Research Since Arriving at Wisconsin
When I came to Wisconsin, I was working within an intellectual nexus “between Durkheim and Dewey.” On the one hand, I was concerned—as I had been throughout my graduate studies at Harvard and my junior faculty years at the New School for Social Research—to contribute to cultural and historical sociology by means of an engagement with Emile Durkheim, particularly the religious sociology developed late in his life and given consummate expression in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. On the other hand, I was also pursuing new lines of inquiry into relational sociology, a perspective well-represented by social-network analysts such as Harrison White and by historical sociologists such as Charles Tilly. Increasingly, this latter pursuit was also moving me toward the classical American pragmatism of John Dewey. These various interests had recently come together in three of my articles of the mid- to late-1990s, all published in the American Journal of Sociology— “Network Analysis, Culture, and the Problem of Agency,” co-authored with Jeff Goodwin (1994); “Manifesto for a Relational Sociology” (1997); and “What is Agency?,” co-authored with Ann Mische (1998)—as well as in my essay in Theory and Society, “Publics in History,” co-authored with Mimi Sheller (1999).
Even after coming to Wisconsin, I continued working and publishing in these two lines of inquiry; hence, I group some of these writings below under the categories “Durkheim” and “Dewey.” I also began, however, to pursue a third line of inquiry soon after arriving here, an engagement with Bourdieuian sociology. Along with Jeffrey Alexander, Pierre Bourdieu was perhaps the most important of the many sociological followers of the later Durkheim—the Durkheim of the Elementary Forms—while in other respects his work was an exciting further development (by alternative means) of the tradition of Deweyan pragmatism. Starting around 2002, I plunged into a close reading (and rereading) of Bourdieu’s writings and began publishing papers that explored the relevance of his ideas to a wide array of substantive areas. I therefore add below a third category—"Bourdieu"—under which I group those later publications. By means of these three categories, which admittedly are less than perfect chronologically (mostly because of the vagaries of the co-authorship and publication processes) and also a bit rough-and-ready theoretically, I hope to convey a general sense of where I have been and the directions in which my work has been progressing.
In 2001, I was invited to speak at a symposium in UCLA in honor of the distinguished sociological theorist, Jeffrey Alexander. The latter’s work had been an important inspiration for me because it showed one very exciting and fruitful way of elaborating Durkheim’s religious sociology into a program for systematic cultural analysis. (Most cultural sociologists today will acknowledge that Alexander’s work in this vein constitutes one of the most important contributions to that field of the past twenty or thirty years.) Accordingly, my presentation at the UCLA symposium provided me with a chance to think through some the implications of Durkheimian ideas for sociological inquiry. In that presentation, I pursued three distinct aims: (1) a contextualization of Alexander’s cultural sociology within the broader trajectory of his intellectual development; (2) a sketch of the key ideas of his approach to cultural analysis against the backdrop of contemporary debates regarding culture and social structure; and (3) an appeciation and critical assessment of Alexander’s program. Several years after the fact, the proceedings of that presentation—and of the symposium as a whole—were published in the journal Thesis Eleven, with my contribution as the lead article.
My conclusion in this article was that Alexander's theoretical approach, which has since been extended in a more pragmatic and performative direction but which continues, more than ever, to affirm the analytic autonomy of culture, to map out its internal patterns, and to reconnect it with social structure and historical process, has proven an extraordinarily valuable, important, and timely contribution to sociology. It certainly ranks among the most important contributions to cultural analysis in the post-Parsonian era. My fascination with Alexander's work has continued right through to the present day. I reviewed Alexander’s magnum opus, The Civil Sphere, for the American Journal of Sociology, and I am currently working on a joint review essay (coauthored with Molly Noble) on that same study together with Erik Olin Wright's recently published Envisioning Real Utopias. As we argue inthis work-in-progress, the two thinkers were shaped by similar formative experiences but moved, early in their careers, in very different directions, one coming to personify neofunctionalism and the other analytical Marxism. In recent years, however, their trajectories have led them back to a new convergence-point, that of Deweyan democracy. It is this curious tale of convergent trajectories that we tell in our unfinished paper, provisionally entitled "Two Routes Back to Dewey."
