Notes on: Bourdieu, P.  (2001) Masculine Domination, translated by Richard Nice.  Cambridge: Polity Press.

Dave Harris

[Quick notes only.]  This book is really important part of Bourdieu's work in my view.  He says he is interested in masculine domination because it is the most widespread form and he has persisted across a number of societies and centuries.  So it offers a particular case study for anyone interested in how domination manages to reproduce itself.  It is also the one that is perhaps the most misunderstood, seen as internal or based on something biological.  For Bourdieu, it is an arbitrary symbolic system that produces dispositions and practices that produces male domination.  For example, the biological differences between the sexes have to be symbolically ordered to make the female ones inferior. Psychoanalytic emphasis on the phallus ignores the other social dimensions of domination. Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse gives a detailed account of male perspectives on a range of things.Loads of footnotes support the arguments and there are the customary asides in smaller tyypeface.

Chapter 1
The analysis itself is quite ingenious that the whole symbolic order supports male domination, and not just the most obvious ones to do with sex or childbearing.  This is going to make it the most ambitious excavation of the system of dispositions yet.We can see this best if we look at Kabylia.  Here, everything is coded in terms of male domination - the layout of the home, public spaces, market activities [and possibly even the nouns and verbs are gendered].  As with Durkheim on primitive classifications, these codes developed from basic terms developed into whole systems and semiologies - things like nature and culture as in Levi Strauss, but also wet and dry, up and down, action and inaction, honor and dishonour.  As usual, it is not just ideas but practices themselves that embody these codes, which is a possible source of departure from Levi Strauss, and it is a matter of domination not just communication. We see this for example in the agoraphobia of Kabylian women -- fear of entering a public space which is a male domain, or in characteristic ways of standing or walking. If we want to understand male domination we have to see it as it is displayed and spread throughout society - it is not just a matter of consciousness, and so strategies to awaken female consciousness are limited.  It is a matter of the logic of practice (to which there are links). Kabylian practice is ingenious as ever -- if there is no male heir, for example, a man has to be acquired to marry a daughter but he becomes almost an honorary woman, living with the bride's family, a kept man: everyone conspires to conceal this unorthodox beginning to the marriage to save the honour of the family.

Bourdieu gets quite pessimistic here, confirming almost everything Rancière says about him - social reproduction seems so effective that it's almost impossible to conceive of anything that would ever bring about radical enough change ( so a great excuse to do nothing would be Rancière's take -- but is optimism better than actual knowledge of the problem, however pessimistic?) .  Indeed some of B's asides indicate the stubborn persistence of the symbolic order of male domination, such as taking for granted that bodies should be sexed, that female bodies are distasteful, that women prefer male partners who are taller (supported by survey data). Kabylian society has loads more examples -- ploughing and impregnation are more important than tending to growing crops and foetuses.  There is no account of how all this started of course, so maybe 'radical feminism' canbelet back in -- it all starts with the vulnerability of women at childbirth -- but this would still be some imaginary starting point, inconsequential compared to ongoing reproduction which requires no originating myth.

Males also get trapped though -- they are bound by codes of honour which include having to be potent all the time (hence massive demand for aphrodisiacs and Viagra), and to defend their honour with violence (persisting in cults of violence in modern society, including violent sports and degradation ceremonies). They  have to always stand up straight and look other men in the eye. Women have power as exercisers of the irrational -- magic or cunning -- which also demeans them of course.

While discussing this topic, Bourdieu also refines his understanding of other terms.  The habitus is still a matter of the system of dispositions and visions, supported by practices in the form of illusio, but differentiations according to gender seem to start with the very formation of the habitus itself.  The system depends on symbolic violence, discussed at some length in the first chapter, and Bourdieu is at pains to say that symbolic violence includes physical violence, which only has an effect because it carries a symbolic charge.  One consequence of symbolic violence is a sense of shame, and Bourdieu argues that this is prior to all the passions (38), and emotions such as guilt, humiliation, anxiety, or even the nicer sentiments like love, admiration and respect - shame, of course is an anticipated reaction from 'society', an acceptance of dominant values.

