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11 - Suffering/symbolic violence

from PART IV - FIELD CONDITIONS

J. Daniel Schubert
Affiliation:
Dickinson University
Michael Grenfell
Affiliation:
Trinity College Dublin
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Summary

The names which construct social reality as much as they express it are the crucial stakes of political struggle.

Pierre Bourdieu (1994d: 134)

Introduction

We can say that Pierre Bourdieu was preoccupied with how societies work throughout his career. The concepts he developed, such as habitus, field and cultural capital, have had tremendous heuristic and ontological value for those who study society. While I do address how societies function in this chapter, the emphasis here is on what Bourdieu implicitly tells us about why we should bother studying society at all. According to Bourdieu, contemporary social hierarchies and social inequality, as well as the suffering that they cause, are produced and maintained less by physical force than by forms of symbolic domination. He refers to the results of such domination as symbolic violence. Although explicit reference to such violence is not present in all of Bourdieu's publications, I follow Loïc Wacquant (Bourdieu & Wacquant 1992a: 15; Bourdieu 2005b: 133) in arguing that the concept informs his entire body of work. In fact, the notion of symbolic violence follows on, and is a consequence of, his understanding of language. He sees language as “an instrument of power and action” as much as communication (see Eagleton, in Bourdieu and Eagleton 1992e: 111). Language itself is a form of domination. I argue that while symbolic domination may be seen to have played part in all social formations, it is becoming more and more significant in contemporary, advanced capitalist societies.

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Chapter
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Pierre Bourdieu
Key Concepts
, pp. 179 - 194
Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2012

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