Emile Durkheim: Sociologist of Modernity—and my introductory essay for that volume
Another of my Durkheim-related studies, from around the same time as the Jeffrey Alexander paper, was an edited volume, Emile Durkheim: Sociologist of Modernity (Blackwell), which aimed to capture the enduring value and import of Durkheimian sociology by focusing on the diverse points of view—theoretical, substantive, methodological, and normative—from which it approaches modern social life. The volume included selections from Durkheim's best-known writings (e.g., on the division of labor in modern society, suicide and the maladies of modern moral culture, and ritual and symbolic classification in religious life), as well as selections from less widely-read texts that similarly treat of central themes in the sociology of modernity. All were brought together under a conceptual framework that allowed readers to see both the expansiveness and the unity or coherence of Durkheim's vision. Another important feature of the volume was that it included a wide range of selections by more recent thinkers, themselves deeply influenced by Durkheimian social thought. The volume aspired, in fact, to illuminate continuities between these later thinkers and Durkheim’s own contributions to social and historical analysis. Through such juxtapositions, it sought to establish the living vitality of the Durkheimian sociology of modernity, as well as to project this sociology forward into new horizons of inquiry.
The volume was organized in four sections. The first was a methodological prelude that treats of Durkheim's writings on sociological explanation, including causal analysis and historical and comparative inquiry. This section served to establish Durkheim as a far more complex and, indeed, “contemporary” thinker than the ahistorical functionalist he has often been portrayed as being. It also alerted the reader to analytic themes and concerns that inform many of the more substantive selections that follow. The second section turned to the Durkheimian analysis of social structure, culture, and collective emotions, as well as individual and collective agency. It showed how Durkheim depicts modern life as structured in terms of relatively enduring matrices of social relations, cultural symbols, and psychical investments, as well as how, in his view, these are both reproduced and sometimes transformed through ritualized social action. The third section mapped these insights onto a range of substantive inquiries into key institutional sectors or complexes of modern society. Its explored Durkheim’s analyses of modern states, economies, and civil societies, all in terms of their social-structural, cultural, and collective-emotional aspects and as reproduced or transformed by individual or collective actors. Finally, a normative coda brought the reader back to Durkheim's fundamental concerns with scientific knowledge and moral-practical intervention. Here, the reader was able to see Durkheim confronting head-on the normative problems facing modernity and proposing ways to address them. Having started out with explanatory issues, the reader thus returned ultimately to the reconstructive aspirations always so close to the heart of Durkheimian sociology.
This volume on Durkheim and later Durkheimians was unique in several respects. First, it focused thematically upon Emile Durkheim as a sociologist of modernity. Other readers have rather circumscribed concerns, ranging from Durkheim's sociology of religion to his sociologies of law, the state, education and morality, and institutions. (Still others include selections from only three or four of his most famous texts.) This volume, by contrast, was comprehensive. It was also thematically unified: the sociology of modernity provided an all-important focal point that even the best extant readers conspicuously lacked. Its theoretical framework, moreover, was directly drawn from my writings of the 1990s, in which the threefold distinction between social structure, culture, and collective emotions had played an important role. (This distinction would return to play a significant role in my essay on collective emotions. It is also a hallmark of my forthcoming book, The Racial Order.) Second, the volume connected the classical writings of Durkheim himself with subsequent work by social thinkers. Some of this work was by members of the so-called "Durkheim School" that revolved around Durkheim and that survived into the inter-war years, or else by sociologically informed scholars of the generations immediately following his own. Most of it, however, was by contemporary or near-contemporary sociologists. No other volume explored trajectories from the past into the present and the future in quite the same way. Finally, the volume was crafted with newcomers to Durkheim's work specifically in mind—and with the aim of making the volume accessible and appealing to students in many different areas of research, from classical and contemporary theory to political sociology, from the sociology of emotions and cultural sociology to the sociology of education, and so forth. Toward these ends, it began with a lengthy introductory essay which set forth the volume's central framework, reviewed Durkheim’s life and work, assessed his historical influence, and made the case for a useful Durkheim.
