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Bourdieu and Foucault on power and modernity

Ciaran Cronin Philosophy Social Criticism 1996 22: 55 DOI: 10.1177/019145379602200603 The online version of this article can be found at:

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Ciaran Cronin

Bourdieu and Foucault power and modernity


Abstract Foucaults theory of disciplinary power and Bourdieus theory of symbolic power are among the most innovative attempts in recent social thought to come to terms with the increasingly elusive character of power in modern society. Both theories are based on critiques of subject-centered analyses of power and offer original accounts of modern social institutions. But Foucaults critique of the subject is so radical that it makes it impossible to identify any determinate social location of the exercise of power or of resistance to its operations. Bourdieus theory of practice in terms of the symbolically mediated interaction between the habitus and social structure avoids these problems by connecting relations of domination both to identifiable social agents and to the institutions of the modern state. However, Bourdieus strategic model of social action remains too narrow to allow for the possibility of autonomous agency and an emancipatory political praxis. The theory of symbolic power must be supplemented by a normative conception of practical reason if its emancipatory potential is to be realized.

Key words

agency · habitus ·

modernity · power ·


crises of legitimation besetting advanced capitalist sodue in part to the fact that operations of power have become detached from recognizable structures of political responsibility and accountability. It is not just that the institutions of representative democracy are increasingly circumvented by decentered, desubjectified and diffuse forms of power; these very institutions and the discourses of legitimation on which they are based seem to function as instruments of impersonal forms of power that resist straightforward cieties

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and escape political control. Part of our predicament is that lack an appropriate conceptual framework for analyzing how power functions in modern society. The extraordinary resonance of Michel Foucaults genealogy of power is undoubtedly due to the fact that it promises to show us a way out of this predicament by challenging some of our most deeply held philosophical and empirical assumptions concerning modern social and political institutions and their history. Taking his orientation from Nietzsches conception of genealogy, Foucault argues that modern power can no longer be understood as something invested in subjects who exercise it over others with the sanction of right or law; on the contrary, since the 19th century power has increasingly operated through impersonal mechanisms of bodily discipline that escape the consciousness and will of individual and collective social agents. Foucaults originality consists in his attempt to combine a relational analysis of power in terms of ceaseless social struggles with a theory of modernization as the emergence of a complex of disciplinary institutions which make possible the production of new forms of scientific knowledge concerning subjects. But as I will argue in the first part of this paper the reception of Foucaults genealogical studies suggests that his critique of subjectcentered notions of power is so radical that it becomes impossible to identify any social location of the exercise of power or of resistance to power, and his notion of the disciplinary society is too monolithic to account for the diverse forms that power assumes in modern societies. In the main body of the paper I will argue that Pierre Bourdieus theory of symbolic power shares some of Foucaults most valuable orientations, most notably his scepticism concerning subjectivistic theories of action and his emphasis on the role of bodily practices in mediating relations of domination. But Bourdieu avoids the problems that beset Foucaults theory of disciplinary power by according a central explanatory role to a substantive conception of the subject as both essentially embodied and socially constituted. Bourdieus theory of practice in terms of the interaction between the habitus, the set of symbolically structured and socially inculcated dispositions of individual agents, and social fields structured by symbolically mediated relations of domination offers a more empirically sensitive analytical framework for decoding impersonal operations of power than does Foucaults theory of disciplinary power. Thus the theory of symbolic power provides powerful analytical tools for understanding our contemporary situation and for orienting resistance to relations of domination. But, in conclusion, I will argue that Bourdieus tendency to analyze social interaction exclusively on the model of strategic conflict undermines the critical potential of his theory of practice and of



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modernization. It must be supplemented by a normative account of discursively mediated consensual action if it is to provide effective orientation for an emancipatory political praxis.


genealogy of power and the disciplinary society

genealogy of power and the modern subject combines an original philosophical conceptualization of power with a revisionist account of the genesis of modern society. These tasks are essentially interconnected in Foucaults conception of genealogy, for a rigorously nominalistic approach to history that emphasizes the lowliness of historical origins, the discontinuity of events, and the contingency of identities subject to endless dissolution and reconfiguration, is the discipline of thought by which metaphysical notions of originary meanings, enduring essences and an objective teleology in history can be overcome.2 Thus Foucaults philosophy of power and his history of the genesis of modern social institutions and the modern subject are two integral parts of a single enterprise which aims at a thoroughgoing transformation of our understanding of ourselves and of the modern world. While it is impossible to do justice to the complexity of Foucaults genealogical works in a brief discussion, this duality suggests that their significance for understanding modern power can be reconstructed along two main axes: (1) they seek to effect a radical shift in the conceptual framework in terms of which we generally think about power and (2) they present an original historical account of the genesis of
modern institutions. (1) Foucaults innovations along the first axis involve a shift from a substantive conception of power as invested in, and exercised by and over, subjects to a relational view of power as a function of a network of relations between subjects. This shift involves a number of displacements. In the first place, Foucault argues that the view that power involves one individual or group exercising control over another systematically misrepresents how power functions in modern society. It reflects a juridical conception which links power to sovereignty and law; on this conception, power is invested in certain individuals within a hierarchical structure of power relations, it is exercised with the tacit consent of those over whom it is exercised, and it operates in accordance with a shared conception of right which sets limits to its legitimate exercise. But modern, disciplinary power does not involve a special relation of authority or control alongside other social relations; rather, it functions in and through a multiplicity of social relations economic, familial, sexual, etc. - to form a field of force relations that


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encompasses the whole of

society.3 Disciplinary




effects through ceaseless local struggles, which form strategic patterns that are not reducible to the intentions and purposes of individual agents and that crystallize into global mechanisms of domination. It is concerned not with the legality of conduct and the punishment of transgressions but with the normalization of behavior designed to harness the productive and reproductive capacities of the body. Thus in a second displacement Foucault shifts the focus of analysis from the conscious, willing subject to the body: disciplinary power acts on the body to inculcate normalized, habitual responses through which the modern subject is constituted as an effect and a vehicle of power.4 Whereas sovereign power is negative - it prohibits behavior that does not conform to the law - disciplinary power is productive : through minute and exhaustive techniques of surveillance, regulation and examination designed to control bodily behavior in a continuous manner, the modern subject is literally constituted as a vehicle of power and an object of knowledge. The discourses and experimental procedures of the emergent human sciences that explore this new domain of subjectivity first become possible as a result of the opportunities for surveillance, spatial and temporal regulation and examination of bodies afforded by modern disciplinary institutions such as the hospital, the prison and the school. Hence Foucaults displacement of the practical subject goes hand in hand with a corresponding displacement of the knowing subject, who is denied the epistemic privilege that Greek philosophy associated with the activity of theoria and modern epistemology with the apodictic self-consciousness of the Cartesian ego. Since Plato at least, Western philosophy has viewed power as antithetical to knowledge, as something which distorts our perception of the truth. Foucault takes aim at this tradition with his provocative claim that there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of power, nor any knowledge that does not constitute at the same time power relations, Thus the focus of analysis must shift from the subject of knowledge to constellations or regimes of power-knowledge relations and their historical transformations.6 But with this another cherished assumption concerning power must be abandoned, namely, that which would enlist truth in the service of emancipation from domination. The implicit contract on which juridical power rests presupposes some shared conception of the human interests to be realized through the exercise of power, so that operations of power that frustrate these interests can be criticized as illegitimate and oppressive. Disciplinary power, by contrast, does not rest on a contract or on a shared conception of justice; as a result

