The profession of sociologist

Image: Carlos Cruz-Diez


Comments on Bourdieu's book, Chamboredon and Passeron

The work The profession of sociologist (1968), by Bourdieu, Chamboredon and Passeron, preserves the “scientific spirit”, proposing a series of techniques and epistemological ruptures for the feasibility of sociological thinking. In order to establish a scientificity to sociology, theorists build an academic critique in opposition to spontaneous sociology. This epistemological perspective introduces a new look at contemporary social sciences, forging new methods and techniques to reorganize sociological knowledge and research practices in the field of sociology, eliminating fallacies and ineffective techniques in sociological thinking.

For the codification of sociological knowledge, through the construction of an epistemology that breaks with the disparate elements of science, the authors list the idea of ​​the illusion of transparency. For them, the sociologist will never be able to put an end to spontaneous sociology and must impose an incessant polemic against the blinding evidence that provides, without great efforts, the illusion of immediate knowledge and its insurmountable richness. (BOURDIEU; CHAMBOREDON; PASSERON, 1999[1968]).

The authors point out that it is not enough to denounce the illusion of transparency and create means capable of breaking with the assumptions of spontaneous sociology. According to theorists, many times the duality of reality obscures the analyses, showing the researcher the results of the facts only of what he really sees, failing to perceive the complex elements of things and how they occur. It is not the description of attitudes, opinions and individual aspirations that has the possibility of providing the explanatory principle of the functioning of an organization, but the logical and objective apprehension of the organization is what leads to the principle capable of explaining, in addition, the attitudes , opinions and aspirations (BOURDIEU; CHAMBOREDON; PASSERON, 1999[1968]).

In this regard, the researcher will flee from his own evaluative conscience, detaching himself from pretensions and valuations. For the researchers, “the principle of non-consciousness imposes that the system of objective relations in which individuals are inserted and which are more adequately expressed in the economy or in the morphology of groups than in the opinions and declared intentions of the subjects be constructed” (BOURDIEU; CHAMBOREDON; PASSERON, 1999[1968], p. 29). In this sense, the sociologist must stick to concepts that are inherent and avoid extraneous explanations. Prioritizing the sociological analyzes of facts, to avoid epistemological ineffectiveness, is a necessary and objective condition in a system of objective relations, therefore, sociology presupposes overcoming fictitious reality.

For Bourdieu, Chamboredon and Passeron (1999[1968]), epistemological vigilance imposes itself, particularly in the case of human sciences in which the separation between common opinion and scientific discourse is more imprecise than elsewhere [...] The familiarity of the social universe constitutes, for the sociologist, the epistemological obstacle par excellence [...] and its unsurpassed wealth. (BOURDIEU; CHAMBOREDON; PASSERON, 1999[1968], p. 23).

For sociologists, the power of language is of paramount importance to be analyzed, as, in many cases, it becomes an obstacle to the analysis of facts. It should be noted that common language is far from formal rules and this can generate several doubts and misinterpretations, through wordplay. To understand the facts, there is a need to interpret through an epistemological critique. According to the aforementioned authors, it is not enough to denounce the illusion of transparency and adopt principles capable of breaking with the assumptions of spontaneous sociology in order to put an end to the illusory constructions it proposes. Therefore, the (sociologist) would be reinterpreting the facts and the various figures of speech that would appear in/in a given context, allowing for a clear analysis that coexists with the studied reality of the facts. Furthermore, the sociologist must submit words and metaphors to a methodical critique, in order to avoid semantic contamination.

In this perspective bourdieusiana, the sociologist cannot be a prophet, to meet the demand of his public and satisfy the will of social sectors, as this would be limited to spontaneous sociology. For correct scientific questions, one must discard “politics.” The temptation of prophetism, which underlies the desires of researchers, makes sociological knowledge illegitimate. Sociological science cannot cling to social guesswork. In the words of the authors, in the daily life of each individual there is “a bit of a sociologist”.

However, they emphasize that, “when the sociologist confines himself to taking into account the objects of common sense reflection and the common reflection on these objects, he no longer has anything to oppose to the common certainty that it belongs to all men to speak of everything that is human and judge any discourse, even scientific, about what is human” (BOURDIEU; CHAMBOREDON; PASSERON, 1999[1968], p. 36). In other words, “the less conscious the implicit theory is in a given practice – theory of knowledge of the object and theory of the object – the greater the possibilities that it is poorly controlled, therefore, poorly adjusted to the object and its specificities”. (BOURDIEU; CHAMBOREDON; PASSERON, 1999[1968], p. 53).

Many sociologists use demagogy to represent their pseudoscience, to reaffirm what their audience would like to hear. Bourdieu, Chamboredon and Passeron (1999[1968] quote Marx, when they argue the following: “These beautiful literary formulas that, through analogies, organize everything in everything can seem ingenious when we hear them for the first time, all the more so that they come to identify contradictory things among themselves.

In this sense, every sociologist must fight the social prophet within him and remove the mask to force an epistemological rupture. This epistemological paradigm will make a scientific rupture, for the reconstruction of the objective and the scientific object of the Social Sciences.

Paraphrasing the authors regarding the object of science, it is not possible to dissociate the notion of pre-constructed real objects from methodological practice. The researcher in life must operate with ideologies and objects of analysis that are effectively questionable. Nonetheless, it never ceases to be the indefinite reworking of theoretical elements artificially extracted from a chosen body of authorities (BOURDIEU; CHAMBOREDON; PASSERON, 1999[1968], p. 40).

In many cases, the sociologist develops his research according to the theoretical tradition has been approaching, leaving aside some relevant themes for the construction of sociological knowledge. A break with these attitudes would break with spontaneous sociology. And the sociologist must never lose sight of the partiality of his analyses: the total apprehension of social reality is an epiphany, a desire that, if not malicious, is naive.

* André Luiz de Souza is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS).



BOURDIEU, P.; CHAMBOREDON, J. C; PASSERON, JC The sociologist's profession: epistemological preliminaries. Petropolis, Voices, 1999.


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