Bourdieuian remixes- Part 1

Dina Bowman does Sen and Bourdieu- Brotherhood of St Laurence lunchtime seminar style

Sometimes I go along to the BSL lunchtime seminars. I am trying to get my head around what is happening in applied social policy research in Victoria, especially when it comes to place based initiatives. On Thursday I walked out after Dina Bowman’s talk a little amused that people who do not look that old could have gone through uni and missed out on hearing about Bourdieu altogether, but mostly excited to chase down more of Bowman’s work.

Paul Smyth gave the introduction. Smyth offered some quick praise for the BSL’s ability to help reframe policy debates in his introduction, Bowman started by clarifying that her paper was based on her position – not necessarily the BSL’s, and then Smyth provided a concluding comment that Amartya Sen‘s work has been the ‘unthinkable’ when he first came to the BSL. Not everybody thought Bowman’s talk made as much sense as I did. The lady sitting next to me provided a stage whisper at one point of, ‘If you’re a Marxist!’

Basically Bowman suggested that theoretical frameworks matter, not just to provide accounts of ‘the how and the way’, but because they help limit or extend what is thinkable and sayable. I think Bowman was suggesting that in a sector where Sen’s capability approach has been so influential it makes sense that unemployment is understood to result in more harm than just financial hardship. However, it is when you extend your thinking beyond a focus on economics to instead focus on power, taken for granted common sense and misrecognition, such as through using the work of Bourdieu, suddenly new things become thinkable and sayable. The data that Bowman put forward to demonstrate the value in such an approach included comments from people who had come in contact with the unemployment system. These comments highlighted how some people had internalised the self-improvement and getting ahead ideals, which lead to a largely internalised struggle as they could not understand why they could not achieve what they thought they should.

I know that Bourdieu is not going to be the answer for everything, but it is so helpful for my peace of mind to have found that somebody with a career is suggesting that maybe there is a lot that is not being written about, said, or even thought about in Australian social policy at the moment.

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One Response to “Bourdieuian remixes- Part 1”

  1. Tracey Says:

    I just found a written report which looks like a later version of this paper
    http://www.bsl.org.au/pdfs/Bowman_Sen_and_Bourdieu_understanding_inequality_2010.pdf

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