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can no


be understood


the normative model of

emancipation from unjust social and political relations. But Foucaults

thesis that there is an essential interconnection between power and knowledge makes an even more radical break with the traditional notion of emancipation in implying that there is no truth about human beings - no real human interests or authentic, unrepressed sexual desires - to which an emancipatory politics could appeal against the excesses of a power that has overstepped the limits of its legitimate exercise.7 Thus the ultimate consequence of Foucaults radical decentering of the knowing and willing subject is to sever the connection between resistance and normative conceptions of truth and justice, at least as these are traditionally understood. (2) Foucaults innovation along the second axis consists in challenging Weberian accounts of modernization in terms of the functional differentiation of spheres of social action and their consolidation in the institutions of the modern state, on the one hand, and Marxist accounts of modernization in terms of the unfolding of the inner logic of the capitalist economic system, on the other. We live neither in a Weberian society dominated by the state nor a Marxian society increasingly polarized into two antagonistic classes,8 but in a disciplinary society in which social relations are subject to an all-pervasive regime of normalizing discipline. In support of this radical thesis Foucault meticulously documents the development of techniques of discipline in a range of modern institutions - the prison, the hospital, the mental asylum, the school, the factory and the military barracks - and claims that they have in the meantime spread beyond the walls of these institutions and now shape every aspect of life in modern society. He treats the prison as emblematic of institutions in which new technologies of power were forged around the isolation of individuals and the exhaustive surveillance and regulation of their bodily behavior in both space and time. These institutions served at the same time as the laboratories of the emergent human sciences, making it possible to observe inmates minutely and to register and codify the effects of regulations and coercive measures; and the design and operation of these institutions were in turn modified and rationalized in light of the criminological, psychological, medical and pedagogical knowledge whose production they made possible. Thus to the extent that disciplinary power has disseminated throughout the social body, we are caught in a progressively more highly integrated feed-back mechanism of power-knowledge which is beyond the control of knowing and acting subjects.9 The analysis of modernization as a transition from one global regime of power-knowledge to another reflects a Nietzschean conception of history which rejects the teleological assumption that

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there is some ultimate truth about human beings which is gradually being uncovered by science or that the history of political institutions represents a progress toward a more just social order. But setting aside for the moment the question of how much sense Foucaults thesis of the disciplinary society makes of our contemporary situation, I want to argue that the conceptual constraints imposed by his critique of subjectivism already restrict in problematic ways the explanatory potential of the model of disciplinary power. Instead of locating power in individual or collective social agents, Foucault analyzes contemporary power in terms of impersonal relations of force and strategies:
power must be understood in the first instance as the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization; as the process which, through ceaseless struggles and confrontations, transforms, strengthens, or reverses them ... [and] as the strategies in which they take effect, whose general design or institutional crystallization is embodied in the state apparatus, in the formulation of the law, in the various social hegemonies.lo

To focus the analysis of power on strategies rather than individuals or groups is potentially illuminating in suggesting that strategies have histories of their own that cannot be reduced to the intentionality of individual agents or to class interests at a particular moment. But divorcing the concept of a strategy from subjects altogether, as Foucault seems to do when he says that power relations are intentional and nonsubjective, has paradoxical consequences because the notion of a strategy is essentially related to those of agency and social practices. 11 As Charles Taylor has argued, cases where individual or collective actions have unintended consequences provide us with examples of purposefulness that cannot be reduced to the conscious motives, choices, or decisions of individuals or groups; but we can plausibly claim that such consequences exhibit strategic patterns only if we can relate them to the conscious ends and purposes of identifiable social agents.12 Foucaults strategies, by contrast, seem to crystallize spontaneously out of a chaos of shifting relations of force between interchangeable subjects and to float free of any specific social relations. Thus while his critique

of subjectivism goes some way toward explaining why mechanisms of power in modern society seem to escape individual control, it runs the risk of reducing power to a play of forces unconnected with recognizable human concerns. In Foucaults genealogical analyses the body seems to take over the role played by the subject in traditional analyses. But the body,

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considered in abstraction from an embodied subject, is neither a plausible target of power nor a possible source of resistance to its operations. As an empirical matter, the operations of power outside the confines of coercive institutions such as the prison and the asylum do not necessarily, or even generally, take the form of direct bodily constraint or coercion nor do they always involve surveillance; for example, class, racial and gender domination are so insidious precisely because they function in large part through the internalization of repressive schemes of interpretation of self and world, often in an unconscious manner and by dominant and dominated agents alike.13 And on a conceptual level, in describing power on the naturalistic model of relations of force between bodies, Foucault is in danger of undermining the essential reference of the concept of power to social relations altogether and assimilating it to notions of energy, force and discharge that properly apply to physical nature On the other hand, it might be objected that Foucaults goal is not to jettison the subject altogether but to challenge the assumption of the philosophy of consciousness that the subject is a self-originating source of meaning and

by showing that the modern subject is, to a certain degree at least, an effect of disciplinary power. But without some account of how individual identity is constituted through the internalization of social schemes of interpretation and evaluation, this approach is in danger of reducing the subject to a mere reflex of bodily habits induced by external stimuli.15 Moreover, the role that Foucault assigns to the body renders the notion of resistance to power problematic because it is not clear how the body as such can function as a source of resistance to power. In certain places Foucault speaks of resistance in terms of the revolt of the body, citing as an example the intensification of sexual desire in response to the increased scrutiny of childrens sexuality by psychology and medicine; but the intensification of desire seems more like a causally induced effect of power than an instance of resistance

power. 16 These problems are symptomatic of more deep-seated difficulties concerning the possibility, or even the intelligibility, of resistance occasioned by Foucaults attempt to dissociate the concept of disciplinary power from normative conceptions of right and justice, which he assimilates in a reductive manner to the legalism of the juridical model:

I then wanted to show ... the extent to which, and the forms in which, right (not simply the laws but the whole complex of apparatuses, institutions and regulations responsible for their application) transmits

and puts in motion relations that are not relations of sovereignty, but of domination,.17 By treating right in general as an instrument of domination, Foucault tacitly denies any constitutive connection

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between power and discourses of legitimation, and hence between resistance to power and the normative idea of liberation from domination.18 But while the norms of right and justice embodied in the laws and institutions of a particular state at a particular time may be repressive, the concept of right is not exhausted by any factually existing laws and institutions, as Foucault seems to suggest in the passage just quoted, for the latter can always be criticized as unjust, and hence as instruments of domination. And without some notion of right and legitimacy that does not represent it merely as an instrument of power, the idea of resistance ceases to have any normative import. It is perhaps the realization that genealogy would thereby forfeit its potential to orient resistance to domination that led Foucault to speculate about the possibility of a new form of right which would be antidisciplinarian and liberated from the principle of sovereignty. But what an anti-disciplinarian notion of right would involve he does not specify, other than to say that it would break with the juridical conception of individual rights There would be no problem here if Foucault were willing to renounce any connection between genealogy and
an oppositional politic; but that would be at odds with the subversive rhetoric of his own writings and sympathetic commentators have generally seen the value of his work to lie in part in its subversive political implications.2o The close interconnection that Foucault asserts between power and knowledge creates further problems concerning the possibility of resistance. If disciplinary power is an effect of the systematic, totalizing discourses of the human sciences, it would seem that resistance must be local and undirected and whatever effects of truth it might generate would be at best ephemeral. Perhaps this is what led Foucault to connect genealogical analysis with the revival of subjugated knowledges that preserve the memory of past social struggles but are disqualified as inadequate by the established canons of scientific rigor. Genealogy as anti-science would elaborate these popular knowledges into a historical knowledge of struggles that could be deployed tactically against the tyranny of organized scientific discourse and the centralizing powers associated with it.21 With the idea of reviving suppressed knowledge Foucault seems to bring genealogy into contact with the critique of ideology; but then genealogy would have to lay claim to objectivity or truth in opposition to the established disciplines, which contradicts his thesis that power and knowledge are essentially interconnected. For this thesis entails that there is no objective standpoint outside of relations of power from which the truth could be ascertained: discourses are neither true nor false in themselves but merely generate effects of truth.22 But then genealogy could only

