ManetA Symbolic Revolution
A Symbolic Revolution
Translated by Peter Collier and Margaret Rigaud-Drayton

What is a ‘symbolic revolution’? What happens when a symbolic revolutions occurs, how can it succeed and prevail and why is it so difficult to understand? Using the exemplary case of Édouard Manet, Pierre Bourdieu began to ponder these questions as early as the 1980s, before making it the focus of his lectures in his last years at the Collège de France. This volume of Bourdieu’s previously unpublished lectures provides his most sustained contribution to the sociology of art and the analysis of cultural fields. It is also a major contribution to our understanding of impressionism and the works of Manet. 

Bourdieu treats the paintings of Manet as so many challenges to the conservative academicism of the pompier painters, the populism of the Realists, the commercial eclecticism of genre painting, and even the ‘Impressionists’, showing that such a revolution is inseparable from the conditions that allow fields of cultural production to emerge. At a time when the Academy was in crisis and when the increase in the number of painters challenged the role of the state in defining artistic value, the break that Manet inaugurated revolutionised the aesthetic order. The new vision of the world that emerged from this upheaval still shapes our categories of perception and judgement today – the very categories that we use every day to understand the representations of the world and the world itself.

This major work by one of the greatest sociologists of the last 50 years will be welcomed by students and scholars in sociology, art history and the social sciences and humanities generally. It will also appeal to a wide readership interested in art, in impressionism and in the works of Manet.

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  • August 2017
  • 576 pages
  • 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $45.00
  • 9781509500093
Table of Contents


Editors’ Note

Translators’ Note

Lectures at the Collège de France 1998-1999: The Manet Effect

Lecture of 6 January 1999

Lecture objectives: the symbolic revolution that Manet started. Pompier painting. Parenthesis: a social problem and a sociological problem. State art and avant-garde academicism. The mock-revolution. Parenthesis on scientific populism. An impossible research programme: the space of criticism. From the familiar to the scandalous. A painting full of incongruity. The clash between the noble and the vulgar. The affinity between different hierarchies. ‘Realism/formalism’, a false dichotomy.

Lecture of 13 January 1999

Question on the revolution in art. The game of the educated guess (‘That makes me think of …’). Constructing the field of criticism. The effects of the work of art. The ‘intersubjective unconscious’. The intentionalist theory. Aesthetic transgression and solecisms. The rhetoric of euphemism and the effect of a title. The effects of composition. A symbolic bomb. The rationale of a painting. Using a painting within a painting to question painting. Intention and disposition.

Lecture of 20 January 1999

Reply to a question on dialectics. Transgressions of the ethical order. Manet and Monet. The academic eye. Dispositional theory. The philosophy of intention. Intention and disposition. When a habitus come into contact with a space of possibilities. The example of writers. Critique of the notion of sources. The hypothesis of coherence.

Lecture of 27 January 1999

Reflexive return to the previous lecture. Pre-constructed objects and technical impeccability. Epistemological breaks and social breaks. The theory of dispositions and scholastic bias. The philosophy of intention and the philosophy of disposition. Critique of genetic criticism. Critique of the iconographic tradition. The hermeneutic posture. Copies, parodies, and pastiches. A very strange exercise. Knowledge through the body.

Lecture of 3 February 1999

Replies to two misunderstandings. Of the right use of sources. Listening to a lecture. Internalists and Externalists. Youthful works and school exercises. The Intelligence of the Body. The structural conditions of creation. A total social fact. An institutional crisis. A formalist theory. Finishing with the ‘finish’ of the pompier painters.

Lecture of 10 February 1999

Return to a hasty reaction. Limits of the formalist approach. The illusio as metabelief. The trap of dichotomous logics. Questioning the academic system and the historicisation of the work of art. Social history of academic art. Studios as elite schools. Corps and field. The field of publishing.

Lecture of 17 February 1999

An academic art. Pompier art, aristocrats and nouveaux riches. The academic aesthetic. An integrated academic institution. Studios and rites of initiation. Portrait of a professor of the Beaux-Arts. On ragging. Consecration and the production of belief. A gradus ad parnassum. The Academy and academic painting. Technical and historical virtuosity. An aesthetic of readability. A ‘dehistoricised’ history. An aesthetic of the finished.

Lecture of 24 February 1999

Manet’s critics. Parenthesis on the line separating the private from the public. Life style and style of the works. The abolition of meaning. The heretics and the orthodox. Nomination. The struggle for monopoly. Exhibition and consecration. The transformation of the school system. The defence of the corps. A crisis of belief. Durkheim’s morphological model and its limits.

