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LGD 2007 (1) - Lovell

Nancy Fraser’s Integrated Theory of Justice: A ‘Sociologically Rich’ Model for a Global Capitalist Era?

Terry Lovell,
Emerita Professor,
Department of Sociology,
University of Warwick


Focusing on Nancy Fraser’s integrated theory of justice, the paper analyses the exchanges between Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth, both of whom draw upon Bourdieu in articulating their rival socio-normative theories of justice. Beginning with a brief description of Nancy Fraser’s theory, the article analyses the same in relation to Honneth’s monist ‘thick, multilayered and historically developed recognition order’ and his critique of Fraser’s ‘perspectival dualism’ all the while referring back to Bourdieu as a point of reference. The paper develops this tension further by invoking Bourdieu’s notion of habitus in relation to the ‘subaltern speech of the dominated’ revealing and illuminating points of congruence and of departure between and amongst the three scholars, particularly as concerns the voices that compete for hearing in the public discursive sphere. The paper highlights these scholars’ approaches to the transnational effects of global capital and neoliberalism on full participation in the public sphere. It then suggests that Fraser’s concept of participatory parity, which draws upon a rich legacy of feminist counterhegemonic practice, is a plausible principle of justice for addressing a broad range of social conflicts, disputes and injustice claims in restructuring global capitalist order.


Bourdieu, Feminism, Fraser, Global Capitalism, Habitus, Honneth, Participation, Recognition, Social Justice, Subaltern.

Editors Note:

The substance of this contribution is contained in Lovell, T (2007) 'Nancy Fraser's Integrated Theory of Justice: A 'Sociologically Rich' Model for a Global Capitalist Era? in Lovell, T (ed) (Mis)recognition, Social Inequality and Social Justice: Nancy Fraser and Pierre Bourdieu,(London and New York: Routledge) and is published herein by the kind permission of Routledge

This is a refereed article published on: 6 December 2007

Citation: Lovell, T, ‘Nancy Fraser’s Integrated Theory of Justice: A ‘Sociologically Rich’ Model for a Global Capitalist Era?’, 2007 (1) Law, Social Justice & Global Development Journal (LGD). <>

1. Introduction

The aim of a series of exchanges between Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth was to delineate, in the spirit of critical social theory, ‘a sociologically rich interpretation of the normative claims implicit in the social conflicts of the present’ (Honneth, A, in Fraser, N, and Honneth, A, 2003, p 110) that draws therefore on sociology as well as normative theory. Honneth’s chief sociological recourse in this exchange is to the empirical study conducted by Pierre Bourdieu and a team of researchers on social suffering in contemporary society among marginalized working-class communities on the fringes of Paris and elsewhere (Bourdieu, P, et al. 1999), of the kind that witnessed the upsurge of angry, violent demonstrations across France in the autumn of 2005. Fraser had herself drawn upon aspects of Bourdieu’s conceptual frame in the early stages of the development of her integrated theory of justice, the central concern of this paper, which suggests that this point of reference lends itself to further consideration in assessing the exchange.

Although feminist issues are not at the centre of her exchange with Honneth, Fraser’s feminism marks all that she writes, as is clear in many of the vivid examples with which her theory is furnished. One prominent resource for feminist theory in the 1970s was the Marxism that circulated in sociology and many other disciplines. The famous cultural or linguistic turn that subsequently affected so many of the disciplines on which feminist scholarship had drawn, gave greater prominence to philosophy and to textual studies, even to the point of reducing ‘ the social’ to ‘the textual’. The turn of the twenty-first century has witnessed a ‘return to the social’1, restoring attention to causal/structural sociological analysis, but this project is no simple turning back. The cultural turn was no cul-de-sac. ‘The cultural’ retains the place it has won in feminist theorising in which ‘the social’ had been temporarily eclipsed.2

The history of feminism in the second half of the twentieth century has been one of development, contestation and transformation. Fraser’s early contributions came from a socialist feminist perspective, and many who aligned themselves with this approach were hostile to ‘the cultural turn’ and to postmodernism. But Fraser holds together in critical synthesis the legacy of socialist feminism, aspects of postmodernism, and finally and perhaps most significantly, critical theory. Her approach is dialogical. Her characteristic strategy in response to those who would set these feminisms in opposition to one another has been ‘the finesse’. She seeks out, through critique, defensible versions of each that may then be reconciled.3Her theory of justice is built in the context of ‘the post-socialist condition’ (Fraser, N, 1997), and it holds together another dichotomous opposition between ‘the politics of equality’ and ‘the politics of difference’. In characteristic fashion she accords privilege to neither one against the imperatives of the other, arguing the case that justice requires, and can integrate, valid forms of both.

