Symbolic Violence In Politics

Posts on Pierre Bourdieu: link
Posts on The Dawn Of Everything: Link
Posts trying to cope with the absurd state of political discourse: link

I’m well into The Dawn Of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow. They bring the perspectives of anthropology and archaeology.
I think the insights of contemporary sociology will help us understand a bit better some of the ideas the authors explore. It seems reasonable to me that if we are going to treat our ancestors as pretty much just like us then what we have learned about the ways we structure our society might be helpful in understanding some of the ways they structured theirs. To that end, let’s revisit the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu.

Like a lot of the French thinkers I’ve read, Bourdieu creates his own vocabulary. Two important termss are “habitus” and “field”. Another is “capital”, which includes several different named forms, the most important of which are economic capital and cultural capital. I discuss these terms in this series, and discuss others in a vocabulary post.

I discussed another of his terms, symbolic violence, in this post, focusing on how it worked to instill neoliberal ideas into the field of economics and on to the general public. This post holds up well, and is a good introduction to the concept in a fairly neutral context.

Keith Topper’s paper Not So Trifling Nuances: Pierre Bourdieu, Symbolic Violence, and the Perversions of Democracy, 8 Constellations 30, 2001, is available here. Topper is a political scientist at U. Cal. Irvine. The paper discusses the applicability of Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic violence in a political science. In Section I he introduces the basic ideas of practice, habitus and field.

In Section II he discusses Bourdieu’s interest in what he calls ordinary violence, those everyday interactions among people that are marked by “violence, domination, denigration, and exclusion in everyday affairs”. These mostly go unnoticed because they are routine, but they are the primary way that dominance is maintained. These interactions are spoken, and for Bourdieu language is a tool for domination.

Here are two examples I think demonstrate this point. The first is from a Lenny Bruce stand-up routine, taken from The Essential Lenny Bruce by Jack Cohen (my transcription).

I wonder if we’ll ever see that — if we’ll ever see the Southerner get any acceptance at all. … That’s why Lyndon Johnson is a fluke — because we’ve never had a president with a sound like that. Cause we know in our culture that “people who tawk lahk thayat” — they may be bright, articulate, wonderful people — but “people who tawk lahk thayat are shitkickuhs.” As bright as any Southerner could be, if Albert Einstein “tawked lahk thayat, theah wouldn’t be no bomb::

“Folks, ah wanna tell ya bout new-cleer fishin—”
“Get outta here, schmuck!’
“How come ah’m a schmuck?”
“Cause you ‘tawk lahk thayat,’ that’s why.”
“But ah’m tawking some stuff, buddi.”
“Will you stop, you nitwit, and get outta here? You’re wasting our time.” P. 97-8.

My second example is from this 2005 article in the New York Times. It describes the concerns of Della Mae Justice, an Appalachian woman from a poor family who, with the help of a wealthy cousin, is now a successful lawyer.

Far more than people who remain in the social class they are born to, surrounded by others of the same background, Ms. Justice is sensitive to the cultural significance of the cars people drive, the food they serve at parties, where they go on vacation — all the little clues that indicate social status. By every conventional measure, Ms. Justice is now solidly middle class, but she is still trying to learn how to feel middle class. Almost every time she expresses an idea, or explains herself, she checks whether she is being understood, asking, “Does that make sense?”

And though in terms of her work Ms. Justice is now one of Pikeville’s (Kentucky) leading citizens, she is still troubled by the old doubts and insecurities. “My stomach’s always in knots getting ready to go to a party, wondering if I’m wearing the right thing, if I’ll know what to do,” she said. “I’m always thinking: How does everybody else know that? How do they know how to act? Why do they all seem so at ease?”

Bourdieu is especially concerned with the way one’s speaking style can create dominant and subservient attitudes. I’ll summarize this point as I currently understand it. Each of us has a habitus, a set of dispositions that guide our social interactions. As a trivial example, most people use politeness terms, please and thank you, without thinking. Habitus also guides the way we dress, hold ourselves, those matters Ms Justice is worried about, and pretty much all our actions.

Bourdieu thinks we have a linguistic habitus. The linguistic habitus includes both words and manner of speech, but also gestures, interruptions and the expectations we have about how our speech will be received. Bourdieu also thinks participants in different fields, like law, academia, and corporate life, each require a different linguistic habitus.

