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5.0 out of 5 stars The habitus of Social Roles, 23 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
This is one of the big beasts, obtuse, brimming and spilling with meaning. Bourdieu changed perception, when he ranged his gaze onto the habitus of middle class manners, building on Elias Cannetti to look at the creation of style. fashion and taste. Being middle class is the antithesis of being working class, as it requires a "refined" set of manners. The habitus rests upon the tension within this polarity. Within the modern, era as workers no longer work, the middle classes define themselves by putting in double shifts; doing white collar work tapping computer keys, having meetings, doing tenders and change management. Life and business is reduced to the "game."

The non workers drink strong lager, the middle classes drink strong wine but all get drunk on the meaninglessness of the system they have created. The non workers listen to rap the middle classes listen to something unstructured. Holidays in Spain, holidays in Thailand, Peckham and Barking becomes Clapham and Notting Hill. Areas of geography and taste intertwine to demarcate "us and "them."

The problems with MC Culture, as Bourdieu points out is its inherent sterility. "Culture" is composed of a collection of sterile facades masquerading as roles that need to be imbibed to create the habitus. Ultimately all is ersatz and fake. The middle class habitus also co-exists in a tension with the upper class culture. Whilst the middle classes have morality, the upper classes have none. They are the despoilers and live a life like the poor, except they have "class" and money, but are equally morally dysfunctional, according to the middle class habitus. The middle classes are entrapped in a strange dynamic of fawning and anatogonism when compared to the upper classes. They want the lifestyle but abhor the lack of the middle class habitus with its brash or austere dynamics. However the middle classes aspire to send their children to middle class school to continue the pantomine.

Bourdieu lays it all out, how magazines, programmes, music, food, TV are all created around education, taste, refinement and social class. These are used as social markers to define human and non human. The middle classes, just like their portrayal in Midsommer Murders hide behind a pretense where a seething culture of manners, disguises a naked will to power. There are no friends only associates.

This is a big book and and is replete with stats and accounts of how these cultures have developed and accrued. Bourdieu showed that attending theatre and artfilms does not make a better person in terms of authenticity. It does provide emblems for dinner parties to be dropped into the conversation.

As devastating as Nietzsche and Gramsci, this shows how ideologies are formed and sustained creating wounds. The essence of being middle class is colonising exotica to counter the sterility as this provides a veneer of authenticity within a plastic lifestyle- the middle class craze for world music but not the desire to live next to an immigrant is one example. There are numerous others.
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