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Tempo Social

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PETERS, Gabriel. The social between heaven and hell: Pierre Bourdieu's philosophical anthropology. Tempo soc. [online]. 2012, vol.24, n.1, pp.229-262. ISSN 0103-2070.

Many authors have argued that any social-scientific study of specific modalities of human action and experience in society depends on some form of "philosophical anthropology", i.e, on a set of general presuppositions on "what it is to be a human agent" (Taylor) without which the very diagnosis of the historical and cultural variability of concrete agents' practices would become impossible. Bourdieu was sensitive to that thesis and, especially in the later phase of his career, attempted to make explicit that his historical-sociological investigations were founded upon, and the same time contributed to elaborate, an 'idea of "Man"'. The article retraces Bourdieu's path towards this philosophical anthropology, starting with his genetic sociology of symbolic power, conceived as a form of critical theory (latu sensu), and concluding with an account of the human condition in which recognition ("symbolic capital") appears as both the fundamental existential goal through which individuals attempt to obtain meaning to their lives and the source of the endless symbolic competition that keeps social life moving. The agonistic vision of the social universe that grounds his sociological studies returns in his philosophical anthropology under the guise of a singular synthesis between Durkheim's idea that 'Society is God' and Sartre's thesis that 'hell is other people'.

Keywords : Pierre Bourdieu; Philosophical anthropology; Symbolic capital; Field; Recognition; Meaning of existence.

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