Language and Symbolic Power

Language and Symbolic Power

By (author) Pierre Bourdieu

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This volume brings together Bourdieua s highly original writings on language and on the relations between language, power and politics. Bourdieu develops a forceful critique of traditional approaches to language, including the linguistic theories of Saussure and Chomsky and the theory of speech--acts elaborated by Austin and others. He argues that language should be viewed not only as a means of communication but also as a medium of power through which individuals pursue their interests and display their practical competence. Drawing on the concepts which are part of his distinctive theoretical approach, Bourdieu maintains that linguistic utterances or expressions can be understood as the product of the relation between a a linguistic marketa and a a linguistic habitusa . When individuals produce linguistic expressions, they deploy accumulated resources and they implicitly adapt their expressions to the demands of the social field or market. Hence every linguistic interaction, however personal and insignificant they may seem, bears the traces of the social structure that it both expresses and helps to reproduce. Boudieua s account sheds fresh light on the ways in which linguistic usage varies according to considerations such as class and gender. It also opens up a new approach to the ways in which language is used in the domain of politics. For politics is, among other things, the site par excellence in which words are deeds and the symbolic character of power is at stake. This volume, by one of the leading social thinkers in the world today, represents a major contribution to the study of language and power. It will be of interest to students throughout the social sciences and humanities, especially in sociology, politics, anthropology, linguistics and literature.

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  • Paperback | 312 pages
  • 152 x 224 x 24mm | 521.64g
  • 18 Jan 1993
  • Polity Press
  • Oxford
  • English
  • New edition
  • New
  • 074561034X
  • 9780745610344
  • 44,951

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Author Information

Pierre Bourdieu was Professor of Sociology at the College de France.

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Review quote

"Linguists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, folklorists converge more and more today in studies of situated discourse. The link between the dynamics of situations and the dynamics of society as a whole goes largely neglected. For that articulation one needs the resources of a social theory. Here Bourdieua s analyses of symbolic power and practice are our best resource; one might say they are indispensable. The starting point is not the uniform language of educational elites and formal linguists, but expressive styles; not social structure as fixed and given, but fields and fractions in which identities are ever--contested; power as collusion as well as compulsion; configurations that theory not only discloses but also effects; all in all, a perspective that is both sceptical and empirical, broad yet subtle, engaged and insightful." Professor Dell Hymes, University of Virginia

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