Bourdieu and Collins on the Reproduction of Elites – Thesis Eleven – article

Bourdieu and Collins on the Reproduction of Elites

Steven Loyal | Thesis Eleven

2019-10-22

In this paper I compare and contrast the reproduction of elite strata in Randall Collins’s path-breaking book, The Credential Society (1979), with Pierre Bourdieu’s important discussion found in The State Nobility (1996). Although both approaches draw on Weber and Durkheim, focus on the interaction between material and cultural processes, subscribe to a relational form of analysis, and share a similar political world-view – social democrat and radical republican respectively – they also differ. These differences relate to their respective philosophical anthropology, the nature of their long-term analysis, the different contexts within which their work emerged – Algeria and the post-war constellation and early Cold War period – and the divergent nature of the broader substantive sociological problems they are engaged with. In terms of their dissimilarities, not only is each approach useful for criticizing the other, but it will be argued that these divergences need to be synthesized into a broader, more powerful explanatory theory.

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