1st Edition

Bourdieu's Philosophy and Sociology of Science A Critical Appraisal

By Kyung-Man Kim Copyright 2023

    This book explores Pierre Bourdieu's philosophy and sociology of science, which, though central to his thought, have been largely neglected in critical examinations of his work.

    Addressing the resultant confusion that surrounds Bourdieu's sociologized philosophy of science, it expounds his epistemology and sociology of science, situating it within the context of Anglo-American post-positivist philosophy of science and shedding light on the critique of relativist sociology of science that emerges from his field theory. From a detailed critique of Bourdieu's reflexive sociology and his attempt to enhance the uneasy epistemic status of the social sciences, the author draws on the thought of Jürgen Habermas to suggest critical ethnography as a way of going beyond Bourdieu’s critical theory.

    As such, Bourdieu's Philosophy and Sociology of Science will appeal to sociologists, philosophers, and scholars across the social sciences with interests in the work of Bourdieu and the sociology and philosophy of science.


    Part I: Science, Politics and Truth 

    1          Exhuming Bourdieu’s Sociologized Philosophy of Science 

    2          Bourdieu's Sociological Theory of Scientific Truth: Truth and Struggle 

    3          What Would a Bourdieusian Sociology of Scientific Truth Look Like?: Two Case Studies 

    Part II: Reflexivity, Objectivation and Critique 

    4          How Objective is Bourdieu’s Participant Objectivation? 

    5          Cultural Capital and the Social Reproduction of Class: Can There be a Crucial Experiment? 

    6          Torn between Science and Politics: Why is Bourdieu’s Politics Bound to fail? 

    7          Is Human Science a Curse or Blessing?: Criticism beyond Bourdieu and Habermas


    Kyung-Man Kim is Professor of Sociology at Sogang University, South Korea. He was a Fulbright scholar twice and is a fellow of the Korean Academy of Science and Technology. In 2009, he was awarded the Kyung-Ahm prize, the most prestigious academic prize in South Korea. He has published extensively in leading sociology and philosophy journals and is the author of Discourses on Liberation: An Anatomy of Critical Theory (Routledge 2005), among other books.

    ‘Kyung-Man Kim has written a respectful yet corrosively critical account of Bourdieu's philosophy of science. He demonstrates the irony of Bourdieu's claim that his own reflexivity allows him to rise above the self-interested debates that characterize social science … Instead of placing hopes for emancipation, pace Bourdieu, on the objectivity of social scientific truth, Kim points us to the liberating possibilities of critical ethnography, whose emancipatory effect depends on the aesthetic power of its textual performance.’

    Jeffrey C. Alexander, Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology, Yale University, USA


    ‘In contrast to his outsize influence on sociology generally, Bourdieu’s account of science has been little understood. Kim provides a substantial and clearly written introduction that shows its merits, and its surprisingly close relation to the philosophy of science tradition. But he also shows how Bourdieu is trapped in the circularity of the objectivizations of scientific subjectivity, and the subjectivity of others more generally, on which his account depends.'

    Stephen Turner, Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy, University of South Florida, USA


    ‘This extremely stimulating critical discussion of Bourdieu's sociology … is a very valuable contribution to the study of the twentieth-century sociologist who regularly comes top of the league tables.’

    William Outhwaite, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Newcastle University, UK


    ‘Kim’s book on Bourdieu’s sociological theory ... raises important critical questions about Bourdieu’s optimistic convictions that his sociology can really contribute to the emergence of a less inequal society.’

    Yves Gingras, Professor and Canada Research Chair in History and Sociology of Science, Department of History, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada