Tag Archives: Language and Symbolic Power

‘the stylization of life’

“The fact remains that social agents, being capable of perceiving as significant distinctions the ‘spontaneous’ differences that their categories of perception lead them to consider as pertinent, are also capable of intentionally underscoring these spontaneous differences in life-style by what Weber calls ‘the stylization of life’ (Stilisierung des Lebens).” (Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, pp. 237-238)

avoiding the nominalism-realism alternative

“Thus, contrary to the nominalist relativism which cancels out social differences by reducing them to pure theoretical artefacts, we have to affirm the existence of an objective space determining compatibilities and incompatibilities, proximities and distances. Contrary to the realism of the intelligible (or the reification of concepts), we have to affirm that the classes which can be carved out of the social space (for instance, for the purposes of statistical analysis, which is the sole means of demonstrating the structure of the social space) do not exist as real groups, although they explain the probability of individuals constituting themselves as practical groups, families (homogamy), clubs, associations and even trade-union or political ‘movements’. What exists is a space of relations which is just as real as a geographical space, in which movements have to be paid for by labour, by effort and especially by time (to move upwards is to raise oneself, to climb and to bear the traces or the stigmata of that effort).” (Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, p. 232)

avoiding the objectivist-subjectivist alternative

“To grasp at one and the same time what is instituted (without forgetting that it is only a question of the outcome, at a given point in time, of the struggle to bring something into existence or to force out of existence something that already exists) and representations, performative statements which seek to bring about what they state, to restore at one and the same time the objective structures and the subjective relation to those structures, starting with the claim to transform them: this is to give oneself the means of explaining ‘reality’ more completely, and thus of understanding and forseeing more exactly the potentialities it contains or, more precisely, the chances it objectively offers to different subjective demands.” (Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, pp. 224-225)


“There is a political space, there is a religious space, etc.: I call each of these a field, that is, an autonomous universe, a kind of arena in which people play a game which has certain rules, rules which are different from those of the game that is played in the adjacent space. The people who are involved in the game have, as such, specific interests, interests which are not defined by their mandators. The political space has a left and a right, it has its dominant and its dominated agents; the social space also has its dominant and its dominated, the rich and the poor; and these two spaces correspond.” (Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, p. 215)

oracle effect

“The move from the indicative to the imperative — Durkheim’s followers had sensed this very clearly when they tried to ground a morality on the science of mores — presupposes a move from the individual to the collective, the principle of all recognized or recognizable contraint. The oracle effect, a limiting form of performativity, is what enables the authorized spokesperson to take his authority from the group which authorizes him in order to exercise recognized constraint, symbolic violence, on each of the isolated members of the group.” (Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, p. 212)


“The more people are dispossessed, especially culturally, the more constrained and inclined they are to rely on delegates in order to acquire a political voice. In fact, isolated, silent, voiceless individuals, without either the capacity or the power of making themselves heard and understood, are faced with the alternative of keeping quiet or of being spoken for by someone else.” (Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, p. 206)


“The extreme caution which defines the accomplished politician, and which can be measured in particular by the high degree of euphemization of his discourse, can doubtless be explained by the extreme vulnerability of political capital, which means that the politician’s trade is a high-risk profession, especially in periods of crisis when, as can be seen in the case of de Gaulle and Pétain, small differences in the dispositions and values involved may be the source of totally incompatible choices.” (Bourdieu, Language and Symbolic Power, p. 281)