastle University Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
The main purpose of this paper is to explore Pierre Bourdieu's conception of social science. To this end, the paper sheds light on the main epistemological and methodological presuppositions that undergird Bourdieu's defence of reflexive sociology as a scientific endeavour. In essence, the analysis demonstrates that Bourdieu's conception of science is based on a twofold concern: on the one hand, Bourdieu regards social science as a tool to explain the nature of the underlying structures which determine human actors' engagement with the world; on the other hand, Bourdieu considers social science as a tool to understand the nature of the field-specific discourses through which human actors interpret the world. In the former sense, the task of social science is to uncover the 'interest-ladenness' of the human world; in the latter sense, the task of social science is to examine the 'meaning-ladenness' of the human world. Exploring the problematic implications of this twofold endeavour, the paper makes a case for the view that the 'positivist' trust in the explanatory power of social science and the 'hermeneutic' reliance on the interpretive power of social actors are two irreducible components of Bourdieu's reflexive conception of social science.