Vive la (Sexual) Révolution: The political roots of Bourdieu's analysis of gender

Gad Yair*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper argues that the French Revolution constituted the basic metaphor through which Pierre Bourdieu perceived and analyzed gender hierarchies; that the class structure of the ancien régime and the mechanisms of its legitimation were the major metaphors he used through his scathing critiques on the order of the sexes; and that the ideals of liberté, égalité and fraternité were always his reformatory aims for a just, gender-neutral society. The paper shows how this preoccupation with the Revolution of 1789 structured Bourdieu's analysis of gender relations and sexual identities in contemporary society. It exposes the ways in which he identified men with the nobility and women with the third estate; it presents his analyses of the role that traditional ideologies and state bureaucracies play in legitimating this arbitrary order of masculine domination; and it analyzes his proposals for a sexual revolution while exposing the counter-revolutionary forces that persistently negate attempts to reform gender hierarchies. Fundamentally, this new reading of Bourdieu's exegeses on gender suggests that he was working with a ready-made interpretive scheme, a model of society that he was inclined to see as always reproducing itself: the ancien régime.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)388-407
Number of pages20
JournalSociological Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2008


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