Bourdieu’s is a complex sociology of domination. One of its principal lines of articulation distinguishes social structure from habitus, although these are intimately linked.4Habitus is a powerful yet elusive concept, and is significant in the sociological underpinnings sought for Fraser’s and Honneth’s rival socio-normative theories of justice. It makes of Bourdieu a tacit third party to their exchange. All three have positioned themselves in relationship to Habermas over the manner in which the sphere of public debate, within which injustice claims circulate and are assessed, systematically disadvantages dominated social and reference groups.5Honneth’> s critique and Bourdieu’s sociology of domination provide two pressure points on Fraser’s theory. But the third and most urgent challenge lies in the project of interpreting and adapting the theory to the exigencies of global capitalism, a challenge which Fraser has addressed in her recent work. I shall begin with a brief account of her theory of justice.

2. Fraser’s integrated theory of justice

Fraser’s early framing of her theory is concerned primarily with inequality and injustice in the context of global capitalism and the increase in cultural diversity in modern society that it carries in its train. She argues for a ‘dual perspectival’ approach that distinguishes two types of injustice, those of misrecognition and maldistribution, rooted respectively in the cultural domination that is perpetuated through the status order and the economic system of modern capitalism. She identifies three types of socio-economic injustice:

  1. Exploitation (appropriation of fruits of labour).
  2. Economic marginalization (restriction to undesirable or poorly paid work, or denial of access to incomes).
  3. Denial of an adequate material standard of living.

Her three types of ‘cultural or symbolic’ injustice rooted in ‘social patterns of representation etc.’ (Fraser 1997: 14) are:

  1. Cultural domination (subjection to alien standards of judgement).
  2. Non-recognition (subjection to cultural invisibility).
  3. Disrespect (routine subjection to malign stereotypes and disparagements).

Fraser is interested in systematic injustices that affect those occupying particular positions within the social relations of the class and status orders. To be sure, socio-cultural groups and categories are not mutually exclusive. But Fraser argues that they may be classified according to their primary roots and their attendant vulnerability to one or another type of injustice. She places them along a continuum; at one extreme are those groups that are rooted primarily in the economic order, most vulnerable to maldistribution; at the other end are clustered those that are defined within the matrix of status distinction and who are particularly vulnerable to misrecognition. If the subaltern social class – the working (but not always employed) class – provides the paradigm case with regard to economic injustice, Fraser’s examples of groups that suffer primarily from cultural injustice include those whose sexualities place them outside the hierarchies and values of the dominant culture, including homosexuals. At the centre point we find what Fraser terms ‘bivalent’ groups that are equally vulnerable to both types of injustice. The two examples she uses are those of gender and ‘race’, both identified as culturally rather than economically grounded, but she argues that these distinctions have become sufficiently deeply embedded in, and structuring of, the inequalities of the economic order to merit this bivalent status. Dalits in India would serve as a powerful example (Chigateri 2004). Their oppression is at one and the same time rooted in the (cultural) status order that defines caste (for Max Weber, castes were status groups) and deeply embedded in an economic order that perpetuates them.

Bivalent groups are presented as special cases, but it is not always easy to distinguish them from groups grounded more fully in the economic or status orders. The dominated, or subaltern class was never homogeneous; but in a variety of contexts and forms, it developed distinctive social and cultural institutions and practices, and a habitus that was marked in terms of class. Wherever subaltern groups are culturally distinct, they may attract disparagement, cultural misrecognition. On the other hand, pace Judith Butler (Butler, J, 1998), homosexuals, insofar as they are culturally visible, may pay severe economic penalties, and suffer physical as well as what Bourdieu terms symbolic violence (Bourdieu, P, 2000). But whether injustices are principally generated in the economic system or the cultural/status order, or whether they are fully bivalent, Fraser’s dual perspectival approach carries the imperative that analysis must always examine all cases and all proposed remedies in terms of both, and it is this that serves to protect against any given categories being seen as ‘merely cultural’ or exclusively ‘economic’ .