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a counter-power and would become as totalitarian as the established sciences were it to prevail.23 This brings us finally to the question of the explanatory force of Foucaults theory of disciplinary power and its empirical adequacy as a description of modern society. His theory of modernity in terms of the disciplinary or carceral society turns on the claim that disciplinary techniques spread beyond the closed institutions in which they originated and gradually came to pervade modern society as a whole.24 But the generalization of the model of disciplinary power from an institution such as the prison or the asylum to the social body as a whole is highly problematic because the disciplinary techniques Foucault so carefully describes seem capable of functioning effectively only within closed institutions.25 The exercise of hierarchical surveillance, normalizing judgment and systematic examination calls for organizational resources, coercive means of enforcing behavioral regulations, and instruments of data collection and analysis for which there are no obvious analogues in the case of interactions outside of institutional settings. This suggests that Foucaults choice of the prison as the exemplary site of modern power may have prejudiced his analysis of modern society as a whole. More worrying is that he ultimately failed to establish a convincing connection between what he called the microphysics of power - the strategic play of domination and resistance in which subjects act on one another - on the one hand, and the global constellations of power evoked by the image of the disciplinary society - large-scale institutional techniques of surveillance and normalization grounded in the totalizing discourses of the human sciences on the other. As Foucault depicts it, the exercise of power at the local level always potentially encounters resistance and relations of domination are inherently subject to reversal. But then he needs to explain how these shifting relations of power become stabilized into enduring strategic patterns and disciplinary mechanisms by showing, for example, how the strategies and tactics of agents at the micro-level of local struggles are conditioned by, and serve to reproduce, the largescale institutions of the disciplinary society. But he offers no such account.26 Moreover, his rejection of explanations in terms of the state or class relations ultimately rings false because he does not explain how we moderns could have been so mistaken in the explanatory categories we apply to modern society both as theorists and as lay persons. While his account of the proliferation of techniques for disciplining bodies certainly highlights previously underappreciated aspects of modern history, this cannot be the full story. Bourdieus theory of symbolic power, by contrast, while preserving Foucaults emphasis on local struggles and bodily conditioning,


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relates the analysis of local interactions in a convincing way to global relations of domination between social classes mediated by the institutions of the modern state. The superiority of Bourdieus approach is due in part to his sensitivity to the symbolic aspects of power, which also enables him to give a more plausible account of the role of the subject in the exercise of power and resistance, but without reinstating the discredited conception of the subject of the philosophy of consciousness.


Symbolic power, class domination, and the modern state


analysis of modern forms of power is based on the applimodern societies of a theory of practice developed in anthropological studies of a tribal society - that of the Kabyles, a Berber people of Algeria - and assumes an implicit theory of modernization whose outlines have become clearer only in his recent work. I will begin by examining the conceptions of agency, practice, and social structure that underlie his theory of symbolic power (section 1) before turning to his analysis of modernization and modern structures of power (section 2) and describing how together they represent an advance over Foucaults theory of power and modernity (section 3).


Bourdieu attempts to go beyond both subjectivist theories of action in of the intentions or rational calculations of individual subjects and objectivist theories, such as structuralism, which explain practices in terms of rules grounded in collective symbolic structures.27 He analyzes practices in traditional societies - e.g. the exchange of gifts - in terms of a dialectical interaction between the habitus, the behavioral and cognitive dispositions of individual agents, and the objective structure of the social world in which actions unfold. The habitus consists of a system of durably inculcated dispositions that structure both the agents behavior and her or his perceptions and representations of situations of action and of the social world in general.28 It is inculcated through the everyday behavioral injunctions and petty disciplines, often indirectly communicated through gestures, by which parents and teachers bring the childs behavior into line with certain prevailing social expectations. These extend to such matters as physical deportment and posture, how food should be handled and consumed, the place and time in which it is appropriate to speak, in what intonation, with what forms of expression, etc., and are generally differentiated

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In the course of this training a whole vision of the social world and of her or his position in it is communicated to the child in the form of implicit cultural schemes of classification. Thus the habitus reflects the relations of power that structure the social world in which it is inculcated and the cultural understandings that shape social practices and are objectified in material culture. The whole social environment, from the actions and utterances of others to the disposition of domestic space in the traditional house, conspires to reinforce the individuals view of the world and of her or his place in it, and to elicit behavior that is objectively attuned to the constraints of the prevailing relations of power without recourse to overt coercion. The habitus functions as a generative principle of actions only in relation to the structured social space in which it was constituted (or one sufficiently similar to it); it is not a property or set of properties of an agent considered in isolation but a generative scheme of practices that functions only in relation to an appropriately structured social space. The structure of the social world of a traditional culture is determined both by relations between agents who occupy different positions in a hierarchical power structure and by a system of symbolic oppositions which shape agents perceptions of the social and natural worlds, such as dry/wet, right/left, even/odd, day/night, etc.29 Relations of power are determined in part by material resources, specifically, the wealth and the means of violence individuals can command; but to view power in traditional societies in purely material terms would be to misrepresent their structure and mode of reproduction. In a traditional society economic and political power are inseparable from the operations of symbolic power that disguise the truth of social relations based on material dependence or on the implicit threat of force and thereby facilitate the general acceptance of such relations. Symbolic power is the form material power relations assume when they are perceived through social categories that represent them as legitimate.3 The shared schemes of perception and evaluation incorporated in the habitus mask the arbitrariness of social divisions by inculcating belief in their legitimacy or naturalness:

along gender lines.

Systems of classification which reproduce, in their own specific logic, the objective classes, i.e. the divisions by sex, age, or position in the relations of production, make their specific contribution to the reproduction of the power relations of which they are the product, by securing the misrecognition, and hence the recognition, of the arbitrariness on which they are based; in the extreme case ... the natural and social world appears as self-evident.31

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The shared cultural belief system on which symbolic power rests Bourdieu calls the doxa: as a structuring principle of the habitus, it underlies an immediate, unreflective, bodily adherence to a commonsense view of the world which ensures that practices and the social divisions and relations of domination they reproduce are experienced as self-evident and hence are taken for granted.32 The existence of a common-sense view of the world shared by all agents regardless of their social position is a function of the cultural homogeneity of traditional societies, which is reflected in the relative homogeneity of the habitus of different social agents and hence in the probability that their actions and experiences will be harmonized with one another. But this shared common-sense view of the world masks real differences in the interests of agents who occupy different positions in a hierarchy of power relations. Thus while dominant agents have a vested interest in upholding the principles of vision and division of the social world that legitimate their position of dominance, symbolic power also depends on the complicity of the dominated in the form of an immediate, unreflective, bodily adherence to these same prin-

ciples. Though relations of symbolic power depend on the doxa and collective misrecognition, they are as much an objective part of the social world as are material power relations, since social reality is not independent of agents representations of it. The doxic representation of the social world is embodied in the schemes incorporated in the habitus, and the dispositions of different social agents ensure that their actions are harmonized in such a way as to reproduce relations of domination automatically. But the mutual reinforcement of subjective and objective structures is not a matter of mechanical determination. Both the habitus and social structure are shaped by the history of past struggles for material and symbolic power. Though the habitus functions primarily as a practical sense - an immediate bodily awareness of the potentialities and constraints of situations of action and an automatic adaptation to them - agents can exploit existing relations of symbolic power in a strategic manner by manipulating accepted representations of the social world. Thus a scheme of classification which reinforces male domination by associating things female with what is sinister, secret, treacherous and magical makes it possible for women
a secret domain of symbolic power of sorcery and magic opposition to the official, public power of men. However, the cultural homogeneity of traditional societies, and the ubiquitous regulation of practices by the consensual schemes of the doxa and the habitus, mean that the scope for resistance to operations of domination in such societies is relatively limited.




