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Bourdieu's Disavowal of Lacan: Psychoanalytic Theory and the Concepts of “Habitus” and “Symbolic Capital”



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Bourdieu’s Disavowal of Lacan: Psychoanalytic
Theory and the Concepts of “Habitus”
and “Symbolic Capital”
George Steinmetz
The Verneinung and Verdr¨angung of Psychoanalysis in Bourdieu
Far from being hostile to psychoanalysis, [Bourdieu] reckoned that there was no
fundamental difference between his conception of the unconscious and Freud’s: ‘It’s
the same thing: confronted with the unconscious action of dispositions we notice
resistances, displacements, repression, negations...1
Although Bourdieu is often seen as “a theorist who will have no truck with Freudian
psychoanalytictheory,”heseemedtorecognizeinthelastdecadeof his life (1930-2002)
that psychoanalysis was intrinsic to his own project.2The pressure of the Freudian tra-
dition was first revealed in his writing by the recurrence of the words “unconscious” –
used both as adjective and as noun – and “misrecognition” (m´
econaissance), a concept
that received its most powerful formulation in the writing of Lacan.3Bourdieu’s oeuvre
accumulateda growing andevermore elaborate psychoanalytic vocabulary.Hiswriting
includes the following terms, all of them mainly associated with the Freudian tradition:
projection, reality principle, libido, ego-splitting, negation (d´
egation), compromise
formation, anamnesis, return of the repressed, and collective phantasy; in his “Auto-
analyse” (published in German in 2002 and in French in 2004), he uses the phrases
“disavowal, in the Freudian sense” and “community of the unconscious.”4But Bour-
dieu’s relationship to this tradition was not untroubled.
The conditions in which Freudian concepts appear in Bourdieu’s work can be under-
stoodpartlyin terms ofthe psychoanalytic concept ofVerneinungor (de)negation. In his
earliest studies of hysterics, Freud already recognized a particular kind of resistance to
the deepest layers of repressed material in which the patient disavows memories “even
in reproducing them.”5Freud specified the process of Verneinung in a later paper: “the
content of the repressed image or idea can make its way into consciousness, on condi-
tion that it is negated”; denegation involves “already a lifting of the repression, though
not, of course, an acceptance of what is repressed.” The “intellectual function is sepa-
rated from the affective process.” This allows the ideational aspect of the repression to
be undone, accepted intellectually by the subject, and named, while at the same time
the condemning affective judgment is retained. The subject still refuses to recognize
the denegated object as an intrinsic part of herself.6
In some writings, especially the earlier ones, Bourdieu rejects psychoanalysis out-
right. In Outline of a Theory of Practice, for example, psychoanalysis is reduced to a
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446 Constellations Volume 13, Number 4, 2006
biologicalreductionism, completely ignoring Freud’sshiftfromthetheory of childhood
abuse in the early Studies in Hysteria to the theory of sexual fantasy that he developed
in the course of his self-analysis.7But his treatment of Freudian psychoanalysis more
often takes the form of admitting Freudian terminology and even some psychoanalytic
arguments into his texts while surrounding these passages with rhetorical devices that
seem to condemn psychoanalysis.8One of the most paradoxical aspects of this is that
Bourdieu himself introduces the Freudian concept of Verneinung:
What indeed is this discourse which speaks of the social or psychological world as
if it did not speak of it; which cannot speak of this world except on condition that it
only speak of this world as if it did not speak of it, that is, in a form which performs,
for the author and the reader, a denegation (in the Freudian sense of Verneinung)of
what it expresses?9
As one commentator has observed, Bourdieu “does not seem to be able to refrain
from borrowing certain of its concepts while repudiating the discipline altogether.”10
Bourdieu often appears to be trying to domesticate psychoanalysis, accepting its vo-
cabulary while subtly redefining it in a more sociological direction, or else deploying
its language in an almost decorative way while avoiding its substantive implications.
As a first example of the more complex strategy of denegation, consider first the
following passage from The Weight of the World, which could easily have been written
by a psychoanalyst:
Such limitation of aspirations shows up in cases where the father has been very
successful.... But it assumes all its force when the father occupies a dominated
position...and is therefore inclined to be ambivalent about his son’s success as well
as about himself....Atone and the same time he says: be like me, act like me, but
be different, go away....Hecannot want his son to identify with his own position
and its dispositions, and yet all his behavior works continuously to produce that
Two pages later Bourdieu describes sociology and psychoanalysis as different, comple-
mentary approaches to the same object, thereby warding off the possibility of seeing
the latter as intrinsic or internal to the former.
This is not the place to question the relation between the mode of exploring subjec-
tivity proposed here and that practiced by psychoanalysis. But, at the very least, it is
necessary to guard against thinking of these relationships as alternatives to each other.
Sociology does not claim to substitute its mode of explanation for that of psychoanal-
ysis;itisconcerned only to construct differently certain givens that psychoanalysis
also takes as its object... .12
While expressing a desire for differentiation from psychoanalysis, this passage does
not actually explain what the difference would be. Similarly, in Masculine Domination,
Bourdieurevealshis debt toFreud immediately when he mentionsthat he is focusing on
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Bourdieu’s Disavowal of Lacan: George Steinmetz 447
the same Mediterranean cultural matrix emphasized by psychoanalysis. Where Freud
drew on ancient Greek myth, Bourdieu deploys Kabyle society as a “paradigmatic
realization” of the tradition he calls “phallocentric.” Striking an explicitly psychoan-
alytic tone, Bourdieu interprets masculine domination as being rooted in unconscious
structures that are centered on “phallonarcissism.” Bourdieu asserts that the “the link
(asserted by psychoanalysis) between phallus and logos”is“established” here.13 In his
discussion of the “somatization of the social relations of domination”inthe process of
creating sexed bodies, the difference to psychoanalysis vanishes altogether:
naming...itisbroughtaboutandculminatesinaprofoundand durable transformation
of bodies (and minds), that is to say, in and through a process of practical construction
imposing a differentiated definition of the legitimate uses of the body, in particular
sexual ones, which tends to exclude from the universe of the feasible and thinkable
everything that marks membership of the other gender – and in particular all the
potentialities biologically implied in the ‘polymorphous perversity,’ as Freud puts it,
of every infant....14
Bourdieu takes as a given Freud’s analysis of infantile sexuality and ego-analytic
arguments about the denial of “the female part of the male” and “severing attach-
ments to the mother.”15 Whereas Bourdieu had reframed sociology as socio-analysis in
some of his earlier works, here the hyphen is dropped altogether in favor of socioanal-
ysis, which points even more insistently to a psychoanalytic template.16 At the same
time, however Bourdieu begins this text with one of his characteristic defensive moves,
categorizingpsychoanalysis tout court as “essentialist”and “dehistoricized.”17 Heonly
acknowledges late in the book that his current topic is home turf for psychoanalysis,
writing that
researchers, almost always schooled in psychoanalysis, discover, in the psychic ex-
perience of the men and women of today, processes, for the most part deeply buried,
which, like the work needed to separate the boy from his mother or the symbolic
effects of the sexual division of tasks and times in production and reproduction, are
seen in the full light of day in ritual practices.18
Withrespectto the centrality of “sexual attributes andacts” inKabyle society,Bourdieu
notesthat there is “a danger of misinterpreting their deep significanceif one approaches
them in terms of the category of the sexual in itself,” a comment that may be directed
against a biological version of psychoanalysis (in fact, psychoanalysis and Freud’s own
writings are completely divided on the relative weight and precise form of biologi-
cal determination).19 Psychoanalytic theory has long been concerned with the same
problem that Bourdieu sets out to explain here, namely, the ways in which masculine
domination is historically reproduced as a dehistoricized form. The meaning of the
psychoanalytic expression “the unconscious does not have a history” underscores the
ways in which the past is constantly being “actualized” within the unconscious through
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448 Constellations Volume 13, Number 4, 2006
the “return of the repressed” and other mechanisms. It expressly does not mean that
the unconscious takes the same form everywhere or that it is eternal because of some
biological foundation.20 Likewise, for Bourdieu, the habitus is historical – a “product
of all biographical experience” – while presenting itself in an eternalized form.21
Bourdieu’s strategy allows him at least to discuss Freud’s ideas openly and to give
them names, even if he often takes back with one hand what he has given with the
other. His treatment of Lacan is a different matter entirely. Bourdieu’s writing exhibits
a strenuous avoidance of Lacan and Lacanian theory.22 Indeed, Slavoj ˇ
Ziˇzek’s remark
aboutthe“curious detail” concerningthe missing names ofLacan (and Louis Althusser)
in Habermas’ book The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity applies with equal force
to Bourdieu. According to ˇ
Ziˇzek, Habermas mentions Lacan “only five times and each
time in conjunction with other names.” Similarly, when Bourdieu utters the name of
Lacan it is in a constricted or distortive fashion. In The Rules of Art, Bourdieu dis-
misses Lacan as a sort of intellectual punster, while backhandedly acknowledging his
importance, writing that “the intellectual play on words [is] found in its legitimate
form among the noblest authors of the day – such as Jacques Lacan.”23 Bourdieu jus-
tified his exclusion of Lacan from his study of the French academic nobility (Homo
Academicus)bypointing out that Lacan “did not hold an official position in the uni-
versity” – although Lacan had lectured at the University of Paris and, in the 1960s,
at the ´
Ecole Normale Sup´erieure.24 Yet Bourdieu also characterized Lacan as having
great importance in the field” and as being allied “socially and
evi-Strauss and to Merleau-Ponty.” Lacan’s nobility and centrality to the field would
seem to subvert Bourdieu’s general claim that intellectual capital receives its certifi-
cation or consecration from the state.25 Bourdieu’s avoidance of Lacan is thus prob-
lematic because so many of Bourdieu’s ideas are based on, or require integration with,
psychoanalysis (especially the Lacanian version).26 Of course, the writings of a thinker
as wide-ranging as Bourdieu can be mined for any number of theoretical influences.
