Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bourdieu is Funny

Or, at least the way Tim Hallet describes him in "Symbolic Power and Organiztional Culture":

The habitus plays an important role in interaction because it is so unconscious. Upon presenting a certain self, it is too difficult for the actor to monitor every movement he or she performs, even a highly conscious, manipulative actor. Therefor, the actor unwittingly interacts in ways consistent with the habitus (dispositions). This way, the actor does not risk betraying his/her performance, because the unconscious signs given off (reflective of dispositions of the habitus) are consistent with the act. Hence, not "just anybody" can become a movie star. The process of becoming a movie star involves not just learning how to "act," but also an inculcation of the dispositions that make the act credible.* The same can be said for Goffman's (1952) con men. Con men are successful, not simply because of their impression management, but also because, through their positioning in social space and experiences in the life course, they have acquired the dispositions needed to be a good faker. For a typical person to disregard the dispositions of the habitus--to engage in practices that are totally foreign--is to risk humiliation on the part of signs given off, manifestatinos of the habitus that is rejected. aS such, the habitus shapes impression management, but the self-presented remains situated. The habitus enables and constrains impression management, but the self remains characteristic of the situation. The habitus is not a "self," so to speak, nor is the body an "empty peg."

*Evidence can be found in the horrendous movies that often mark the early careers of stars.

Okay, so it is not hi-larious, but when a footnote makes me laugh out loud in the middle of a (good) but rather dense article on symbolic power and culture, and is rehashing Bordieu and Goffman like I don't know (okay, I don't)--I am appreciative. I actually laughed out loud on the train. Whether this is a mark of how funny the footnote is, or my depreciating standards for humor ever since I became an academic, or my general loserliness--hard to tell.


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