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fictive truths and symbolic capital

from David E. Apter’s Yan’an and the narrative reconstruction of reality:


People make stories out of events. They do so individually and collectively. Recounting individual stones makes for sociability. Collective stones have political consequences when, as myths they purport to be history, as history they are reinterpreted as theories, and as theories they make up stories about events. Theories that become stories create fictive truths. In politics, truthtelling and storytelling are part of the same process by which it becomes possible to interrogate the past in order to transform the future.

By such acts it becomes possible to generate what has been called symbolic capital as an alternative to more conventional modes of power, the end product of political mytho-logics.(1) In its present usage, symbolic capital represents collective experience as an endowment of meaning from which individuals can draw for their own enhancement. In this sense, collectivization in the form of symbolic capital constitutes a fund of power available to individuals which appears to enlarge their powers.

from Wikipedia’s entry on symbolic capital:

In sociology and anthropology, symbolic capital can be referred to as the resources available to an individual on the basis of honor, prestige or recognition, and functions as an authoritative embodiment of cultural value.

from Wikipedia’s entry on Pierre Bourdieu:

For Marx, “capital is not a simple relation, but a process, in whose various movements it is always capital”.[33] For Bourdieu, “social capital is the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition.”[34]

Bourdieu sees symbolic capital (e.g., prestige, honour, attention) as a crucial source of power. Symbolic capital is any species of capital that is perceived through socially inculcated classificatory schemes. When a holder of symbolic capital uses the power this confers against an agent who holds less, and seeks thereby to alter their actions, they exercise symbolic violence.

from Matthew Toll’s Ideology and Symbolic Power:

The physical and non-conscious reaction to symbolic power and the acquiescence to symbolic violence and domination are grounded in the imbedded dispositions that individuals acquire through interaction in social fields. Dispositions, or what Bourdieu calls their “habitus”, are durable structures that form generative principles that underpin practice. These generative principles are primarily the product of the family and educational system, but are not passively absorbed. There is an active component in individual practice. Central to the development of dispositions was the “socially elaborated” nature of “desire”; Bourdieu hypothesized a tentative thesis based upon a distinctly Freudian framework of the transition from ‘libidinal’ narcissism to the investment within the social field.

The transition from libidinal energy invested in bodily desire to investment within the social field and social reaction constitutes a crucial transitional point in which symbolic capital and therefore symbolic domination become a reality through the “search for recognition”. The individual develops a looking-glass self, by which is meant the individual start to evaluate itself via other people’s perception of him or her self. This search for recognition and self-evaluation via others becomes the source of satisfaction for what Freud called our primary narcissism, but it can also engender problems for individuals. Bad evaluations can elicit feelings of guilt and shame and individuals can develop phobias and complexes from repeated negative judgments upon themselves. There is also a lack of social capital or social regonition in the form of “glory, honour, credit, reputation, fame” etcetera and these common evaluative schemas allow for the symbolic domination of those with minimal symbolic capital.

“Symbolic violence”, wrote Bourdieu “is the coercion which is set up only through the consent that the dominated cannot fail to give to the dominator”. Symbolic power is constructed through the common evaluative schema that are habituated and inculcated within individual throughout their life, by the primary institutions of socialization and the constant re-socialization throughout day-to-day symbolic activities. The reaction to symbolic power is not initialized in the realm of consciousness, but is prereflexive and expressed as bodily reaction or emotional responses. In this sense, Bourdieu argues we are the outcome of a long process of “autonomization”. This automization take the form of a “quasi-bodily involvement in the world” and is not a process of conscious calculation.

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