Those of us who end up being associated with 'postmodernism' or 'theory' often find ourselves confused or infuriated by the attempt of our opponents to lump us into a single category. It is amusing, therefore, to read one of those 'postmodernists' or 'theorists' or -- more plainly -- 'Frenchmen' get upset about this lumping-in with people he views himself to be in competition with. The last chapter, indeed the last section of that chapter, in Bourdieu's Science of Science and Reflexivity sees him attempt to articulate -- for an audience in France at the College de France -- his relationship, that is departure from, philosophy and, consequently, his relationship to the stars of French academic philosophy. This section, "Sketch for a self-analysis", sees him go after, as it were, Althusser and Foucault (and, by consequence, Deleuze), primarily, but also Derrida. His problem with the first group is that they disavow the social sciences while taking the object of the social sciences for themselves and his problem with the second group, exemplified (symbolized?) by Derrida, is its 'aristocratic' tendencies. (Do recall, Bourdieu often revisited the theme of his petit bourgeois origins in relation to his thought, in general, and, more specifically, the context of the elite French academies.)
Throughout this work, the published version of his last set of lectures at the College de France, Bourdieu subtly prepares the reader for what is to come: while ostensibly discussing the possibilities of a sociology of science (and, therefore, a sociology of sociology; a reflexive social science), Bourdieu goes to great lengths to associate himself with Gaston Bachelard and, less frequently, Georges Canguilhem. These references are no doubt lost on many an Anglo-American reader -- even those who view themselves as 'specialists' on Foucault and Althusser; or, worse as 'Foucauldians' or 'Althusserians' -- and they would appear as mere citations. "I say this and I support my claim with reference to this book by Bachelard."
This, however, is too easy. These constant references to Bachelard and Canguilhem have another meaning: they are not aimed at the sociology of science, but rather right at Foucault and Althusser. Avoiding great detail, it is sufficient to note the following: Canguilhem and Bachelard studied what is now called the philosophy and history of science, following to a large extent, in the footsteps of Alexandre Koyre. (The other Alexandre, Alex Kojeve, of course, followed Koyre as well, but in another direction.) First Bachelard and then Canguilhem ended up at the Sorbonne where they taught, among other people, Louis Althusser, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault. (A veritable boys club!) Thus, in addition to the division between sociology and philosophy, what is at stake is the legacy of the philosophy of the concept.
Before moving to Bourdieu's characterization of the issue, first a passage from Foucault's preface to Canguilhem's The Normal and the Pathological:
Take away Canguilhem and you will no longer understand much about Althusser, Althusserism and a whole series of discussions which have taken place among French Marxists; you will no longer grasp what is specific to sociologists such as Bourdieu, Castel, Passerson and what marks them so strongly within sociology; you will miss an entire aspect of the theoretical work done by psychoanalysts, particularly by the followers of Lacan. Further, in the entire discussion of ideas which preceded or followed the movement of '68, it is easy to find the place of those who, from near or from afar, had been trained by Canguilhem.
And, now, passages from the final chapter of Science of Science and Reflexivity:
But I was no less strongly opposed to philosophy, whether it was the institutional philosophers who clung to the defence of the agregation and its archaic syllabi, and especially the aristocratic philosophy of philosophy as a caste of higher essence, or all the philosophers who, in spite of their anti-institutional mood and, in some cases their flaunted break with 'philosophies of the subject', continued to profess the statutory contempt for the social sciences that was one of the pillars of the traditional philosophical credo -- I am thinking of Althusser referring to the 'so-called social sciences', or Foucault placing the social sciences in the lower order of 'knowledges'. I could not fail to feel a certain irritation at what seemed to me to be a double-game played by these philosophers, who would take over the object of the social sciences, while seeking to undermine their foundation. [...]
This collective conversion, a kind of unbridled revenge of the 'genetic fallacy', 'symbolized', in France, by the transition from Koyre and Vuillemin to Foucault and Deleuze, made the attachment to formal, universal truths appear outmoded and even somewhat reactionary, compared with the analysis of particular historical-cultural situations, illustrated by Foucault's texts, which, brought together under the title Power/Knowledge, shaped his American reputation [...]. It would be easy to show that, while remaining rooted in the most aristocratic philosophy of philosophy, this transformation of the philosophical mood was very directly linked, both in its style and in its objects, to the experiences and influence of May '68 which led philosophers and philosophy to discover politics or, as they like to say, 'the political'.
I think that this analysis, however much it simplifies, enables one to understand -- it certainly enables me to understand -- why I have constantly found myself out of step with those whom campus radicalism has generically placed under the umbrella of 'postmodernists' (those who are interested in 'reception theory' would probably find in this disjunction the key to the way my work has been received in the USA: is he modern or postmodern, a sociologist or a philosopher; or, secondarily, is he an anthropologist or a sociologist; or even, is he right-wing or left-wing?) Having left philosophy for sociology (a 'defection' which, from the standpoint of those who remain attached to the title of philosopher, makes all the difference in the world), I was bound, as an aspiring scientist, to remain committed to the rationalist vision -- rather than simply using the social sciences, like Foucault or Derrida, so as to reduce them or destroy them, while practising them without saying so and without paying the price of genuine conversion to the constraints and demands of empirical research. [...] I made a point -- following in this respect the kind of aristocratism of refusal which in my eyes characterized Canguilhem -- of systematically confining to notes or parentheses the reflexions that might have been called 'philosophical' (I am thinking for example of one of the few explicit discussions that I devoted to Foucault, which is relegated to the final note of an obscure article in the journal Etudes rurales, in which I returned to the research I had done thirty years earlier on peasant celibacy.) Always firmly bearing the title of sociologist, I quite consciously excluded (at the cost of a loss of symbolic capital that I entirely accepted) the widespread strategies of the 'double game' and the double profit (sociologist and philosopher, philosopher and historian) which, I have to admit, were profoundly antipathetic to me, not least because they seemed to me to announce a lack of ethical and scientific rigour.