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What Makes a Social Class?

On The Theoretical and Practical Existence Of Groups*
By Pierre Bourdieu

It would be easy and tempting to deride the topic of this symposium and to uncover the presuppositions it conceals under its apparent neutrality. But if you will allow me just one criticism of the way it formulates the question of social class, it is that it misleads one to believe that this problem can be reduced to a simple choice and resolved by a few common-sense arguments. In fact, behind the proposed alternative-is class an analytical construct or a folk category?-hides one of the most difficult of all theoretical problems, namely, the problem of knowledge, but in the very special form it assumes when the object of this knowledge is made both of and by knowing subjects. One of the main obstacles to scientific sociology is the use we make of common oppositions, paired concepts, or what Bachelard calls "epistemological couples:" constructed by social reality, these are unthinkingly used to construct social reality. One of these fundamental antinomies is the opposition between objectivism and subjectivism or, in more current parlance, between structuralism and constructivism, which can be roughly characterized as follows. From the objectivist point of view, social agents can be "treated as things," as in the old Durkheimian precept, that is, classified like objects: access to the objective classification presupposes here a break with naive subjective classifications, which are seen as "prenotions" or "ideologies." From the subjectivist point of view, as represented by phenomenology, ethnomethodology and constructivist sociology, agents construct social reality, which is itself understood as the product of the aggregation of these individual acts of construction. For this sort of sociological marginalism, there is no need to break with primary. social experience, for the task of sociology is to give "an

* This is the text of a lecture delivered as keynote address to the Dean's Symposium on "Gender, Age, Ethnicity and Class: Analytical Constructs or Folk Categories?" at The University of Chicago, April 9-10, 1987. Translated from French by Loic 1. D. Wacquant and David Young.

but rather a social space in the true sense of the term. The task of science. agents are both classified ~nd cJ~~slfier~. is to construct the space which allows us to explain and to predict the largest possible number of differences observed between individuals. The question of the existence or the non-existence of classes IS. what is the same. ' The objectivist moment-from social classes to social space: Class as a well-founded theoretical construct . their positron within classifications. has often been done. as they apply to the analysis of class and show how they can and must be integrated. it is possible to deny the existence of classes as homogeneous sets of economically and socially differentiated individuals objectively constituted into groups. and that any attempt to demon~tra~e t?e . if we admit. because they are obscured by the realities of ordinary sense-experience. Those who . a partial subjective vision (SUbjectivist moment). The social world can be conceived as a multi-dimensional space that can be constructed empirically by discovering the main factors of differentiation which account for the differences observed =. obtained by arbitrarily cutting up the otherwise undifferentiated continuum of the social world. With no foundation whatsoever in reality. that the fundamental property of a space is the reciprocal externality of the objects it encloses. even among sociologists. or that they are withering away (as in the theme of the embourgeoisement of the working class or the homogenization of society) and who argue on this ground that no dominant principle of differentiation exists.the emergence of Marxism and of the political movements It has Inspired. Thus one has every reason to suspect that whatever ~nswer this qu~stion receives. that they accept a substantialist philosophy. the objectivist and the subjectivist. with Strawson. the Idea that classes are nothing but constructs of the SCientist. but It IS at the same time a view. to determine the main principles of differentiation necessary or sufficient to explain or predict the totality of the characteristics observed in a given set of individuals. To this view of the problem one can op~ose. the members of this or that class.easurement of ~bJectlve indicators of social and economic position Will come up against the fact that it is impossible to find.somet~mes going as far as to count. .. at which substantialist realism stops. substantialist and empiricist mode of thinking adopted by both opponents and proponents of the existence of class. Let me develop each of these moments. one needs only to take up the relational or structural mode of thinking characteristic of modern mathematics and physics.· is "Are classes a scientific ~onstruct or do they exist in reality?" This question is itself ~ euphemism f~r the more direct and more directly political question: Do classes exist or do they not?" since this question arises in the very obje~tivity of the social world and of the social struggles that occur I~ It. From a scientific standpoint. like most properties attached to individuals. reality is nothing other than the structure. and they are many. then. c~ear-cut discontinuities: income. have this in common. and to assert at the same time the existence of a space of differences based on a principle of economic and social differentiation. in the real wo~ld." . In order to do so.2 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY BOURDIEU: WHAT MAKES A SOCIAL CLASS? 3 account of accounts. And Pareto's formula. one of the major principles of division in the political arena. . this. This is in fa. to the person. ~hows a continuous distribution such that any discrete category one might construct on its basis appears as a mere statistical artefact. they will attempt to determine empirically the properties and boundaries of the various classes. but also Durkheim's) consists of a set of invisible relationships. who want to convince themselves and others that social differences do not exist.existence of classes by the empirical m. close to the One assigned.assert the existence of classes wiil tend to take a reahst ~tand If they are empirically inclined.least s~nce. between men and womenthis formula will always delight those. of which the notion of class is the product. .ct a false opposition. In reality. In fact. comment briefly on the notion of point of view: the pomt of view ~s ~ perspective. realist or constructivist. To sum up what I mean by. what exists is not' "social classes" as understood in the realist. a perspective. the real is the relational. Those who claim to discover "ready-made" classes already constituted in objective reality and those who hold classes to be nothing more than pure theoretical artefacts (scholarly or "popular"). or. ~ut they classify according to (or depending upon).. the "social reality" spoken of in objectivist sociology (that of Marx. It is this very same substantialism which vindicates both the assertion and the denial of classes. those precisely which constitute a space of positions external to one another and defined by their relative distance to one another. For this realism of the relation.The first question.om~. as a set of constant relationships which are often invisible. even If the two possible stands on the existence of classes correspond to tW? probable. and this. From this point of view. which recognizes no other reality than that which is directly given to the intuition of ordinary experience. from a determinate position in an objective social space (o~Jec~I~lst moment). it is based on political choices. taken from a p. according to which it is no easier to draw a line between the rich and the poor than between the young and the old-one might add nowadays. at . which identifies the real not with substances but with relationships. stances on the mode of knowledge. I. . and by individuals in particular. particularly by conservative sociologists. in Cassirer's sense of the term. can.