Fraser is indeed concerned, alongside philosophical/political analysis, to offer guidelines for a more practical, pragmatic task: to identify modes of intervention that are, in a given conjuncture and a particular case, likely to have some success in remedying the injustice suffered, or at least reducing it, but above all, that will not exacerbate it (Fraser, N, 1997). Interventions that focus exclusively on remedying economic disadvantage (certain types of ameliorative redistribution for example) may deepen the injustices of misrecognition that these groups simultaneously suffer. There is a parallel risk in addressing the injustices of misrecognition solely by the politics of ‘difference’ or ‘recognition’. The example that Fraser uses is that of ‘cultural feminism’, in which culturally produced and structurally instituted gender characteristics are celebrated and affirmed, and thereby risk being reinforced, naturalized and reproduced. The key political task therefore always is to identify strategies and tactics that combine positively, without allowing one to, as it were, unpick or aggravate the other.

In the elaboration of her model of justice in her exchange with Honneth, Fraser brings to the foreground the more inclusive moral category of participatory parity – her defining criterion of justice. Injustice claims of whatever kind are to be validated only if the practices they target can be shown to diminish or obstruct the possibilities for equal participation in social life and in the discourses of the democratic public sphere.

3. The Exchange with Honneth: Enter Bourdieu

The main thrust of Honneth’s critique of Fraser targets her dualism. He argues that while redistribution may be essential to remedy injustice, it can be subsumed under a suitably calibrated category of recognition. Thus the marginalized groups that are the subject of Bourdieu et al.’s research (Bourdieu, P, et al., 1999) manifestly suffer distributive injustice, and because their predicament is rooted in the dislocations of social class and the global economic order, presumably would be placed by Fraser towards the maldistribution end of her continuum. But Honneth, who draws attention to this research in mounting his disagreement with Fraser, identifies their suffering in terms of his broader, encompassing category of misrecognition. Bourdieu’s empirical example was chosen to provide something of a test case. Honneth aims to show that even at this end point of Fraser’s continuum, the felt injustice expressed in such communities is, above all, the injustice of disrespect – the violation of legitimate normative expectations promised by a complex societal recognition order. If we do not need a separate category of specifically economic injustice even in this extreme case, then Fraser’s dualism falls. Second, and drawing on the same example, Honneth accuses Fraser of over-reliance upon those recognition struggles that have been articulated through new social movements and that have therefore found a voice within the discourses of the public domain.6He argues, drawing on the research interviews, that: ‘the overwhelming share of cases of everyday misery are still to be found beyond the perceptual threshold of the political public sphere’< /font>

(Honneth, A in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 118). Finally, it should be noted that Honneth is concerned with injustice in order to redress the ‘deeper’ levels of harm that misrecognition causes in terms of human flourishing, and the opportunity to develop ‘intact selves’, the primary condition for participating in the social world and pursuing ‘the good life’. Manifestly, the conditions under which the people of the communities studied in the research were placed do not lend themselves to human flourishing, however defined.

Fraser argues that what constitutes human flourishing and ‘the good life’, is a judgement that is not universally shared among competing but ‘reasonable’ visions of modern multicultural society (Fraser, N, in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 223). Fraser describes her position as one of ‘ non-sectarian thick deontological liberalism’ (Fraser, N, in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 230). But her concern is to keep her model of justice general enough, ‘thin’ enough, to avoid sectarianism and thereby navigate the rapids of cultural relativism, yet ‘thick’ enough to offer substantive guidelines at a pragmatic level. This concern motivates her distinction between the binding moral imperatives of justice, and culturally relative ethical imperatives that bind only those that adhere to them. These ethical norms include (variable) conceptions of the good life, whereas for Honneth no adequate account of justice is possible that does not incorporate at the very least a ‘ weak conception’ of the good life, such as he himself proposes (Honneth, A in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 114). In this paper I shall stay close to the particular example raised by Bourdieu’s research.

4. Dualism and recognition

Dualist approaches that distinguish between ‘the economic/material’ and ‘the cultural’ have proved contentious within feminism in response to dual systems theory7, and within the form of cultural studies named by Raymond Williams as cultural materialism rather than the study of a separate realm of culture (Williams, R, 1977). Cognizant of both, Fraser yet offers an unashamedly dualist account of justice, and this aspect of her work came under criticism from Iris Marion Young (Young, I M, 1997) as well as Butler and Honneth. Fraser mounts a robust, unapologetic rejoinder; her dualism of the economic and the cultural is, first, an analytical rather than a substantive distinction, and she argues against identifying the economic per se with the economic system of modern society, the cultural with either its status order, or, in the manner of feminist dual systems theory, with institutions and practices defined as ‘ideological’, including sexuality and the family, as was clear in her exchange with Butler (Butler, J, 1998; Fraser, N, 1998); second, she names it a perspectival dualism and in this aspect it is political and strategic as well as analytical; third, Fraser shares Honneth’s wish to form a unitary account of justice, but argues that this goal is aided and not impeded by her analytical perspectival dualism. All claims, whether the injustice in question is grounded in the capitalist economic system or the dominant status order, must be brought before the bar of participatory parity.