I have long been fascinated by the later Durkheim, at least since my “discovery” during graduate school (or so I liked to think of it, anyhow) of an almost forgotten work by this great master of sociology: The Evolution of Educational Thought. The latter is a series of twenty-seven lectures that Durkheim first delivered in 1904-05 at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris and that he continued to offer each academic year thereafter until 1912-13. Durkheim’s course was originally called “L’Histoire de l’enseignement secondaire en France,” and it only received the title by which it is now known, L’Evolution pedagogique en France, when it was published posthumously in 1938 as a two-volume work by Durkheim’s student and follower, Maurice Halbwachs. Instantly upon its appearance in print, L’Evolution was hailed as a classic in French intellectual circles and came to enjoy a formidable reputation among sociologists, educators, and historians alike. The work languished, however, in near-total obscurity in the English-speaking world, even after the appearance of Peter Collins’s excellent translation in 1977. Collins’s translation would soon fall out of print, in fact, and would remain unavailable in English for nearly a quarter-century thereafter. I came across the work in Widener Library while doing research for my doctoral dissertation on the historical transformation of moral and civic education in U.S. public schools, and I drew upon it heavily in that study for theoretical guidance and inspiration. I had the unique feeling of having a sociological masterpiece all to myself, so little used was it in the English-language literature.
In this lengthy essay on L'Evolution (forthcoming in a collection of my essays with Paradigm Press), I begin by discussing briefly the historical and institutional circumstances under which Durkheim’s lectures were first delivered and the practical as well as theoretical or scientific aims he sought to achieve through them. I claim it is important to start with such an overview because the substantive concerns of Durkheim’s work, and indeed of all of Durkheim’s writings, are often neglected in favor of a more scholastic approach to interpretation that treats those texts in near-total abstraction from the concrete problems that animated them. Next, I turn to a consideration of the intimate connections Durkheim envisioned between sociology and history. This is important because, although Durkheim cared deeply about understanding modern social institutions in historical perspective—precisely such institutions as French secondary education—and although, in his lectures at the Ecole, he sought to impart such a historical perspective to his students, he is all too often seen as thoroughly ahistorical in his approach to institutional analysis. In opposition to such a view, I situate Durkheim’s lectures against the backdrop of his insistent calls for a unification of historical and sociological inquiry. After these preliminary considerations, I then turn in more detailed fashion to the substantive arguments Durkheim developed in The Evolution of Educational Thought. I divide this central portion of the essay into several sections that treat, in chronological order, Durkheim’s analyses of the key turning-points in French educational history: its founding moment in the early Middle Ages; the Carolingian period; the scholastic era of the High Middle Ages; the Renaissance period (which Durkheim discussed in conjunction with the counter-Reformation and seventeenth century); and, finally, the period of the Great Revolution of 1789 and its aftermath. The essay concludes with some reflections on the strengths and limitations of Durkheim's arguments, their significance for reassessing his life’s work as a whole, and their contributions to debates in sociology in the present day.
No sooner had I arrived at Wisconsin than I was invited to give a paper at a conference organized by three of my colleagues—Charles Camic, Philip Gorski, and David Trubeck of the law school–on the topic of Max Weber’s great sociological classic, Economy and Society (1920). I was at that time immersed in the writings of the classical American pragmatists, especially Dewey. Hence I took advantage of this opportunity by writing about Weber’s well-known typology of social action—as elaborated in perhaps the most famous of all passages in Economy and Society—from a Deweyan point of view. I argued that what is perhaps most revealing about Max Weber’s typology of social action are not the two elements in it that are so widely and incessantly discussed—the two categories of rational action—but rather, the other two—affectual and traditional action—and their own theoretical positioning within the broader schema. I suggested that it is these latter categories, in relation to their more prominent counterparts, that illuminate most clearly the underlying assumptions of Weber’s framework and that shed the greatest light upon its limitations. I critically reexamined Weber’s fourfold typology from the standpoints first of affectual and then of traditional action, seeking from these perspectives to locate it within larger traditions of Western thought whose theoretical inadequacies I believed it shared. I also invoked in passing certain of Weber’s methodological as well as substantive writings. My aims were partly negative: to expose the faulty preconceptions upon which the edifice is based and thereby to call into question its continuing usefulness for sociological theorizing and research.