Those who lack the kinds of linguistic habitus preferred in a particular field are excluded from participation in the field. The paper I’m describing is a perfect example of the linguistic habitus required in the field of political science. I’m on my third reading and it’s unbearably dense. But it wasn’t written for me. It was written at to communicate with other participants in Topper’s field. I’d be excluded from participating in a written discussion of this paper because I do not know the literature and I don’t understand the problem he intended to address. Also, I don’t like to write like that.

Topper seems to think there is a preferred linguistic habitus in politics, and those who don’t have it are excluded from participating in political discussion. It’s not just that those who have the preferred linguistic habitus ignore or dismiss them, though that can happen. They exclude themselves. They are self-silenced by their own recognition of a perceived deficiency.

Topper says this seriously undercuts the legitimacy of decisions made in the absence of the voices of too many people. He says neither the people with political linguistic competence, nor the people excluded recognize that the exclusion is based on a form of intimidation, silent but effective. This is the sense in which the control of symbolic discourse can be understood as violent.

Topper points out that language is a crucial part of politics. He cites Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition.

In this work Arendt holds that the very essence of politics is speech – specifically, public speech made possible by a shared language. Divested of the capacity to speak, and accordingly to listen, to persuade and to be persuaded, politics would be inconceivable, supplanted instead by “sheer violence,” which, she adds forebodingly, is necessarily “mute.

There is a similar discussion in The Origins Of Totalitarianism. Arendt says that the Nazis first denationalized the Jews, taking away their ability to speak and to act as citizens. That step made them less than human in Arendt’s terms, not much different from animals. P. 447.

Topper draws two conclusions. First, restricting participation to those with certain linguistic habitus means that other people are excluded from the political sphere. It undercuts our claim to self-government if large numbers of us can’t or won’t participate.

Second, the unequal distribution of acceptable political linguistic habitus is not formally recognized and counteracted, by education or otherwise. Thus, the dominant class can deny that it is exclusionary, and the subservient class can’t see exactly how it is being treated unfairly. This has major implications for political theory, which I’ll skip. It also has real world implications, which Topper doesn’t discuss in this paper.


1. There’s a lot here to consider. I think this idea, symbolic violence, is a helpful lens for a lot of different things including my reading of The Dawn Of Everything. There are too many for this post.

2. One specific thing is the whinging of David Brooks about the hurt feelings of those he claims are excluded by the culturally dominant, and how that led to the election of Trump. It’s obviously not true that right-wingers are excluded from public discourse, or from cultural discourse. I’ll take that up in another post.

Picture by Jim Surkamp via Flickr

74 replies
  1. AndTheSlithyToves says:

    Bandy X Lee, MD, MDiv | @BandyXLee1 | Jan 28
    As I have frequently said, fascism is not an ideology but mental pathology in politics. It follows all the characteristics of disease, and it will inhabit functioning organisms/organizations like disease to destroy them, if we do not stop it.
    My go-to expert on violence is Bandy Lee. She and her colleagues have been warning us since Donald Trump started running for the Presidency in earnest in 2015. In addition to being a Dr. of Psychiatry (and a righteous critic of the APA), she also holds a Masters in Divinity from Yale. She is a very unique thinker.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    David Brooks is a mahvelously well-paid professional whinger. He spends most of his time playing flying buttress to the very people he rightly describes as holding rank and file Trump voters – and most others – in contempt. Naturally, he’s taken to speaking with a forked tongue.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Pierre Bourdieu’s observations about vocabulary and speech could almost have been written by Prof. Higgins. Like D’Artagnan, Bourdieu was born and raised in Gascony, a department Parisians would have considered the backwoods. Both ended up in Paris, in Bourdieu’s case, to study at France’s most elite schools. He would have experienced firsthand the way elite Parisians used language to demonstrate and maintain their status and hold on power.

    Other examples with a similar dynamic are painfully common. The bright young man from 1950s Newcastle or London’s East End arriving as a fresher at Oxford, the late teen from Alabama arriving in New Haven. C. Wright Mills had a similar journey from West Texas to Columbia, via Madison and Baltimore.

  4. Alda Earnest Goodpeople says:

    Awoken in the middle of the night, thinking about Ed Walker’s symbolic violence, and Nietzsche’s moral relativism in the lion and lamb scenario, found me chewing on the brain candy of the objective reality and subjective reality of symbolic violence, argued all of the ways …

    Objective reality is what is real. Subject reality is what we think is real.