in the second dimension acco:ding t. It follows that objective distances tend to reproduce themselves in the subjective experience of distance.. To be more precise. Those who occupy the same positions have every chance of having the same habitus. etc. that is.my empirical investigations.. (Occupation is generally a goo~ . and "substantialist" way: "classes" as logical cJassesanalytical constructs obtained by theoretically dividing a theoretical space-are then seen as real. again in its different kinds. etc. social capital. which consists of res~urces b. and in such a waythat the classes are as distinct as possible from one another-or. that is. a location or a precise class of neighboring positions.e. especially economic and cultural. at least insofar as the trajectories which have brought them to these positions are themselves similar. i. . while nearness is lived as more or less unconscious form of complicity." It is this sense of one's place WhICh. according to the relatI:e weight III ~heir overall capital of the various forms of capital. effects of the nature of work. association. we acquire the means of regrouping individuals into classes in such a way that agents in the same class are as similar as possible in the greatest possible number of respects (and all the more so as the number of classes thus defined is large and the area they occupy in social space is small).inent variables.and eco~omlcal indicator of position in social space and. that is. With the set of common principles which measure the relative distance between individuals. in other words. Agents and sets of agents are assigned a position. . and no doubt in the Amencan society of today. according to their trajectory in social space. provides valuable information on occupational effects. the farther they are from each other. The construction of the space is the basis of a division into classes which are only analytical constructs but constructs well-founded in reality (cum fundamento in re). firstly economic capital. and thus of producing practices and representations of a similar kind. by the distribution of the propertIes which are active within the universe under study-those properties capable of conferring strength. including legally sanctioned relationships. a .e.In a social universe like French society. Thus agents are distributed in the overall social space. i. is at the root of all processes of cooptation.e. in this particular universe. in a srtuation of interaction. or. with its cultural and organizational specificities. love.ase~ on connections and group membership. the means used to construct and to exhibit the social space tend to obscure it from view. the most capable o~ providing the fullest explanation of the largest number of differences observed between agents. and which prompts the others to "keep their distance. and thereby provides the principle of all durable alliances and connections.essary to constitute in order to objectify the positions they oCCUp?hide these very positions. like aces in a game ~~ cards. Indeed. prompts those whom we call in French les gens humbles. Ironically. This sense of one's place is at the same time a sense of the place of others. mother words we secure the possibility of obtaining the largest possible separation between classes of the greatest possible homogeneity. friendship.ous forms of capital. a particular area within that space. that is. In fact these social distances are inscribed in the body." It s~ould be said in passing that these strategies may be totally unconscious and take the form of what we commonly call timidity or arrogance.4 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY BOURDIEU: WHAT MAKES A SOCIAL CLASS? 5 in a given social universe. i~ Its various kinds. power and consequently profit on their holder. and symbolic capital. objectively constituted groups.) . they are thus defined by their relative position in terms of a multidimensional system of coordinates whose values correspond to the values of the differ~nt ~ert. remoteness in space being associated with a form of aversion or lack of understanding. the fewer properties they will have in common. the greater the chance that they will be seen as real groups." or to "keep their station in life. and thirdly two forms of capital that are very strongly correlated. and conversely. is ~he ~ite. and in the third dimension according to the evolution in time of the volume and composition of their capital. together with the affinities of habitus experienced in the form of personal attraction or revulsion. But this is where things get complicated: it is in effect quite likely t?at t~e pro~uct of the relational mode of thinking (like the thre. the more accurate the theoretical construction of theoretical classes. . the agents who occupy neighboring positions in this space are placed in similar conditions and are therefore subject to similar conditioning factors: consequently they have every chance of having similar dispositions and interests. the populations it is nec. literally "humble people" =perhaps "common folks" in English-to remain "humbly" in their place. in the first dime~sion according to the global volume of capital they possess. the greater their probable number of common properties. This is all the more true when the space IS constructed in a way that the closer the individual agents in it.these classes are based on the principles of differentiation which a~e ~ctually the most effective in reality. w:hlch IS the form the different types of capital take once they are p~rceIved and recognized as legitimate. The dispositions acquired in the position occupied involve an adjustment to this position-what Erving Goffm~n c~lls th~ "s~nse oj one's place.. Paradoxically. in addition. i. It follow~ that the structure of this space is given b~ th~ distribution of t~e van. of the occupational milieu. in the struggle (or comoeunon) for the appropriation of scarce goods of which this universe.e-dlmenSIOnal diagram in factor analysis) will be interpreted in a reahst.o th~ composition of their capital. and. these fundamental social powers are ~ccord~ng to .. secondly cultural capital or better informational capital. by discovering the ~owers or forms of capital which are or can become efficient.