Chapter 2
The project is aimed at an amnesis (opposite of amnesia) an is to proceed as does proper ethnology -- acquire knowledge at the ordinary level then systematise it eg as a series of oppositions [theoretical reconstruction not generalization in the usual sense -- Levi Strauss again]. These are both collective and individual. Sexual differentiation is an immense labour, focused on the body, producing sexed habituses, developed in 'ideal' conditions in Kabylia but present in our societies too. This differentiation is performed constantly in lots of little ways, often without deliberate intentions -- and include conventions of dress and behaviour, occupational structures like little harems at work, conformity of vocations and opportunities as always.  Double standards exist even where work is similar --eg chefs and mere cooks: these are the same processes as in conferring nobility discussed elsewhere. Self-fulling expectations mean people treated as women become women --eg too weak to lift heavy weights etc --a 'reverse or negative Pygmalion effect' (61) [body-focused stuff again]. Male definitions become seen as universal [I think of a colleague's definition of the teacher professional -- someone neat, well-dressed, on top of his subject etc , or, in other words, a married man who has someone to clean his clothes, look after the household etc]. Because so much of it is unconscious -- like bodily hexis -- women can never succeed in performing credibly. Ther is no universal 'human' condition to aspire to.  Emphasising 'female' virtues like being able to relate to people still reproduces these differences -- it is still a 'product of the historical relation of differentiation'  (63). [All negative again then].

For women, perceptions and self perceptions of the body become crucial in the exercise of symbolic power.  Bourdieu goes on to describe a number of ways in which the body becomes important in social interactions, pointing out again ndeed it is not just our ideas of the body found in discourses like those of fashion or beauty, but a deeper set of codes.  Binaries such as big/small valorize male bodies, leading, among others, to female anxieties about being too big, and male ones about being too small.  In turn, these lead to metaphors such as overlooking things, in folding things, exerting authority and the rest. The thing is that these codes and metaphors don't look as if they are sexed.

The ideal male body is self sufficient as an object requiring no attribution of subjectivity [justified by examining the respect and deference accorded to male statues!].  For women, there is almost no way to escape constant comparisons between their real and the ideal female body, including bodily behaviour.  It is not just a matter of the gaze [attributed to Sartre here (65)], but the underlying schemes of perception and the wielding of symbolic power

Bodily hexis is crucial and it refers both to the shape of the body or physique and the way it is carried, deportment, and bodies are supposed to offer clues as to the real nature of the person [so fat people lack moral self control].  It also takes on connotations of social class as we know from Bourdieu 1986.  The petty bourgeois are particularly prone to anxiety and embarrassment. Classic emotions affect women such as shame, timidity, alienation and embarrassment, and they also experience characteristic female behaviour, such as being friendly and attentive, smiling, being demure or coquettish and so on, a kind of domesticated and pleasing heteronomy (66).  Female interest in romantic love is a way of canceling out the importance of the body.  There is also an interesting aside on sport for women (67), which can lead them to realise that they have 'the body for one's self...  an active and acting body'.  But of course women then have to pay the price of being seen as not proper women.

When considering female visions of males, Bourdieu turns to Woolf, especially To the Lighthouse [I have never read this novel so I can't comment on his accuracy, not that that is an issue.The discussion provoked in me several moments of guilty recognition].  The author comments on the central male character, Mr. Ramsay, whom we encounter reciting poetry aloud, which turns out to be The Charge of the Light Brigade.  He evidently pursues military metaphors as a guide to conducting himself as a proper man, and this makes him both an imposing character and a child.  The key scene arises when he attempts to disillusion his son by adopting a kind of aggressive realist position about the inevitable failure of plans [in this case because the weather will prevent a visit to the light house].  This is a kind of male prophecy, 'a forecast of science'(70), the statement of unanswerable wisdom: symbolic violence.  Underneath lies the reality principle asserted against the pleasure principle, as a kind of vocation for men, to align themselves with necessity.  Asserting reality is a kind of 'pitiless solicitude', 'kill-joy realism, complicit with the order of the world' (71), and it leads his son to hate him, because he detects the arbitrary nature, and the weak conformity of it all.  Male realism disillusions children and ridicules women.

