kbevans at panix.com
Fri Apr 5 21:39:10 MST 1996
To my mind there is a fundamental flaw in Bourdieu's idea about male
domination that leads to an incomplete appreciation of ideas like commodity.
This same kind of flaw is found throughout Marxism. Although i have not read
much, Bourdieu, I remarked immediately on a mistake in a passage in "The
Logic of Practice". Bourdieu goes to great lengths to prove the existence of
a universal culture of Male domination, Yet one of his first observations -
that "manly" men tend to face each other directly, is completely wrong. I
have noticed for years that men from "macho" societies tend to look away from
each other, but in the same direction (as if looking at the same thing) when
talking. The more serious the thing, the more they look away. Italians
sometimes take the tack of standing very close but looking past each other.
They do, so as not to risk confrontation, which macho society might
demand, should they notice (or present) something offensive in demeanor.
Similarly, we shake hands to see that the other is unarmed and to present
ourselves that way. As provocative as a rough handshake might be, it is
nowhere near as provocative as no handshake.
The reason this is important is that Bourdieu sees a culture of
aggressive oppressor versus purely oppressed. In fact, the violence of male
culture creates participants who are oppressor or oppressed to varying
degrees, and a female culture which is principally alienated, so long as they
pose not threat - which is to say that they do not participate - in male
culture. The reason this reflects on Marxism is that Marxists, seeing a
socially objective "truth" like oppression of the proletariat, take an
essentially subjective view that oppression is one side of an inflicted
truth, with proletarian liberation being the other. In fact, oppression
is the violent relationship which alienation, however unpleasant, seeks
to avoid. Men create a choice between participating in their violent
culture (at their own peril, although some, like Madonna, succeed) or
being objectified. The bourgeoisie holds out alienation as a sad refuge
for those who want to avoid feudal conditions ("freedom" of movement,
etc.), but exacts alienation. Alientation is the social reward for not
participating in the economic struggle.
Like many Marxists, Bourdieu seems so intent on negating the status
quo, that he forgets that the status quo reflects social fact. Marxists,
particularly Maoists and other hard-liners, are so outraged by the "big lie"
that they ignore the sad truth that people are participants in their own
misery. Ignoring this forces them to take radical "dictatorship" stances, as
they butt up against the reaction that their antithetical ideas create. It
goes deeper than that. They forget that things like commodity in general and
commoditized capital in particular are ways for people to avoid (what might
otherwise be dangerous) confrontation in an inherently violent world. So
too, they despise bourgeois-democratic legal frameworks as tools of
oppression when they are in large part mollifyiers of oppression.
Since "universality" and "objective social truth" are impossible,
given personal free will, one must conclude that they are a charade, in
the broadest sense. They are efforts to represent irreducible components
of human interaction, which may be ineffable. Dialectically, they move
>from archaic symbols of gender role and shamanist symbols of authority to
increasingly gender-neutral bourgeois society (as Bourdieu notes) and
democratic law. Bourdieu over-stresses the "truth" which was revealed for
all time by Marx, and short-changes the dialectic.
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