Symbolic Violence: Conversations with Bourdieu, Michael Burawoy

Azadeh Heidari and Farzaneh Doosti


Written in nine main chapters and 240 pages, the recently published book on the Bourdieusian notion of ‘symbolic violence’ sets the late sociologist on a critical meeting board with his posteriors to discuss the multifaceted significations, limitations, and overtime evolution of this concept. It opens as the neo-Marxist author Michael Burawoy explains his long-held antagonism towards the French philosopher and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, which he had been expounding in various conferences in the last decade. The present volume contains the quintessence of his previous critique now rewritten for Anglophone readers.

For many years Burawoy was a Bourdieu skeptic, in simple language, feeling that Bourdieu had rather stolen ideas from critics and sociologists like Fanon, Gramsci, Freire or de Beauvoir than offering a genuine contribution to their ideas, until he enrolled in Loïc Wacquant’s Bourdieu Boot Camp course in the spring of 2005, and that broadened his horizons to the ever-expanding panorama of Bourdieu’s oeuvre. In the prologue, he offers a comprehensive outline of the major publications of Bourdieu and expounds the pivotal function of the term ‘symbolic violence’ in the formation of each his works – a term Bourdieu introduces as early as the 1970s in his works (1977, 1992, 2001) as “a gentle violence, imperceptible and invisible even to its victims, exerted for the most part through the purely symbolic channels of communication and cognition (more precisely, misrecognition), recognition, or even feeling” (Bourdieu Masculine Domination 1-2).

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