constructed classes theoretically assemble agents who. ~owers). factors and. as being above or below them or between the~ as In the case . these agents are as such affected in their social bem~ by the ~ffects of the condition and of the conditionin s correspondmg to then position as defined intrinsically (that is to sa~ by a . a consciousness which simultaneously unites them and opposes them to other classes.tIveand. that theoretical classes are real classes. one may invoke the effect of an "awakening of consciousness" (prise de conscience) conceived as the realization of the objective truth. as a result. in its relation ~o other posmons. IS nothing other than the set of occupants of the sa~e PO~ltlOnin a space.6 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY BOURDIEU: WHAT MAKES A SOCIAL CLASS? 7 Th~s a1t~oug~ the Jogical class. ~he homogen~zing. with other principles.untry. communal and local divisions and rivalries. global volume of capital compo~lt~onof capital and social trajectory)." intermediate. by virtue of the fact that the . under the revealing title: "Domina~t motives .characterized by the similarity of their occupation~ c.. In this respect such class~s. pubhshed in 1955 under the title Outline of a Psycho'?gy of Social Classes. or as the probability of a real class. the movement from probability to reality. uhin a thre~-dimensional space have a very high predicw t~ve capaclt. etc. racial or national. The illusion which leads us to believe that theoretical classes are automatically real classesgroups made of individuals united by the consciousness and the knowledge of their commonality of condition and ready to mobilize in pursuit of their common interests-will try to ground itself in one of several ways. which tend to in" crease ~hlS very homogeneity. Likewise the social space may be construed as a structure of probabilities of drawing individuals together or apart. our aim is to explain and predict the practices of the various categories thus constituted. whose book. To sum up so far: constructed classes can be characterized in a occupy similar p. are inclined to assem. relatively httle information IS necessary to determine the position in that sp~ce: one n~eds three coordinates. and relationally (that is. contrary to what Marxist theory assumes. t~ come together as a practical group.n." in that it relies on the real underlying principles of practices. ThIS prOject IS expressed in. But one can go still further and" from this same objectivist understanding of the social world. those which the very construction of well-founded theoretical classes allows us to pose when it is epistemologically controlled: a theoretical class.formal or informal (like homogamy)." might be considered as a probable real class. On the one hand. of primeval expe:lences of the s~~ial world. as Halbwachs put it. This use of the notio~ of class IS I~separa~~efrom the ambition to describe and classify agents and the~r COndlt1~nsof existence in such a way that the cutting-up of sO~lal space I?to classes might account for variations in practices. as an analytical construct founded '. with real classes constituted in the form of mobilized groups possessing absolute and relational self-consciousness. are subject to similar conditions of existence and condition" mg.ondlt1ons.~ffect of homogeneous . or any combination of these two. which allows us to get the greatest am~unt of mtcrmauon f?r the least cost: the categories obtained b cuth~~ up s~ts. of the popular vision and the scholarly vision. or a "class on paper. It remains nonetheless that. a particularly lucid' form by Maurice Halbwachs. and thus to reInforce their points of resemblance.agents characterized by the "same penn anent collect1~e conditions. with principles imposed by the ordinary experience of occupational.).y for a relatively small cognitive expense (that is." By gathering together III ~~e se~. the Marxist tradition confuses the things of logic with the logic of things.reality.S1S those dispositions which favor the development of relaof tIOnshIPs.OSltlOns social space (that is. certain . at once predlC. it still does . so that in the end the analytical con" struct is made into a folk category. postulate.meet all the .of those p. is never given: even though they are supported by the "sense of one's place" and by the affinity of habitus.:a~ as set~. descriptive. in the distribution a} . presumably. bl~ practlcal~y. brought about under the en" lightened guidance of the Party (with a capital P). Or. real groups of individuals moved by the consciousness of the identity of their condition and interests.ositions that are "in the middle. and more concretely still.conditionings is at t~e ba. the principles of vision and division of the social world at work in the construction of theoretical classes have to compete. following a completely different logic. The theoreticist illusion which grants reality to abstractions hides a whole series of major pfoblems. Or better still. in reality. neutral. are endowed with similar dispositions WhIChprompt them to develop similar practices. a structure of affinity and aversion between them.m. must inevitably assert itself with time. from theoretical class to practical class. ethnic. first appeared in 1938 a full decade bef~re RIchard Centers' influential volume on The' Psychology if SOClr:' Clas~es ~n t~is ~o. as a result. In simple terms.certam class of material conditions of existence. whose constituents are likely to be brought closer and mobilized (but are not actually mobilized) on the basis of their similarities (of interest and dispositions). this illusion will seek to find a basis in a reconciliation.onentlllg individua] activity in social life.of agents who. one may invoke the mechanical effect of the identity of conditions which. The perspective taken in the construction of theoretical classes may well be the most "realistic. as Marx did. In fact. being subject to similar condition tend to r~semble one another and.re~uirements of a scientific taxonomy. neither dommant nor dominated). the Marxist tradition commits the very same theoreticist fallacy of which Marx himself accused Hegel: by equating constructed classes. which only exist as such on paper.