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Bourdieus analysis of agency as structured by relations of power and systems of cultural knowledge follows Foucault in breaking with conceptions of the subject rooted in the philosophy of consciousness. Actions generated by the habitus cannot be explained in terms of the conscious representations and calculations of the subject considered in isolation from the social world which shapes the subjects behavioral and cognitive dispositions. The habitus ensures that an individuals actions are attuned to the objective constraints of the social world in which it is constituted, and hence that they present the appearance of calculation and finality; but this appearance is the result of the operations of a practical sense whose operation does not depend on conscious reflection and rational calculation. The habitus encodes cultural background knowledge in the form of schematic oppositions that cannot be reduced to explicit conscious representations or rules of rational choice without distorting how practical sense shapes actions.33 Because the habitus encodes implicit cultural knowledge, the actions it generates have a social meaning that transcends the conscious intentions of the agent and is inseparable from the structure of the social world and its history. On the other hand, the social context from which actions derive their meaning does not exist independently of the actions and perceptions of individual agents. The social world in both its symbolic and material aspects is continually created and recreated by agents through their perceptions and actions, though under the constraints of history embodied in the habitus. The habitus is not a mere mechanical imprint of social structure in the body of the individual, in which case actions would be just one moment in the functional circuit of self-reproducing social systems. While Bourdieu stresses the homogeneity of the habitus of agents in traditional societies, homogeneity at the level of shared cultural schemes of interpretation is compatible with endless variations in individual dispositions resulting from differences in positions in the social hierarchy of power relations. Ones habitus is enduringly shaped by such socially marked factors as ones sex, ones position in the family, ones position in the social field of class relations, and ones trajectory through social


Both social structure and the habitus, and hence the forms of symbolic power that rest on their interrelation, undergo fundamental transformations with the transition from traditional to modern forms of social life. Bourdieu subscribes to Max Webers general account of modernization as a process of rationalization through which forms of

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social action become differentiated into autonomous domains or fields of discourse and practice.34 With the development of commodity and labor markets and the spread of money, economic exchanges become increasingly dissociated from symbolic relations between agents and wealth can function as economic capital in accordance with the logic of the market. Money and the market function as instruments of objectification of economic capital that enable social agents to recognize and publicly acknowledge the economic truth that is, the relations of material power - underlying their exchanges. 35 Economic differentiation goes hand in hand with the emergence of autonomous fields of cultural production - most importantly, the scientific field, the fields of art and literature, the field of law, and the political field - in which interactions also obey a broadly economic logic of capital accumulation. Culture in non-literate societies is the shared possession of the whole group: all agents bring the same schemes of interpretation and classification to their interactions, and the doxa, the common-sense view of the world, is collectively imposed. But with the spread of writing and the resulting codification of cultural knowledge and practices, specialist producers of symbolic goods emerge who claim a monopoly of the competence to produce legitimate culture and competition between rival producers opens up the dominant view of the world to contestation and struggle. When domains of practice are codified in systems of explicit rules, the practical relation of agents to their practices undergoes a profound transformation. Codification makes possible a reflexive relation to practices that had previously been regulated by the practical sense of the habitus. It normalizes practices by minimizing vagueness and ambiguity in interactions; it objectifies them, so that the different temporal phases of practices can be grasped simultaneously; by making them public, codification also officializes practices and contributes to their recognition as legitimate; and by formalizing practices, it renders them calculable and predictable.36 The resulting rationalization of practice gives rise to new forms of symbolic power. The cultural competence required to codify practices is not equally distributed among members of different social classes and its possession confers control over the legitimate representations of practices and of the social world in general. Thus cultural capital accumulated within the specialized fields translates into symbolic capital, the power to impose the legitimate vision of the social world, and thereby to reinforce - or to challenge - social divisions.37 Cultural differentiation goes hand in hand with the division of modern society into specialist producers of cultural goods, such as scientific theories, works of art, legal interpretations and political

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discourses, and an encompassing social field of consumers who differ in their levels of cultural capital and hence in their ability to understand or consume cultural products. On the consumption side, cultural capital is closely related to inherited economic capital, since families seek to maintain and improve their social position by converting wealth into cultural capital through education (e.g. by sending their children to university) and cultural consumption (e.g. through theater-going and museum visits), thereby instilling dispositions and attitudes that later translate into economic opportunities. The logic of capital accumulation and conversion ensures that capital goes to capital with the result that the social field becomes polarized into a dominant pole of those who are rich in economic and cultural capital and a dominated pole of those who are relatively poor in both forms. Consequently, modern societies can be represented as a space of social positions in which agents are distributed according to their total volume of capital, their relative amounts of economic and cultural capital, and whether they are on an upward or downward social trajectory. Agents can be grouped into social classes according to their proximity in social space, the dominant class comprising groups relatively rich in economic capital (professionals, executives) and those relatively rich in cultural capital (intellectuals, academics and other cultural producers), whereas the dominated class comprises those poor in both, such as farmers and unskilled laborers, with the different

fractions of the middle class in between. But social space in this

is a theoretical construct and the classes that comprise it are classes on paper, not real classes in the Marxist sense, that is, collective agents who act on the basis of shared class interests; it is only through political mobilization that agents who are sufficiently close in social space can be galvanized into real political classes.38 This means that, while the divisions of the social field reflect enduring relations of domination, class domination is not a direct effect of the coercive actions of the dominant class but an indirect effect of the structure of the social field.39 In order to understand how domination is mediated by social structure we must examine the relation between the internal structure of the specialized fields of cultural production, the structure of the social field, and the institutions of the modern state. The cultural fields are structured by relations of power between agents endowed in different degrees with the competence specific to the field (or cultural capital), where the relations of power at a given time are the outcome of past struggles for cultural capital and for monopoly over the principles of classification and evaluation of works and competences. Cultural producers raise claims to legitimacy for their