Woolf uses 'indirect free speech' to represent both the child's point of view and the fathers, to show the fragility of his high self esteem.  It is all based on insisting on the truth, including the truth that life is difficult and 'facts uncompromising' so we need courage and endurance.  This is in effect a 'free affirmation of a choice', to opt for the masculine role and therefore to stand on the side of aggression, against indulgence.  There is more than a hint of a self fulfilling prophecy in this view of the world.

Almost inevitably, it is accompanied by acting like a child, indulging in fantasies, including one that sees the academic game as like war, with the same 'soldierly valour'(73).  Life is a struggle for recognition accepting that it is rare.  Thinking these thoughts, Mr. Ramsey's body stands upright, and he squares his shoulders.  What links the military and the intellectual, and makes one a metaphor for the other is 'the ludic illusio' (74).  Luckily, this makes the academic illusio as glamorous as the military one, but much less risky.  No wonder males exhibit so much 'visceral investment, the expression of which is essentially postural', evoking statues, memorials, uprightness, rectitude.

This is the 'original illusio, which is constitutive of masculinity', and it is found in all specific forms of the urge to dominate.  Men willingly let themselves be instructed in games that are socially assigned to them, 'of which the form par excellence is war' (74).  Men like to enter into 'collective collusion'(75) to preserve this illusio, to represent what they do as serious [and heroic, and also pathetic].  They rapidly come to see the nature of the social game 'in which the stake is some form of domination', and they are socially initiated, 'and thereby endowed with the libido dominandi'. 

Women are not taken in by these games of fighting for privilege and treat them with 'amused indulgence'.  This can make them look frivolous, unable to take an interest in serious things.  However, they are also expected to display 'affective solidarity with the player', which often means unconditional support because they do not know the reality of the game.  [The footnote says this also explains why young working class women share the sporting passions of their men, which inevitably looks frivolous and absurd, as does the opposite reaction of 'jealous hostility'].  They do show some concern and sympathy for the childishness to which men are reduced by their symbolic disasters [including excessive macho displays to their kids which backfire and make them feel guilty].  Men are harsh on themselves because they are also victims 'of the inexorable verdicts of the real' (77), and therefore require pity themselves.  Sometimes this is another male strategy, however. These implications and meanings are represented in the novel by what looks like a really ordinary conversation about visiting lighthouses and being able to predict the weather, or the fury of men when  contradicted by irrational women, for example.

Women can clearly indicate that they have seen through the game played by men and their 'pointlessly serious debates'(78), seeing that passionate advocacy is really about putting oneself forward, or a desperate need to constantly talk about themselves to make an impression and to reassure themselves.  However, this is 'somewhat condescending pity for the male illusio' is rare, and many women have to enter the game 'vicariously', to support their men in indirect participation in the games.

'Affective dispositions' like this reflect a division of labour of domination.  Kant has argued that women need representatives in civil affairs because of their female nature [so another dig at him, and, in a footnote, at subsequent kantians who seem to have the same views about the masses '(traditionally regarded as feminine)', (79)].  It is of course the habitus, a second nature, realized in 'the socially instituted libido' which then energizes particular libidos including love of games of power by men, and the love of powerful men by women.  This is also another example of the effects on the body, and of misrecognition of the origin of dominant categories [really arising from 'the very relationship of domination' (80)].  This misrecognition leads to 'that extreme form of amor fati' , a love of the dominant and of domination, desire for the dominant, even at the expense of the personal exercise of the desire to dominate.

Chapter three Permanence and Change.

That it takes the skill of a novelist like Woolf to penetrate every day practice like this shows the power of misrecognition.  Masculine domination seems to have persisted across nearly every known society at whatever stage of economic or political development they might be, from Kabylia to Bloomsbury.  The condition looks as if it is eternal or natural, but it really shows the persistence of practices, and also their systematic concealment or denial. 