    When a lion eats a lamb — subjectively it is good for the lion, who lives another day. When a lamb is eaten by a lion — subjectively it is bad to be murdered by a lion. Objectively, it is not good OR bad for a lion to eat a lamb, but rather it is both good AND bad, and at the same time — which of course is a paradox — because for the same event, the lion taking the life of the lamb, it is true that this is good, and it is false that it is good, and at the same time.

    Accordingly, isn’t symbolic violence a matter of perspective, was the middle of the night thought?

    Applying the same to socioeconomics and class warfare, isn’t it bad or violent when the upper class uses symbolic violence to pit the under-educated lower class against the over-educated middle class, trying to elucidate the symbolic violence of the upper class to the lower class, for the upper class to achieve the “critical mass” required for the much smaller upper class to remain in power?

    Conversely, isn’t it bad or violent when the middle class uses symbolic violence to elucidate to the lower class the need to overthrow the upper class for their symbolic violence against the lower class?

    The lower class and middle class are the victims of the symbolic violence of the upper class, but it seems that the opposite is also true, the upper class is the victim of the symbolic violence of the middle class, on behalf of the middle class and lower class.

    Accordingly, isn’t symbolic violence a “victim” of this conflict inherent in ethics, moral relativism, or subjective reality?

    In Nietzsche’s lion and lamb scenario, the opposite is also true, further elucidating the conflict inherent in ethics, where it is good for the other lambs when lions reduce their numbers, as otherwise too many lambs may eat all of the food required for them all to survive, faster than the same can be replenished, resulting in most to all of the lambs dying of starvation, AND where it is bad for the lions to eat too many lambs for the same reason — also a paradox — because it is true for the lambs that lions eating lambs is good, and it is false that lions eating lambs is good, if too many lambs are eaten too fast, leaving the large group of lions to starve, when all the lambs or things to eat are gone faster than they can be replenished.

    In the short-term, it seems the oppression by the upper class and their symbolic violence is the greatest threat to humanity, but in the long-term, the tyranny of the masses and their symbolic violence by way of over-population and exponential depletion of the resources required to survive and grow, and the resulting pollution, is the greatest threat to humanity.

    Middle of the night thoughts dreaming about Empty Wheel and Ed Walker, a first world problem, thinking about whole world problems.

    • Ed Walker says:

      Very interesting. I think the reduction of the cycles you describe to good or bad may be a bit simple. For me, the idea of symbolic violence is a tool for analyzing certain social interactions, not with a view to judging them, simply to understand them. With that mindset, maybe we can move from analysis to the question: how can things be better.

      For example, Bourdieu says that some people convert their economic power into political power. Piketty in Capital In The Twenty-First Century points to this as a risk to democracy. Of course this is what is happening. We can read neoliberalism as I discuss it in the linked post as a tool to accomplish this. Once we grasp the point, we can try to undo it.

      Of course, that doesn’t happen when just a few of us middle-class people write about it, but it could happen if enough sensible elites started saying it out loud.

  5. Theodora30 says:

    I have always believed that the media’s blatant disdain for LBJ, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton came from their disdain for southerners, especially those who had accents and were from working class backgrounds. Carter was constantly referred to as a peanut farmer and Clinton was repeatedly called Bubba by top journalists like Tim Russert. It was clear those were not terms of endearment or respect.

    Americans are so focused on race (for good reasons) most don’t realize that people with lower class accents of the lower class are also looked down on. And this is not just a US thing. Students from the north have been of England have been severely bullied by “posh” kids at the UK’s highly rated Durham University. Their accents immediately identify them as working class.

    This kind of tribal behavior is part of human nature. People gravitate to others they say as part of their group. It’s a feature, not a bug that we need to work hard to actively prevent if want a truly egalitarian society. One way to do that is to make sure kids are brought up around kids from different groups, both economic and racial.

    I was lucky to grow up in the fifties in a small town. All the kids went to the same school — black kids, kids from working class families, and kids from well-educated families. Being classmates and friends with kids from different backgrounds was normal. In high school we elected a black classmate for student body president. His opponent was a white guy who was as well qualified and liked but Henry won with a solid majority even though our school was about 10 -12% black. Clearly a lot of us white kids me voted for him. I remember my friends and I had a hard time choosing between the two candidates because they were both great.

