Gisèle Sapiro

Structural crises vs. situations of (political) crisis. A Bourdieuan approach

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Bourdieu’s theory offers several concepts to analyze crises. In the first part of this article, I study what Bourdieu calls «reproduction crises», which unfold on a long- or medium-term basis, but can provoke an endogenous political crisis, like that of May 68. In the second part, Bourdieu’s theory of the state as monopolizing symbolic violence and the notions of «politicization» and «phase harmonization» he uses in his analysis of the May 68 «critical moment» are combined and applied to other types of political crisis, resulting from exogenous factors such as coup, war, military occupation, or colonialism, in order to understand how they affect individuals, groups and fields. The case of the French literary field during the German occupation serves as an example of the phase harmonization of a social field with the political field, through its politicization. Common to all these types of crises, beyond their differences, is the occurrence of ideological struggles around the monopoly of symbolic violence. In the conclusion, the concept of axiological operators is proposed to study those symbolic struggles that intensify in conjunctures of crisis


  • crisis
  • field theory
  • political field
  • politicization
  • symbolic violence


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