TCS review of Pierre Bourdieu, On the State: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1989-1992 at the TCS website, by Rohit Chopra.
Pierre Bourdieu’s On the State grapples with the unthinkability of the state, seeking to bring it within the ambit of the thinkable. Bourdieu describes how the state derives its legitimacy by possessing not just a monopoly over physical violence but also over symbolic violence. The state is incorporated within us, by shaping both our mental structures and practices. Those empowered to act in the name of the state routinely perform and reinforce the authority of the state as do citizens by following state orders. Unmasking how the historical origins of the state are marked by arbitrary inequalities is essential to understanding how the authority of the state is linked to the distribution of privilege in the present. The book shows a remarkable theoretical and methodological coherence across Bourdieu’s range of work. And it distinguishes his perspective and project as uniquely distinct from Marxist, poststructuralist, or conventional historical or structural sociological appproaches. [more here]