We need to look at the operation of particular 'objective and subjective structures' (83), especially the work of the church, the family, the state and the education system.  These structures operate in different combinations or patterns [so a good example of dynamic reproduction], and explain both objective hierarchies and 'hierarchical dispositions', which affect even women themselves.  There are 'transhistorical invariants' despite differences in say the requirement of women to work in one era and stay at home in another, and they affect even the notions of normal sexual practice [a fascinating footnote on 84 says that casual sex by men with other men was very common until quite recently, and 'perhaps only after the Second World War [did] heterosexuality or homosexuality become an either - or choice'. Proust lives!].

The agencies actually had invariants in common, and all acted powerfully on the unconscious [and each are briefly described, 85, 86, with a reference to his own early work on education - maybe this in particular].  The church added a cosmological dimension, including affecting the structure of the farming year, the education system presents gendered academic disciplines and structures, and offers a particular combination between 'social destinies' and 'self images' (86) [another fascinating footnote on 86 shows how Simone De Beauvoir had to operate with unhelpful academic classifications imposed by Sartre!].  The state has supported private patriarchy with 'a public' patriarchy, emphasizing manly virtues in definitions of the citizen, say.  The split between welfare and finance is also a reproduction of 'the archetypal division between male and female' (88).

There have however been substantial changes.  Masculine domination is not as explicit as it was, partly thanks to the growth of feminism.  Access to positions in hierarchies for women has also increased, and family burdens reduced.  Education has been decisive, although it is autonomous enough not to have affected other areas drastically - the family, for example.  Nevertheless women now appear much more frequently in the 'intellectual professions, in administration and in the various forms of sale of symbolic services' (90), although 'they remain practically excluded' from authority positions in industry, finance and politics.  [There is a hint of a difference between absolute and relative mobility chances here].  What we have is 'permanence in and through change'(91) [there is some counterbalance here as well, so that those professions that become feminised also become devalued].  [And a buffer zone thesis - women are represented, but in frequently insecure occupations, often in welfare and caring. ] Even when they achieve dominant positions, say in the area of symbolic goods, they remain as '"discriminated-against elites"' (92), expected to pay back by meeting increasing demands, and sometimes having to act and behave as men.

As a result, women always have 'a negative symbolic coefficient'(93), like skin colour for black people or any other visible stigma.  This provides a certain element in common between women whatever their social position, but they always remain separated from each other as well, 'by economic and cultural differences', which can turn on different ways of experiencing masculine domination [optimism is immediately replaced with pessimism] .  The main general distinction that remains is the allocation of men to public and women to private spaces, which is seemingly based on 'three practical principles' (94): private domestic functions appropriate to women extend to their occupations; women can never have authority over men; men are the ones who handle 'technical objects and machines'.  [an aside refers to the ways in which schools direct women into particular areas].

Constantly experiencing a gendered social order, with explicit and implicit reminders, means that girls internalise masculine domination 'in the form of schemes of perception and appreciation not readily accessible to consciousness' (95), producing a consistent habitus, often transmitted at the bodily level, and thus resistant transformation.  There may be somewhere a fear that feminisation threatens the value of social positions and the sexual identity of its occupants, and this can produce a violent emotional reaction, especially if the occupation is central to manliness.

Differences are actually perpetuated by the autonomy of the area of symbolic goods and the sphere of [civil society].  Even if families are weakened, the reproduction of symbolic capital is still required, through inheritance [which seems to be endowing male heirs with particular masculine forms of cultural capital?].  Women are still confined to domestic work and the reproduction of kinship networks and family integration, and this is the real value of unpaid domestic labour [it includes keeping the family together on the telephone or through anniversaries, and, as women's work, it is usually denounced as frivolous].  There is a connection between domestic work and voluntary work.  Women still reproduce and produce symbolic capital, by maintaining appearances, for example, or by appearing as attractive partners, upholding feminine virtues, including a potentially sexualized body, or managing the every day aesthetics of decor.