    No one thought electing a black kid was out of the ordinary. It didn’t occur to me until several years later that my experience growing up was not typical of most kids but I am extremely grateful for it.

    • SAO says:

      Gorbachev spoke with a southern hick accent, which in Russian manifests itself by using H for a hard G. As in the difference between the Russian name Lugansk for the Ukrainian city now known as Luhansk.

      I had Muscovites tell me how embarrassed they were when he spoke on the world stage. Even Americans could hear that he didn’t speak properly. I laughed and pointed out we heard him in translation.

      • Rayne says:

        Wouldn’t that suggest Gorbachev had a Ukrainian accent? His mother’s family were from Ukraine.

        That might put a different spin on the bias against his accent by Russians from Moscow.

        • SAO says:

          It was never described as a Ukrainian accent. Just a southern one. It’s hard to know at what point an accent becomes a dialect and a dialect becomes a separate language.

        • Rayne says:

          If one is a Russian in whom the idea that Ukraine is merely a rebellious part of Russia, one might not acknowledge a separate dialect and language.

  6. sleutherone says:

    New poster long time lurker.

    I studied access to tech in my master’s program in online ed. While not a language, putting everything in our daily life online is just as effective as any language barrier. Persons with no or limited access to the internet, those who are not familiar with the technology and those with physical and mental limitations are often iced out. This includes students, as we have seen during the pandemic.

    Now add internet etiquette (a linguistic habitus) to the mix. It ensures that those with the least resources have the greatest struggle. Is it intentional or just an oversight?

    Online discourse has become quite crude, and often a battlefield. It only takes one bad online encounter for someone to give up. Well-designed online instruction can help overcome the barrier, but you must get people in the door. Many will fail to enter that door based on their perceptions that the internet does not want them.

    • Ed Walker says:

      This is a nice insight. A lot of policy makers seem to ignore this problem. It’s not just the bare-bones working that’s difficult. People with limited tech exposure don’t have an intuitive understanding of the forms used by software developers for interaction, so every interaction has to be learned from scratch.

      But equally troubling is this: if a person is not used to the linguistic habitus common on each social media platform, when they check what they posted against what other people post they see differences that mark them as deficient; and that discourages them from further participation.

      • sleutherone says:

        Thanks, Mr. Walker, I agree with what you said.

        We have seen and heard how the online environment has a huge negative impact especially on many kids. Yet the kids were pushed into a Zoom classroom with no thought given to instructional design. Zoom is a poor substitute for quality online ed since lectures are the least effective of teaching methods overall.

        Better to have multiple ways for instructors and students to interact, a good online library and a class on how to use it.

        The current generation will have tech everywhere. It wouldn’t hurt to have courses in online discourse become a part of the yearly curriculum, even in face-to-face classrooms. Otherwise, we are just creating an angry and/or alienated generation that may assist in the demise of democracy.

        • Rayne says:

          Yet the kids were pushed into a Zoom classroom with no thought given to instructional design.

          What exactly do you think the states were supposed to do inside an 8-week timeline and an annual budget which was already committed? Don’t answer that — the bigger problem is that education has not truly dealt with the internet and digitization of media, nor has state and federal government dealt with equality of access. This country still doesn’t expect a standard Intro to Computing/Networking/Media during pre-K and K-12 education though the outcomes of education rely heavily on the use of computing+networking.

          And much of the blame can be laid at the door of corporate interests and the plutocrats who own and control corporate interests. They’re committing economic violence on an unsuspecting, uninformed population in the interest of profitability. AT&T spent money on OANN, a far-right media outlet which would promulgate pro-corporate propaganda, instead of focusing on providing wireless high-speed internet across the US. It bought at auction the 700Mhz analog TV spectrum and failed to use it to extend its network where that TV spectrum once reached. Nor is it the first time AT&T has mucked around in media (ie., Liberty Media) instead of focusing on market reach.

          Because of this one corporation alone, the US education system wasn’t prepared to step up in a time of crisis and provide uniform educational experience to every child in this country.

          Instead the public has been encouraged to embrace the right-wing hashtagged talking point, ‘Urgency of Normal’, to force children back into the classrooms without adequate COVID mitigation because the hoi polloi shouldn’t begin to question why we can’t do better providing equal access to the internet to support remote education.

