On the State
Lectures at the Collège de France, 1989 - 1992
1. Edition January 2020
480 Pages, Softcover
Wiley & Sons Ltd
What is the nature of the modern state? How did it come into beingand what are the characteristics of this distinctive field of powerthat has come to play such a central role in the shaping of allspheres of social, political and economic life?
In this major work the great sociologist Pierre Bourdieu addressesthese fundamental questions. Modifying Max Weber's famousdefinition, Bourdieu defines the state in terms of the monopoly oflegitimate physical and symbolic violence, where the monopoly ofsymbolic violence is the condition for the possession and exerciseof physical violence. The state can be reduced neither to anapparatus of power in the service of dominant groups nor to aneutral site where conflicting interests are played out: rather, itconstitutes the form of collective belief that structures the wholeof social life. The 'collective fiction' of the stateD a fiction with very real effects - is at the same time theproduct of all struggles between different interests, what is atstake in these struggles, and their very foundation.
While the question of the state runs through the whole ofBourdieu's work, it was never the subject of a book designedto offer a unified theory. The lecture course presented here, towhich Bourdieu devoted three years of his teaching at theCollège de France, fills this gap and provides the key thatbrings together the whole of his research in this field. This textalso shows 'another Bourdieu', both more concrete andmore pedagogic in that he presents his thinking in the process ofits development. While revealing the illusions of 'statethought' designed to maintain belief in government beingoriented in principle to the common good, he shows himself equallycritical of an 'anti-institutional mood' that is alltoo ready to reduce the construction of the bureaucratic apparatusto the function of maintaining social order.
At a time when financial crisis is facilitating the hastydismantling of public services, with little regard for any notionof popular sovereignty, this book offers the critical instrumentsneeded for a more lucid understanding of the wellsprings ofdomination.