groups are not found ready-made in reality.on struggle which determines the making and un-making of the clasSlficatlOns currently .llld us that. in a potential state. . The individual and collective representation that agents may acquire of the social world and of their place in it may well be constructed according to completely different categories. ~e. constructIOns oriented by the pursuit of individual and collective interests (and. ~mong these. acronyms and constituents. This much su~ces to rem. a "well founded illusion") The same IS true of a group re I igion as· '". has its own specific logic. this class is a well· founded historical artefact (in the same way that ~urkheim spoke of . "the w?rkm~ class eXIs:s sufficiently to make us question or at least deny Its existence. of cognitive struggles-struggles not only between scholars.8 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY BOURDIEU: WHAT MAKES A SOCIAL CLASS? 9 not impose itself upon agents in a self-evident manner. SOCIalbase~ be they occupational groupS or "classes. k Ch like the elderly. even when this principle is well-founded in reality. we can establish at once several propositions: firstly that classes realized and mobilized by and for class struggle.are also mstruments:-I should say weapons-and stakes in the cIassIficatI. P. And even when they present themselves with this air of eternity that is the hallmark of naturalized history. and so on. "labor. to a certain degree. only inasmuch as all sorts of hIStorical agents. The subjectivist moment-field of forces and field of struggles: The work of class-making The existence or non-existence of classes is one o~ the major stakes in the political struggle. these agents follow the laws immanent in that universe through the mediation of their sense of place. at once expressed and constit. which can best be described as the product ~f the action again sanctioned by legal arrangements. into one of those ~mpecca~ly real social fictions produced and reproduced by the magic of SOCIal belief. an adequate theory of theoretical classes (and of their boundaries) leads one to pose that the political work aimed at producing classes in'the form of objective. in reality itself. offices. first of all. and thirdly that this political labor is all the more likely to succeed when it is armed with a theory well-founded in reality." as Marx would have them. SOCIal ~~~ses. . but also between laymen and.. The Making of the English Working Class. by the pursuit of the specific inter~sts of ~helf. Thompson's famous book. secondly that classes can assent to a definite form of existence only at the cost of a specific work. tween the various professionals in the representatIOn of t~e SOCIal world. with their acronyms. as Luc Boltanski has shown in the case of the typically French category of "cadres" (engineers and executives. councils. In short. The title of E. The social scientist might thus be tempted to set. By maintaining a sharp distinction between the logic of things and the things of logic. by assuming that actions and interactions could somehow be deduced from the structure. But it is the family itself. starting with social scientists such as ~arx. by symbols. referred . h~ve succeeded in transforming what could have remained an analytical construct" into a "folk category. such as lobbies in the area of family planning and policy." that is. of which the specifically theoretical production of a representation of the divisions is a decisive element. and through the organizations supposed to represent it. of a wh~le senes.thonty between rival constructions. do not exist. the class which is tacitly." "workers"(travailleurs). And this political work of classmaking is all the more likely to be effective when the agents whose unity. since the effect that this theory can exert is all the more powerful when what it makes one see and believe is more present.pa~ and parcel of reality and that. of agents' and institutions. they are always the product of a complex historical work of construction. and the subject. one dispenses with the question of the movement from theoretical group to practical group. that of all symbolic production.ampa~ne and Remi Lenoir have shown to be a genume ?Istoncal invention born of the action of interest groups and sanctIOned b~ legal consecration. the question of the politics and of the political work required to impose a principle of vision and division of the social world.:e .~ow~en we speak of social classes. or more precisely. between those plai~ ~olk the ones he excludes from his theoretic discourse without realizing that they are . flags. even ~n the most secure academic spheres. namely. even those which are best adjusted to the logic of things (as with well-founded theoretical classes). Thus although we are now far from the original question. in their everyday practices. Whether they have an occupational basis as in our societies or a genealogical basis as in pre-capitalist societies." "proletariat. capable of adjudicating with supreme au.' whl. in the nuclear form III which we know it today. collectives having an economIC and. In other words.institutions. like any group. s~okespersons).. himself up as a referee.it strives to manifest are close to one another in social space and therefore belong to the same theoretical class. or the managerial Class). that is to say.ch P~tnc. "classes-in-struggle. . should be taken quite literally: the working class as we perceive it today through the words used to name it. ht try to reconsider the terms in which it was formulated. This theoreticist epistemocentrism leads one to forget that the criteria used in the construction of the ?bjective space and of the well-founded classifications it makes possible ." etc. such as "working class. The social scientist deals with an object which IS Itself the object. even if. your "senior citizens." are symb_ohc. they are constitutrve of the reality of the social world.uted by permanent organs of representation.