But in part as well, my aims in this essay were positive: to contribute to the reconstruction of action theory upon a more defensible foundation and to indicate how this task might in turn open up promising new avenues for empirical inquiry. Throughout this endeavor, I referred back to a tradition that emerged during Weber’s own lifetime and that is deeply at odds with Weber’s outlook: that of classical American pragmatism. This tradition, I claimed, provides theoretical resources necessary for a satisfactory reconceptualization of action. Along the way, I also drew upon more recent writings in feminist and race theory and postcolonial studies, especially critiques of Reason and of “rational” action as male, white, or Western. These approaches, I claimed, also point in the same direction as the approach favored by the pragmatists, at least in respect to the theory of action. My exploration of the convergences between pragmatism and identity theories set the stage for some of my most recent and ongoing work on race.
This co-authored essay (with Chad Goldberg) on collective emotions in episodes of political contention was one of the first publications in which I wrote at length about Bourdieu. In a critical vein, it systematically explored the weaknesses in extant models of collective action, showing what has been lost through a neglect or faulty conceptualization of collective emotional configurations. It structured this discussion in terms of a review of several "pernicious postulates" in the literature (invoking of course the famous phrase by Charles Tilly), assumptions that have been held by classical social-movement theorists and by social-structural and cultural critics alike. In a reconstructive vein, however, the essay also laid out the foundations of a more satisfactory theoretical framework. It took each succeeding critique of a pernicious postulate as the occasion for more positive theory-building, constructing, step by step, a more adequate theorization of social movements and collective action. Accordingly, the negative and positive threads of its discussion were woven closely together: the dismantling of pernicious postulates and the development of a more useful analytical strategy.
One important aspect of this endeavor was its engagement with issues of a philosophical and social-theoretical nature, beginning with the very nature of emotion itself (in its relation to reason—here, I returned to themes first developed in my article on Weber) and ending with the ontological structure of collective-emotional configurations. By collective emotions, we meant (1) complexes of processes-in-relations that are (2) transpersonal in scope and that consist in (3) psychical investments, engagements, or cathexes, where these encompass (4) embodied perceptions and judgments as well as bodily states, forces, energies, or sensations. In our view, configurations of such collective emotions are organized in terms of internal logics irreducible to those of social-structural or cultural formations. Highly useful to us as we sought to theorize collective emotions were the classical pragmatists—especially Peirce, Mead, and, of course, Dewey—as well as Bourdieu’s sociology, aspects of which, as Bourdieu himself had acknowledged on more than one occasion, bear strikingly close affinities to pragmatism. We returned again and again to these thinkers for philosophical and social-theoretical guidance: many of the pernicious postulates we criticized, in fact, trace back to misguided notions that the pragmatists—and Bourdieu—were highly effective in recasting. By drawing upon these resources, we were better able to elaborate a comprehensive framework that allows us to understand what collective emotions are and how best to analyze contentious episodes in terms of them. As Dewey himself would have put it, this was a task entailing both philosophical and social-theoretical reconstruction.
