Epistemological Tensions in Bourdieu’s Conception of Social Science

Simon Susen

DOI: https://doi.org/10.46938/tv.2011.58


This paper explores Pierre Bourdieu’s conception of social science. In particular, it aims to show that the common assumption that Bourdieu remains trapped in a positivist paradigm does not do justice to his multifaceted account of social science. In order to illustrate the complexity of Bourdieu’s conception of social science, this study scrutinises ten epistemological tensions which can be found in his writings on the nature of systematic forms of knowledge production. In view of these epistemological tensions, a more fine-grained picture emerges which demonstrates that Bourdieu compels us to reflect upon the complexity of the various tasks intrinsic to the pursuit of a critical social science. The paper concludes by discussing the limitations and shortcomings of the epistemological presuppositions that underpin Bourdieu’s reflexive sociology.


Bourdieu; epistemology; knowledge; philosophy of science; positivism; reflexive sociology; social science; sociology of knowledge

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TEORIE VĚDY / THEORY OF SCIENCE – journal for interdisciplinary studies of science is published twice a year by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Centre for Science, Technology, and Society Studies). ISSN 1210-0250 (Print) ISSN 1804-6347 (Online) MK ČR E 18677 web: http://teorievedy.flu.cas.cz /// email: teorievedy@flu.cas.cz