But the relationship between Bourdieu’s theory and psychoanalysis is, I believe, more
profound and productive than has been recognized, even it is often a relationship that
only emerges after the fact or in the futur ant´
erieur (future perfect), as in: Bourdieu will
(always) have been a psychoanalytic thinker. But this will have happened very much
against his own resistance.
Starting in 1975 Bourdieu’s publications featured Lacan as the source of a revealing
anecdote concerning the “distressed complaint of the Jew to his pal”: “Why do you
tell me you are going to Cracow so I’ll believe you are going to Lvov, when you
really are going to Cracow?” According to Bourdieu, this subterfuge was used by
Heidegger “to encourage the belief, by proclaiming what he is really doing, that he
is not really doing what he has never stopped doing.”27 Bourdieu’s reliance on Lacan
for this deceptively incidental anecdote, often repeated, seems itself to be an effort to
encourage the belief that Bourdieu is talking about Lacan to show that he is not really
talking about Lacan, not really presenting a theory that only makes sense when it is
reconstructed in terms of Lacan’s ideas. This strategy differs from Verneinung. Freud’s
concept of fetishism perhaps best captures this combination of a “refusal to recognize
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Bourdieu’s Disavowal of Lacan: George Steinmetz 449
thereality of a traumaticperception” combined with an oblique acknowledgment of that
disturbing state of affairs. In Bourdieu’s case the disturbing realization is the extreme
relevance of Lacan for his own project.28
Lacan provides the key to understanding two of Bourdieu’s most significant and
most ambiguous concepts, symbolic capital and habitus. These concepts will remain
enigmatic until their psychic foundations are revealed.29 To accomplish this we also
need to turn to the other postwar French theorist who was also handled dismissively
by Bourdieu, or simply repressed: Louis Althusser.30 One of Althusser’s most fruitful
ideaswasaform of reading hecalled“symptomatic” (symptomale), which “divulgesthe
undivulged event in the text it reads, and in the same movement relates it to a different
text, present as a necessary absence in the first.” This reveals “the paradox of an
answer which does not correspond to any question posed,” perhaps because the current
theoretical problematic or paradigm did not allow it to be posed, as Althusser suggests,
but also perhaps because the questions were more actively repressed or disavowed by
the author.31 If we fail to excavate these misrecognized and disavowed foundations
of the concepts habitus and symbolic capital, they will continue to suffer the force of
an anti-psychoanalytic displacement onto a seemingly arbitrary and random array of
disparate theoretical terrains.
Bourdieu’s treatment of several other concepts illustrates the rather systematic way
in which his work simultaneously approaches and distances itself from psychoanalysis.
Oneexamplethat is closerto Lacan thanFreud concerns theconcept of the“imaginary.”
In Pascalian Mediations Bourdieu insists that “we are very far from the language of the
‘imaginary’ which is sometimes used nowadays.”32 In a particularly dogged example
of never pronouncing that accursed name, Bourdieu refers in his footnote not to the
obvious intertext for the idea of the Imaginary – Lacan’s writings, which introduced
and developed the concept in the first place. Instead, his translator (seemingly in col-
lusion with Bourdieu) refers in a footnote to the more idiosyncratic use of the concept
of the imaginary by Castoriadis, which the latter developed partly in an act of theoret-
ical suppression of the father-figure Lacan.33 Another concept that Bourdieu deploys
while attempting to sever it from its psychoanalytic moorings is phantasy/fantasy.34 In
Language and Symbolic Order (1981), he writes:
in all cases of camouflage through form...the tabooed meanings...remain misrec-
ognized in practice; though present as substance they are absent as form, like a face
hidden in the bush. The role of this kind of expression is to mask the primitive expe-
riences of the social world and the social phantasms which are its source, as much as
to reveal them.35
Bourdieu also introduces the core Freudian idea of the “social libido which varies with
the social universes where it is engendered and which is sustains (libido dominandi
in the field of power, libido sciendi in the scientific field, etc.).”36 And consider the
passage from Weight of the World, quote above (p. 446), where Bourdieu discusses the
father’s ambivalent messages to the son.