This too gets transferred into paid work as receptionists and hostesses and so on [the main example is the Japanese hostess club which provides businessmen not with sex as much as personal services, personal attention, simulated seduction, so that the clients do not even see themselves as clients, 100].  Women produce 'signs of distinction'[in the sense of class closure] (101) to help convert economic capital into symbolic capital: the fashion industry is the classic female occupation here, with its 'perpetual movement of overtaking and outflanking'.  This spreads down to lower levels producing both  'aesthetic and linguistic hypercorrection', and [keeping up with the Joneses], or by relying on women's magazines.  The market for symbolic goods is therefore a classic example of [the paradox of the subject] where women voluntarily submit to something that dominates them.

The analysis shows the power of the relational approach, the need to uncover 'the whole set of social spaces and sub spaces' (102), and  not to work just in separate areas like family or education.  It also shows that dualisms are still 'deeply rooted in things (structures) and in bodies' (103), and cannot be wished away by renaming categories, as post modernists like to do, or by acts of 'performative magic' [and a footnote suggests that Butler has now rejected the voluntaristic view of gender performativity], or 'subversive voluntarism'.  It follows Foucault in attempting to show the historical dimensions of sexuality, the way in which people are produced as subjects of desire.  It emphasizes  the way in which unconscious relations between the sexes have developed over history.  However, unlike Foucault, there is no attempt to contrast modern and ancient visions of sexuality to display the current features, since sexuality is developed progressively, as a result of the interaction between various fields and their objects.  It might have begun as a source of opposition to mythical reason [rather obscure here 104], and sexual difference also energised the development of religious legal and bureaucratic fields.

There is no attempt to argue that sexual characteristics are fundamental structuring alternatives, as in Goffman.  They are highly differentiated historical developments 'arising from a social space' that is itself highly differentiated' (104), learned through exposure to experience in those different fields and their characteristic oppositions.  As we saw, opposition such as strong/week, hard/soft and so on are always seen as homologous with the division between males and females.  These oppositions also support cognitive structures, 'practical taxonomies' (105), such as the ways in which the disciplines are divided up in the academic field, with hard and soft sciences, or more public and private distinctions.  There are also relations between economic agents and academic ones in the form of seeing intellectuals is particularly demonstrating female qualities such as 'lack of realism, otherworldliness, irresponsibility' (105-106).  This is how the sexual unconscious gets 'logically extended' (106) into apparently objective divisions between social positions, especially in symbolic production [now apparently including academic activities as well].

But we have to grasp the totality here to see the constants and the processes of reproduction, 'invisible structures, which can only be brought to light by relational thinking'.  The relation show the phenomena discussed above, such as successful women having to pay for their success, perhaps with unhappy domestic lives, or how the specialism of women in the domestic produces the 'representation of the necessary, unavoidable, or acceptable gap between the husband's position and the wife's' (107). Connections like this also explain the persistence of male domination across different sectors of society, so masculine domination 'is the ultimate principle of these countless singular relationships of domination/submission' (108).

Postscript on domination and love

We might see in this is what Woolf called '"the pleasure of disillusioning"' (109), which might be one of the pleasures provided by sociological analysis [a footnote says that Bourdieu discusses the pleasures of lucid vision available to sociological analysis, apparently at the end of Distinction.  It also explains 'some of the most violently negative reactions aroused by sociology'].  Woolf would also want to emphasize the autonomy of love - is it autonomous, the only exception to masculine domination, or is it a supreme example of symbolic violence after all?  Arranged marriages of various kinds used to show that love is domination, but also that domination could be accepted.  At the same time, women have always had the power to fascinate, and bind men, getting them to forget their social obligations [and have met with suspicion as a result?].

Can power relations be suspended altogether in love or friendship?  Male conceptions of hunting or warfare seem to be replaced, domination gives way to 'anxieties, uncertainties, expectations, frustrations, wounds and humiliations' (110).  However, any escape is only accomplished by endless labour, relations based on full reciprocity and mutual recognition, even disinterestedness [in the sense of suspending calculations of interest and instrumental relations].  In the full economy of symbolic exchanges, the gift of the self and one's body can take place, and these can be seen to diametrically oppose exchanges in the commercial world.