It was in this paper that I began to think systematically about the relation between pragmatist and Bourdieuian approaches, especially in the area of action theory. I also started to work more creatively with Bourdieu’s ideas, using them, for instance, to theorize what my coauthor and I termed “emotional position-takings,” a twist on Bourdieu’s signature concept of “symbolic position-takings” (this latter concept was originally meant by Bourdieu to be applied to the realm of culture alone). Moreover, I began to think more seriously about some of the limitations in Bourdieu’s framework of analysis and how to redress them. This line of inquiry I have continued to pursue even as I have worked on The Racial Order. Finally, the task of analyzing collective emotions in contentious politics led me to reengage, however briefly, with a much-earlier interest of mine: Freudian psychoanalytic theory. In this respect, the paper continued a line of work begun years ago in an essay on revolutions coauthored with Jeff Goodwin (in History and Theory) and in another paper on the public sphere and civil society coauthored with Mimi Sheller (in Theory and Society). Both were concerned in part with theorizing the role of collective fantasy in political life.
Since at least the publication of Harold Garfinkel’s seminal Studies in Ethnomethodology, it has been conventional to relate his contributions back to three key currents in mid-twentieth century social theory and philosophy: Parsonian structural-functionalism; Schutzian phenomenology; and Wittgensteinian ordinary language philosophy. With the recent publication of Garfinkel’s second major work, moreover––Ethnomethodology’s Program: Working Out Durkheim’s Aphorism––a fourth intellectual reference point has come to be highlighted, albeit one that was explicitly acknowledged by Garfinkel himself as far back as the opening page of Studies: namely, Durkheim’s program of inquiry into the concreteness of social facts, a program that was said to have served as Garfinkel’s guiding theme for well over half a century. Yet another set of connections, however, has gone surprisingly unrecognized, a set of linkages that might help to illuminate what is most significant and valuable about the ethnomethodological enterprise. Specifically, the secondary literature has only seldom acknowledged that Garfinkel’s ideas bear a close resemblance to those of the classical American pragmatists and that his work, not to mention that of his many followers, carries forward certain aspects of the pragmatist agenda and realizes at least important parts of its original promise.
In Spring 2003, I taught at Wisconsin a graduate seminar on “Pragmatism and Social Theory” in which we spent one class meeting discussing the work of Garfinkel. The seminar was attended by Douglas Maynard, a specialist on Garfinkel’s work and on ethnomethodology. During that seminar, it became evident to us both that the convergences between Garfinkel and pragmatism were so deep that they merited a paper spelling them out in systematic fashion. By the following academic year, Garfinkel himself had come to Wisconsin (at our joint behest) and was discussing with us the relation between pragmatism and his own work. Maynard and I had no interest in disputing any of the aforementioned suggestions regarding ethnomethodology’s relations with the other theoretical approaches; all helped to situate Garfinkel’s work within larger traditions and to shed light on what makes its research agenda so unique and powerful. What we did aim, rather, was to demonstrate that ethnomethodology represents at least in particular respects the fulfillment of what the classical American pragmatists were seeking to accomplish. We felt that, when seen in this light, Garfinkel's mission and those of others carrying on his work would acquire an added dimension and gain a new relevance for social (including pragmatist) theory and sociological research alike.
In a first major section of the essay, we presented in a few bold strokes the pragmatism of Peirce, Mead, Addams, and Dewey—as it pertains specifically to the themes with which Garfinkel and his followers have long been concerned. In a second major section, we showed how Garfinkel’s work surpasses even that of the pragmatist tradition in its development of those themes’ deeper implications and promise. And in the third and fourth sections, we demonstrated how conversation analysis and present-day ethnomethodology––particularly ethnomethodological studies of work and of science—are also continuing to develop the original pragmatist impulse by alternative means. Our forthcoming paper is being published as the lead article of a symposium that also features commentaries by John Heritage, Christopher Winship and Christopher Muller, Anne Warfield Rawls, and Louis Quere and Cedric Terzi.
