ABSTRACT

Introduction Arguably, Bourdieu’s work was primarily directed against rational action theory, “paradigmatic form of the scholastic illusion” (Bourdieu 2000b trans. Turner 2005: 7), derived from mainstream economic theories, in that it created an “anthropological monster, this theoretically minded man of practice” (Ibid.: 209), the homo economicus. Such “scholastic illusion” consisted of putting in the decision-maker’s mind the models elaborated by the scientist in order to account for her behaviour: “the scientific subject, endowed with a perfect knowledge of causes and probable outcome, is projected into the active agent” (Ibid.: 213). Bourdieu endorsed an “applied rationalism” (Bourdieu et al. 1968 trans. Nice 1991), which led him to make a plea for some form of realism that would not take at face value what people think of themselves. His whole theoretical enterprise revolved around avoiding those twin pitfalls, the “illusion of immediate knowledge” (Ibid.: 15) and the “scholastic illusion”, a will that gave rise to the concept of habitus, i.e. the implementation of a “practical sense” by individuals in their everyday behaviour. Therefore, it should not be surprising that he kept on castigating neoliberalism and mainstream economics throughout his life, in his public statements as well as in his scientific stances. For Keynes alike, mainstream economics’ main loophole was a blatant lack of realism. In The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (hereafter, GT), he forcefully put forth that “the tacit assumptions (of the classical theory) are seldom or never satisfied, with the result that it cannot solve the economic problems of the actual world”. The main contribution to what has been called the “Keynesian revolution” in economic thought was the focus on actual expectations and individual decision-making. Such focus departed from an extensive use of mathematical modelling. In fact, as early as in the book derived from his doctoral dissertation, the Treatise on Probability (hereafter, TP), he kept on chastising the “mathematical charlatanry” (TP: 401) of those who use probability calculus as a guide of conduct. In the GT, he added: “Too large a proportion of recent ‘mathematical’ economics are merely concoctions . . . which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols” (298). Would

Keynes still be alive today, he would heap fierce criticisms on the rational action theory and all its derivatives. Both authors strongly reject rational action theories. Both focus on “everyday reasoning”, “common sense” (Keynes) and “practical sense” (Bourdieu). Both were “political animals”. Thus, this chapter aims at exploring the theoretical links between Keynes and Bourdieu on rationality, decisionmaking and action, with a view to laying, if possible, unified foundations for future research. In order to unite these theories, we should be certain, first, of their high compatibility, beyond the few elements contained in the introduction. Such enterprise is necessary because mainstream models have long been accused of being conspicuously flawed. The homo economicus desperately lacks sociological depth. On the face of it, one would be tempted to ascribe the analysis of conventions and non-rational behaviour to Bourdieu, while attributing the explanation of the specific economic rationale and the speculation motive to Keynes. But things might not be that simple. Both theories may supplement one another in a more subtle way. This chapter will hinge around four headings: 1) the little use of probability calculus; 2) the end of body/soul and rational/irrational dichotomies; 3) the sensibleness of expectations (instead of their rationality); 4) the possible deepening and underpinning of animal spirits by habitus, and vice versa.