Agent Provocateur


The French social theorist Pierre Bourdieu is now recognised as a leading intellectual of the late twentieth-century, and one whose ideas are very much relevant for the twenty-first.

This comprehensive account of Bourdieu’s life and work locates both in their social and political context, thereby tracing the origins of his ideas and theories. It explains and explores just what Bourdieu argued for and why.     It also illustrates the social, political and philosophical strands that run through his work. Michael Grenfell’s broad scope takes in Bourdieu’s response to The Algerian Crisis, his ideas for the reform of state education and his views on aesthetics and the mass media. Detailed attention is also paid to Bourdieu’s overtly political stance, including his critique of capitalism and his opposition to recent Western military action in Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

This book offers a reading of Bourdieu’s work as a coherent and valuable response to those key social and political issues, events and trends that combined to shape contemporary society. The implications and consequences of his work are laid out and assessed, along with suggestions for where his ideas might be taken from here. This is the clearest and most thorough account of Bourdieu’s work available; as such, it will be invaluable to students, researchers and teachers of contemporary social theory.

MICHAEL GRENFELL: former 1905 Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Trinity College, University of Dublin. He is a recognised authority on Bourdieu. He knew Bourdieu from the early 1980s onwards, and has published a number of books on Bourdieu and education.