I began working more seriously on Bourdieu around 2002—that is, a few years after arriving at Wisconsin. One of the early products of that research phase was a paper (coauthored with Eva Williams) on Bourdieuian theory and social work. After a brief survey of the latter’s core theoretical insights, we provided, by way of illustration and provocation to further research, an analysis of one particular empirical field highly relevant to the social work discipline: the field of homeless services in New York City. (This field was quite familiar to my co-author, for she had worked there as a director of a homeless shelter for a number of years before coming to Wisconsin for graduate school.) The article discussed this field of homeless services in terms of its two constituent components: on the side of production, the field of shelters; and on the side of consumption, the field of homeless clients. It then stepped back from this dual analysis to explore the implications of Bourdieu’s ideas more generally for social work inquiry and practical intervention. The article did not present a detailed portrayal of shelters and their clients or a definitive blueprint for improving homeless services. Rather, it sketched in bold strokes what a Bourdieuian analysis of the field of homeless services might look like and how it might contribute to both the theory and practice of social work. It showed how Bourdieu’s theory of fields moves beyond social work’s traditional systems perspectives by illuminating, as those perspectives do not, the full significance of field-specific contestations: symbolic capital is accrued in widely varying forms and volumes by social service providers as well as recipients. Such capital becomes both a stake and a weapon in their respective struggles over legitimate authority within helping systems.
This article on the homeless and social work was significant for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it reached out into a completely different discipline and sought to develop a theoretical bridge between it and sociology. For another thing, it was an agenda-setting piece with implications for sociology as well, since the study of fields of domination and struggle was, after all, one of Bourdieu’s major theoretical contributions. Finally, this article represented for me (along with the paper on organizational analysis discussed immediately below) an important passage into Bourdieian sociology. It allowed me to work my way methodically through Bourdieu’s ideas before stepping back, as I have been doing in my work on race, to consider them in a more critical and evaluative light—and in a more generative, theory-building fashion.
“Bourdieu and Organizational Analysis”
The other study in which I began to engage with Bourdieu’s work was this essay on organizational analysis. (It is something of a companion piece to the similarly titled "Bourdieu and Social Work" and was written around the same time, although this is the theoretically broader and more ambitious of the two pieces and was published considerably later.) Co-authored with Victoria Johnson, the paper argued that, despite some promising steps in the right direction, organizational analysis has yet to exploit fully the theoretical and empirical possibilities inherent in a relational perspective upon the social world. In particular, it has yet to explore in a systematic fashion the implications of Bourdieuian sociology. Bourdieu has had little impact upon organizational analysis because, despite extended analyses of organizations in certain of his major works, he engaged most explicitly with organization theory (and, relatedly, with economic sociology) in studies that have only recently appeared in English translation. We aimed in our paper, accordingly, to set forth a comprehensive account of what a relational—and in particular, a Bourdieu-inspired—agenda for organizational research might look like. We sought to perform a generative reading of Bourdieu’s ideas, creatively transposing those ideas onto a new intellectual and professional terrain even while seeking to preserved what is most fruitful and exciting about them. In so doing, we aspired to contribute to the ongoing debate over how best to make sense of organizational structures and processes.
In the first half of the paper, we articulated a theory of organizational fields based, unlike past usages of the field concept in organization studies, squarely in Bourdieu’s theoretical framework; in the second half, we applied this same field-based approach to the level of the organization itself (coining the term "organizations-as-fields"). In each case, we considered how the concept of field is constitutively bound up with those of capital and habitus, the two other key ideas in Bourdieu’s theoretical framework. Our aim throughout was to explore the implications of a perspective that, rather than borrowing piecemeal from Bourdieu’s work, deploys the full power of this conceptual triad, thereby opening up fresh and innovative possibilities for organization theory as well as research. The paper was published in Theory and Society as the major reference-point of a theoretical symposium on “Bourdieu and Organizational Analysis.," with commentaries by David Swartz, Frank Dobbin, and Diane Vaughan.