and educational credentials. 0: every sense of the term) that social agents try to impose their vision of the world or the vision of their own position in that world. for instance. depending on their position in social space. brought into question. It also stems from the diversity of viewpoints implied by the diversity of positions. It follows that practical classifications are ~ever totally coherent or logical in the sense of logic. The representations which agents ~roduce to meet the exigencies of their day-to-day existence. The existence of a plurality of visions and divisions that are different. i. social positions are immediately discernible through their visible manifestations ("ca fait intellectuel. One catt.BA versus the Master of Arts in Anthropology or in Comp~ratl~e Literature. in the distributions of the various species of capital. like bluffs or symbolic inversions (the intellectual's Volkswagen Beetle).agents have of the social world and. I~ the sa. contrary to the theoreticist illusion. the sense of the social world does not assert itself in a univocal and universal fashion. by the same token. social "reality" presents itself neither as completely determined. Any theory of the social universe must include the r~presentatlOn t. paleo/neo. must be brought back into the model of reality. etc. social and symbolic. l~ke connOlsse~rs who classify paintings by reference to a characterisuc or prototyplc~l ~ember of the category in question." "preconceptions. essentially because the social space presents itself in the form of agents and institutions endowed with different properties which have very unequal probabilities of appearing in combinations: in the same way that animals with feathers are more likely to have wings than animals with fur. In addition. to a plurality of visions.nto acc?unt the syu:bolic work of fabrication of groups. owe their specific. it is due to the plurality of the principles of vision and divisionavailable at any given moment (religious. an~ must transcend the opposition between the vision WhICh we can indifferently label realist. to the relative indeterminacy of the reality which offers itself to perception. use the practical mastery of the correspondences between the two spaces to produce all sorts of· semantic jamming. It must take I. of economic titles. logic to th~ fact th~t the~ are often polemical and invariably oriented by practical considerations. are liable to compete with political principles based on economic or occupational criteria). of distinctive signs which are so many symbols of distinction. and therefore. the specificity of symbolic strategies and in particular. of the M. the space of objective differences (with regard to economic and cultural capital) finds an expression in a symbolic space of visible distinctions. is due. economic and cultural. A good many criteria used in scientific analysis as instruments of knowledge. less well-known-." "that looks intellectual"). in objectivity itself.most "natural" such as age or sex. depending on the situation. or among the various kinds of cultural ca~Ital. and among the latter. In other words. The level of ~ggregatio~ will be highest when the classification· is applied to a :eglOn of SOCIalspace that is distant. on the "objective" side. strictly practical. nor as completely indeterminate.e. the contnbutlOn they make to the construction of the vision of that world. IRAs. and particularly the names of groups and all the vocabulary available to name and think the social. Because an operation of classification depends on the practical function it fulfills it can be b~sed on different. that is. they necessarily involve a degree of loose-fitting. and to define their social identity. more precisely. Thus the "ideologies. reassessed.hat . In fact. For the same reasons. From a certain angie. of points in space from which the various views are taken. to the very construction of that world. For agents endowed with the pertinent categories of perception. of group-makmg. legal-e~onomic capital and scientific capital. and even opposed aims. It IS through this endless work of representation (in .10 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY BOURDIEU: WHAT MAKES A SOCIAL CLASS? 11 in ~se. ethnic or national principles of division." and folk theories that the objectivist rupture had to set aside in the first place to construct the objective space of social positions. is continually ~emg. or even antagonistic. m the American context. the agents involved in this struggle are very unequally armed in the fight to impose their truth. the relative value of the different species of capital. it is subject. it presents itself as strongly structured.er. it must recognize that.. a classification can operate at varying levels of aggregation. operate in real practices as classificatory schemes (think of the use of such pairs as old and young.'practical" or convenient. spontaneist vision on the oth. stocks. consists in . and the constructivist. This model must take into account the fact that. For in~tance. bonds. And. rather than by scanning all the I~dl:iduaI ~embers of the category or by considering all the formal cnteria required to determine that an object indeed belon~s ~o the category. social agents use as their reference points in estabhs~mg s~clal positions the figures typical of a position in social space With which they are familiar. a~d consequently. at once economic. including the most neutral ones and thos~ that seem . subjectivist. people who have a perfect command of their language are more likely to be found in concert halls and museums than those who do not. Consider. the historically changing relative values. with a practical intuition of the homology between the space of distinctive signs and the space of positions. strategies which. highly vanable taxonomies. On the side of the perceiving subjects.me way that a city-dweller'S perception of trees is less clearly ~Ifferentla~ed than the perception of a country-dweller. Such a theory must take as an incontrovertible truth that the truth of the social world is the stake of a struggle. 'and it can Yield. through struggles aimed at mflat~ng deflating the value of one or the other type of capital. and have very different. This being said. owing to the fact that they must rem~m '. criteria. objectivist or structuralist on the one hand. .).

