Loïc Wacquant

Symbolic Power and Group-making: On Pierre Bourdieu's Reframing of Class

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Bourdieu; class; classification; relationalism; group-making.

Pierre Bourdieu's recasting of the question of class exemplifies the major features of his sociology and the way he extends, melds and mends classical views into a distinctive framework. Bourdieu's approach is relational, agonistic, and synthetic; it spotlights the symbolic dimension of group formation as practical achievement while fusing theory and research; and it introduces multiple correspondance analysis as a statistical technique suited to grasping constellations of multiple capitals. Bourdieu reformulates the problem of domination by questioning the ontological status of collectives and by forging tools for elucidating the politics of group-making: the sociosymbolic alchemy whereby a mental construct is turned into a historical reality through the inculcation of schemata of perception and their deployment to draw, enforce, or contest social boundaries. The article traces the impetus behind the key conceptual shifts Bourdieu effects, from class structure to social space, from class consciousness to habitus, from ideology to symbolic violence, and from ruling class to field of power. It also points to recent studies that have tried, tested, and refined the core tenets of his model as well as offers a bibliography of Bourdieu's publications on class documenting a twofold empirical and analytic shift towards a sociology of the realization of categories that spotlights the constitutive power of symbolic structures.

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