Friday, 4 January 2013

A bit of Bourdieu

Up there with socks and slippers amongst my best xmas presents was Language and Symbolic Power, which my mum got me (and which must have an interesting effect on her future Amazon recommendations). I realise that lately I've been reading quite a bit of stuff about the political aspects of language (this book on politicians' use of metaphors is worth a read - Blair v keen on 'journeys'). I think this probably reflects my view that a lot of territory is currently up for grabs, and as such there is a corresponding linguistic struggle going on.

Anyway, back to my current book - although Bourdieu is making a serious point, this bit actually made me smile (apols for any typos).
There is every reason to think that the factors which are most influential of the habitus are transmitted without passing through language and consciousness, but through suggestions inscribed in the most apparently insignificant aspects of things, situations and practices of everyday life. Thus the modalities of practices, the ways of looking, sitting, standing, keeping silent, or even of speaking ('reproachful looks' or 'tones', 'disapproving glances' and so on) are full of injunctions that are powerful and hard to resist precisely because they are silent and insidious, insistent and insinuating. (It is this secret code which is explicitly denounced in the crises characteristic of the domestic unit, such as marital or teenage crisis: the apparent disproportion between the violence of the revolt and the causes which provoke it stems from the fact that the most anodyne actions or word are now seen for what they are - as injunctions, intimidations, warnings, threats - and denounced as such, all the more violently because they continue to act below the level of consciousness and beneath the very revolt that they provoke.) The power of suggestion which is exerted through things and persons which, instead of telling the child what he must do, tells him what he is, and thus leads him to become durably what he had to be, is the condition for the effectiveness of all kinds of symbolic power that will subsequently be able to operate on a habitus predisposed to respond to them. The relation between two people may be such that one of them has only to appear in order to impose on the other, without even having to want to, let alone formulate any command, a definition of the situation and of himself (as intimidated, for example), which is all the more absolute and undisputed for not having to be stated. 

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