Symbolic Violence

Conversations with Bourdieu

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: Published: October 2019

Author: Michael Burawoy

Politics > Political Theory, Sociology > Social Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Marxism

In Symbolic Violence Michael Burawoy brings Pierre Bourdieu into an extended debate with Marxism—a tradition Bourdieu ostensibly avoided. While Bourdieu's expansive body of work stands as a critique of Marx's inadequate account of cultural domination, Burawoy shows how Bourdieu's eschewal and rejection of Marxism led him to miss out on a number of productive theoretical engagements. In eleven “conversations,” Burawoy outlines the intellectual and biographical parallels and divergences between Bourdieu and the work of preeminent Marxist thinkers. Among many topics, Burawoy examines Bourdieu's appropriation and silencing of Beauvoir and her theory of masculine domination; the commonalities as well as differences in Bourdieu's and Fanon's thought on colonialism and revolution; the extent to which Gramsci's theory of hegemony aligns with Bourdieu's notion of symbolic violence; and both how Freire and Bourdieu understood education as the site of oppression. In showing how Bourdieu has more in common with these thinkers than Bourdieu himself cared to admit, Burawoy offers a critical assessment of Bourdieu's work that illuminates its paradoxes and reaffirms its significance for the twenty-first century.


“Michael Burawoy sets up an illuminating series of conversations between Bourdieu and some of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century (including Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Frantz Fanon, Paulo Freire, Simone de Beauvoir, and C. Wright Mills) that seek to ‘bring to life some of the combatants that Bourdieu has repressed.’ Through these conversations Burawoy makes an intriguing case for Bourdieu as a revitalizing force for twenty-first-century Marxism.” — Kate Crehan, author of Gramsci’s Common Sense: Inequality and Its Narratives

“Offering systematic comparisons between Bourdieu and several leading thinkers, Symbolic Violence represents first-rate scholarship from a seasoned thinker and will be of interest to all those who read Bourdieu.” — David L. Swartz, author of Symbolic Power, Politics, and Intellectuals: The Political Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu

"Readers are left with an important work that illuminates the space between valid and applicable theories, how that space can be navigated, and whether it is necessary or advisable to do so." — F. E. Knowles, Choice

Symbolic Violence is a rich and enlightening Marxist critique of Bourdieu’s sociology, which highlights both the latter’s profound insights and its shortcomings. The ‘conversations’ between Bourdieu, Marx, Gramsci et al. illuminate the limits of Bourdieu’s theory, but also its lessons for Marxists.” — Paul Leduc Browne, Marx and Philosophy Review of Books

"The chapters are testimony of how Burawoy as a Gramscian Marxist comes to grips with Bourdieu's work. The text gives insight into how Burawoy twists and turns, first as a dismissive critic, then a captive, and finally as a seasoned admirer if sharp critic of Bourdieu. It will appeal to those interested in the relationship between Marxism (particularly Gramscian) and Bourdieusian sociology."  — David L. Swartz, Social Forces

“The recently published book on the Bourdieusian notion of ‘symbolic violence’ sets the late sociologist on a critical meeting board with his posteriors to discuss the multifaceted significations, limitations, and overtime evolution of this concept.... We highly recommend this book to students and researchers who seek to explore the works and ideas of this contemporary sociologist.”

— Azadeh Heidari and Farzaneh Doosti, Critical Literary Studies


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Michael Burawoy is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of numerous books, including Manufacturing Consent, The Politics of Production, and The Extended Case Method.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Prologue: Encountering Bourdieu  1
1. Sociology Is a Combat Sport: From Parsons to Bourdieu  18
2. The Poverty of Philosophy: Marx Meets Bourdieu  33
3. Cultural Domination: Gramsci Meets Bourdieu  59
4. Colonialism and Revolution: Fanon Meets Bourdieu  76
5. Pedagogy of the Oppressed: Freire Meets Bourdieu  94
6. The Antinomies of Feminism: Beauvoir Meets Bourdieu  110
7. The Sociological Imagination: Mills Meets Bourdieu  133
8. The Twofold Truth of Labor: Burawoy Meets Bourdieu  148
9. The Weight of the World: Bourdieu Meets Bourdieu  172
Conclusion: The Limits of Symbolic Violence  191
Notes  201
References  209
Index  217
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A 2020 Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0647-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0580-3