Slow days are not necessarily bad days… at least when you do not have any deadlines and can ‘invest’ time in reading theory

Today has certainly been slow. I did not sleep well last night, partly due to the weather and possibly eating at funny times. Instead of that great feeling of total unconsciousness I spent the night partly alert with this sense of anticipation (although I could not quite get a handle on what I was anticipating). Yesterday was not particularly mind blowing. I did a bit of reading, got some stuff from the library and spent much of the second half of the day at my desk at uni probably pulling rather funny faces while I tried to decide what to leave out of my project, tried to will a concise and punchy aim into existence and went out for drinks. The highlight of the (non-drinks part of the) day was reading most of an article by Bourdieu ( it is an amazing translation by Wacquant as well)

I like this article because it presents a great argument for one of my favourite lenses for looking at the world, that classifications matter (Bourdieu 1989). He sets up a contrast between the objectivist position – the social is an object and we need to to the causes beyond consciousness to understand it – which he sees as covering Durkehim and Marx’s work, and the subjectivist vision that, “… the constructs of the social sciences are, so to speak, constructs of the second degree, that is, constructs of the constructs made by actors on the social scene,” (15- citing Schutz 1962: 59). Bourdieu points out that what can be seen as the objectively real in the social are the relations between things. The groups he describes need not be ‘real’, but it is the case that some people end up being exposed to similar conditionings through occupying similar positions in social space (17). Habitus, ‘the mental structures through which they apprehend the social world, are essentially the product of the internalization of the structures of that world.’ and therefore the social world can be perceived as natural (18). The vagueness and elasticity of objects is articulated (20), and I would like to Bourdieu’s work where he discusses this more extensively and compare it with Cohen’s The Symbolic Construction of Community. However, I think the most relevant aspect of this article for me this week is,

‘To change the world, one has to change the ways of world-making, … The power to impose upon other minds a vision, old or new, of social divisions depends on the social authority acquired in previous struggles. … Obviously, the construction of groups cannot be a construction ex nihilo.It has all the more chance of succeeding the more it is founded in reality, … We can thus, I hope, better understand what is at stake in the struggle over the existence or non-existence of classes. The struggle over classifications is a fundamental dimension of class struggle.’ (23)

Bourdieu, P. 1989. Social space and symbolic power. Sociological theory 7:14-25.

Cohen, A. P. 1985. The symbolic construction of community. Key ideas. Chichester, London & New York: E. Horwood ; Tavistock Publications.


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