          We’re looking at a mass disabling event, millions of children at risk of MIS-C and sequelae, for corporations to maintain normal profit expectations. Violence.

          I’m not even going to get into your naïve assumption the current generation fully understands the technology they rely on. Hello, future shock — you haz it.

        • sleutherone says:

          Rayne, I guess I picked a bad day to make my first comment. I appreciate the background on business’ role. I have the opinion that business involvement in education in general is to both sell the product and create the next workforce. To most, kids are a commodity. They had to get back to school, to graduate, go to college and feed the pipeline. A deadly virus must not clog the works.

          I got my degree in online ed online, so I saw the problems firsthand. Online ed is difficult for many adults and the research supports avoiding it with children. That said, we ended up with a pandemic and teachers had to do something. After several months the realization hit that Zoom was going to be around for a while but with few staff trained to teach others on the platform, teachers struggled.

          There exists no reservoir of online curriculum experts who might have alleviated some of the pain. The problem as I see is no move was made to make improvements when tech started to creep into the classroom and in this crisis it was left to those individual teachers who had the drive to make changes.

          Not naïve about kids’ overconfidence with tech. Just drawing the attention to a linguistic habitus problem in online classroom instruction.

        • Rayne says:

          You’re fine, no worries. I appreciate your sharing your perspective based on your background.

          But the situation isn’t as simple as it looks on the face of it, and it was and remains a pandemic. Bless teachers who’ve put up with so damned much to make the best of a wretched situation. We’re still going to have to create a remote education system ahead of the next crisis. Oh hell, crises, because there will be more than one, like massive hurricanes, polar vortexes, wildfires.

          I’ve been meaning to write something about AT&T for some time. You gave me a peg on which to start writing. :-)

  7. Old Antarctic Explorer says:

    So the Republicans constant effort to restrict the vote of the poor, people of color and working class people is really Symbolic Violence in action. The one type of speech they can’t shut down by conversation is shut down with voting rules and regulation. This won’t go away easily. Effort will be required for generations until we have a more equal society.

  8. Greg Hunter says:

    David Brooks was whinging even when it was clear that the faction he was talking about actually had quite a loud voice that helped achieve everything David had always wanted. But David, like many never trumpers, just did not like the rabble that brought them to the promised land of their dreams. To me David Brooks did not realize that Rush Limbaugh was that voice that helped, but Limbaugh knew and called him out on it, in his El Rushbo way.

    David Brooks was always challenged by the Left but not Rush Limbaugh as the left ignored him and that was a mistake. As I reflect on it now, it is evident the left was lead by “nice white people” from both coasts. Limbaugh’s critique of the liberal elites rang true to his listeners and it was true in fact. Pelosi and Schumer let their ego and echo chambers drive their desire to run the shows, while Republicans picked McConnell to lead the Senate and the House was lead by a hard scrabble white boys from middle America.

    If only could be played out here*, but it is far to late for that and its clear that the Left has to make some big sweeping proposals that will alienate their corporate donors but win hearts and minds. However I am not even sure there are voices in the administration that could even propose what I know would work. Its called Honesty.

    Be honest about education, crime and solutions to the issues that drive Americans crazy. I have proposals on all these issues but the one that would provide the biggest bang for the buck that will solve or mitigate a great deal of problems is ending the war on naturally occurring plants. Prohibition caused the largest crime wave in American history and when we finally stopped the war on alcohol, the good ole USA decided to start a worldwide crime wave by implementing its war on drugs. Far more benefits accrue to the left for making this case as it solves a great deal of inner city violence to problems at the border. They will not do it as BigPharma makes the NRA look like pikers.

    * The left should have had a designated person like Al Franken to call out Limbaugh every day. Pick someone like Clyburn to run the House and have someone like Sherrod Brown run the Senate.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The “left” would not pick the conservative Jim Clyburn. Someone like John Lewis is more likely.

  9. Alan Charbonneau says:

    Floyd Patterson also wrote about symbolic violence:
    “The prizefighter is considered by most people to be merely a tough, insensitive man, a dumb half-naked entertainer wearing a muzzled mouthpiece. He is supposed to stick to his trade—fighting and keeping his mouth shut and pretending that he hates his opponent. There is so much hate among people, so much contempt inside people who’d like you to think they’re moral, that they have to hire prizefighters to do their hating for them. And we do. We get into a ring and act out other people’s hates.”

