Articles | Volume 69, issue 1
Standard article
03 Apr 2014
Standard article |  | 03 Apr 2014

Transforming Bourdieu's "perfect" economy of symbolic goods into an imperfect one – The moral grounding of water transfers in Khartoum

S. Zug

Abstract. Pierre Bourdieu conceptualizes social action as "instrumental rational". Disinterestedness is only possible as part of an actor's practical logic when the said actor actively or passively misrecognizes underlying interests. In the "logic of logic", this perceived disinterestedness can and must be scientifically reconstructed as a pure economic exchange. Reason-based morality, such as can be found in Kantian philosophy, becomes impossible, and morality becomes an ignored category in Bourdieu's theoretical endeavour. This article's first goal is to locate Bourdieu's approach within moral philosophy, through parallels to Gauthier's Morals by Agreement. An empirical case on water transfers between neighbours in Khartoum reveals the limits of such an approach. This leads to the second goal. By translating Bourdieu's perfect "economy of symbolic goods" into an imperfect one, reason-based morality is integrated into his project, and the relevance of interest for social interaction is curbed, but not denied.