To Pierre Bourdieu (first letter)

Dear Sir,
Some people believe they’ve really known you. You can seem like an immortal film star claimed by lacking proles. They identify strongly. They want you to be true.
I’ve felt this way too. I’ve even imagined you as a child:
You stare out of your family’s apartment window. Did you grow up in a house? You watch your father walk from the bus stop to the front of your building. His mailbag is light — empty after a hard day’s work. He’ll be home now until tomorrow. Before he makes it up the elevator and through the door you revisit a favorite passage from Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks: “All men are intellectuals [...] but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals.”
You mutter and women as you reach the middle of the sentence. You watch your tired Dad hang up his uniform. You long for the good work you’ll do in future.
Some say you wouldn’t have detractors if you’d been less conventionally handsome.
There’s that issue of institutional privilege too. Can you speak truth to power from the inside? How concretely “organic” could your efforts possibly be? How could you avoid enabling a diffusion of collective consciousness, an acculturation of dissent and the perpetuation of your professional sphere? Did you contribute, in the end, to the reification of human experience with your sociological expertise and public platform — your cultural and symbolic capital?
Did you ever return to Guy Debord’s condemnations of society after your career path was firmly established — those sweeping statements you first heard in youth (I’m imagining again) through the stale air and empty seats of a shabby Left Bank cinema that no longer exists? Did you start taking them personally?
“The movie-going public, which has never been very bourgeois and which is scarcely any longer working-class, is now recruited almost entirely from a single stratum of low-level skilled employees in the various “service” occupations that are so necessary to the present production system: management, control, maintenance, research, teaching, propaganda, entertainment, and pseudocritique.”
It’s as if your desire for transparency — your outline of a theory of practice — slipped out of the cinema while you calmly remained in your seat (or maybe on screen?) — as if you were able to stick-it-to-the-man by remote control. The force of your unremittingly reflexive sociology has blown apart the self-interested protections of even your own chosen specialization — of all fields everywhere. Now each must operate with the lights on and the projector turned off. Anti-depressant medications are flying off the shelves.
You have inhabited Gramsci’s vision of a transitional modernity: “The old world is dying away, and the new world struggles to come forth: now is the time of monsters.”
Your work haunts a future-past of pragmatic immorality — an undead role for the ages.
jeremy