However, pure love is a relatively recent development, connected to other pure loves of autonomous objects, like art.  It is 'extremely fragile' because it can be seen as excessive, requiring constant investment, and continually threatened by a crisis, whether the 'egoistic calculation of the simple effect of routinization' (111).  However, it exists 'as a practical ideal', especially among women.  It is often seen as a mysterious activity which alone can escape from the continuous struggles for symbolic power, or recognition and domination, leading beyond the usual oppositions between ego and other, 'and even beyond the distinction between subject and object', seemingly ending in some mystical union or fusion where people become lost in each other.  It seems to escape rivalry, and domination gives way to mutual recognition, a form of a 'free alienation'(112).  People experience themselves as capable of creating their beloved, through activities such as naming each other, and then to accept themselves as 'the creature of his creature'.  Love becomes an area of supreme consecration, more important than all those offered by other institutions and social groups.


Analyzing domination is risky, because it can confirm the inevitability of domination as well as mobilizing the victims.  Hoping for the best is not enough, nor can we assume that activism will prevail.  Threats arise whenever a scientific project pursues some external object: '"good causes" are no substitute for epistemological justifications' (113), and good intentions can sometimes include more calculative interests anyway.  Although we can never get to value free science, 'the fact remains that the best of political movements will inevitably produce bad science, and, in the long run, bad politics' (114), if it is not prepared to be critical of itself. We must not simply support what seems to be real. 

There is a danger of trying too hard to avoid being seen to blame the victims.  This can sometimes lead to a partisan or euphemistic attempt to use terms such as 'popular culture' or 'culture of poverty' to describe the [criminal?] situation of [some?] black people in the USA, or to avoid describing the willing submission of women in domination.  We can sometimes get 'an idealized representation of the oppressed' arising from an interest in solidarity, ignoring apparently negative aspects like the collusion of women in their own domination instead of explaining them [a footnote warns us of the reverse tendency as well, to excuse men by arguing that it is the habitus which produces their domination.  In both cases, we need to study 'objective and embodied dispositions' and attempt to free both men and women from their effects].  There is always the risk of seeming to justify the established order by describing the properties of the dominated.  'Appearances...  always support appearance' (115), while sociological unveiling produces condemnation both from conservatives and revolutionaries.  Mckinnon has complained about the reaction she gets that she is condescending to women [by portraying them as victims?], whereas in fact 'she is simply showing "how women are condescended to"'.  The male analyst is particularly likely to be unable to conceptualize the effects of masculine domination without suitable experience [but a footnote challenges this view that a particularly privileged analysis must arise 'by the mere fact of being both subject and object', while insisting on first person experience offers 'the political defence of particularisms which justifies a priori suspicion' and questions universalism which is central to science].

We must admit that men writing about sexual difference do face particular problems, perhaps 'unwittingly following justificatory intentions' and appearing to present presuppositions as revelations.  After all, the argument has been that there is a particularly deep rooted opposition between male and female in all cognitive structures.  Even the best of analysts '(Kant's, Sartre, Freud, even Lacan…)'  can allow the unconscious categories to intrude into the instruments of thought that they used to think of the unconscious.

His own stance can be described as one of 'sympathetic externality' (116), and the intention is to support 'the immense body of work' produced by feminists with findings of his own research on symbolic domination.  This might produce a new orientation, a relational one, 'aimed at changing those relations'.  For example, we might see that although the domestic unit is a major site, the symbolic power relations you find there are situated outside in other agencies like church, school or state.  The current political controversies about the notion of a civil contract for homosexual couples shows this wider context.  Feminists have widened the area of analysis themselves, beyond the private domain, but they tend to omit more conventional struggles over agencies even though they contribute to masculine domination.  Feminism has done good work in exposing 'theoretical universalism flaunted by constitutional law'(117), but it tends to operate with 'another form of fictitious universalism' often favouring women who are themselves in the spaces occupied by dominant men.

Political action needs to consider 'all the effects of domination', the structures relating to men and women, and the structures of major institutions which produce the whole social order itself, perhaps starting with the state.  This sort of analysis will be effective 'no doubt in the long-term and with the aid of the contradictions inherent in the various mechanisms or institutions concerned' [left very much as an afterthought an unspecified - maybe we are supposed to look for the sorts of contradictions of legitimacy exposed in State Nobility?].