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450 Constellations Volume 13, Number 4, 2006
Similarly, in psychoanalysis, the young boy’s first symbolic identification is with the
imago of the father, but the Oedipal structure makes this identification fundamentally
impossible: “there issues forth an impossible double command: to be like the father,
but not to be like the father with respect to his sexual power”37 According to Freud, the
relationshipofsuperegotoegois not exhausted by the precept“‘Yououghtto be like this
(like your father)’,” but “also comprises the prohibition: ‘You may not be like this (like
your father)’.”38 Freud was of course less explicit than Bourdieu about the difference
between situations in which the parents occupy “a dominated position” and those in
which the parents are “very successful.” Sociology generally pays more attention to
social class and other dimensions of inequality, which is why it needs to be integrated
into psychoanalysis (and vice versa). But Freud does allude to the centrality of social
class in generating psychic variations, for example in his discussion of the “family
romance,” where an older child’s “imagination becomes engaged in the task of getting
freefromthe parents of whomhenowhasa low opinion and of replacingthem by others,
who, as a rule, are of higher social standing.”39 There is nothing in psychoanalysis that
precludes discussion of social class or national-cultural variations, as illustrated by the
literatures on psychoanalytic Marxism and psychoanalysis in colonial and postcolonial
At the most general level, Bourdieu’s theory of subject formation focuses on the
internalization and embodiment of hierarchical social relations, and the ways in which
socialized individuals actively reproduce those social relations. This model closely
tracks the psychoanalytic concern with the individual’s interiorization of social history
(Freud)andincorporationintotheSymbolicorder (Lacan). But the relationship between
the two theoretical formations goes beyond this. One of Bourdieu’s more remarkable
openings to the logic (as opposed to simply the language) of psychoanalysis occurs in
the section of Pascalian Meditations (1997) where he addresses the genesis of subjects
suited to operate competitively in social fields. In a discussion of the transition from
self-love to a “quite other object of investment,” one that “inculcate[s] the durable
disposition to invest in the social game,” Bourdieu articulates a scenario that was
described by Freud as the Oedipal story and by Lacan as the entry into the Symbolic:
Sociology and psychology should combine their efforts (but this would require them
to overcome their mutual suspicion) to analyse the genesis of investment in a field
of social relations, thus constituted as an object of investment and preoccupation, in
whichthechildis increasingly implicated and which constitutes theparadigmand also
the principle of investment in the social game. How does the transition, described by
Freud, occur, leading from a narcissistic organization of the libido, in which the child
takes himself (or his own body) as an object of desire, to another state in which he
orients himself towards another person, thus entering the world of ‘object relations’,
in the form of the original social microcosm and the protagonists of the drama that is
played out there?41
Bourdieu locates the motor of this shift in the “search for recognition,” which brings
his interpretation even closer to the reading of Freud offered by Lacan (and more
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Bourdieu’s Disavowal of Lacan: George Steinmetz 451
recently by Slavoj ˇ
Ziˇzek), a reading based on Hegel’s theory of recognition in the
Phenomenology of Spirit. But note that Bourdieu refers to psychology here rather than
psychoanalysis. He could hardly have been unaware of the polarization between Lacan
and “psychology” (as well as with mainstream psychoanalysis). Althusser had praised
Lacan for rejecting homo psychologicus and argued that psychology was “the site of
the worst ideological confusions and ideological perversions of our time.”42
My goal here is not to analyze the reasons for Bourdieu’s strategies of denegation
and disavowal of Freud, and certainly not to “psychoanalyze” Bourdieu. Nor am I
emerges from a closer reading of his texts. Instead, my aim is to sketch the lines for a
reconstruction of his theory, focusing on the two core concepts. It would be possible,
of course, to mount a socio-psycho-analysis of the sources of Bourdieu’s complex
strategies of embrace and repulsion with respect to psychoanalysis. One place to start
would be the remarkable document published first in German translation in 2002 as
Ein soziologischer Selbstversuch – roughly, “a Sociological Self-Experiment.” Two
years later the French version appeared under the original title, Esquisse pour une auto-
analyse, which could be translated as Outline for a Self-Analysis. Bourdieu notes on the
first page that he is offering “some elements for an auto-socioanalysis.” This sentence
marks the first shift away from the psychoanalytic connotations of “autoanalysis” in
the title (the most famous example of a self-analysis being Freud’s own). Bourdieu then
Adopting the view of the analyst, I obligate (and authorize) myself to attend to all of
the traits that are pertinent from sociology’s point of view, i.e. that are necessary for
sociological explanation and comprehension, and only those.43
Sincethistext is presented assomething other than anautobiography,Bourdieudoesnot
begin with his childhood, parents, and ancestors. Instead the narrative moves directly
intothesocial-symbolic thick of things,thatis, to Bourdieu’syearsat the Ecole Normale
Sup´erieure. Bourdieu writes:
To understand means first to understand the field with which and against which one
was made [avec lequel et contre lequel on s’est fait]. That’s why, running the risk
of surprising a reader who perhaps expects me to begin at the beginning, that is to
say, by evoking my earliest years and the social universe of my childhood, I have to
follow proper method and first examine the state of the field at the moment when I
entered it, around the 1950s.44
The following pages summarize the “collective fantasm” and “community of the
unconscious” at the ENS during the 1950s. Following the strategy of denegation dis-
cussed above, Bourdieu returns again and again to a psychoanalytic language but then
moves the discussion immediately onto a properly “sociological” terrain. Indeed, the
rest of this first section of the Esquisse seems to provide an answer to a question
that Bourdieu’s text has not asked, namely, the question concerning his own refusal
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452 Constellations Volume 13, Number 4, 2006
of psychoanalysis. In summarizing the state of the field at the ENS in this period
Bourdieu depicts the dominant pole as organized around Sartre and existentialism and
the dominated grouping as based initially among the marginal outsiders who founded
the history of sciences (Bachelard, Calguilhem, and Koyr´e–authors with “popular
or provincial origins, or strangers to France and its intellectual traditions”) and later
among the “leaders of the anti-existentialist revolution in philosophy” who were “the
most distant from the core of the academic tradition, like Althusser, Foucault, and
some others.” Bourdieu summarizes this latter group as having proposed a “philosophy
without a subject,” and reminds his readers that social scientists – Durkheim in par-
ticular – had already made similar arguments a century earlier.45 But psychoanalysis
was orthogonal to the dominant polarization in the postwar field of the ENS and the
French intellectual field more generally, even if the Lacanian version was clearly allied
with the anti-humanism that Bourdieu embraces here. Since both Althusser and Lacan
have thus been implicitly allied with Bourdieu, he immediately engages in one of his
defensive maneuvers by turning abruptly to a second moment, namely, the French in-
tellectual field in general during the 1970s. Here a new axis of distinction strategies
pits Althusser, Foucault, and the other “nephews of Zarathustra,” along with psycho-
analysis, against sociology and the social sciences. Psychoanalysis was allied with
“spiritualism,” and “more precisely, with Catholicism,” and was situated “on the side
of the most noble and pure intellectual activities.” Lacan is singled out and criticized
for combining “the obscurities and audacities of a Mallarm´e and a Heidegger.” While
this may illuminate Bourdieu’s distaste for Lacan, it cannot explain his failure to46
engage systematically with Freud, who was neither Catholic nor “noble” within his
historical context of anti-Semitic Vienna, and whose writing style is crystalline and
It would be easy to read Bourdieu’s strategies as stemming from a simple desire to
differentiate his “social-scientific” theoretical approach from others in the field. But his
continualreturnto and disavowalofpsychoanalysis has an obsessivequality,suggesting
thatheknows,butdoes want to know,howitmightinformand transform his owntheory.
The next section of the Autoanalyse finds Bourdieu revisiting his origins in rural B´earn,
after describing his research in Algeria. Bourdieu describes this “return to the origins”
as being accompanied by a “return of the repressed, but a controlled one.” The need
to control that experience is connected to “the emotional atmosphere” and the “very
painful” interviews he conducted. What is also being “controlled” here is the familial
story, which would bring Bourdieu even closer to the theory that takes the family as
its privileged object. This story is finally broached near the end of the book. Two
psychoanalytic concepts structure this discussion, without being named as such. The
the“lastingeffectof a very powerful discrepancy (d´
consecration and humble social origins.”47 For psychoanalysis, ambivalence refers to
“conflicts in which the positive and negative components of the emotional attitude are
simultaneouslyin evidence and inseparable, and where theyconstitute a non-dialectical
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Bourdieu’s Disavowal of Lacan: George Steinmetz 453
opposition which the subject, saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at the same time, is incapable of
transcending.”48 The second concept, guilt connected to the Symbolic Order, brings us
to Lacan. Bourdieu narrates his inaugural lecture at the Coll`ege de France, in which
he analyzed the phenomenon of the inaugural ritual itself, as a “psychological solution
constituting a challenge to the symbolic order.” His lecture was accompanied by a
“sense of guilt toward [his] father who had just died a particularly tragic death.”49
Bourdieu seems to understand this sense of guilt as being rooted in the “transgression-
treason” against his social class of origin, but Lacan might read the sense of guilt as
also intrinsic to the entrance into the Symbolic Order per se, and especially to any
“challenge” to that Order that must necessarily always operate on that Order’s terms as
long as it is to remain culturally legible.50
Despite Bourdieu’s rapprochement with psychoanalysis at the level of his language
and occasionally at a more systematic theoretical level,51 he never acknowledged the
implications of Freud or Lacan theory for his own theoretical approach. He did not
recognize that Freudian/Lacanian theory could help him to avoid the problem of “so-
ciologism,” that is, of reducing the process of the “incorporation” of the social into
the individual to a mere “conveyor belt for, or simple reflection of,” logics of social
power.52 Psychoanalysis offers a much richer array of concepts for analyzing the id-
iosyncratic sense that different individuals make of shared social conditions and the
paradox of unconscious agency and unconscious “strategy.”53 In the rest of this paper, I
want to focus on the core Bourdieuian concepts of symbolic capital/symbolic violence
and habitus, and to suggest how these can be rounded out through an engagement with
Lacan and Freud.