by virtue of their objective position situated half-way between the two poles of the space. such as politicians-struggle to impose representations (e. into the official vision. we should also mention all those strategies designed to manipulate relations of group membership. can be sent packing among "class enemies" and treated as mere "servants of capital." or on the contrary merged into the dominated class. the monopoly over legitimate symbolic violence. the power to impose and to inculcate principles of construction of reality.) This symbolic manipulation of groups finds a paradigmatic form in political strategies: thus.g. no more absolute breaks. like economic and cultural capital. in relatively undifferentiated societies.e. a sort of semantic fuzziness which does not facilitate the direct deciphering of social signs. in the way agents play on and play with genealogical. demonstrations) which create the very things represented. to win them over to their side. that is to say. by asserting and manifesting th~mselves . to use a metaphor of Rapoport's. In these struggles whose ultimate aim. officially. and that the room left open for symbolic strategies designed to jam this relationship is the largest. with the instituteurs. to use Nelson Goodman's word. is what provides a ground for differing or antagonistic perceptions and constructions which confront each other and which can be objectivized in the form of durable institutions. that is to say. those which sociologists are fond of using as indicators. clan and tribal affiliations. in modern societies.12 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY BOURDIEU: WHAT MAKES A SOCIAL CLASS? 13 introducing. religious. family.. This. such that the density (of the trees or of the water vapour) is higher on the one side and lower on the other. in France.a~ such. is the power to nominate held by the state. than there are in the physical world. the very definition of the groups which.. produce clear-cut differences between agents situated at extreme ends of the distributions. (The French cadres.riteria are similar. oscillating around a line or surface. in the political struggle. One of the major stakes in these struggles is the definition of the boundaries between groups. which make them exist publicly. that is. is not all. Objects in the social world always involve a degree of indeterminacyand fuzziness and thus present a definite degree of semantic elasticity. alongside the individual struggles of daily life in whic~ agents continually contribute to changing the social world by stnvmg to impose a representation of themselves through strategies of presentation of self. however. while other categories tend to exaggerate theirs.e. (Such strategies have their equivalent. standing in a state of unstable equilibrium and wavering between two opposed alliances. with a field uniquely suited to the observation of the various forms of presentation of self through which agents strive to construct their social identity. according to the needs of the moment. a more appropriate image would be that of a flame whose edges are in constant movement. of association and . i. such as occupation and social origin. Along these same lines. It is in these intermediate or middle positions of the social space that the indeterminacy and the fuzziness of the relationship between practices and positions are the greatest. they are evidently less effective in the intermediate zones of the space in question. These boundaries can thus be conceived of as lines or as imaginary planes. into nomos. i.) In the reality of the social world. by playing. Thus. And we must add to these the strategies aimed at manipulating the most reliable symbols of social position. to the boundanes of a cloud or a forest. who call themselves enseignants. What is at stake in symbolic struggles is the imposition of the legitimate vision of the social world and of its divisions. occupational or sexual. The boundaries between theoretical classes which scientific investigation allows us to construct on the basis of a plurality of c. All these strategies find additional strength in the fact that even the most constant and most reliable combinations of properties are only founded on statistical connections and are subject to variations in time. the institutionalization of a permanent organization capable of representing them. ethnic. for instance. are the properly political collective struggles. in the extreme case. at the highest degree of objectification and institutionalization. and the principles of division upon which it is based. could take on the form of legal frontiers. in the very objectivity of the perceived practices or properties. tends to induce durable and recognized divisions which. especially Goffman. and particularly to preserve or transform established principles of union and separation. This element of uncertainty. political. as victims of exploitation. the occupants of the intermediate positions of the social field are the object of completely contradictory classifications by those who try. which Can mean high school teacher or even university professor. (In fact. It is the case for instance. to display or to conceal them according to practical interests and functions defined in each case by reference to the concrete situation at hand. whether family. While it is true that the principles of differentiation which are objectively the most powerful. the official principle of vision and division. primary school teachers. agents-who in this case are almost always specialists.. or above a certain value on the one side and below it on the other. on the possibilities offered by simultaneous membership in a plurality of collectives. and with bishops and intellectuals who tend to underreport their social origins. Their goal is to tum their own vision of the social world. there are no more clear-cut boundaries. ~a~ become political forces capable of imposing their own VISIon of dIVIsions. symbolic power as worldmaking power. the construction of (mobilized or "mobilizable") groups. One understands why this region of the social universe provided the symbolic interactionists. and thus capable of ensuring the triumph of such dispositions and interests as are associated with their position in social space.) Now.

