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States as Monopolies of Symbolic Power

David Swartz
Boston University
David Swartz
Boston University
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Abstract

There is recent and growing interest in applying some of Pierre Bourdieu’s thinking, particularly his conceptualization of symbolic power, of class struggles as classification struggles, and his idea of fields, to the analysis of modern nation states (e.g. Eyal 2003 ; 2005 ; Goldberg 2003 ; Loveman 2005). Bourdieu’s emphasis on the symbolic power of the state and its internal divisions as a bureaucratic field of struggle over statist capital marks out a distinctive position relative to the unitary, state-centric views in political sociology that stress the physically coercive and material resources of state power, such as the “fiscal-military model” of Charles Tilly (Tilly 1975 ; 1992). This paper will review and critique Bourdieu’s thinking about the state in comparative perspective. It will start with a comparison to Max Weber but extend to contemporary frameworks such as class and elite models, constuctionism, rational choice, and neoinstitutional perspectives. Eyal, Gil. 2003. The Origins of Postcommunist Elites: From the Prague Spring and the Breakup of Czechoslovakia. Madison: Minnesota University Press. Eyal, Gil. 2005. "The Making and Breaking of the Czechoslovak Political Field." Pp. 151-177 in Pierre Bourdieu and Democratic Politics: The Mystery of Ministry, edited by Loïc Wacquant. Cambridge/Malden,MA: Polity. Goldberg, Chad Alan. 2003. "Haunted by the Specter of Communism: Collective Identity and Resource Mobilization in the Demise of the Workers Alliance of America." Theory and Society 32(5-6):725-773. Loveman, Mara. 2005. "The Modern State and the Primitive Accumulation of Symbolic Capital." The American Journal of Sociology 110(6):1651-1683. Tilly, Charles. 1975. The Formation of National States in Western Europe. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Tilly, Charles. 1992. Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1992. Cambridge: Blackwell.