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products whose recognition reflects back on the producers in the form of honor, prestige and authority. Thus control of the principles of evaluation in terms of which claims to legitimacy are adjudicated represents the power to impose the recognized definition of the field (of who belongs, of the competences required for entry, etc.) and to influschemes of interpretation and evaluations of the social world beyond the specialized field. Symbolic struggles presuppose a shared interest or investment in the stakes of the struggle, a belief in their importance that constitutes a shared doxa and is embodied in a fieldspecific habitus. The field-specific habitus, an intuitive feel for the game that ensures an immediate identification with the stakes and an awareness of the prevailing power relations, is what separates the specialist from the non-specialist; it is inculcated through training and participation in struggles within the field but it is deeply influenced by the agents prior social conditioning, the class habitus that agent has internalized as a consequence of a position in the social field. Thus there exist homologies between the structure of the social field and the relations of power within the cultural fields through which they mutually influence one another. For example, social scientists, such as economists and sociologists, wield symbolic power over how lay people and other professionals view the social world in virtue of the symbolic capital of reputation and personal authority they have acquired through symbolic struggles in the scientific field. At the same time, the convertibility of economic into cultural capital through the education system and cultural consumption ensures that most scientists and other cultural producers belong to the dominant social class and are disposed to advocate theories that reinforce the dominant view of the world in virtue of their affinity with the interests of the dominant class. Members of dominated classes, on the other hand, are relatively weak in cultural capital since they are less likely to achieve educational honors, and hence do not have equal access to the cultural and symbolic means to challenge the dominant view of the world. Thus the dominant class exercises domination indirectly in virtue of the structural homologies between the social and cultural fields without any need for direct acts of domination. The complicity of scientists and other cultural producers in reproducing relations of domination is not a matter of a conscious decision to promote the interests of the dominant class; it rests on the homology between the structures of the social and the cultural fields, based on an affinity between class habitus and scientific habitus, juridical habitus, etc., that ensures that the aggregate effect of the disinterested pursuit of scientific truth or artistic excellence by different agents is to reinforce class divisions.

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The dialectical interrelation between class struggles in the social field and symbolic struggles in the specialized cultural fields which underlies relations of symbolic domination is closely bound up with the emergence of the modern state as the privileged locus of symbolic power. In contrast to accounts of the constitution of the state that emphasize the centralization of the means of physical violence or the rationalization of fiscal administration, Bourdieu underlines the importance of the unification of cultural fields through which the modern state gained a monopoly of the power to produce and impose the categories of thought that agents apply spontaneously to the social world.4 The state - that is, those who act in the name of the state becomes both the guarantor of an official, national culture which identifies itself with the general interest, and the supreme regulatory instance of the practices through which the behavioral and evaluative dispositions of the habitus are inculcated.41 Its primary agency is the education system which contributes to the transformation of the dominant culture into a legitimate, national culture by conferring academic degrees and official titles on cultural producers and is the means by which the norms of legitimate culture are inculcated in the habitus of individual agents.42 Among the most important cultural developments in the emergence of the modern state is the institution of a single national language through the codification of grammar and norms of correct usage, a process which depends on the complicity of specialized cultural producers, including linguists, who treat the unified language as a pregiven object of analysis, and writers, who provide grammarians with models of correct usage.43 The emergence of a national language and culture sanctioned by the state reinforces the deepest and most enduring relations of domination in modern societies:
Cultural and linguistic unification is accompanied by the imposition of the dominant language and culture as legitimate and by the rejection of all others as unworthy (patois). The accession of a particular language or culture to universality has the effect of relegating others to particularity; moreover, because the universalization of the exigencies thereby instituted is not accompanied by universalization of access to the means of satisfying them, it favors both the monopolization of the universal by some and the dispossession of all others, who are thereby mutilated, in a certain sense, in their humanity.44

The unification of culture and language leads not only to the devaluation of minority cultures and dialects but also to the cultural and political disenfranchisement of members of dominated social classes. For children from different social backgrounds are not equally

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their family training to master the norms of official culture inculcated by the education system; thus in rewarding academic achievement, the education system legitimizes the results of prior social conditioning by representing them as the expression of innate merit or intelligence, thereby contributing to the naturalization of arbitrary class divisions. Bourdieu views the state as a field of power in which agents who occupy dominant positions in the restricted cultural fields struggle for control over the power invested in the institutions of the state to impose the official representations of the social world.45 Writers, scientists, bureaucrats and jurists, as well as politicians, can exert symbolic power over agents perceptions of the social world, but only by identifying with the interests of the state, that is, the disinterested interest in the universal or the general interest. The processes of cultural and linguistic unification in which the state is constituted are also processes of universalization by which particular competences and views of the world are endowed with universal significance. Hence all agents who want to partake in the power of the state must present at least the appearance of disinterestedness and adopt the language of neutrality and impartiality. However, the field of power, as Bourdieu construes it, should not be confused with the political field, which is one of the specialized fields of cultural production: politicians, the professional producers of political discourses, compete with other cultural producers for control over the power invested in the state. Hence the power of the state cannot be analyzed exclusively in terms of the political process, as this is understood by philosophical theories of political legitimation. Indeed, the real problem of legitimacy for Bourdieu is that the established order is for the most part accepted as unproblematic and that, with the exception of crisis situations, the question of the legitimacy of the state is never posed.46 The dominant class is so successful in imposing its domination because it can count on the complicity of the dominated which is extorted through the state-sanctioned inculcation of the norms of the dominant culture.

predisposed by

Bourdieus theory of symbolic power provides a more fruitful basis for critical analysis of modern power than Foucaults conception of disciplinary power. It shows how impersonal operations of power are mediated both by the cognitive and behavioral dispositions of individual agents and by global features of social structure, in particular by relations of domination between social classes and the institutions of the modern state. It thereby allows for both the subjective and the

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social aspects of power without falling into the forms of subjectivism and economism rightly criticized by Foucault. It also makes possible a more empirically nuanced description of the diverse forms power assumes in modern societies and opens the way to a more plaus-ible account of resistance. Bourdieus theory of the habitus recognizes the importance of the bodily aspects of agency but avoids the problems besetting Foucaults treatment of the body by integrating it into the circuit of symbolic power through which relations of domination are mediated. Whereas Foucault treats the subject as an effect of disciplinary technologies acting on a mute and malleable body, Bourdieu holds that structures of subjectivity are the result of the incorporation of practical and cognitive dispositions via the internalization of cultural schemes of interpretation and evaluation. Both thinkers accord a key role to bodily disciplines in the constitution of the subject, but the forms that discipline assumes in their respective accounts are importantly different. Foucault applies the model of disciplinary techniques, which developed in closed institutions such as the penitentiary and the asylum, to modern society as a whole. The inculcation of the habitus, by contrast, is the result not of novel techniques of surveillance and normalization, but of everyday injunctions concerning posture, manners, correct pronunciation, etc., by which parents instil into their children behavioral dispositions and schemes of perception and evaluation, which are subsequently reinforced by the education system.47 Modern forms of power are not the result of the emergence of new technologies for disciplining bodies - though these undoubtedly play an important role in closed institutions, as Foucault amply demonstrated - but of the normalization, objectification and formalization of practices through codification, which lead to new forms of symbolic power connected with the institutions of the modern state. Bodily hexis, the culturally constructed way of holding ones body and the gestural and verbal style one uses, is an important dimension of the habitus; but the habitus is also a cognitive structure, the product of the internalization of cultural schemes of interpretation and evaluation. Thus the concept of the habitus allows for the inner, symbolic dimensions of personal identity. At the same time, while Bourdieus agent is not a passive effect of disciplinary power, neither is she or he the sovereign subject of the philosophy of consciousness. The schemes of the habitus reflect the norms of the dominant culture legitimated by the state, which ensure that the dominant classes enjoy a monopoly over the symbolic power to shape agents self-understandings. But it remains open to question whether Bourdieu breaks sufficiently with the Foucauldian view of the subject as an effect of the