Symbolic Capital and the Lacanian Symbolic
Psychoanalysis is well-suited for analyzing the transformation of originally symbiotic
subjects into agents equipped with the desire to compete in social “fields” – agents
who identify with parental figures and can sublimate, in Freud’s terms, or submit to the
demandsof the big Other in the field of the Symbolic, in Lacan’s terminology.Lacanian
theory allows us to reground Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic capital in Lacan’s notion
ofthe symbolic order andinthe related dynamicsof recognitionand misrecognitionthat
are so central to symbolic identification.54 The symbolic in Lacan is the realm of lan-
guage, difference, metonymy, and the Law, an arena of socially sanctioned, official ego
ideals. The relationship of the subject to the symbolic is thus a relation of “dependence
on the Other, locus of signifiers.”55 Symbolic identification is linked to an ego-ideal
(Ichideal), which “constitutes a model to which the subject attempts to conform.”56 In
Lacan’s later writings, symbolic identification is understood more specifically as iden-
tification with the place from which we are observed, the location from which we “look
at ourselves so that we appear to ourselves likeable, worthy of love.”57 The “demand
of the Ichideal,” according to Lacan, thus “takes up its place within the totality of the
demands of the law.”58 The ego-ideal for Lacan is the “position of the subject within
the symbolic, the norm that installs the subject within language.”59
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454 Constellations Volume 13, Number 4, 2006
According to Lacan subjects seek to recognize the normative injunctions of the
symbolic order, and they seek to be recognized by those who issue these injunctions.
There is a dialectic of recognition between the Subject or Law of the Father and the
subject who is inducted into the Symbolic Order, recalling the master-slave dialectic
in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.60 In his Jena Realphilosophie Hegel observes
that “in recognition, the self ceases to be this individual,” and he adds that “Man is
necessarily recognized and necessarily gives recognition...he is recognition.”61 In
Koj`eve’s famous summary of Hegel’s Phenomenology, “all human, anthropogenetic
Desire – the Desire that generates Self-Consciousness, the human reality – is, finally,
a function of the desire for ‘recognition’.”62
Although Pascalian Meditations begins to pose as a problem the individual’s reori-
entation from narcissism to an orientation toward recognition from others, and to see
this transition as a precondition for the operation of the competitive “field,” Bourdieu
never acknowledged the relevance of the Lacanian Symbolic for his analysis of “sym-
bolic domination.” But why did Bourdieu feel the need to complement his category
of “cultural” capital with “symbolic” capital? None of his other categories take this
doubled form. Of course, other influences are named: Bourdieu refers to Durkheim as
a sociologist of symbolic forms and attributes to Cassirer the idea that “symbolic form”
is the equivalent of forms of classification.63 Bourdieu first defined symbolic capital as
capital “insofar as it is represented, i.e., apprehended symbolically, in a relationship of
knowledge.”64 This suggests that “symbolic” is simply another word for the semiotic.
Several years later, however, Bourdieu noted that symbolic capital is “cultural capital
which is acknowledged and recognized accordance with the categories of per-
ception that it imposes”; it “is the power granted to those who have obtained sufficient
recognition to be in a position to impose recognition.”65 By the time he wrote Pascalian
Meditations (1997) Bourdieu had connected the topic of symbolic capital directly to
the “search for recognition,” and he seemed to make the crucial (Hegelian) observation
that it is not only the dominated but also the dominant who depend on the “esteem,
recognition, belief, credit, confidence of others.” Symbolic capital, he suggested here,
can be perpetuated only so long as it succeeds in generating a system of mutual inter-
dependence in which all the actors in the field depend on recognition from all of the
others and grant all of the others recognition – even if this is recognition of an inferior
(or superior) status.
Or at least, that is what Bourdieu almost said.66 The passage quoted above locates
the motive behind the emergence of social subjects and symbolic violence in what
Bourdieu calls the “search for recognition”:
Absorbed in the love of others, the child can only discover others as such on con-
dition that he discovers himself as a ‘subject’ for whom there are ‘objects’ whose
particularity is that they can take him as their ‘object.’ In fact, he is continuously led
to take the point of view of others on himself, to adopt their point of view so as to
discover and evaluate in advance how he will be seen and defined by them. His being
is being-perceived, condemned to be defined as it ‘really’ is by the perceptions of
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Bourdieu’s Disavowal of Lacan: George Steinmetz 455
others.... Symbolic capital enables formsof domination which implydependence on
those who can be dominated by it, since it only exists through the esteem, recognition,
belief, credit, confidence of others.67
But while Hegel posits a reciprocity or universality in the search for recognition, in
Bourdieu the hunger for recognition is located mainly on the side of the dominated.
This is undercut somewhat in Masculine Domination, where we are told that manliness
“is an eminently relational notion, constructed in front of and for other men” in a
kind of field of men.68 Forthe most part, however, Bourdieu instinctively falls back
on a populist political vision that prevents him from noticing that his own concept of
symbolic capital requires a universalization of the desire for recognition to all of the
players in a social field. The dominated may develop a “taste for necessity,” preferring
their own (dominated) tastes to those of the elite. But they recognize the dominant
as holding more valuable cultural capital, that is, dominated and dominant recognize
the same principle of domination. The dominant are granted recognition not just by
their elite peers but also by the dominated participants in the field. In Hegel’s words,
lord and bondsman “recognize themselves as mutually recognizing one another.”69
Where this is not the case – where the dominated and dominant fail to recognize shared
definitions of distinction – there is an ongoing struggle over the “dominant principle
of domination.”70 Fields can be unsettled; practices may fail to cohere in field-like
Lacan offers a solution to this problem. Lacan borrows the notion of “desire”
(Begierde) from Hegel, “who argued that desire was the ‘desire for another desire’.”72
Bourdieu’s notion of symbolic capital is based on the premise of reciprocal demands
for recognition by all actors in a field – recognition of the variable cultural positions,
habituses and tastes, and recognition of their hierarchy.73 But why should the domi-
nant partner in a hierarchical relation seek recognition from the dominated other? The
answer is that both dominant and dominated are subjects of an encompassing system
that is itself structured around a hierarchical system of recognition: the Symbolic order.
Individuals are inducted into the Symbolic in a posture of subordination to the prin-
ciple that Lacan calls the big Other – that is, “the anonymous symbolic structure” of
Law and language.74 Within this law “is established and presented all human order, i.e.
every human role.”75 Every future member of the “ruling class” enters this system of
symbolic recognition in a subordinate status, just like every member of the dominated
class. As Judith Butler observes, every individual is presumed guilty before the rule
of the Law/the Symbolic order, and needs to “acquit” himself, declare his innocence,
and be “tried and declared innocent.”76 The subjectivity of even the future bourgeois
subject is structured by desire for the Law’s recognition. The Law is coterminous with
the Symbolic and the social; the dominated members of a social field are just as in-
tegral to this system of expectations and offers and denials of recognition as are the
What we have then are two axes of recognition and misrecognition. On the one
hand there is the axis along which the Law confronts the “infinity of individuals.”
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456 Constellations Volume 13, Number 4, 2006
Althusser, who reframed Lacan’s symbolic order as the system of ideology, described
ideology as
speculary, i.e., a mirror structure...the Absolute Subject occupies the unique place
of the Centre, and interpellates around it the infinity of individuals into subjects
in a double mirror-connexion such that it subjects the subjects to the Subject,
while giving them...the Subject in which each subject can contemplate its own
Among the “infinity of individuals,” however, are diverse social classes and groups,
each of which can “contemplate its own image” in the social mirror of the other classes
and groups. The Symbolic order demands recognition from the subject and grants him
a sliver of recognition in the guise of the policeman’s call: “Hey, you there!”79 The
dominant and the dominated both demand recognition of their respective tastes and
practices. These tastes and practices differ from and reciprocally implicate one another.
Recognition is also doubled by misrecognition, both with respect to the subject’s over-
arching relationship to the Symbolic Order and with respect to its relationship to other
classes and groups in the social fields. This is a relation of misrecognition insofar as
the image offered up for the purposes of ego-formation and identification is always
generated elsewhere, outside the subject, and it is always an inverted, reversed, or oth-
erwise distorted representation of the real. This is a relation of misrecognition insofar
as the dominated tend to embrace their own condition of domination, and insofar as the
dominant believe that their tastes and practices are genuinely superior in an absolute,
transcendent sense.