afforded by the "movements" that are supposed to represent what we call in this case a class (as in the expression "the English working class"). depending on their position in social space." or further still.fied. or. or the fact of the representanon Itself. for that matter. and above all. act~ng as . se~n. confront each other within a closed relatively autonomous field. or. ethnicity. So in order to give a brief answer to the question posed. as did Hobbes Who. names it. as the canonists put It-tO a state of unified group. logo) IS derived. This mystery can be summed up in . the post is the magistrate who holds it. the individual. lack an~ lDdlVldu~l means of action and expression.spokespersons for the groups at whose service they place their specific competence.IS apphed to a social collective. (All of this can be seen when the leader. we will say that a "class. followed the very same logic. The "class. imposes itself all the more brutally when the singular agents who are to pass from a state of . . begins to exist only when it is selected and designated as such. through a sp~kes?~rson endowed with plena potentia agendi et loquendi. the spokesperson.) In short. recognize themselves as members of the class. age. is identtned with the signifier. And. but in a completely transfigured form. academies. ThIS IS what the same canonists called the mystery of "ministery " the mysterium of ministerium.by making himself seen in its place. or th~ Nation. the problem of the ontological status of social class. that is. aU!h~nticum. "Corporate body. the General Secretary IS the Party-which is the class. who gives it a concrete incarnation. the committee. or according to ~ou1s XIV: "L'Etat c'est moi. what was the status of that whic~. the ~ge g~oup. . or the council which represent It. IS" essentI~lly. or otherwise.bVlOUS dispossession. following Kantorovicz. more often than not acquired at the cost of dispossession. the balance of power depends on the symboliccapital accumulated by those who aim at imposing the vanous VISions III contention. namely. the various agents do not ~ave equal opportunity of acceding to the various forms of colle~tlVe existence: the ones are doomed to the diminished form of existence. or any otherwise elusive SOCIalcollective eXls~s. as we do here with regard to class." be it social. ' two equations. who acts ~n~ speaks III Its name. it would be necessary to show !hat this logic of existence by delegation. the others are likely to accede to the full accomplishment of singularity through the elective aggregation of those of equal privilege afforded by these groupings represented in exemplary and paradigmatic form by the select club (such as coteries.e. the paradigm here be~ng ~arnage)"consists III the power to make something exist in the ?bJe~h. ethnic. Symbolic power. capable of speaking and acting as one. makes it exist. So that in fact. Then the second equation poses that the confirmed existence of the mandated implies the existence of the group of mandators.. the local.ng other than what represents it.serial existence-c~llectio personarium plurium.and." the "people. even one which is potentially defined ~n the manner of the cloud. whose form par excellence IS the power to make groups and to consecrate or institute th~m (in ~articular through rites of institution.ut through the mediation of professionals of representation who. the signified. sexual. formal state which only previously existed in an implicit state. the individual who. by reco~~ nizing them as endowed with full power to speak and ?ct I~ their name.fications . from which the French word sigle' (acronym. which almost always COmes with a power of representation brings ~nto exist~nce in an instituted form. we could draw on the reflection of the canonists who wondered. In this case. becomes the object of the cult which the group renders unto itself. or boards of trustees). But for this analysis to be thorough. Status est magl~tratus. In the struggle to make a vision of the world universally known and recognized. Here one would need to pursue more fully the implications of the fact that the symbolic struggle between agents is for the most part carried o." or the "people" ("Ie suis le peuple" says Robespierre). thai the group represented is ~othl.in matters of gender. if and only if there exists one (or several) agent{s) who can assert WIth a reasonable chance of being taken seriously (contrary to the madman who takes himself for the Nation) that they are the "class." the "Nation. as a corporate body: what hitherto existed only as a serial collection of juxtaposed individuals. upon those who. in eve~ sense of the term 'Who conceives i~ mentally and expresses it verbally. ~ere the signature or the seal which authenticates the signature. as with the constellation which. .14 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY BOURDIEU: WHAT MAKES A SOCIAL CLASS? 15 disassociation already at work in the social world such as current classi. the performative power of narnmg. they concluded. When It.. This in turn raises the question of the con~ltions under which dominated visions can be constituted and prevail. slglllum. the so?alIe~ "pers?nality ~ult:'. The first one establishes an equivalence betwe~n mandators and mandated: the Church is the Pope. as authorized to speak and to act officially in its place and i~ its n~m~. more directly the representative the individual who represents the group. or the ~ender. constituted body. the field of politics. by making the group. i. and so on. medie.which involves an O. public. region or nation. or with ~he bu. being the repository of the whole belief of the group.re~u. and on the extent to which these visio?s are themselv~s grounded in reality. power over words used to describe groups Or the lllStltutlOn~ WhICh represent them. by speaking m Its place.:al Latin called corporatio. confer upon it the only form of existence a group can possess. in this resp~ct. embodies It m and through his very person." the "State" and so on. the group.. according to Goodman. and m doing so. It is here that we would find again. boards of directors. ~hat. e~ists when there are agents capable of imposing themselves. of all social groups. by recognizing themselves in' these plenipotentiaries.