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operations of disciplinary power on the body. Foucaults treatment of the subject is problematic because it does not allow for the inner,
reflective dimension of personal identity and thus seems to reduce the subject to a collection of acquired behavioral reflexes. Bourdieus account of the inculcation of the habitus through the internalization of symbolic schemes of classification and evaluation goes some way toward overcoming this limitation; but it stops short of a genuine theory of individual identity. For the only principle of individuation it admits is the differentiation in the social positions of agents: differences in the habitus are a reflection of differences in the social conditionings of agents that result from the positions they occupy in social space (their family background, social trajectory, etc.). But a theory of the differentiation of the dispositions of agents according to social conditions does not amount to a theory of individualization and hence of individual identity.48 Without some account of how the agent can come to reflect on and criticize the schemes of interpretation and evaluation she or he has internalized, the agents identity remains a mere effect of social conditioning. Bourdieu allows that the individual can achieve some control in shaping her or his habitus in virtue of the awakenings of consciousness and socioanalysis,49 that is, through the objectification of relations of domination in the social sciences that cuts through the mystifications of the doxa; but he does not explain how the results of such awakening could be integrated into an autonomous personal identity. In order to do this he would have to extend his conceptions of agency and rationality to include an account of how repressive schemes of interpretation of self and world can be opened up to discursive criticism in light of impartial norms of social justice. Only through critical practical discourses can agents liberate themselves from the facticity of social conditionings and constitute themselves as autonomous agents. But this would presuppose a richer understanding of the political process than Bourdieus position allows, as I will show. Bourdieu agrees with Foucault in viewing power as a dynamic, relational phenomenon that operates through ceaseless strategic confrontations and struggles. But Foucaults skepticism concerning explanations of power in terms of social classes and the institutions of the state leaves him at a loss to explain how local strategic struggles become stabilized into enduring relations of domination. Bourdieus model, by contrast, shows how local interactions are orchestrated by symbolic mechanisms via the inculcation of the habitus in such a way that agents are led to reproduce relations of domination even against their own interests. But he goes beyond traditional Marxist analyses of class domination by linking the accumulation of economic wealth

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cultural mechanisms that enable those who occupy a dominant social position to impose the vision of the world favorable to their interests as universal, and hence as legitimate. Thus he avoids the economism which reduces all social relations to productive forces and voluntarist accounts of class struggles as involving direct conflicts between social groups mobilized around class interests. The dominant classes have no need to exercise power directly through actions motivated by class interests because they can count on the complicity of dominated agents in their own domination. Hence, resistance to class domination cannot simply take the form of the political mobilization of the dominated class through the heightening of class consciousness. As Foucault recognized, traditional Marxist theory of ideology and revolution remains trapped in the philosophy of consciousness: it assumes that domination is mediated by the ideological misrepresentation of the true interests of the proletariat, so that revolutionary action can be precipitated by transforming the proletariats representations of its true interests. But Bourdieus theory of the habitus suggests that relations of domination are more deeply entrenched and resistant to change than the critique of ideology would suggest because they are based on bodily schemes that agents, and especially those who are culturally disenfranchised, can reflexively grasp and control only within limits. Taken together with his analysis of the modern state and of the cultural mechanisms underlying the mutual convertibility of economic and symbolic capital, this goes a long way toward explaining why the hierarchical relations of privilege characteristic of capitalism have proved to be so resilient and why oppositional political energies have been consistently dissipated. But what scope, if any, does Bourdieus analysis leave for resistance to the operations of symbolic power? The problem of resistance is addressed in Bourdieus work at the level of the political field and at the level of the scientific representation of the social world. As regards the political field, he is skeptical about the possibility of overcoming relations of domination through the institutions of representative democracy. This is in part because political discourses of legitimation are open to manipulation by those who monopolize the symbolic power to represent particular interests as universal; but even more important is the fact that the internal logic of political struggles between politicians and parties within the political field tends to reproduce rather than to undermine relations of domination in the social field. Dominated groups can gain political representation only by delegating authority to professional politicians who exercise a monopoly over the forms of political discourse that are socially recognized as legitimate, and whose political stances are determined more by the

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logic of struggles internal to the political field than by the interests of they claim to represent. Though ostensibly the representative is delegated by the group, in fact the representative creates the group by providing it with the symbolic means of understanding itself as a group, especially when its members are relatively deprived of the cultural means of publicly representing their own interests. This means that the more culturally dispossessed those it claims to represent are, the more likely a political party is to be organized as an authoritarian apparatus of mobilization that demands unquestioning allegiance to the official party representation of the groups identity and interests. Thus struggles within the political field, with the exception of crisis situations in which the authority of established parties and representatives is challenged, tend to reproduce relations of domination by intensifying the disenfranchisement of dominated
As it transpires, the primary locus of resistance to power on Bourdieus analysis is not the political field but the scientific field, since scientific representations of social practices can dispel the mystifications underlying symbolic domination by revealing the arbitrariness of the social divisions it serves to legitimate. Bourdieu agrees with Foucault that the social sciences are deeply implicated in modern forms of power; but he goes beyond Foucault in showing how scientists exert symbolic power in virtue of the homology between the scientific field and the social field; and while Foucaults claim that knowledge necessarily generates effects of power threatens to collapse the distinction between knowledge and power altogether, Bourdieu accords scientific discourse a qualified autonomy that enables it to play a role in facilitating resistance to power. Like other cultural producers, scientists exercise symbolic power by shaping the categories through which agents perceive the social world; indeed, the potential symbolic effects of scientific theories are all the greater because science claims to speak in the name of the universal (i.e. of reason) and to be neutral and impartial with respect to social struggles. But the subversive potential of science vis-a-vis existing relations of domination depends on the degree of autonomy enjoyed by the scientific field at a particular time. To the extent that the scientific field is subordinated to the logic of conversion of economic into cultural capital, struggles within the scientific field are likely to contribute to the reproduction of relations of domination by reaffirming the dominant view of the world. The greater the autonomy enjoyed by the scientific field, the more struggles within the field conform to the intrinsic scientific logic of a competition for truth in which participants must fight with reasons and arguments.51 But in contrast to the critique of ideology, Bourdieu does not view the critical potential of science as a straightforward matter

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of advocating the truth in opposition to ideological distortions of social reality. Rather, he analyzes it in terms of a progress of reason which results from the fact that the internal logic of symbolic struggles within the scientific field compels scientists to advocate the interests of the universal. In this way, he attempts to break with metaphysical conceptions of reason as a transcendental faculty of the human mind in favor of a conception of reason as the product of historical struggles subject to the internal dynamics of the scientific field.52 However, it is not clear that Bourdieus account of symbolic struggles in the scientific field supports his assumptions concerning the historical progress of reason and the emancipatory potential of scientific representations of the social world. Science is capable of transforming agents perceptions of social reality because it raises criticizable claims to truth; scientific representations enable agents to recognize the arbitrariness of relations of domination by shattering the misrepresentations of symbolic power. However, the primary stake in the struggles in the scientific field, on Bourdieus account, is not the production of true statements or valid theories but the socially recognized authority to speak and act legitimately.53 But if the competition for symbolic power within the scientific field does not lead to the

victory of positions that

are justified in a sense that can be specified of the mere fact that they are socially recognized, there independently is no reason to believe that it necessarily contributes to the progress of reason as opposed to a mere succession of equally arbitrary representations of the social world. The progress of reason cannot be understood solely in terms of symbolic struggles among scientists independent of some account of how the internal logic of scientific research and argumentation leads to the victory of positions that are justified or true. The disenchanting sociological gaze that views the history of science in terms of struggles for dominance between advocates of competing positions cannot dispense with an internal analysis of the logic of scientific discourse. That being said, it should also be emphasized that Bourdieus analysis of the structural homologies between the scientific and the social fields has the merit of showing how social science can contribute to the reproduction of relations of domination in spite of, and even in virtue of, its rhetoric of objectivity and disinterestedness.