There is a paradox in the desire among dominated groups for the approval of, or
recognition by, those who dominate them, and neither Bourdieu nor Hegel makes sense
of this paradox. Bourdieu called attention repeatedly to crucial contribution to social
reproduction of the “taste for necessity” or amor fati.Byfailing to account for this
taste, however, Bourdieu ran the risk of functionalism. By contrast, psychoanalytic
theory offers an explanation of the way in which the desire for submission emerges
from the very genesis of the subject. It emphasizes the contradictory demand to be
both like and unlike the Father. Psychoanalysis offers a definition of the masochist as
one who “locates enjoyment in the very agency of the Law which prohibits the access
to enjoyment,” suggesting another account of this desire for recognition – one that is
always controversial because it is so damaging to a different sort of amour propre.80
Lacan’s theory of the Symbolic Order thus sketches out some of the “microfounda-
tions”or better,the “psychofoundations” whichpermit the operationof the Bourdieuian
fields and govern the production of subjects suited for operating in those fields. The
subject’s ineluctable entry into the Symbolic explains the desire to have one’s cultural
capital recognized as well as the recognition by others of that capital (either as exalted
or as paltry). The “social libido” that Bourdieu invokes without ever defining (thereby
leaving it open for recuperation by biological reductionism) needs to be thematized
within this wider theoretical framework.
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Bourdieu’s Disavowal of Lacan: George Steinmetz 457
Habitus and the Imaginary
Asecondkeyconceptin the Bourdieuian theoreticallexiconis habitus. This concepthas
beenpraisedfor overcoming the mind-body andobjectivityvs.subjectivitydichotomies
that have been so deeply engrained in western philosophy. The habitus is also attractive
as a concept because of its putative integrative power: Given the vast array of fields
of practice in which individuals participate and the historical layering of experiences
and moments of socialization, corporeal and psychic integration must be seen as an
achievement rather than taken for granted. Bourdieu initially mobilized the idea of
habitusto make sense of this seeminglymagical integration of the disparate experiences
that make up a biography.81 In The Weight of the World he turned to the question of
the habitus that is internally contradictory and fragmented. In his “self-autoanalysis”
he summarized his own experience as giving rise to a “cloven habitus (l’habitus cliv´
inhabited by tensions and contradictions.”82 But while “postmodern” theory does not
do justice to the fact that many people suffer from a fragmented sense of identity rather
than reveling in it, Bourdieu’s theory tends to make the opposite error, underestimating
the travails of integration. Most importantly, no matter how often Bourdieu restated his
definition of habitus he never seemed to come any closer to explaining how and why
this integration occurs, and why it sometimes fails.
Here again, Lacan provides a crucial missing link, a picture of a mechanism that can
help to elaborate the concept of habitus. Just as the Lacanian concept of the Symbolic
Order makes sense of the subjective dynamics underpinning Bourdieuian symbolic
capital, so the Lacanian concept of the Imaginary illuminates the subject’s phantasmic
ability to integrate disparate experiences and identifications such that identity and prac-
tice do not always appear disjointed. A cluster of linked Lacanian concepts – the mirror
stage, the bodily ego and ideal ego, and imaginary identification – suggest a possible
solution to this problem.
The starting point for human individuals is not a Hobbesian condition of competitive
andoutside, selfand other.Accordingto Lacan, this primordial experience is connected
to a fragmented body image, which reappears in adult fantasies of the “body in pieces”
along the lines of the “return of the repressed.” Lacan discusses the production of a
“succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body image to a form of
its totality that I call orthopaedic.” Similarly, Freud had written that “the ego is first
and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but is in itself a projection
of a surface.”83 Habitus in Bourdieu thus appears as a sociological reworking of the
psychoanalytic concept of a roughcast “bodily ego.” Lacan writes:
Whatever in man is loosened up, fragmented, anarchic, establishes its relation to
his perceptions on a plane with a completely original tension. The image of his
body is the principle of every unity he perceives in objects ....Because of this...all
the objects of his world are always structured around the wandering shadow of his
ownego. They will all have a fundamentally anthropomorphic character.... Man’s
ideal unity, which is never attained as such and escapes him at every moment, is
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458 Constellations Volume 13, Number 4, 2006
evoked at every moment in this perception....The very image of man brings in here
a mediation which is always imaginary, always problematic, and which is therefore
never completely fulfilled.84
The key word here is imaginary.For Lacan, the initial identifications that constitute
the subject begin with the mirror phase, when the watery subject – the hommelette
or man-omlette – identifies with the totalizing and alienating external image of itself.
This need not be a literal reflection in a mirror but can also be the image or even the
voice of another human, perhaps a mother or caretaker.85 The core structure of specular
identity in the realm of the imaginary is this sense plenitude and wholeness. Imaginary
identification is identification with an image that Lacan (following Freud) calls the
ideal-ego (Idealich), that is, an image “in which we appear likeable to ourselves . . .
representing ‘what we would like to be’.”86 The earliest imaginary identifications in
the mirror phase provide a template for later ones that are similarly characterized by
a striving for wholeness.87 The notion of imaginary identification can be connected to
the overarching psychoanalytic concept of phantasy/fantasy.Fantasy scenarios express
a conscious or unconscious wish. Imaginary identification is one site for such wishful
Lacan illustrated some of these ideas with the experiment of the phantom flower
bouquet and the concave mirror. The flowers in the vase are a real image, but also an
illusion, like a rainbow; for Lacan this suggests misrecognition of the real. Moreover,
as the diagram suggests (Figure 1), the phantom bouquet can only be perceived from
a specific position or “subject position.” The Subject (indicated by the letter “S” and
the eye) is precipitated by this setup. Similarly, the “human subject only sees his form
materialized, whole, the mirage of himself, outside of himself.”89
Although Lacan initially located imaginary identifications in the mirror phase, he
soon realized that the imaginary was not a separate stage or realm but rather a dimen-
sion of subject-formation that is dominated by the symbolic. In Althusser’s words, the
“ stamped by the seal of Human Order, of the Symbolic.”90 The imagi-
nary is a realm of signifiers, like the symbolic. The Symbolic Order channels subjects
toward specific images for imaginary identifications, yet the subject continually slips
fromsymbolic identifications back into imaginary ones. Although neither realm is more
“estranged” than the other, the imaginary offers forms of identification that deny differ-
ence, estrangement, and the loss of symbiotic plenitude; they disavow their debt to the
Other. The imaginary is thus a sort of estrangement from the “inevitable estrangement”
of the Symbolic.91 There is a perpetual “oscillation of the subject” between ideal egos
and ego ideals.92
My suggestion is that the sense of embodied “ideal unity” that is expressed in bodily
“habitus” is generated in the realm of the Imaginary and imaginary identifications.
Bourdieu alludes to this when he writes that “habitus of necessity operates as a defense
mechanism against necessity.”93 This comes very close to the psychoanalytic ideas
of fantasy and the ideal-ego. But this also explains why a “cloven” habitus is just as
likely as a unified one. Habitus is an ideological effect that is threatened by the Real
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Bourdieu’s Disavowal of Lacan: George Steinmetz 459
Figure 1
and the Symbolic. The Imaginary is forever overcoded by the Symbolic, which pushes
against integration and toward fragmentation and difference. All of this is haunted by
the repressed memory of the “body in pieces.”
“Why, in short, such resistance to analysis?”94
Iwas constantly saying to myself: ‘My poor Bourdieu, with the sorry tools you
have, you won’t be up to the task, you will need to know everything, to understand
everything, [including] psychoanalysis ...95
Lo¨ıc J.D. Wacquant ...asked Bourdieu about his position regarding psychoanalysis
and why he hadn’t pushed it further. Bourdieu responded that he would have needed
a second life [to do this].96
Ihave been more interesting in sketching a possible reconstruction of Bourdieu than
in analyzing the reasons for his allergic relationship to Lacan, an avoidance that I have
argued was damaging to his theory. Lacan’s combination of “nobility,” externality to
the academic field, and his disregard for rational scientific discourse were obviously
distastefultoBourdieu. A deeper reason,however,can be found inBourdieu’sstatement
that “Sociology does not claim to substitute its mode of explanation for that of psycho-
analysis;itisconcerned only to construct differently certain givens that psychoanalysis
also takes as its object.”97 If Bourdieu had explored this relationship in more depth he
might have seen that they were not alternatives, but that psychoanalysis filled some of
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460 Constellations Volume 13, Number 4, 2006
the lacunae in his own theoretical approach. His sociology did not so much construct
the same object in a different manner as to construct it inadequately. Bourdieu’s signal
contributions, including the concepts of habitus and symbolic capital, can profit from
further interaction with psychoanalytic theories of the imaginary integration of bodily
imagery and symbolic recognition and misrecognition. This short essay is only a first
1. Vincent de Gaulejac, “De l’inconscient chez Freud `a l’inconscient selon Bourdieu: entre
psychanalyse et socio-analyse,” in Corcuff, ed., Pierre Bourdieu: les champs de la critique (Paris:
Biblioth`eque Centre Pompidou, 2004), 83, quoting Bourdieu.
