“The diffusion of responsibility is the phenomena whereby one considers that one is less responsible for some action when others are present- they absorb some of the responsibility or another might even be perceived to take it all, for example in cases where an authority is present. The government is not only not the bystander it wants us to think it is, but it has the knowledge and power to act so is responsible nevertheless. Public intellectuals, including social scientists, need to reinforce this idea or things will never change and we similarly act as irresponsible deferrers of responsibility. Those individuals responsible for disability assessments that label dying people fit for work, cut their benefits, and might as well just kill those they assess, should be vilified until held to account. As an extreme example, but using the same logic, if we don’t hold these people to account, then the Nazis who “just drove the trains” are not culpable for their role in the holocaust.” … More The Responsibility of Public Intellectuals in Holding Governments to Account | The Diffusion of Responsibility in Bureaucracy
“The idea of a “Hereditary Meritocracy” is provocative and not dissimilar from, albeit a quite reductive form of, one of the main ideas by our favourite Frenchman Pierre Bourdieu- we in the advanced economies of the world, although not subject to the arbitrary inequality of hereditary transmission of power legitimised by divine right, are still far from the ideal world in which “the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life”. Actually, the transmission of power and privilege is still quite arbitrary, largely hereditary but now it is disguised in other forms… If we really want to (I can’t believe I’m going to quote Thatcher!) “let our poppies grow tall”, then we need to accept the reality that some of those poppies are getting extra fertiliser and some are born in the shade. ” … More Hereditary Meritocracy Is Not Meritocracy | Critical Commentary of The Economist
“Content warning: This article contains discussion of childhood neglect and abuse.
[…] I can’t recall much of my mother apart from her occasional emotional abusiveness such as screaming at me that I would “end up just like [my] father” when I misbehaved. The only real stability in my life then came from my maternal grandparents and school, the latter of which not exactly stable […] As a child, I didn’t understand that what I went through then was tantamount to abuse […] lack of consistency and abuse has led to maladaptive behaviours symptomatic of my mental health diagnosis, and in Bourdieusian terms, negative cultural capitals- especially in the way I failed to develop my independence or learned “learned helplessness”.” … More The Psychic Landscape of Social Class & My Cleft Habitus | Part 5: Abuse & Neglect; Embodying Negative Cultural Capital
“In summary, I do not have the same social position as others I work with so cannot, as with my experiences as a fast-food worker, objectify my experiences in the same way. Just as the ethnographer experiences the world of the research subject through his own categories of perception and dispositions (his habitus) and so can never truly experience the subjective world of the subject they research, I would be trying to see the world of the working-class (in this case more specifically “precariat”) worker through more middle-class eyes (my class position is difficult to articulate as will be explained later in the main series).” … More The Limits of Reflexivity | How Class Mobility Impedes Your Ability to Research
“Being reflexive means being conscious in a way that makes our normal practice, however much it felt like we were consciously doing it before, seem like unconscious. […] By analysing how I came to acquire the scholastic disposition and become academically successful we can look at the structures which led to this, so policy can encourage these types of results.
Biological transfer is, although stochastic and probabilistic, it is not absolutely deterministic. […] Our statistical techniques can never give us 100% certainty (if they did, we would have hard laws rather than statistical probabilities), human errors, or all the other kinds of problems associated with human research, we always face margins of errors” … More The Psychic Landscape of Social Class & My Cleft Habitus | Part 4: Some Reflexions & Notes on Habitus, Luck & Biological Capital
“For the earlier parts of childhood, we were fairly middle class in the sense that I don’t remember ever going hungry, living in a comfortable suburban area where I would play outside with other children on our street. Culturally however I was fairly deprived compared to more middle class children in that, although I showed an interest in certain culturally valued pursuits, my parents did not have the propensity to invest in my education further […] I sometimes lived with my maternal grandparents […] It was probably most during these years that I was inculcated with values of hard work, gratitude, self-reliance and thrift. Although not exactly poor, my grandparents probably inherited these values from their parents […] success might have motivated me to adopt a more industrious attitude to my schoolwork if not for the following years not affording me the stability I needed to focus…”
In this article I have begun to explore how I came to possess a scholastic disposition and certain values which I have been able to exchange and convert into different forms of capital that have allowed me to be socially mobile. … More The Psychic Landscape of Social Class & My Cleft Habitus | Part 3: Gaining the Scholastic Disposition
“[…] Social class even effects the ways we think and feel. […] the education system is a key point of socialisation and education as an institution, along with the family, is one of they most significant experiences which develop everyone. […]working-class children internalise an understanding of their low academic achievement as pathological, which in Bourdieusian terms translates to them accepting and valuing symbolic mastery, which is required for academic achievement, as privileged over practical mastery. They come to accept the doxa, the orthodoxy, that academic achievement makes one worth more and so on one level misrecognise that their acceptance of this doxa perpetuates its privileged value which keeps them in a dominated position by reproducing general class relations, and on another level, they understand this which is why it leads to class based bullying.” … More The Psychic Landscape of Social Class & My Cleft Habitus | Part 2: Class-based Bullying, Fear & Envy
“Although after years of higher education have allowed me to reflect on the experience and articulate it, these experiences were hardly unique and reflect the harsh, dull reality of millions of workers. It’s not difficult to find these types of critique throughout the world of contemplative thought. I only repeat them here as examples to highlight the point that this kind of criticism of our working life is not uncommon, however I feel that much of this critique does not offer much in the way of realistic ways out of this predicament. I think a key part of overcoming these obstacles is realising that the social position of the worker is the most important category that links these situations and imbues those subordinate to them with common interests to transcend the current system.” … More The indignity of service work | My experiences as a fast-food worker | Part 7 of 7
“This article is a critical commentary, hopefully also comically polemical, on an article by Dylan Riley, professor of sociology at UC Berkeley, written in the new journal Catalyst in Spring 2017. I think his article does an injustice to Bourdieu and those scholars that have continued to develop his sociology. It is an extremely long and thorough, although still not as thorough as it could be, article which I hope succeeds in at least combating Riley’s criticisms, many of which seem almost slanderous to me. I hope this article also provides a decent introduction to Bourdieu’s sociology for anyone interested. ” … More In Defense of Bourdieu | Critical Commentary on Dylan Riley’s “Bourdieu’s Class Theory” in new journal: Catalyst by Jacobin Magazine
“Using dramaturgical analysis, we see here how the actors need to perform convincingly enough that the audience doesn’t have the illusion of the overall interaction shattered- this is called impression management. Here, positive affect is a goal of the corporation because it increases profits but this extra work, which Arlie Hochschild labels “emotional labour” isn’t considered renumerable work.
This emotional labour not only compounds the exploitation of the worker, as they produce more surplus value for their employer, but it is a more obvious example of the alienation caused by capitalism.” … More The indignity of service work | My experiences as a fast-food worker | Part 6