Symbolic power and discursively mediated power

While Bourdieus theory of symbolic power points to the possibility of resistance to symbolic domination, it does not ultimately provide the

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in terms of which resistance can be understood and hence can take on a positive political significance. emancipation Bourdieus theory of action limits the scope of practical reason to the strategic calculations of agents to maximize their share of the material or symbolic profits at stake in different fields of action. While Bourdieu breaks with the narrow individualism of rational choice and utilitarian conceptions of practical rationality in showing how the dispositions and preferences of agents are shaped by social forces, this represents an advance at the level of social explanation rather than at the level of the theory of action and political theory. While it leads to penetrating empirical analyses of mechanisms of symbolic power that function behind the backs of social agents, it narrows the scope of possible resistance to relations of domination and thereby weakens the critical force of the theory of symbolic power. For the only options it leaves open to dominated agents are to accumulate sufficient economic and cultural capital to attain a position of dominance (the strategy of the upwardly mobile classes) or to challenge the principles of perception and evaluation that legitimate existing relations of domination. By challenging the dominant principles, symbolic struggles may succeed in overthrowing arbitrary social divisions; but without an account of what would constitute a non-arbitrary social order that is, one which could claim legitimacy and form the basis for consensual political action guided by shared interests - resistance can only lead to the substitution of one form of domination by another. Without a more differentiated conception of practical reason that allows for the possibility of consensual political action, Bourdieu cannot account for the phenomenon on which symbolic power depends, the fact that in all societies interests which are regarded as universal command social recognition. In traditional societies, the universal is the shared possession of the group: it is embodied in the schemes of perception, classification and evaluation in terms of which the members recognize themselves as a group; and individuals acquire the symbolic capital of honor and personal authority by giving at least the appearance that their actions conform to the publicly recognized norms and customs of the group. In modern societies, by contrast, the universal becomes the monopoly of the state and of those who can appropriate the power invested in the institutions of the state and its symbols, specifically, the symbols of national identity in terms of which citizens understand who they are. Bourdieu assumes that all universal values are merely particular values that have been universalized through the mechanisms of symbolic power.54 But values which present themselves as universal are capable of mobilizing groups only because their members do not view them as embodying merely

conceptual resources

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particular interests that have been arbitrarily universalized; and whereas perceptions of legitimacy can be manipulated, the claim to universality, and hence legitimacy, of values can also be based on reasons. In order to allow for this possibility, Bourdieu would have to extend his conception of practical reason to encompass non-strategic interaction based on a discursively achieved agreement concerning shared interests and values. In this way alone is it possible to conceive
of the mobilization of resistance to relations of domination which is based not simply on the universalization of the interests of a particular social group but on interests that can claim more general validity.55 The constitution of a just social order presupposes in turn that agents can adopt a reflexive, critical attitude toward their socially constructed identity by breaking the hold of repressive schemes of interpretation and evaluation internalized in the habitus. Thus a genuine emancipatory politics calls for the cultivation of non-repressive structures of self-identity in dialectical interaction with discursively mediated structures of intersubjectivity.

University of Illinois at Chicago,


I would like to thank Thomas

McCarthy for his comments

on an


draft of this paper.

1 The

following remarks will focus primarily on Discipline and Punish

(New York: Vintage, 1979) and The History of Sexuality Vol. I (New , York: Vintage, 1990) and on related essays and interviews from the
1970s. My reading is motivated by a limited concern - to what extent do Foucaults genealogical writings provide a framework for analyzing and criticizing relations of domination in modern society? - and does not claim to do justice to his work as a whole. Nevertheless I believe this narrowness of focus is justified by the fact that his genealogical writings mark a clear departure from his earlier work and are in important respects inconsistent with the ideas he was developing before his death, a fact overlooked by those who argue for a greater unity and consistency in his thought as a whole than Foucault himself was wont to claim for it. 2

Foucault, Nietzsche, Genealogy, History, in Language, CounterMemory, Practice (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977),

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Drawing on Nietzsche, Foucault advocates a form of hiswriting which would overturn metaphysical conceptions of meaning and truth by showing that historical origins are irreducibly contingent and multiple, that the self is the result of traces inscribed in the body by contingent events, and that history is an endless series of struggles for domination devoid of any teleological meaning. On Foucaults concept of genealogy see Hubert L. Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1983), pp. 104ff. cf. Charles Taylor, Foucault on Freedom and Truth, in David Couzens Hoy (ed.) Foucault: A Critical Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), p. 84. , Discipline and Punish p. 29; cf. Foucault, Power/Knowledge (New York: Pantheon, 1980), p. 98: The individual is an effect of power,
pp. 139-64.


5 6

and at the same time ... it is the element of its articulation. The individual which power has constituted is at the same time its vehicle. Discipline and Punish, p. 27; cf. Power/Knowledge, p. 52. Discipline and Punish, p. 28: it is not the activity of the subject of knowledge that produces a corpus of knowledge, useful or resistant to power, but power-knowledge, the processes and struggles that traverse it and of which it is made up, that determines the forms and possible domains of knowledge. Thus Foucault not only rejects the Marxist theory of class domination that locates power in a particular social class; he must also reject a Marxist revolutionary politics informed by an ideal of emancipated social relations in which the free exercise of human capacities would be possible. Discipline and Punish, pp. 26-7. While Foucault is critical of the economistic assumptions of Marxist class theory, he does acknowledge a historical link between bodily disciplines and the growth of capitalist modes of production and accumulation; see ibid., pp. 218-21 and History of Sexuality, Vol. I, pp. 140-4. On the affinities between Foucaults model of the disciplinary society and systems theory see Axel Honneth, The Critique of Power


(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991), pp. 183-4, 193-4. History of Sexuality, Vol. I, pp. 92-3; cf. Discipline and Punish,


94. Foucault goes on to say that power relations are imbued with calculation and that no power is exercised without a series of aims and objectives. But this does not mean that it results from the choice or decision of an individual subject. Yet it is difficult to conceive of calculations, aims, or objectives that are not tied to the choices and decisions of agents or groups. Indeed the

History of Sexuality, Vol. I, p.

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following passage suggests that Foucaults main concern is to deny that strategies of power originate from above, in a ruling caste or those who control the state apparatus. But then he owes us some account of who are the subjects of the local tactics of power - the cynics of what he calls the local cynicism of power - and how these tactics become stabilized into comprehensive systems. 12 Taylor, Foucault on Freedom and Truth, pp. 86-7. This is confirmed by Foucaults own later analysis of the concept of strategy in a text in which he clearly distances himself from some of the assumptions of his genealogical works: The Subject and Power, in Dreyfus and Rabinow, Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, pp. 224-5. It is significant that in explicating the idea of strategies without strategists in their study (cf. pp. 108-9), Dreyfus and Rabinow introduce a notion of social practices that plays no role in Foucaults own discussions. 13 This is not
rassment to deny the significance of such practices as police harof racial minorities and rape and wife-beating as exercises of domination; but even they can be assimilated only with difficulty to Foucaults model of disciplinary technologies. 14 Foucaults later assertions that, in order for a power relationship to exist, the other over whom power is exercised must be recognized as a person who acts (The Subject and Power, p. 220) and that [p]ower is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they are free (ibid., p. 221) read like a belated recognition of these conceptual constraints on the notion of power. No comparable assertions are to be found in the genealogical writings. 15 cf. Jurgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity Frederick G. Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), pp. 287-8. Habermas argues that Foucaults account of the constitution of the self through bodily conditioning does not allow for the individualizing effects of socialization - the fact that individuation is inseparable from self-determination and self-realization - because its objectifying perspective effaces the symbolically and linguistically structured nature of the medium in which socialization takes place. On the problematic implications of Foucaults rejection of hermeneutic approaches to social analysis see Thomas McCarthy, Ideals and Illusions (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991), pp. 50-3. 16 Power/Knowledge, pp. 56-7; cf. Kevin Olson, Habitus and Body Language: Towards a Critical Theory of Symbolic Power, Philosophy and Social Criticism 21(2) (1995): 23-34, who argues that the central role Foucault accords the body cannot be reconciled with his general conception of power.


