Notes on: Harrits, G. (2013) 'Class, culture and politics: on the relevance of a Bourdieusian concept of class in political sociology'.  The Sociological Review, 61: 172-202.  Doi: 10. 11111/1467-954 X. 12009

Dave Harris

Lots of people have argued for the decline of class, including Pakulski and Waters, and even Goldthorpe has wobbled when it comes to political analysis.  However there has been a recent revival, including the Bennett team, with a renewed emphasis on culture and its interdependence with class.  Cultural practices have tended to be over represented, however especially in the form of cultural consumption, all the relations between cultural practices and education.  Politics and political practices remain largely unexamined, and, correspondingly, the concept of class is almost absent within political sociology.  However, Bourdieu can be used to rectify this situation and analyze political practices.  Bourdieu himself did analyse such practices, including work on the state, and a number of his followers have developed political sociology as well, including Wacquant [and a long list on 173].  Politics can be seen as a field and a practice, and he has a dimension of consumption.  The article also includes a multiple correspondence analysis between class relations and political practices in Denmark.

Class analysis can be seen as having two main elements - social relations and how they appear in modern society, and secondly, the relationship between class and practices.  The first element leads to concepts 'such as capital, social space and class'(174), whereas the second element leads to 'field, symbolic space, and practice'.  Culture appears in both, in the first context as capital, or social resource, and in the second as 'meaningful symbolic practices, and lifestyles, identities and discourses' which contribute to the maintenance of social relations.  There is also a distinction between the fields.  The field of cultural consumption is described in Distinction and elsewhere, but the relationship between social classes and symbolic practices involves an notion of production - 'fields are always both fields of forces and fields of struggle' here.

Class is a matter of the accumulation and use of various types of capital.  This seems to appear to be an improvement on Marx, which reduces the many forms to the economic.  Cultural capital like the others have an effect in their own right and produce structures of power, which can even compete among themselves.  Cultural capital is also affected by the development of 'cultural or informational fields' (175), through such matters as printing presses, universities issuing credentials and so on.  The strongest capitals produce social spaces, and empirical analysis suggests that it is economic and cultural capitals primarily, and then a social and symbolic capital which are the most important.  Both volume and composition of capital structures social space.

The notion of class is relational, depicted visually by the maps showing positions in social space.  Overall volume of capital distinguishes the primary classes, and the composition of capital distinguishes class fractions.  Occupational groups are only used in the empirical construction of social space, as an indicator of position.  Overall the effect is multidimensional, to do with relational positions and allowing for the impact of different forms of capital and interactions between fractions.  The actual map in France is only 'empirically derived and thus temporary', however.

Class produces similar 'objective social conditions' and a class habitus which further produces dispositions and practices.  They may persist 'on paper' before developing symbolic labour to constitute their boundaries.  They can also be studied empirically by looking at lifestyles, 'classes misrecognised' (176).  Agents need not be conscious of the class character of their practice is all dispositions, and Harrits says this Weberian.  At this point, the distinction between spaces and fields gets 'blurred', and practices like political ones are sometimes allocated to both.

It is possible to clarify the distinction, however.  A field is 'a relational configuration of specific resources (capital) and practices, which unites people struggling to accumulate capital.  An 'endless number of fields exist' empirically.  However, the field really means 'production field', a term used by Bourdieu himself.  These feature struggles by experts or professionals united in a common struggle for power and legitimacy, and 'sharing the same illusio...  and doxa'.  Consumption fields are different.  These are 'spaces of symbolic practices' often connected to production fields, but consisting of lay people or consumers who are united in the consumption of products or specific forms of practice.

There is an 'overall (structural and functional) homology between the social space of classes and almost any field', but the effects of class may vary, and sometimes have no effect.  Some fields are homologous to the social space, and some are even 'structured autonomously by their own principles'[like university academics, but this is a licensed autonomy].  The political production field might be one where professional politicians are relatively autonomous, where 'field illusio and doxa'a more important than class habitus.  However, in the consumption  space, 'the political illusio is not very strong', so class habitus and position 'expectedly codetermine citizens political practice', together with 'some field effects'.  Thus class works to produce homologies especially in consumption spaces.

Bourdieu's actual analysis depend on the relational approach, where there are no independent social elements, causal contributions or singular factors.  For example, the affects of the level of education depends on its total distribution among the population and the existence and distribution of resources competing with cultural [educational] capital.  This is what underlies multiple correspondence analyses, to find the empirically important dimensions and relational configurations of both individuals and 'modalities (i.e. categories of each variable)'(177).  Even so, we get a map of the social space of classes, which needs a further step - 'Bourdieu calls it "structural causality"'(178).  This is not explained well, but it means that there is a causal relationship 'between the total social space and the total symbolic space' operating at the level of fields or spaces.  Homology here means 'similar structuration'.  Multiple correspondence analysis can be used to explain this notion, by comparing different spaces empirically, and visually.

When discussing political practices, Bourdieu tends to focus on attitudes and alignments, but there is also an argument that working class respondents are effectively excluded, because they display so many 'don't know' responses, so 'the tendency to form political opinions [in the first place] varies with class', and class affects the ability to participate.  This particular study accompanies the frequent attempts to connect class with participation, by examining the relation with political culture, and looks at political resources separately from participation.  'Traditional indicators of these two concepts' are used in the study on Denmark [which follows.  I have leapt straight to the conclusions.  There is some excellent discussion of what correspondence analysis is and how it works, and some nice maps]. 

To test homology in particular, you have to compare the categories from one space to the other spaces, and thus to the social space, constructing separate maps first to show the main structuring dimensions.  Then you include the categories of the social space overall as supplementary points, to help visualisation and comparison of the categories within the political spaces.  Visual comparisons of configurations have 'been called "visualised regression"'(187)]

The conclusion overall is that there seem to be two structuring principles, one depending on resources of action and political activity, and one referring to knowledge resources and political discussion, possibly reflecting the difference between conceptions or 'principles' of politics as a struggle for power, and as a matter of ideas and ideologies.  The social space shows the usual distributions according to amounts of capital, both economic and cultural.  The supplementary points referred to above appear as 'nine empirical class fractions' based on a prior analysis of social space in Denmark and producing its own map.  Apparently,a  'strong' homology can be seen with political participation and political resources, and composition of capital 'runs parallel to the dimension differentiating...the two [conceptions of] politics'(196). 

However there also some 'reconfigurations' - for example the social space does not feature as much dispersion as the political maps of capital or practice, suggesting some degree of autonomy for political practice.  There also seems to be a particularly active group, not so well explained by social class or capital.  There is also a suggestion that cultural capital affects political consumption more than economic.  Overall, several indicators appear to support the homology, when considering both volume and composition of capital, but there are other factors, including very active individuals which suggest that there are some particularly influenced by an autonomous doxa and illusio of the political production field.  All these provisional conclusions need more work.

Overall, highly and active individuals are not well explained by the distribution of social spaces, there is also some autonomy for middle class positions which could be field autonomy, but also excessive individualization, or social autonomy and weaker class dispositions, in cultural generally [referring to the Bennett team, Savage in particular].  The extent of autonomy could also be a feature of the specific social space examined, and social or symbolic capital might be required in future.  Finally, this is only a snapshot of the underlying structures and practices, further research might be required to test habitus in particular, possibly by researching political boundaries between groups.

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