    “So I’m all for boxing, although I admit that the existence of boxing says something about our society and the violence that it needs. When a fighter kills in the ring he does not go to jail; instead he gains a strange new respect from some people, maybe just bloodthirsty people, but this respect is something like that given to a war hero who has killed many men in battle, and when a fighter becomes a killer the boxing promoters know that more people will come out to watch him fight the next time. So violence and hate are part of the prizefighter’s world, Clay’s world and mine, although we do not hate one another, nor do I hate Liston or Ingemar Johansson or any other opponent, and I am sure the feeling is the same with them. We fight but we do not really hate down deep, although we try to pretend we hate. Sometimes it is all very confusing, we become very mixed up. And we are afraid.”

  10. gmoke says:

    Joan Didion on Victor Davis Hanson: “This gets tricky. Notice the way in which the author [Victor Davis Hanson] implicitly frames his indictment of himself and his family for turning away from the pure agrarian life as an indictment of the rest of us, for failing to support that life.”

    This is a particular kind of symbolic violence as it makes the victimizer the victim, “See what you made me do!” or “How dare you break the skin of my knuckles with you teeth attacked my fist!”

    A more subtle, and pervasive, example of such rhetoric is this head and sub-head for a recent Ross Douthat NYTimes column: ROSS DOUTHAT
    “So, You Think the Republican Party No Longer Represents the People
    American liberalism needs to democratize itself, too.”

    I read that and laughed out loud. Then I read it to a friend and he also noticed the discrepancy – Douthat avoids the main point, the Republican Party, to focus on the failings of liberalism instead. It’s Democrats and liberals who have to change, not the Republicans.

    My reading of Douthat’s column, and I usually avoid Douthat, Brooks, and such like the plague, is that he offers excuses for the Republicans without any possible solutions and blames the Dems for the Republican reactionary response.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Speaking of power and language, the lazy, lying, and clownish Boris Johnson continues to perform as Donald Trump. He substitutes word play, chaos, and absurdity for governance, in hopes that he can continue in office, so that no one but oligarchs can govern.

    UK government says devolved authorities [e.g., the Scottish govt] do not have to follow international law. An extraordinary statement.

    One of the many reasons this statement is word vomit is that for most purposes, international law takes effect by being incorporated into domestic legislation. This formulation would appear to say devolved authorities can ignore domestic law, which must make the ghost of Robert the Bruce very happy.

    For another, while subsidiary entities within states are not normal actors in a public international law sense, they are constituent parts of the states that are. It is the state’s responsibility to impose compliance with its international obligations within its borders, something Boris Johnson refuses to do. It would require work – anathema to Johnson – the expenditure of political capital – Johnson has none – and might offend his patrons.

    This absurdist formulation suggests that Johnson is using the same playbook or people which gave us the Texas anti-abortion statute, SB 8. Fascism is a global game.

    • Peterr says:

      Boris’ comments about devolved authorities probably did not go down well at the Foreign Office, at any of the UK’s embassies, or with anyone charged to represent the UK in foreign negotiations.

      Of course, all these folks probably have come to expect stuff like this after the way Boris tried to negotiate the Irish issues with the EU during the Brexit discussions. He made the UKs position “we want the right to take or leave any EU regulations, but we don’t want to be treated as outside the EU in terms of border crossings, especially on the island of Ireland” and the EU laughed in his face.


    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Archaeologists have found the remains of a woolly mammoth on a Devon building site, along with the partial remains of a woolly rhinoceros, hyena, horse, mountain hare, and red fox, and the nearly complete skeleton of a wolf.

      In other news, Downing Street remains mum on the absence of the prime minister and top members of his Cabinet, last seen on a working holiday in Devon.

  12. Christopher Rocco says:

    Foucault takes this argument a step farther and regards the norms of democratic speech as “normalizing” and hence exclusionary. If one doesn’t adhere to the rules of rational discourse (eg. Habermas’s project) then one is marginalized, excluded. His solution is to disrupt that discourse by organizing “guerilla raids” against it, in order to keep it off balance and so open up other discursive, and hence, political possibilties. An example woud be the AIDS group ACT UP from years ago, with its startling and carnivalesque street demos/performances. In the current context, though, I think I have found a new appreciation for Habermas’s rational discourse, attempts to agree based on fact and argument, and the rule of law. In the Human Conditon, Arendt also claimed that a polity must share a common reality, an inter est, literally a reality that exists between us. When sucha large portion of the citizenry has become unmoored from reality, our most fundamental task becomes creating once again a shared reality. In Wittgenstein’s terms, we all need to inhabit the same language game.