[Difficult to get this -- particularly cautious and elusive prose, and maybe some indirect free speech?] Gay and lesbian movements raises some important issues.  Methodologically, it is difficult to generalize from what is a very complex set of 'groups, collectives and associations'.  Homosexuals are not marked with visible stigma, but are the victims of 'collective acts of categorization'.  (118).  They can initially be denied a public visible existence, as with other groups, with demands to become public greeted with the invitation[!] to remain discreet.

Again, the dominated partake of the system of domination, 'through the destiny affect'.  This takes the form of applying straight categories of perception to themselves, even adopting insults, and becoming ashamed.  It is sexual practice here that is subject to symbolic domination, again reflecting masculine principles of activity over female principles of passivity: homosexuals are resented for feminizing the masculine.  Some gays even apply these principles to themselves even if they are victims of them, as when they form conventional sorts of couples after all, or adopt exaggerated manliness.  Conventional perceptions of the body and the sexual division of labour can be found, reproducing the conventional links between sexuality, power and politics, perhaps even accepting that passive homosexuality is unnatural. 

Analyzing homosexuality can also make us aware of the politics of sexuality, radically separating conventional sexual relations from power.  But such 'radical subversion' would have to involve all the victims of sexual discrimination.  Further paradoxes await in that to mobilize effectively, means to belong to one of the classic categories, which can reinforce the very classification that people are trying to resist [the Weber paradox of radical politics]. 

The alternative might be to aim at a new sexual order in which the distinction between the statuses is indifferent, that sexual categories are constructions, that making these constructions visible might offer serious challenges -'symbolic revolution' (120). [Could be Rancière here -- see Valentine] This has been adopted by those who want to invert the stigma and make it a source of pride.  However, acknowledging the social construction involved can lead to political weakness and difficulties in organizing, especially if the logic is followed to acknowledge the large diversity of sexual identities.

Is the way forward to ask for state recognition?  This would offer  progress from more limited forms of 'symbolic breaks...  provocations' (121).  However, internalized categories and schemes of thought would also have to be transformed, to challenge the way in which they produce some 'self evident, necessary, undisputed natural reality'.  There are still contradictions as well, in arguing for a particular status, since this risks being included within dominant norms [I think.  A footnote says that all movements arising from stigmatise groups oscillate 'between invisibilization and exhibition, between the suppression and the celebration of difference', and also oscillate between the strategies they adopt according to their circumstances].  Take the problem arising from the notion of a civil contract - will this institutionalise one of the members of a homosexual couple as head of household, making such couples 'invisible'[which means, I think not special or particular, normal].  The advantages may not outweigh the 'concessions to the symbolic order'required (122) [an aside notes that civil contracts have been common in Nordic countries, and partners sometimes decide to appear as 'couples of quasi twins' instead of openly challenging the symbolic order].

Dominant law or orthodoxy already offers particularistic categories, which it presents as embodied and natural.  To occupy them almost inevitably will 'imply a form of tacit acceptance of those constraints'.  Members seem either to have to accept that they are invisible because natural, or that they are different in a justifiable way.  This is how 'the universalist hypocrisy' of orthodoxy operates, and it is able to oppose any particular identities as a threat to universalism.  Symbolic minorities are always prone to be 'recalled to the order of the universal' (123), as when gay and lesbian communitarianism is condemned in the name of the common law [what does this refer to?].

Particularism is useful to expose 'hypocritical universalism', but runs the risk of being universalized itself, for example 'as a form of ghettoization'.  The gay and lesbian movement often brings together relatively privileged individuals, 'in terms of cultural capital', which is useful in symbolic struggle and in the construction of new categories of perception and appreciation.  It still faces the 'problem of delegation', however, finding some spokesperson to embody and express the group.  It also tends to 'atomise into sects'.  A successful struggle seems to involve using the specific capacities of ' strong subversive dispositions, linked to a stigmatised status, and strong cultural capital' in unity with 'the social movement as a whole', acting as some kind of avant-garde in terms of theoretical and symbolic activity.

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