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Essay Paper on Political Sociology

There’s a popular saying, “Power is often said to be at its most potent when it is not observable.” I’d like to discuss this statement in terms of the arguments that sociologists Bourdieu, Foucault, and Tilly made about the power of the state.

In his “Rethinking the State: Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field” Bourdieu presents a “model of the emergence of the state.” The state emerges as there develops a specialized corps (e.g. policy, army) of agents who can exercise violence. The concentration of physical capital in the hands of a few is paralleled by the concentration of economic capital through taxation. In other words, Bourdieu considers these processes to be simultaneous. Moreover, according to Bourdieu’s viewpoint expressed in “Rethinking the State: Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field”, power means obdurate relationship of collision and collusion, autonomy and complicity, distance and dependence that occurs between material and symbolic power. At the heart of Bourdieu’s sociological work is logic of practice that stresses out the significance of the body and practices within the social world. Against the intellectualist tradition, Bourdieu maintained that mechanisms of social domination and reproduction were primarily centered on bodily know-how and competent practices in the social world.

In Bourdieu’s sociological work “Rethinking the State: Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field” mechanisms of social hierarchies’ reproduction were analyzed. In comparison to Marxist’s viewpoint, Bourdieu criticized the primacy given to the economic factors, and stated that the capacity of social actors to actively impose and engage their cultural productions and symbolic systems plays a crucial role in the reproduction of social structures of domination. Moreover, Bourdieu introduced a concept of symbolic violence which means that capacity to ensure that the arbitrariness of the social order is ignored or misrecognized as natural consequently ensures the legitimacy of social structures. These arguments about power presented in “Rethinking the State: Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field” play an important part in his sociological analysis.

As Bourdieu put it in his work the modern social world is divided into what he calls fields. For this sociologist, the differentiation of social activities was brought about the constitution of various, relatively autonomous, social space where competition rests within certain species of capital. These fields are treated on a hierarchical basis and the dynamics of fields stems from the struggle of social actors that try to obtain the dominant positions within the field. Although Bourdieu agrees on some main components of conflict theory with the Marxists, he diverges from Marxist analyses in thinking that social struggles are not reduced to the fundamentally economic conflicts between social classes. The conflicts which arise in each social field are largely specific to those fields and are not reducible to each other. Bourdieu viewpoint on power was apparently influenced by Weber in a way that power must be legitimated in order to be exercised in any enduring and efficient way.

Using Michel Foucault’s 1978 and 1979 lectures at the Collège de France on governmental rationalities and the 1977 interview about his work on imprisonment as its main sources, “The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality” presents arguments about power made by Burchell, Gordon and Miller. In these lectures, Foucault focuses on the art or activity of government both in its present form and within a historical perspective and various ways governmentality has been used in practice…

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