Bourdieu on neoliberalism

christian a. gregory driver at
Wed Dec 9 20:19:56 PST 1998


you quoted:

> it brackets the economic and social conditions of rational
> orientations and the economic and social structures that are the
> condition of their application.

> To give the measure of this omission, it is enough to think just of
> the educational system. Education is never taken account of as such at
> a time when it plays a determining role in the production of goods and
> services as in the production of the producers themselves.

and then said:

"What is he saying? That without education or some other restraining power--perhaps a King, the state, the Idea, the Law--people would fly asunder and human association would cease to be? It would seem at base Bourdieu's conception of society is no less atomic than the neoclassical economists he rails against. For Bourdieu then is it just a question of different mechanisms effecting the association of these atoms as these mechanisms become structuring structures and structured structures. Bourdieu's social ontology does not seem so different to me; is he not a social atomist? At the very least, I don't understand Bourdieu's answer to that fundamental question of why do people associate at all."

and i'd say:

uh, no. as far as i can tell, all he's saying is that neo-classical economics--in all of its permutations (economic dogma, social policy, everyday chitchat [ie in its various habituses] etc) operates by willfully blinding itself to its own historicity: education is just one example of an institution that "produces" both the field and its agents, and naturalizes the domination of the market (i.e. it is not itself produced). in other words, neo-liberalism is a way of imagining what he calls the "structural domination of the market"; from my reading, there are no "atoms" in the social field; rather, the social field can be described as a set of positions and position-takings that constitute subject-effects--ie. real people.

now, if you're saying that bourdieu has a knack for writing opaque sentences, then i can't help but agree.

again, you quoted:

> trends. First is the destruction of all the collective institutions
> capable of counteracting the effects of the infernal machine,
> primarily those of the state, repository of all of the universal
> values associated with the idea of the public realm.

and then said:

Is this a joke? How can Bourdieu write this given what he writes about the state elsewhere? How many Pierres are there?

and i'd say:

i don't think it's a joke, though i can understand your frustration with the idiom in which bourdieu works--which, so far as i can tell, is your objection to him up to this moment. why not talk about the much advertised end of welfare-keynesianism, and compare that with the realities of continued coporate welfare, the attack on public spaces of all kinds, etc. (ie what dennis said)? i agree with you. i don't quite know what other writings on the state you're talking about--he seems pretty consistent in the value he attaches to "universality" as a cultural marker or ideal, especially as it passes through the state, public institutions, etc. (i'm thinking, for example of "free exchange" and the essay "for a corporatism of the universal." what are you thinking about?

best christian

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