For Honneth, by contrast, the unifying concept is that of a (thick, multilayered and historically developed) recognition order, one whose claims extend over social relations generally, including economic relations and practices. The ‘so-whatness’ of this claim lies in his identification of a deep (psychic) level of affect, ‘structurally directed against the unreasonable demands of society’ that permits us to speak of ‘the necessity of a practice of transgression’ (Honneth, A in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 243). For, like Fraser, his concern is with social transformation in the direction of social justice. Honneth disputes Fraser’s claim that her categories are analytical. Despite her disclaimers to the contrary, he argues that they designate two substantive areas of the socio-cultural world. This gives them some resemblance to the sociological opposition between ‘system integration’ and ‘social integration’ (Lockwood, D, 1964), towards which Honneth takes an ambivalent stance (Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 156). He denies the very existence of a systemic, self-reproducing economic system that is outside the purview of, or may flout with impunity, even the ‘deep grammar’ of a normative order that demands respect across the whole of social space. The economic system, as well as all kinds of social relations and practices, is normatively bound. Honneth distances himself from Lockwood’s distinction, then, but with a hint of kettle logic, argues that were he to use it, it would be necessary to concede ‘a certain primacy to social integration’ (Fraser, N, in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 250), or in his own terms, to the broad normative recognition order that would have to be classified as ‘ cultural’ (if we had to choose!). Economic injustices are experienced as breaches of the social recognition order: ‘the economic’ and ‘the cultural’ is, he claims, an opposition that ‘ designates the respects in which disrespect is experienced’ (ibid., p 157). A separate category of specifically economic injustice is not required.

What light does Bourdieu’s approach throw on this dispute? Recognition and misrecognition are key concepts in his sociology of domination; the power to dominate is held by social actors by virtue of their location in a complex social space of positions that are relationally defined, and their (positional) holdings of two types of capital: cultural and economic (Bourdieu, P, 1984). Fraser’s opposition resembles, and may even have been influenced by Bourdieu’s frame. Bourdieu nowhere unequivocally reduces or subordinates one to the other.8‘ Economic capital’ and ‘cultural capital’ are related through the concept of ‘capital composition’ (the particular mix that is characteristic of given positions in social space – see Bourdieu, P, 1984), and more importantly, as we shall see, through ‘symbolic capital’. He has been accused of quasi-Marxist economic reductionism – among others, interestingly, by Honneth (who levels the same charge against Fraser)9– but some defences of Bourdieu against this recurrent charge might suggest that he should rather be read as attaching the greater significance to the symbolic violence of misrecognition (Wacquant, L, 2005, p 20), and this concept is critical to the present discussion.

For Bourdieu, misrecognition is pervasive and complex. Misrecognition of the dominated by the dominant takes the form of a (legitimated) refusal to grant any but inferior standing to the dominated or to recognize them other than on the terms of the dominant culture on which their own claims to distinction are based. The recognition and respect that the dominant require of their ‘inferiors’, in addition to that secured from their peers, may also yield them rich symbolic profits. But the misrecognition and disrespect inflicted on the dominated is deeply harmful to them and it constitutes symbolic violence in proportion to its legitimacy (Bourdieu, P, 2000, p 240 passim). Symbolic capital is not, Bourdieu argues, ‘a particular kind of capital but what every kind of capital becomes when it is misrecognized as capital, that is, as force, a power or capacity for (actual or potential) exploitation, and therefore recognized as legitimate’ (ibid., p 242). The emphasis on legitimacy is nowhere more evident than in his description of the state as ‘the central bank of symbolic capital’ (ibid., p 240). As the state claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, it is possession of this state-sanctioned symbolic capital through the offices of a ‘state nobility’ generated and reproduced through the educational system, that confers the power both to recognize others and to withhold recognition: ‘To be known and recognized also means possessing the power to recognize, to state, with success, what merits being known and recognized’ (ibid., p 242).

