This blog will now go into hibernation for three weeks while I prepare for the summer school in Cusco. I apologize in advance for my failure to handle replies in a timely manner.
In the meantime, readers who are curious about the author’s motivations for writing the book and who understand French will find a few clues in Michel Onfray’s radio homage to Pierre Bourdieu, broadcast yesterday on France Culture. Onfray — whom I normally would not recommend! — is a former high school philosophy teacher who has won a huge and enthusiastic following as an author, as host of a regular series of programs on French national radio featuring an “anti-history” of philosophy, and as the creator of a People’s University (Université Populaire) in Caen. His “anti-history” often tends to the scurrilous and demagogic and his research is (to say the least) not always reliable. Not everyone appreciates his work! However, his account of Bourdieu’s paradoxical situation, as one of the most eminent representatives of the elitist educational system whose inner workings he dissected mercilessly, is quite enlightening. So is his roster of the family backgrounds of the leading French philosophers of the May 68 period; if the list is accurate (I haven’t checked), all of them — with the sole exception of Bourdieu — grew up comfortably within the system.
While Mathematics without Apologies includes only a few passing references to Bourdieu — especially in connection with the term charisma, which is borrowed from his work as much as from Weber — his influence on the book is more diffuse and pervasive. Onfray’s description of a Bourdieu who was systematically reviled and denigrated by the press and decision-makers is overstated, but there’s no denying that he genuinely remained an outsider even as he enjoyed the privileges and authority of position as professor at the Collège de France, the summit of French academia.