2. AnneWitz,“AnamnesisandamnesisinBourdieu’swork:Thecasefora feminist anamnesis,”
Sociological Review 52 (2004): 217.
3. Of course Freud did not invent the term unconscious, but he gave it is distinctive con-
temporary definition and connotations; see Nicolas Rand, “The Hidden Soul: The Growth of the
Unconscious in Philosophy, Psychology, Medicine, and Literature, 1750-1900,” American Imago 61
(2004): 257-80.
4. Esquisse pour une auto-analyse (Paris: Raisons d’Agir, 2004), 19. The German version
mistranslates Bourdieu’s original d´
enier as verdr¨
angen, whose standard French translation is refouler
(“to repress” in English). Bourdieu, Ein soziologischer Selbstversuch (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp,
2002), 71. The phrase “community of the unconscious” is my translation of “une communaut´e des
inconscients” (Esquisse, 19) and “eine Gemeinschaft von Unbewußsten” in Ein soziologischer Selb-
5. J.Laplancheand J.-B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis (NewYork:Norton,1973),
262. Verneinung means both “negation” and “denial” in everyday German, and as Laplanche and
Pontalis suggest, it is this dual set of meanings that may give the original Freudian usage some of its
force. 6. Freud, “Negation,” Standard Edition,Vol. XIX (London: Hogarth, 1961 [1923]), 235-36.
7. Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977),
92-93. For a more detailed discussion of the tension between biological and sociological modes of
interpretation in Freud, see Anthony Elliott, “Psychoanalysis and the Theory of the Subject,” in The
Politics of Method in the Human Sciences: Positivism and its Epistemological Others, ed. George
Steinmetz (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 427-450. The biologistic reading of Freud
hasofcourse been well entrenched in officialpsychoanalysis,especiallyinthe US, a case discussed by
Nathan G. Hale, TheRise and Crisis of Psychoanalysis in the United States: FreudandtheAmericans,
1917-1985 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), and Eli Zaretsky, Secrets of the Soul: A Social
and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis (New York: Knopf, 2004).
8. I have developed some elements of this critical appreciation of Bourdieu in earlier articles:
see “The Devil’s Handwriting’: Precolonial Discourse, Ethnographic Acuity and Cross-Identification
in German Colonialism,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 45 (2003): 41-95; and “Pre-
coloniality and Colonial Subjectivity: Ethnographic Discourse and Native Policy in German Overseas
Imperialism,1780s-1914,” Political Power and Social Theory 15 (2002): 135-228. Severalothercom-
mentators have noticed the uneasy status of psychoanalysis in Bourdieu’s work; see Jean-Fran¸cois
Fourny, “Bourdieu’s Uneasy Psychoanalysis,” Substance 93 (2000): 107; Vincent de Gaulejac, “De
l’inconscient”; and Richard Wernick, “Flesh and the Free Market: (On Taking Bourdieu to the Op-
tions Exchange),” Theory and Society 32 (2003): 679-723. Fourny’s article overlaps partly with my
own approach, but he suggests that a more systematic reception of Lacan would threaten Bourdieu’s
approach while I argue the opposite.
9. Bourdieu, The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field (Cambridge: Polity,
1996), 3.
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Bourdieu’s Disavowal of Lacan: George Steinmetz 461
10. Fourny, “Bourdieu’s Uneasy Psychoanalysis,” 104.
11. Bourdieu, The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society (Cambridge:
Polity, 1999), 510.
12. Ibid., 512, my emphasis.
13. Bourdieu, Masculine Domination (Cambridge: Polity, 2001), 17, my emphasis.
14. Ibid., 23. Moreover, Bourdieu explicitly argues that male domination, rather than class
domination, “constitutes the paradigm (and often the model and stake) of all domination, in his earlier
article “La domination masculine,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 84 (Sept. 1990): 30-31.
See Toril Moi, “Appropriating Bourdieu,” in What is a Woman? And other Essays (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1999), 289.
15. Bourdieu, Masculine Domination, 26.
16. Ibid., 3. See de Gaulejac, “De l’inconscient chez Freud,” for a discussion of Bourdieu’s
“therapeutic” orientation, which is less familiar in the Anglo-American context than his “combat
sport” orientation.
17. Bourdieu, Masculine Domination, viii.
18. Ibid., 81-82, my emphasis. Strangely, most of the reviews of this book have ignored
the obvious psychoanalytic subtext and intertexts. One review that does discuss the psychoan-
alytic dimension bemoans it, arguing that it is “even more unfortunate...that Bourdieu, like
many other sociologists, refers freely to psychoanalysis as a basis for some of his sociolog-
ical interpretations concerning identity, while the much more plausible and scientific explana-
tions from evolution theory remain completely foreign for him.” J.P.Roos and Anna Rotkirch,
“Habitus, Nature or Nurture? Towards a paradigm of evolutionary sociology,” paper presented
in the European Sociological Association Conference, Murcia, September 23-28, 2003; online at
19. Bourdieu, Masculine Domination,7.
20. SeeJuliaHell,“Jensen’s‘Gradiva’andPeter deMendelssohn’s‘Kathedrale’,” forthcoming.
21. De Gaulejac, “De l’inconscient chez Freud,” 75; Bourdieu, Masculine Domination, viii.
22. Elisabeth Roudinesco, Lacan & Co.: A History of Psychoanalysis in France, 1925-1985
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).
23. Bourdieu, The Rules of Art, 247.
24. Bourdieu, Homo Academicus (Cambridge: Polity, 1988), xxi; Louis Althusser, The Future
Lasts Forever (New York: The New Press, 1993), 186ff; Roudinesco, Lacan & Co., 376-386.
25. Bourdieu, “Rethinking the State. Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field,” in
State/Culture: State Formation after the Cultural Turn, ed. George Steinmetz (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 1999), 53-75.
26. Bourdieu’s failure to explore Lacan is also unfortunate because Lacan is a sociologically
interesting example of a defrocked cultural “aristocrat” in the French postwar scene. On the breakup
of the Soci´et´e fran¸caise de psychanalyse and Lacan’s creation of the ´
Ecole Freudienne de Paris,
Elisabeth Roudinesco, Jacques Lacan & Co.
27. The quote here is from “Censure et mise en forme,” in Ce que parler veut dire. Les
economie des ´
echanges linguistiques (Paris: Fayard, 1982), 183. For the original see Jacques Lacan,
“The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious,” in Ecrits,tr. Bruce Fink (New York: Norton, 2002),
164. 28. For Freud, fetishism is characterized by the simultaneous acknowledgement and dis-
avowalofthe perceived absence of the woman’s penis (“castration”). Fetishistic practice, like all
forms of ambivalence (see below, note 49), is characterized by the ability to think two contra-
dictory things at once. Similarly, Homi Bhabha theorizes colonial consciousness and practice in
terms of fetishism; in this case the colonizer both recognizes and disavows cultural difference;
skin color becomes the “fetish” that both alludes to this difference while drawing attention away
from it. See Freud, “Fetishism,” Standard Edition,vol. XXI (London: Hogarth, 1963 [1927]), 149-
157; Laplanche and Pontalis, The Language, 118; and Homi K. Bhabha, “Of mimicry and man:
The ambivalence of colonial discourse,” in The Location of Culture (London: Routlege, 1994),
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462 Constellations Volume 13, Number 4, 2006
29. Of course my reading here is more a reconstructive one, not a story of recovering repressed
origins or of a Heideggerian unconcealing.