It is a sociological, and indeed a literary truism (hammered home, for example, in Jane Austen’s novels) that access to economic capital does not in and of itself command recognition. ‘New money’ may be discounted within traditional status orders; and on the other hand a lessening of inequality through measures of redistribution to individuals and communities may not on its own secure the ability among the dominated to command respect, but may provoke resentment and a deepening of misrecognition. However, this can be made to cut both ways, so far as Fraser and Honneth’s argument over dualism or monism is concerned, since each recognizes that redistribution alone rarely secures justice, especially where economic injustice is intercalated with misrecognition, as with Fraser’s bivalent groups, and as they are in the communities of Bourdieu’s research.

Fraser’s account of ‘cultural or symbolic injustice’ is very close to Bourdieu’s concepts of misrecognition and symbolic violence. But where there is a significant difference is, first, in her argument that the conditions of modern global capitalism bring a greater degree of cultural pluralism in their train that alters the cultural/status order of earlier periods of capitalism. The global capitalist economy disrupts the symbolic order that sanctioned traditional claims of status. As we shall see, Bourdieu agrees that this order has been radically affected, though not in the direction of multicultural pluralism but rather through the erosion of the autonomy of certain key fields of cultural and intellectual production that have been sources of opposition to dominant values. But modern multiculturalism means, for Fraser, that there no longer exists any single all-powerful and legitimate value system able to draw on the crushing symbolic authority that leads Bourdieu to declare that ‘one of the most unequal of all distributions, and probably, in any case, the most cruel, is the distribution of symbolic capital, that is, of social importance and of reasons for living, (Bourdieu, P, 2000, p 241, emphasis added). In other words, for Fraser there is no longer a central bank: cultural capital in modern society is held in diverse currencies.

Within Fraser’s perspectival dualism, subaltern social groupings in specific socio-historical circumstances may and usually do suffer from some admixture of economic and cultural injustice, and this is certainly true of those groups that are the points of reference in Bourdieu’s remarks in Pascalian Meditations (Bourdieu, P, 2000) and in The Weight of the World (Bourdieu, P et al., 1999). Most certainly their acute social suffering encompasses at least two, and for those in employment, all three of Fraser’s types of socio-economic injustice: economic marginalization and denial of an adequate material standard of living, and exploitation. They also suffer all three types of ‘cultural or symbolic injustice: cultural domination, non-recognition and disrespect’. In these circumstances and in others economic injustice may indeed be experienced as misrecognition, as Honneth claims. But little follows from this in terms of the superior purchase that is claimed by Honneth’s (complex) recognition monism or Fraser’s perspectival dualism. In analysing the social suffering in question, Honneth would be obliged to consider each of what he claims are ‘the respects in which disrespect is experienced’ – the economic and the cultural – while Fraser’s perspectival dualism requires no less, although at both the philosophical and pragmatic level, it is important for her to be free to distinguish the definition of injustice from any dependency upon the manner in which it is experienced.10However the case has a bearing upon the social/system integration distinction. The economic injustice that the groups in these communities suffer are rooted in the history of the formation of modern global capitalism and its effects in particular places and points in time, causes that are not necessarily transparent to the sufferers, whose complaints often target more immediately visible and diverse fellow-sufferers. These communities lack ‘social integration’. And we may well wish, with Fraser, to distinguish between this level of social interaction, and a (more or less integrated) system that is economic, it is true, but whose transactions are nonetheless bound by systemspecific norms. Discourses and speakers do not command equal attention in the democratic public sphere. How do subaltern and counter-hegemonic discourses fare?

5. Can the subaltern speak? Can the subaltern be heard?

For Honneth, the reference point of injustice is experiential, and what is experienced as injustice, and displayed as ‘psychic suffering’, may not be articulated consciously or very clearly in the words of the sufferers. It lies at the deep level at which Honneth locates ‘a human psyche structurally directed against the unreasonable demands of society’ (Honneth, A, in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 243). Bourdieu, in his methodological appendix to the research, appears to lend support to such a view, referring as he does in a passage cited by Honneth, to ‘unexpressed and often inexpressible malaises’ (Bourdieu, P et al., 1999, p 627, cited in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 119); he distinguishes between ‘what is expressed’ and ‘what is said’:

Social agents do not innately possess a science of what they are and what they do. More precisely they do not necessarily have access to the core principles of their discontent or their malaise, and, without aiming to mislead, their most spontaneous declarations may express something quite different from what they seem to say. (Bourdieu, P et al. 1999, p 620, emphasis added)

Fraser’s reply to Honneth’s discussion of the subaltern speech of the dominated does not refer directly to The Weight of the World. Her rejoinder and his subsequent response establish that Honneth, too, recognizes the framing of all experiences of injustice by discourses that are normative and public, including Fraser’s ‘folk paradigms’. But Honneth draws on a distinction between ‘language’ and ‘discourse’ in order to privilege ‘a repertoire of deeper normative principles that determine the linguistic horizons of socio-moral thoughts and feelings’ (Honneth, A in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 250). This distinction resembles Bourdieu’s opposition between what is said and what is expressed, and his imputation of core principles to the latter. Why is it that Bourdieu, and following him, Honneth, believe that the very core of what is expressed may depart from what is said? The answer lies partly at least in Bourdieu’s concept of habitus.