"Social Space and the Genesis of Groups. 1978. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement Mass: Harvard University Press. Crise de la succession et apparition du'troisieme age'. CA 94140 1977." But the dominated have a practical mastery. if only for a time.16 BERKELEY JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY BOURDIEU. Patrick. WHAT MAKES A SOCIAL CLASS? 17 First. d'un groupe social." in John G. lishing. 27-28 Champagne.). "The Forms of Capital.ted Publications in English by Pierre Bourdieu 1977. 1979. P. of the English Working Class. Rerni. "Jeunes agriculteurs et vieux paysans. Cambridge: Polity Press. Culture and . Outline Press. E. second because the dominant strive to impose their Own vision and to develop representations which offer a "theodicy of their privilege. Cicourel (eds." 744. 1963.00 for mailing subscriptions outslde the U. polltica~ c?rruption. Har- Rela. California residents add 6% sales tax Lenoir. 1984. Advances in Social Theory a~d Methodology: Toward.O. Theory and Society 14: 7231 (I): 110-120. 1979. 1955 and 1964. they can. Cambridge: Cambridge University Crime and Social Justice P. New York: Greenwood Press. As we have seen with Goodman's metaphor of the constellation. "Delegation and Political Fetishism. Cambridge. "A Diagram of Social Position SOciety. Esquisse d'une psych%gle sociales. Boston and London. "From Rules to Strategies. "L'invention du 'troisieme age' et la constitution du champ des agents de gestion de la vieillesse. References Boltanski. Paris: Crime and SOCIAL JUSTICE NOS. Goodman. Indianapolis: Hackett PUbdes classes Halbwachs." Actes de fa recherche en sciences sociales. but only in a potential state. of a Theory of Practice. "Men and Machines. naming involves a truly creative power. revelation creates what already exists by placing it onto a different level. 1982.00 per year Add $4. 1984. Thus the mystery of ministery can exert a true magical effect by giving power to truth: words can make things and. 1980. Nelson. " Media. that of theoretical mastery. 26-27: 57-82. The Making monsworth: Penguin. Thompson. "Symbolic Power. Published quarterly ISSN: 0094-7571 Individual issue no. La formation Editions de Minuit. Co~tragate and Counterterrorism: A Global Perspective This special double issue .S. Box 40601 San Francisco. Paris: Librairie Marcel Riviere." Actes de fa recherche en sciences sociales. 1986. Les cadres. 1983.00 Institutions $50. and Life-style. 1981. and crime is available individually or through subscrlptlon. and hence tend to foster a form of doxic acceptance of its given order. Richardson (ed. an effect of revelation: when it is well-founded in reality." Critique of Anthropology. make exist as groups collectives which already existed. 27·28 $1000+ $1." 1985.50 postage t-year subscription $25. Routledge and Kegan Paul. 26-27: 83-107.an Integration of Micro. Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education.o~ state terrorism." of Taste.). Ways of Worldmaking. Cultural Anthropology (in press) Language and Symbolic Power. a practical knowledge of the social world upon which nomination can exert a theoretical effect. one can posit that an action aimed at transforming the social world is all the more likely to succeed when it is founded in reality. Maurice. 2(3): 255-259. Now the vision of the dominated is doubly distorted in this respect: first because the categories of perception that they use are imposed upon them by the objective structures of the world. by joining in the objectivized symbolization of the group they designate. Luc.and Macro-Sociologies. Thesis Eleven 10-11: 56-70." in Karen Knorr-Cetina and Aaron V. 4 (13-14): 77-85.