30. Bourdieu deals more openly with Althusser but usually in a highly caricatural form as a
structuralist theorist of “empty places”; Althusser’s critique of positivism is suppressed and conflated
with scientism. See Bourdieu, “La lecture de Marx: quelques remarques `a propos de ‘Quelques
remarques critiques `a propos de ‘Lire le Capital’,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 5/6
(1975), 65-79. See also Bourdieu and Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1992), 19, 156, and 251 n49. In his “autoanalysis,” discussed below,
Bourdieu is forced to acknowledge Althusser’s central role in the “anti-existentialist revolution in
philosophy.” Bourdieu, Esquisse, 24.
31. Louis Althusser and Etienne Balibar, Reading Capital (London: Verso, 1979), 28.
32. Bourdieu, Pascalian Mediations (Cambridge: Polity, 2000), 171.
33. Yannis Stavrakakis, “Creativity and its Limits: Encounters with Social Constructionism
and the Political in Castoriadis and Lacan,” Constellations 9 (2002): 522-36.
34. JoanRiviere, “Womanlinessas a Masquerade”inThe FormationsofFantasy,Victor Burgin,
James Donald, and Cora Kaplan, eds. (London: Methuen, 1986), 35-44.
35. Bourdieu, “Censorship and the Imposition of Form,” in Language and Symbolic Power
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 142-43.
36. Bourdieu, The Rules of Art, 172.
37. Norman Bryson, “G´ericault and ‘Masculinity’,” in Norman Bryson and Keith Moxey, eds.,
Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994), 233.
38. Sigmund Freud, “The Ego and the Id,” Standard Edition,vol. XIX: 34.
39. Freud, “Family Romances,” Standard Edition,vol. IX: 238-39.
40. On psychoanalysis in Africa and India see Wulf Sachs, Black Hamlet (Boston: Little,
Brown, 1947) and C. Hartnack, “Vishnu on Freud’s Desk: Psychoanalysis in Colonial India,” Social
Research 57 (1990).
41. Bourdieu, Pascalian Mediations, 166.
42. Althusser, “Correspondence with Jacques Lacan,” in Writings on Psychoanalysis: Freud
and Lacan, ed. Olivier Corpet and Fran¸cois Matheron, tr. Jeffrey Mehlman (New York: Berghahn,
1996), 149; “Letters to D.,” in ibid., 36. Althusser also criticized the “temptation” of ego-psychology
and the promotion of a psychoanalysis centered on the strengthening of the super-ego (as against
the unconscious, the true object of psychoanalysis) by figures like Talcott Parsons. See “Freud and
Lacan,” in For Marx (London: New Left Books, 1971), 202 n2, 205.
43. Bourdieu, Esquisse, 11-12.
44. Ibid., 15.
45. Ibid.,22, 23, 24, 26; Bourdieu refers here to his article with Jean-Claude Passeron,“Sociol-
ogy and Philosophy in France since 1945: Death and Resurrection of a Philosophy without Subject,”
Social Research 34, no. 1 (1967): 162-212.
46. Bourdieu, Esquisse, 27, 30. naveen
47. Bourdieu, Esquisse, 82-83, 127-28.
48. Laplanche and Pontalis, The Language, 28.
49. Bourdieu, Esquisse, 138.
50. See Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997),
ch. 4. 51. Bourdieu shares this rapprochement with psychoanalysis with his erstwhile critic Judith
Butler,although she engages with psychoanalysis much more systematically.Compare Butler, Gender
Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (London: Routledge, 1990) and Excitable Speech
(London: Routledge, 1997); her book The Psychic Life of Power marks an opening to psychoanalysis.
52. De Gaulejac, “De l’inconscient chez Freud `a l’inconscient selon Bourdieu,” 79.
53. Thiswill seem like astartlingclaim only for thosewhohave restricted themselvesto Freud’s
more schematic overviews of his theory or approached psychoanalysis through the work of hostile
critics.But eventhevarious case studiesinFreud’s earliestworkon hysteria revealan enormously wide
array of symptoms among his women patients; see Freud and Breuer, Studies in Hysteria (New York,
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Bourdieu’s Disavowal of Lacan: George Steinmetz 463
1982). Even the distinction between the positive and negative Oedipus complex in Freud’s mature
theory points to different alternative paths that people can take in response to identically structured
social predicaments. Moreover, Freud’s concept of working through “characterizes the role of the
patient in analysis” and is conceived of not as an analytic technique but as “the labor of the patient”
in recognizing and overcoming resistances. M.J. Sedler, “Freud’s concept of working through,” The
Psychoanalytic Quarterly 52 (1983): 73-98.
54. Jeffrey Alexander argues that Bourdieu’s habitus theory differs from psychoanalysis be-
cause the former fails to understand the social self as empirically autonomous and differentiated
from others; Fin de si`
ecle social theory: relativism, reduction, and the problem of reason (New
York: Verso, 1995), 144-45. This point is well-taken with regard to the specific ego-analytic and
Anglo-American psychoanalytic traditions that Alexander discusses – Klein, Erikson, Kohut – but
does not hold for the version of psychoanalysis that was most influential and “noble” in Bour-
dieu’s French milieu, namely, the Lacanian version. Thus Klein may well have “initiated a psy-
choanalytic tradition that emphasized the body, the breast and the body ego [as] reference points
from which the self must differentiate, not as mirror-images with which the self is identified,”
but the misrecognition involved in “mirroring” is one of the fundamental concepts of Lacanian
55. Philippe Julien, Jacques Lacan’s Return to Freud. The Real, the Symbolic, and the Imagi-
nary (New York: NYU Press, 1994), 167.
56. Laplanche and Pontalis, The Language, 144.
57. ˇ
Ziˇzek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (New York: Verso, 1989), 105.
58. Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Book I. Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954
(New York: Norton, 1998), 134.
59. Butler, Psychic Life of Power.
60. As Axel Honneth notes, Hegel sees “the advantage of gender relations over instrumental
activity to lie in the reciprocity of knowing oneself in another.” The Struggle for Recognition: The
Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), 36. German distinguishes
Anerkennen,Wiedererkennen (both of them translated as “recognition”) and Erkennen (“to know”).
See also Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth, Redistribution or recognition?: A Political-Philosophical
Exchange (London: Verso, 2003).
61. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, “Jena Lectures on the Philosophy of the Spirit,” in Hegel
and the Human Spirit: A translation of the Jena lectures on the philosophy of spirit (1805-6) with
commentary (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1983), 111. See also Ludwig Seip, Anerkennung
als Prinzip der praktischen Philosophie (Freiburg: Alber, 1979).
62. Alexandre Koj`eve, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (New York: Basic, 1969), 7.
63. Bourdieu, “On Symbolic Power,” in Language and Symbolic Power (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1991), 164.
64. Bourdieu, “The Forms of Capital,” in J.C. Richardson, ed., Handbook of Theory and
Research for the Sociology of Education (Westport, CN.: Greenwood, 1986), 255 n3.
65. Bourdieu, “Social space and Symbolic Power,” in In Other Words (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1990), 135, 138 (my emphasis).
66. Bourdieu, Pascalian Mediations, 166.
67. Ibid., 166.
68. Bourdieu, Masculine Domination, 53.
69. Hegel, Phenomenology of Mind,tr. J.B. Baille (New York: Harper, 1967), §184.
70. Bourdieu, The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1996), 376.
71. On the question of settled and unsettled fields see my essay “Precoloniality.”
72. J¨urgen Braungardt, “Theology After Lacan? A Psychoanalytic Approach to Theological
Discourse,” Other Voices 1 (1999).
73. In his interview with Bourdieu, Axel Honneth surprisingly failed to make this critical
connection; see Axel Honneth, Hermann Kocyba, and Bernd Schwibs, “The Struggle for Symbolic
Order. An Interview with Pierre Bourdieu,” Theory, Culture, and Society 3 (1986): 35-51.
2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
464 Constellations Volume 13, Number 4, 2006
74. ˇ
Ziˇzek, The Plague of Fantasies (London: Verso, 1999), 8.
75. Althusser, “Freud and Lacan,” in Lenin and Philosophy (New York: Monthly Review,
1971), 209.