  13. jaango1 says:

    Has Chicano-oriented politics become an old and outdated ‘vision’ , especially when today’s politics becomes focused on either insurrection or sedition?

    And as we all know, today’s cabal is manifested with over 8,000 Elected and Appointed Officials, and I was a member of this cabal from many years ago. Thus, the lack of political violence does not exist, especially when Arizona’s Senate Republican leadership was advocating for audit, and one of the common insights, in addition to a pending audit, these nonsensical characters were advocating for individualized “wall trophies” of Chicano military veterans with the simultaneous and bogus belief that “dead military votes” were cast in large measure leading to the former president’s loss to Biden.

    And hence, I dislike of the ‘names’ mentioned throughout this thread, makes their eligibility readily available for insertion into our nation’s Monument for Criminal Stupidity. And further, the notion that was prevalent to the 1920s or the “Thinkers Versus the Learners” is just a simple-con’s version of today’s political conflict between the two major political parties.

    • Rayne says:

      Has Chicano-oriented politics become an old and outdated ‘vision’” — in a word, no.

      But Chicano (Mexican American) isn’t the only Hispanic/Latinx viewpoint in the U.S., just as Chinese Americans do not represent all of Asian-Pacific Islander Americans. Awareness of the issues facing Americans who identify as Hispanic/Latinx must both expand and be more granular at the same time. What concerns Puerto Rican Americans may not be identical to the concerns of Cuban or Guatemalan or Mexican Americans, especially when there are concentrations of Hispanic/Latinx voters in different portions of the country, ie., Chicano in CA, AZ; Cubano in FL; Puerto Rican in NY, FL, so on. The language of politics must mirror the people in a democracy.

      Because U.S. politics have been dominated by white Americans, it’s easy for them to lump all Hispanic/Latinx together, and too easy for GOP to treat this amalgam with racist suspicion, using them as a target for suppression.

      • Greg Hunter says:

        I would posit that Bill Clinton understood these differences quite well and actively played on them during the 2000 election cycle.

        George W. Bush also knew that immigrants from Central and South America were natural conservatives, but that experiment did not get to far as the racist base of the GOP would not hear of it.

        It is only in this moment when a large quotient of people understand these differences.

        • Rayne says:

          Someone has played them very well with their use of Spanish language media in certain markets like Florida and Texas. I hope to gods the DNC and state parties are responding to this with their own Spanish language media.

  14. Thomas2 says:

    Re using language norms to enforce social class boundaries: It’s becoming clear that the recent woke phenomenon is a prime example of such. New terms emerge that only the properly-educated understand and can deploy in the accepted manner, while disparaging the previous terminology as racist, sexist, etc.

    • Rayne says:

      Your comment’s perilously close to racist itself. “Recent woke phenomenon” is only recent and a phenomenon if you have infrequent to no exposure to Black Americans and African-American Vernacular English.

      Let me point to a concrete example of “woke” at work you might grasp which goes back further than the age of the internet: The Negro Motorist Green Book.* Because Black Americans could not safely rely on having access to food, gasoline, and accommodations while traveling across the U.S., they had to be aware of places which were safe for them. They had to be awake to the threats and the underlying political reality of Jim Crow and anti-Black racism. They relied on the Green Book to help them navigate.

      Properly-educated” can mean getting your head outside of your insular privileged world and paying attention. You know, woke.

      * The reference here is in no way a recommendation for the film, Green Book (2018), which is a white savior fantasy. For a history of “woke,” see Aja Romano’s piece in Vox, A history of “wokeness”.

      • Thomas2 says:

        I’m not married to the “woke” label. Some people are now calling it the Voldemort ideology, because any attempt to name it gets you labeled as a racist, sexist, whatever. As you just did!

        • bmaz says:

          What in the world is “woke”? And what does it have to do with anything here, other than trying to gin up garbage? Despite having no clue what “woke” really is (hint, it is not jack squat, it is a made up term to attack Dems with by dolts). Nobody made you to be a “racist, sexist, whatever”, but you maybe giving people fodder to do so.