Lecture of 4 March 1999

External factors and the logic of fields: the surplus production of diplomas. The reproduction of differences. Disciplines and ‘refuge’ positions. The weakening of the state monopoly. The contribution of the public to the revolution. The sclerosis of the Salon and the generalised crisis of belief. A comparison of the artistic milieus of Paris and London. Manet and the Pre-Raphaelites. Manet seen by Mallarmé.

Lectures at the Collège de France 1999-2000: Foundations of a Dispositionalist Aesthetic

Lecture of 12 January 2000

Doubts and reflexivity. Birth of the artistic field. A commentary of Mallarmé’s text on Manet. A critique of criticism. The Zola-Manet-Mallarmé paradigm. The inconsistencies of Bar at the Folies-Bergère. Mallarmé on Manet. The structural homology between the artistic and religious fields. Belief and the return to the sources.

Lecture of 19 January 2000

Zola and Mallarmé. Formalism, materialism and symbolism. ‘Throwing yourself into the water’ as a philosophy of action. A practical aesthetic.

Lecture of 26 January 2000

A critical look at the previous lecture: the need for a double historicisation. A parenthesis on art criticism. Back to Mallarmé’s article. Framing to make cutouts out of the world. A new economy of production. When two histories meet.

Lecture of 2 February 2000

Summary of the previous lecture. Accounting for artistic forms: the infrastructure/superstructure model. Models of historical processes. The approach I take in this lecture: the habitus-field model. Manet and the challenge to analysis. Analytical method. Beyond the continuous/discontinuous alternative.

Breaks v continuity. The Salon des refusés of 1863. For a rational form of eclecticism. The Impressionist break with continuity (1): Impressionism foreshadowed. The Impressionist break with continuity (2): parody. The paradox of symbolic revolutionaries. Accounting for charisma. Technical factors. Morphological changes. Factors linked with demand. A multifactorial model. Specificity of the economy of symbolical goods.

Lecture of 16 February 2000

The artistic field. Social transformations and formal transformations. A parenthesis on being ‘economical’ with research. The ‘painter of modern life’. The fallacy of the short-circuit. The gaze in Manet’s work. The field as intermediary social space. Artist societies. A parenthesis on pseudo-concepts. Aesthetico-political attitudes and positions in the field of art. The field of criticism between the literary and the artistic fields. A revolution in the field of art.

Lecture of 23 February 2000

The production of belief. The usefulness of the notion of field. The field of criticism: its two dimensions. Portraits of critics. How the field of criticism operates. The principle of competence. When the notion of field guides the analysis. Manet, the subject and object of the artistic field.

Lecture of 1 March 2000

Mechanistic explanations and structural causality. Bodily hexis. Manet’s cleft habitus. Manet’s capital. The places where Manet accumulated social capital: 1) The Collège Rollin. 2) The salon of Commandant Lejosne. 3) The salon held by Manet’s wife. 4) The studio of Thomas Couture. 5) The Louvre Museum. 6) The cafés and their fashionable bohemian crowd. 7) Painters’ studios.

Lecture of 8 March 2000

A reminder on my approach. Art as a ‘pure practice without theory’. The author’s point of view and relationship to the public. An aesthetic of effects. Manet understood as a concrete individual. Form and content. The Manet effect. Foils and fulcrums. Analyses of Manet’s works.

Opus Infinitum: Genesis and Structure of a Work Without End (by Christophe Charle)

Manet the Heresiarch. Genesis of the Artistic and Critical Fields. (Unfinished Manuscript by Pierre and Mari-Christine Bourdieu)


Chapter 1: Pompier Art as an Academic Universal

Chapter 2: The Crisis in the Academic Institution

Chapter 3: Break and Continuity

Chapter 4: The Field of Criticism and the Artistic Field

Chapter 5: The Heresiarch and Co.

Chapter 6: Manet's Aesthetics


Self-Portrait as a Free Artist: or ‘I Don't Know Why I Am Telling You That’ (by Pascale Casanova)

Summaries of the Lectures Published in L'Annuaire du Collège De France


About the Author

Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) was one of the most influential sociologists and anthropologists of the late twentieth century. He was Professor of Sociology at the Collège de France and Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Science Sociales. His many works include Outline of a Theory of Practice, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, The Rules of Art, The Logic of Practice and Pascalian Meditations.

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