I continued my critical engagement with Bourdieu in this essay (co-authored with Erik Schneiderhan) on the relation between pragmatist and Bourdieuian understandings of democracy. We pointed out that Dewey’s vision of democracy was ultimately limited in its possibilities for development for his having lacked, despite all his concern for the concrete—for a return to experience—a systematic social and historical perspective. Half a century after Dewey, however, Bourdieu made good on much of its unrealized promise. Bourdieu, to be sure, was never directly influenced by classical American pragmatism, since the latter did not have a high profile in French intellectual life during his formativeyears. But he was surely familiar with it, cited the major thinkers from it favorably and often, and indicated in more than one of his major writings a certain awareness of the continuities between his own thinking and that of Dewey in particular. Those thematic continuities were striking and many-sided, and in the essay we discussed a number of them. However, Bourdieu’s approach also went well beyond Dewey’s own stated program, for it provided a critical and reflexive sociology of domination and symbolic violence, one that greatly enhanced the analytic powers of historical inquiry. Dewey’s program was always weakest in its appreciation—or lack thereof—of power.
We also noted that, even as one recognizes and acknowledges that Bourdieu went a considerable distance beyond Dewey (but in a direction the latter himself would have affirmed), one can in turn profitably reread Bourdieu with Dewey squarely in mind. Indeed, reflecting upon Bourdieu in a Deweyan light could be highly useful for underscoring how underdeveloped were certain aspects of the former's sociology. Those aspects have to do, in particular, with intelligence, democracy, and reflective deliberation, all of which are present in Bourdieu’s thought but not elaborated in any satisfactory degree. Our essay began to think about what it might take to elaborate these notions—and thereby to reconstruct Bourdieu’s sociology —with the pragmatists in mind; it was, after all, Deweyan pragmatism’s strong suit to theorize the very nature and conditions of democratic action. On the one side, we argued, there is democracy (Dewey); on the other side, power (Bourdieu); in this paper, we struggled to find a self-consistent way to bring the two together. The paper can be read in this respect as a companion piece to "Pragmatism and Ethnomethodology," which also contends that certain unfinished business of classical American pragmatism was later taken up and pursued by a sociological approach not often associated historically with pragmatism.
I was fortunate to be asked on board a coauthorship team led by Bowen Paulle (and including Bart van Heerikhuizen) that took upon itself a most intriguing task: to explore the theoretical connections between the sociologies of Norbert Elias and Pierre Bourdieu. We concluded that, the farther one penetrates into the universes of these respective sociologies, the clearer the similarities among them become. While Elias and Bourdieu always showed great sympathy for one another, there are no indications that they were fully aware of how fundamental the subterranean affinities were. And even though many social scientists combine a high regard for some of Elias's works with great admiration for several works by Bourdieu, thereby showing an instinctive sense of the affinities between these authors, until now it seems no one noticed the degree to which Bourdieu and Elias are intellectual siblings. Engaging in a bit of excavation, our article brought to light why Bourdieu and Elias can be viewed as contributors to a single theoretical approach. The most important find here was that both relied heavily on the same triad of core concepts, and both deployed those concepts in relentlessly relational and processual fashion. Our first goal, therefore, was to uncover these deep-seated conceptual affinities.
Our second goal was to demonstrate the importance and utility of their authors’ convergent sociological approaches. We demonstrated that, when taken together, they yield a vision more far-reaching and powerful than either when considered separately. In particular, by drawing simultaneously on Elias and Bourdieu, researchers can systematically overcome misguided thinking revolving around such dichotomies as individual and society, subject and object, internal and external, reason and emotion, soul and flesh. We began by introducing the three core concepts crafted and deployed by both authors: habitus, field, and power. In the main body of the essay, we examined how each deploys his conceptual devices to interrogate a range of empirical phenomena. We did not offer a thorough exposition of their theories or an exhaustive overview of their empirical engagements. However, we did direct attention to various convenrgences that until now have been left largely out of account, showing how themes developed by Bourdieu and Elias are actually expressions of one common way of seeing the social world. After drawing attention to this common perspective, we then moved on to a direct example of the two authors' differences of emphasis and largely unexamined complementarity: their respective approaches to the rather anti-intellectual and body-centered world of sport. We concluded by discussing how the basically harmonious outlook demonstrated in this article might have come to have a constructive bearing on relational and processual theorizing in the future.