Jean-Claude Passeron articulated his defence of an historical approach to the analysis of social science concepts in Le raisonnement sociologique in direct opposition to the position announced by R.K. Merton:
“C’est le role heuristique du passé théorique, présent directement ou allusivement dans les parties les plus vivantes du lexique sociologique, qui rend inopérante la distinction mertonienne entre ‘théorie sociologique valable actuellement’ et ‘histoire des théories’ » (Passeron, 2006, 107)
Much has been written about the rediscovery of Hegelian philosophy in France in the 1930s and 1940s, focusing on the work of Kojève, Koyré, and, most importantly, Hyppolite. This has led to interest in Althusser’s argument against the academicisation of Hegelianism (in “Le retour à Hegel. Dernier mot du révisionnisme universitaire”, 1950, Althusser 1994, 251-268) and in his attempt to interpret the relationship between the thought of Marx and Hegel in such a way as to ground Marxism as science rather than philosophy and to deploy this science as the foundation for the political agenda of the Parti Communiste Français. His position as caïman at the Ecole Normale Supérieure from 1949 enabled him to keep these questions on the agenda for the new generation of entrants to the Ecole at the beginning of the 1950s, including Foucault, Derrida, and Bourdieu. Relatively less has been written about the reception in the same period in France of the work of Edmund Husserl, and this has led to some misunderstanding of the subsequent development of relations between philosophy and sociology. The purpose of this article is to follow Passeron’s cue by seeking to situate historically, rather than abstractly, the development of Bourdieu’s thought and practice in relation to the legacy of Husserlian phenomenology. In doing so, it will suggest that Bourdieu’s outlook on politics, which Wacquant has characterised as ‘sociologically political’ (Wacquant, 2005, 1) and which advocated ‘socio-analytic encounter’ and engagement with new social movements, should be understood as one which is grounded in ‘inter-subjectivity’ as advanced in the phenomenological approach to philosophical practice rather more than in reflexively empirical ‘sociology’.