Power/Knowledge, pp.


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18 cf. Taylor, Foucault on Freedom and Truth, pp. 90-3. 19 Power/Knowledge, p. 108. William Connolly argues that Foucault


aspires to a conception of rights attached not merely to the self as subject, but especially to that which is defined by the normalized subject as otherness, in Taylor, Foucault, and Otherness, Political Theory 13(3) (1995): 371. But what a right grounded in otherness would consist in, whose right it would be, or what kinds of claims it would ground, remain unclear. Thus Connolly, for example, argues that Foucaults rhetorical devices are designed to incite the experience of discord or discrepancy between the social construction of self, truth, and rationality and that which does not fit neatly within their folds (Taylor, Foucault, and Otherness, p. 368). The trouble with such readings, it seems to me, is that the category of otherness by definition resists theoretical specification - it is, after all, what is excluded or suppressed by discourse - so that it all too easily serves as a generalized source of suspicion of any analytical framework or political program, but has no determinate empirical content or political impli-

cations of its own. 21 Power/Knowledge, pp. 81-4. 22 ibid., p. 118. 23 cf. Habermas, Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, p. 281. 24 Discipline and Punish, pp. 211-12; Power/Knowledge, p. 72. 25 The generalization of the disciplinary paradigm from closed institutions to society as a whole also marks a controversial methodological shift in Discipline and Punish from a descriptive history of institutions and a speculative theory of modernity; cf. Michael Donnelly, On Foucaults Uses of the Notion "Biopower", in François Ewald (ed.) Michel Foucault Philosopher (New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 201-2. 26 cf. Honneth, Critique of Power, pp. 191-2. 27 See, among numerous accounts of this opposition in his writings, Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1977), pp. 1-6, 21-30, 72-8; The Logic of Practice (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), pp. 25-51; In Other Words (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), pp. 124-5. The main targets of his critique of subjectivism are thinkers in the phenomenological tradition, principally Sartre, Schütz and Garfinkel, while his critique of objectivism is aimed primarily at LéviStrauss. 28 Outline, p. 72; Logic of Practice, pp. 53-4. 29 For a diagram of the symbolic scheme of oppositions which structure the Kabyle vision of the world (whose underlying principle is the

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30 31 32 33

see Outline, p. 157, and Logic 215. of Practice, p. Logic of Practice, pp. 112 ff. Outline, p. 164. ibid., p. 80. For an illuminating interpretation of the habitus as embodied social understanding see Charles Taylor, To Follow a Rule ..., in Craig : Calhoun et al. (eds) Bourdieu Critical Perspectives (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1993), pp. 54-9. However, the assimilation

division of labor between the sexes),

of the habitus to the background knowledge of the lifeworld tends to obscure the fact that, in addition to cultural knowledge, it also encodes relations of power. 34 cf. Scott Lash, Modernization and Postmodernization in the Work of Pierre Bourdieu, in Lash, Sociology of Postmodernism (London: Routledge, 1990), pp. 237-65. 35 In precapitalist societies the material truth of economic exchanges is systematically disguised by symbolic relations between agents: wealth can be put to work only by cultivating personal relations of dependence and obligation, and upper limits are set to accumulation by the fact that maintaining personal prestige demands heavy material expenditures on ones clients; cf. Outline, pp. 191-4; Logic of Prac-

capital into the symbolic power to social facts and impose social divisions is particularly evident in the field of law; cf. Bourdieu, The Force of Law: Toward a Sociology of the Juridical Field, Hastings Law Journal 38 (July 1987): 814-53. 38 In Other Words, pp. 117-18; Bourdieu, What Makes a Social Class? On the Theoretical and Practical Existence of Groups, Berkeley Journal of Sociology 32 (1987): 1-17; Language and Symbolic Power (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), pp. 229-51. Bourdieu criticizes Marxist class theory for failing to take account of its own theory effect, the fact that in declaring the existence of classes and of class interests it contributes to their realization. 39 Bourdieu, Raisons pratiques: Sur la théorie de laction (Paris: Seuil, 1994), p. 57; La Noblesse dEtat: Grandes écoles et esprit de corps (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1989), pp. 554-5. 40 Raisons pratiques, p. 101. Bourdieu argues that the concentration of symbolic capital in the state is the precondition of the consolidation of the other forms of capital into autonomous fields (ibid., p. 116). Elsewhere he describes the state as the central bank of symbolic credit ( Noblesse dEtat, p. 538). La

tice, pp. 123-9. 36 In Other Words, pp. 80-4. 37 The transformation of cultural

41 Raisons

pratiques, pp.


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42 See La Noblesse dEtat for


44 45 46 47

a comprehensive analysis of the key role played by the education system in the reproduction of relations of domination in modern society, with particular reference to the French elite grandes écoles. Language and Symbolic Power, pp. 44-9. Bourdieu has in mind specifically the political process by which the French language became the official national language of the French state, which entailed the devaluation of regional dialects and the cultural and political disenfranchisement of speakers of those dialects. However, the controversies unleashed by proposals to make English the official language of the USA and the forces ranged on either side of the dispute attest to the generalizability of Bourdieus model to other societies. Raisons pratiques, p. 116 (my translation). ibid., pp. 56, 109; cf. La Noblesse dEtat, pp. 375 ff. Raisons pratiques, p. 128. Thus I would question the claim that surveillance and normalizing judgment, as techniques of objectification, play a major role in the inculcation of the habitus (cf. Olson, Habitus and Body Power, pp. 38-9). The effectiveness of symbolic power depends on the fact that it goes without saying, that it does not need to resort to the objectification of individuals through specific techniques of surveillance and judgment.

48 On the distinction between differentiation and individualization see Jürgen Habermas, Individuation through Socialization, in Postmetaphysical Thinking (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), pp. 150-1; cf. above, n. 15. 49 In Other Words, p. 116. 50 See Language and Symbolic Power, pp. 171-202, where Bourdieu argues that the authoritarian tendencies of working-class parties are a reflection of the fact that both party officials and their clients are relatively deprived of the cultural means of representing their interests and hence are dependent on the party apparatus for the representation and confirmation of their social identity. 51 Bourdieu, The Specificity of the Scientific Field and the Social Conditions of the Progress of Reason, Social Science Information 14(6) (1975): 19-47. 52 Raisons pratiques, pp. 132-3, 165-6, 234-5. 53 cf. Lash, Modernization and Postmodernization, p. 244. 54 Raisons pratiques, p. 166. 55 Whereas Foucault effaces the connection between power and legitimation by analyzing power in naturalistic terms, Bourdieu recognizes that all genuine power, in contrast to naked force, depends on the practical recognition of those over whom it is exercised (La Noblesse

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dEtat, p. 549). But he falls short of a normative conception of power that could form the basis of a critical social theory by assimilating legitimation to denegation, the various symbolic strategies designed

dissimulate the arbitrariness of power.

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