“Bourdieu's Work Hovers Incoherently Between Denying That Agency Exists and Treating It in Terms of Rational Choice Theory”. Discuss.

“Bourdieu’s work hovers incoherently between denying that agency exists and treating it in terms of rational choice theory”. Discuss.

The notion of the individual subject has been at the centre of many key debates within anthropological theories. It is important to ground Bourdieu’s work with a discussion of Durkheim in order to understand the context of the theoretical debates that have ensued with regards to the individual subject and agency. Durkheim tried to understand individuality by arguing against the Adam Smith approach, which emphasizes free-market ideology and maintains that individuals are able to choose freely, stating that individualism is not the starting point of society but the product of a particular type of society (i.e. liberalist Western society). Durkheim argues that there is no moral basis for a society based on individualism as he maintains that there is no such thing as individual, separate moral beings as morality only comes out through society which creates moral beings. This relates to Durkheim’s argument against Adam Smith’s notion of the freely choosing individual as Durkheim believes that division of labour is not just a technical or economic factor, it also involves society in a ‘deeper’ way as people are created through these processes. Thus, Durkheim goes against the idea of a closed-off individual by arguing that individuals are in fact made by our society. (Durkheim: 1964).
Similarly, Dumont’s work is important to the understanding of theories about the individual within anthropology. He explores the ‘ethnographic oddity’ that equality and freedom are categories linked with the individual, and of course although he does not deny that individuals exist, he aims to debunk individualism in order to understand that it is the product of a particular historical system. In “Homo Hierarchicus”, Dumont offers a comparative approach to modern ideology as he wants to understand the ideology of the caste system in India which contradicts...