Sociology is a Martial Art: (La Sociologie est un sport de combat)

I often say sociology is a martial art, a means of self-defense. Basically, you use it to defend yourself, without having the right to use if for unfair attacks. Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre's Bourdieu's forty books and countless articles represent probably the most brilliant and fruitful renovation and application of social science in our era. The highly influential, at times controversial intellectual--a longtime Professor of Sociology at the College de France--passed away in January 2002.

A "committed" thinker in the vein of Foucault, his work is concerned with elucidating the processes of symbolic violence and cultural domination in various areas of social life. His most well known book, Distinction (1979), addressed these themes in an effort to overcome the opposition of objectivist (Marxist) and subjectivist (Weberian) theories of class.

In the late nineties he became something of a celebrity scholar, one of the world's most important academics actively associated with the anti-globalization movement. Bourdieu himself argued that scholars and writers could and should bring their specialized knowledge to bear on social and political issues. His powerful critiques of the neoliberal revolution were the natural outgrowth of a lifetime of research into economic, social and cultural class domination among peoples as disparate as Algerian peasants and French professors, and as expressed in everything from amateur photography to posture.

SOCIOLOGY IS A MARTIAL ART, a new documentary about Bourdieu's life, became an unexpected hit in France just prior to his death. Filmed over three years, director Pierre Carles' camera follows Bourdieu as he lectures, attends political rallies, travels, meets with his students, staff, and research team in Paris, and includes Bourdieu having a conversation with Günter Grass.

The film's very title stresses the degree of Bourdieu's political engagement. He took on the mantle of Emile Zola and Jean-Paul Sartre in French public life, slugging it out with politicians because he considered those lucky enough to have spent their lives studying the social world could not be indifferent to the struggle for justice.

"The finest documentary a social scientist could ever dream of…While discovering this fascinating man and his strong personality, we can understand how and why Bourdieu became the most famous French sociologist of the second half of the 20th century, and the most quoted social scientist on the Internet. [The film is] a vital documentary that should be part of every college or university library. It will be easily comprehensible to undergraduate students, and quite useful in various courses in social sciences."—International Sociology

"A seminal work."—Leonardo Reviews

"The perfect representation of Bourdieu… The various contexts of action it captures are essential for understanding the person and his activities. Extremely valuable…not only does the viewer receive clarification about certain concepts of his and their social and political implications, but also clarification in the portrayal of his work's process."—Teaching Sociology

"Compelling! Truly moving."—Cineaste

"If you are interested in European social movements, the practice of sociology, a strong critique of neoliberalism and the sources of structural inequalities, then this documentary is for you… If there is a central theme to this documentary it is precisely this: intellectualism is a practice, reflexive, engaging, informative, insightful, and critical. All characteristics exemplified in this tour de force."—Film & History

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Annie Gonzalez and Veronique Fregosi
Pierre Carles


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