76. Butler, The Psychic Life of Power (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 118. Butler
is recontructing Althusser’s theory of ideology, which as she points out is entirely framed within the
Lacanian theoretical universe of the Symbolic and Imaginary orders.
77. For a memorable evocation of the way in the dominant actors in a (colonial) field are
driven by the desire for the recognition proffered by the dominant players, see George Orwell’s story
“Shooting an Elephant.”
78. Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” in Lenin and Philosophy, 180.
79. Ibid., 174.
80. ˇ
Ziˇzek, The Plague of Fantasies, 35.
81. See Bourdieu, “The Biographical Illusion,” in Working Papers and Proceedings of the
Center for Psychosocial Studies 14 (1987), originally published as “L’illusion biographique,” Actes
de la recherche en sciences sociales 62/63 (1986): 69-72.
82. Bourdieu, Esquisse, 127. Bourdieu also addressed divided habituses in his early work on
the Algerian Kabyle
83. Freud, “The Ego and the Id,” 26. Also Kaja Silverman, The Threshold of the Visible World
(London: Routledge, 1996).
84. Lacan, The Seminar, Book II (New York: Norton, 1991), 166.
85. Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988).
86. ˇ
Ziˇzek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (New York: Verso, 1989), 105; see also Daniel
Lagache, “La psychanalyse et la structure de la personnalit´e,” La psychanalyse 6 (1961): 5-58; Lacan,
The Seminar, Book 1, Freud’s Papers on Technique (New York: Norton, 1991), 134-48.
87. Freud already recognized that identifications need not involve explicitly erotic cathexes;
see his “Group Psychology and the Analysis of Ego,” in Standard Edition,Vol. XVIII: 67-143.
88. Seethe special issue of La Psychanalyse8 (1964) on “Fantasme, eve,ealit´e”andarecent
overview, Levy and Inderbitzin, “Fantasy and Psychoanalytic Discourse,” International Journal of
Psychoanalysis 82 (2001): 795-803.
89. Lacan, The Seminar, Book 1, 139-40.
90. Althusser, “Freud and Lacan,” 214.
91. Samuel Weber, Return to Freud. Jacques Lacan’s Dislocation of Psychoanalysis (Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 106.
92. Lagache, “La psychanalyse,” 41.
93. Bourdieu, Pascalian Mediations, 232-33 (my emphasis).
94. Bourdieu, The Rules of Art, xvii.
95. Bourdieu, Images d’Alg´
erie. Une affinit´
e elective, eds. Franz Schultheis and Chrsitine
Frisinghelli (Arles: Actes Sud, 2003), 29, my emphasis, modified translation from Lo¨ıc Wacquant in
“following Pierre Bourdieu into the Field,” Ethnography 5 (2004): 387-414.
96. Unattributed comment from the public, in Philippe Corcuff, ed., Pierre Bourdieu, 95.
97. Bourdieu, The Weight of the World, 512, my emphasis.
George Steinmetz is Professor of Sociology and German Studies at the University of
Michigan. He is the author of The Devil’s Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German
Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa (2006) and Regulating the
Social: The Welfare State and Local Politics in Imperial Germany (1993).
2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
... Second, Bourdieu's approach becomes more powerful once its analysis of semi-autonomous fields is combined with attention to historicalepochal processes that are not contained within any single field, such as war, revolution, crisis, the breakdown of regulatory paradigms, etc. (Steinmetz 2005). Third, Bourdieu's habitus-centric model of the individual subject becomes more realistic and adequate once it is grounded in psychoanalysis and a non-metaphorical theory of the unconscious (Steinmetz 2006(Steinmetz , 2014. Before discussing in more detail this neo-Bourdieusian approach to the history of social science, however, the next section surveys the evolution of writing on the history of science and the more recent emergence of historical attention to the social sciences, leading to the a historiography of sociology. ...
... Such reflexive practice does not involve confessional style or identitarian approaches taking the form of "I am writing as an X." Nor is reflexivity the same thing as psychoanalysis, although a more complete form of reflexive socioanalysis would require probing of the researcher's unconscious (Gingras 2004: 628). Bourdieu obliquely acknowledged this in his insistent and increasing use of psychoanalytic terminology and ideas (Steinmetz 2006) and in his quasi-psychoanalytic auto-analysis (Bourdieu 2007). ...
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... Relatedly, what is the relationship between widening the universe of discourse in opposition to the doxa and actual political transformation? As sociologists point to the unfinished project of better integrating Bourdieusian theory with psychology and psychoanalytic theory (Burawoy 2018:58, note 6;Lizardo 2004;Steinmetz 2013Steinmetz , 2006, exploring variations in the notion of misrecognition (through discourse) across specific fields offers ways of approaching the conscious/unconscious and mind/body dichotomies that inform this integration but that Bourdieu himself also troubled. ...
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This article explains variations in misrecognition of domination among the racialized subaltern. I draw on a comparative analysis of the fields of Islam in France and India, informed by the work of Bourdieu and Fanon. I first argue that Bourdieu’s concept of the religious field provides a crucial reframing of the Islamic field whereby religious judgments represent classification struggles over legitimate Islam. Second, I approach misrecognition in the field by distinguishing the field’s discourse from its doxa. I argue that misrecognition varies according to the degree of (1) subaltern minority integration into educational institutions and (2) proximity of the subaltern to the dominant classes. I bring in the work of Fanon, whose writings on the psychological effects of racial domination are a crucial complement to a Bourdieusian analysis. Together, they provide a more refined understanding of misrecognition in racialized religious fields and, in turn, potential for political resistance.
... This is one of those cases where the visible, that which is immediately given, hides the invisible which determines it. (Bourdieu 1989: 16) Bourdieu's strained relationship with the idea of the unconscious (Steinmetz 2006) is expressed here in terms of the challenge of focusing not on the visible but on the 'invisible which determines it.' Habitus functions somewhere other than in consciousness or language. ...
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The chapter is part of an edited collection on social mobility and immobility that contributes to the discussion of the new African Middle Class. The book uses a frame work drawn from the work of Pierre Bourdies, and the chapter focusses on class and taste, using three different rooms in Cameroon as a starting point.
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This article provides an outline of Bourdieu's hidden philosophy of mind. I propose to organize and analyse the psychological themes that flow through Bourdieu's theory of practice using two different levels of description of the mental, the ontological and architectonic. In the first part of the article, I clarify the concept of habitus on the ground of its schematical constitution. Conceptualising habitus as a "psychosocial super-schema", I explore its embodied functioning in the light of cognitive metaphor theory. In the second part, I clarify the architecture of the mental as it emerges from the relationship Bourdieu theorizes between practical and reflexive knowledge. Here, I first stress that Bourdieu employs a dual architecture of mind marked by a peculiar reflexive double-opacity, and then I argue that Bourdieu's metacognitive claims fit the contemporary self-other parity accounts of self-knowledge. Finally, I claim that the unconscious functioning of habitus is consistent with a cognitivist theory of the unconscious.
Normative commitments to women’s rights remain uneven and contradictory in much of India. Yet, a range of actors intervene on women’s behalf when they experience abuse. Why do people help survivors of domestic violence? Using interview and ethnographic data from the state of West Bengal, this chapter delves into the motivations of those who work as brokers between women and the state. While they were not necessarily ideologically driven by their work, brokers did accrue significant cultural, social, symbolic, and economic capital by helping women. The author underscores how gender-based violence has become a site for capital accumulation, drawing people who may otherwise not be interested in advancing women’s claims into the business of rights.
This paper focuses on adolescents’ reading habits during the protracted lockdown (March 2020 - May 2021) due to COVID-19. Drawing on evidence from an online survey, several focus groups and semi-structured interviews with adolescents in Greece and Cyprus during the COVID-19 pandemic, this paper explores the extent to which reading books is still highly valued in adolescents’ lives and the degree to which this activity is related to adolescents’ advantageous familial and socio-economic background. Moreover, the paper examines whether reading should still be considered an activity that contributes to cultural reproduction in the digital era. This paper contributes to the examination of the often invisible mechanisms that originate from the family and produce socially stratified school underachievement that sustains social inequalities in contemporary Greek and Cypriot societies.