One of the factors most consistently emphasized and cited as a distinguishing characteristic of PB's metatheory is "time." It is not just the momentary coordinates but also the evolution over time of the coordinates of the volume and structure of capital that shape the strategies used by a game player in his position in social space. Interfield relations change over time and must be continually re-investigated. Fields necessarily involve struggle and historicity while the notion of apparatus (Luhmann, Althusser) is static and excises the temporal dimension. PB goes so far as to say, "Practical activity . . . engendered by a habitus. . . is an act of temporalization through which the agent transcends the immediate present via practical mobilization of the past and practical anticipation of the future inscribed in the present in a state of objective potentiality" (138). Perhaps most important for our understanding of the terms at the heart of this week's readings is the linking of habitus and field through the temporal dimension, as "two modes of existence of history" (138), or better yet, "two realizations of historical action" (126).
Asserting that "the proper object of social science, then, is neither the individual. . . nor groups. . . but the relation between two realizations of historical action, in bodies and in things" (126), i.e., habitus and field, PB identifies the "double and obscure relation" between habitus and field as comprising "conditioning" and "cognitive construction." Conditioning occurs as the field structures the habitus, while the habitus constructs or constitutes the field as a meaningful world. Although I buy this at some level, I have many difficulties. I am unable to see how the (valuable) "endless to and fro movement" appearing both in the act of analysis and as an essential feature of the things being analyzed both here (field and habitus) and elsewhere (agents' positions and field p.107, capital and field p.108) differs essentially from the charges of circularity often raised against PB. Additionally, the use of both "construction" and "cognitive" (suggesting consciousness) here seems to be not completely consistent with points made elsewhere in the excerpts, particularly the assertion that the habitus "emphasizes that this work (of construction) has nothing in common with intellectual work, that it consists of an activity of practical construction, even of practical reflection, that ordinary notions of thought, consciousness, knowledge prevent us from adequately thinking"(121).
Answers to some of our recent questions lurk in these passages. Although PB fairly consistently characterizes habitus and social agents as "reasonable" rather than "rational," he does admit that habitus does not "rule out strategic choice and conscious deliberation." He suggests that this is an exception, occurring in times of crisis or during a disruption of familiar structures. Plunging us back into the conscious-unconscious debate, or transcendence thereof, he asserts, "The lines of action suggested by habitus may very well be accompanied by a strategic calculation of costs and benefits, which tends to carry out at a conscious level the operations that habitus carries out in its own way" (131). Habitus can seem to transcend the dualism if its continual presence, always humming along doing its job, is a feature more crucial than the specific nature of its manifestation (conscious or unconscious).
Despite his intention of transcendence, PB later voluntarily relies on the very terms and concepts of the conscious-unconscious dualism, entangling them with the subject-agent dichotomy in an attempt to identify the particular place of determinism in his metatheory. Having earlier described the agent as "neither a subject or a consciousness" (128), he asserts, "agents become something like "subjects" only to the extent that they consciously master the relation they entertain with their dispositions" (137), they can deliberately allow those dispositions to operate or choose to inhibit them through conscious effort. Is this relationship between an individual agent and his socially- or field- influenced habitus a convincing alternative to rational action theory and/or determinism in its more typical forms? Is there an essential difference between an agent and a habitus other than that of tangibility? Considering the implications of all the references to consciousness which I have cited so far, how can consciousness fall both inside and outside the realm of habitus, or how can habitus fall both inside and outside the realm of consciousness?
PB teasingly dangles "biology" in front of us several times in these excerpts. Regarding earlier questions raised in class along these lines, he seems to use "biology" or the "biological individual" to denote that which is socialized, what exists prior to socialization. I would assert that for PB there is nothing that is pre-social, as height, skin color, weight, etc., all have immediate social implications in the eyes of others. Because of this very fact, could these biological or physical characteristics not be construed as a species of capital? What is the difference between inheriting money, the name "Kennedy", and the generous height that is a prerequisite to certain professions? While these forms of capital do not require the labor-time of the inheritor, they do require the labor-time (no pun intended) of his predecessors.
To ease the pain of this last suggestion, I would conclude on the relatively dull note that much of the discussion contained in these excerpts clearly emphasizes the high probability of reproduction and the rarity of transformation.
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