          And, by the way, you continue to sock puppet this blog with multiple IDs. Stop that.

          The trolls, they are out today. Must be hitting a few nerves.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Exactly. “Woke,” as Humpty might say, means whatever I say it means, no more, no less. It is speech or criticism I don’t like. It’s an attachment phrase – a tribal statement that I’m for or against something, like my most prized peers – and a substitute for thinking. It’s vagueness is what makes it so suitable for propagandizing.

        • Rayne says:

          Earl, you and bmaz both are digging a hole for yourselves. Just because YOU don’t like a word doesn’t mean it isn’t valid or important to the community which uses it. I suggest you examine your dislike of the word more deeply; you’re literally having a problem with a word or phrase used by a minority group for over a lifetime to exhort others to be cautious, be informed, be aware in a way YOU don’t have to be.

          I mean, as an example are you going to tell us you don’t like the word “menstruation” because it doesn’t mean anything to YOUR tribal group? Do you not grasp the political violence aimed at the group of people for whom the word “menstruation” is a daily/monthly fact of life?

          Jesus. I can’t believe I’m having to deal with this crap from white men who think they can erase a word because it’s meaningless to them — and they’re supposed to be on the left, not right-wing.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          You might examine how the right has effectively abused and appropriated the term, along with a host of others that once had meaning related to critical thought.

        • Thomas2 says:

          I don’t think it can be dismissed that easily. There has been a recent culture shift in the American civil religion, characterized by increased illiberalism and particularism. We don’t have an agreed-on term for it, and the Voldemorting we’re seeing in this thread is one reason.

          Woke seems to be the most popular moniker. When John McWhorter was writing his most recent book, he was calling it “the elect”, but his publisher seems to have gotten him to change it to woke in the title.

          I raised the topic only because it perfectly exemplifies the Bourdieu-ian take in the OP.

        • Thomas2 says:

          I don’t understand the hostility, but it rather underscores the point I was making in response to the original post’s observation re the use of language as a tool for domination and to reinforce class boundaries. Incorrect deployment of language becomes a marker of low class, and the deviant becomes eligible for a degradation ritual. By degrading the deviants we reinforce group solidarity and establish our individual status within the group. This is basic sociology and the foundation of Bourdieu’s argument.

          I don’t know what you mean by sock-puppeting or why you would call me a troll for responding to the Bourdieu reference in a polite and thoughtful manner. As Bourdieu might observe, you seem to be using language as a tool for domination, by scolding me for using a verboten word and questioning my legitimacy to speak.

        • Eureka says:

          Finally a true sea lion rolls from the surf! The trolls (and perseverant whiners) today have been boring the fuck out of me, but — being a bit of a naturalist — I kept the binoculars handy.

          Going back to your initial comment, you’d have a point about people feeling unsure, embarrassed perhaps, with a touch of anomie, when they don’t know the “right” words to use if you also hadn’t made clear that — from your position — there was no desire to learn in the humanist sense so as not to make your fellows feel *subordinate to your need to dominate them by refusing to honor their identities.*

          Turns out, this one’s not about you — but about others in relation to you. But you knew that.


        • Eureka says:

          OMG the last two panels I wish you could hear the boisterous laughter (’tis the mark of a good creator when you react heartily even on repeat exposures, so fresh).

          Adding: and traffic jam created yesterday by the one who used to push Russian active measures talking points and other anti-Americana in 2018 didn’t go unnoticed

        • Eureka says:

          I think we’re having a “Who’s on first?’ moment: a panel is aka a frame (or box).

          Part of the charm of the last one for me in this context is the “YOU TWO” much like, well, _you_ two. [and “Very well, we shall resume in an hour” — *chef’s kiss*]

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          When they ban discomfort on the practice and playing fields, I’ll take their argument sincerely. Until then, it’s part of their decades-long drive to promote white supremacy and defund public education, and with it, democracy.

        • Thomas2 says:

          I have very little idea of what you’re trying communicate to me, but it appears to be ad hominem.

          Has anyone here besides the OP read Bourdieu? It seems unlikely.

  15. Eureka says:

    Towards positives, the Philadelphia Inquirer has a new Civics Reporter, Henry Savage @MediaByHenry. Meant to be very interactive and public-driven.

    First thing I thought of during your discussion of Topper, Ed.

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