Habitus is not preconscious, nor unconscious, and does not lie outside the space of ‘the social’ – certainly not in any psychic level that precedes the formation of social actors. To draw on Lockwood’s distinction, it is generated at the level of social interaction in the practical competence – ways of doing and being – that children learn in specific contexts. It is what is taken for granted, goes without saying. Habitus is dispositional and practical. It is expressed, but is not readily available to reflexive articulation. Habitus is read through what is said, but also through bodily hexis, bearing, manner of speech, accent, and so on.11Honneth is drawing on this concept when he observes that ‘not everything that normatively underlies human communication . . . can take linguistic form, since recognition is often tied first of all to physical gestures or mimetic forms of expression’ (Honneth, A in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 247). However, The Weight Of the World is distinguished by the sheer amount of directly transcribed speech that it contains, and that makes it such a very long book. Fraser’s emphasis is on the discursive rather than the experiential, but she is well aware that ‘discourse’ is by no means limited to what is consciously articulated. However, there are few examples in published research of even the type of speech that we find in The Weight Of he World, let alone what is expressed through non-verbal aspects of habitus, something very difficult to capture in interview transcripts. Even Angela McRobbie, who is deeply critical of the research, concedes that ‘the proliferation of voices in The Weight of the World does admittedly fill an absence in current sociological and also social policy writing’ (McRobbie, A, 2002, p 131).

However, Bourdieu’s claim of social agents’ limited access to ‘the core principles of their malaise’ refers, in addition to the ‘unsaid’ of habitus, to the fact that the social structural conditions and relations that connect causally with the level of social practice and may disrupt or dislocate it, are not transparent to experience. The project of the research is to relate ‘what is expressed’ to social causal relations that can be known but not directly experienced, in order to place pervasive forms of social suffering and social injustice into the deliberations of the discursive public sphere in a form in which they are more likely to gain a hearing. This is why he attaches so much importance to the participation of intellectuals: they are enjoined to provide ‘resources for rethinking and renewing democratic struggles’ (Wacquant, L, 2005, p 4). Here he is at one with Fraser, insofar as she wishes to place among the repertoire of ‘decentred discourses of social criticism’, alongside folk paradigms, ‘the structural analysis of social subordination and political sociologies of social movements’ (Fraser, N in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 205) that provide ‘a moral grammar that social actors can . . . draw on in any sphere to evaluate social arrangements’ (ibid., p 208).

Fraser remains unwilling to cede the definition of injustice to the experience of suffering that is ‘ expressed, but unsaid’, that requires interpretation to be ‘ unveiled’, and that resides at deeper levels than the articulations that are expressed and that circulate in social movements. The problem lies in part at least in the grounds on which ‘what is expressed but not said’ is interpreted, in relation to the language of complaint on the one hand, and of sociological and political analysis on the other.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak famously argued, in the context of colonial and imperial dominion, that the subaltern could not speak. But the dispossessed and marginalized narrators of their miseries in The Weight of the World are loud in their complaints. They are not, like the dead Hindu widow immolated on her husband’s funeral pyre, consigned to a profound silence on which interpretation may be overlaid at will (Spivak, G C, 1988). Nevertheless Bourdieu, like all researchers, must interpret the discourse, verbal and non-verbal, of his respondents, and the extent and nature of the interpretation used in the research has been the object of controversy. Objections have been raised on diametrically opposed grounds: under-interpretation of the lengthy interview transcripts (for discussion, see Boyne, R, 2002; Schinkel, W, 2004; Vitellone, N, 2004), but also, by McRobbie, of what might be termed ‘(over)-interpretation by sleight of hand’. She complains of the absence of analysis of the social and cultural contexts of the interviews that has the result that the speakers seem to be using ‘comparable discourse to his [Bourdieu’s] own sociology, i.e. the respondents seem to be saying the same thing, but in their own words’ (McRobbie, A, 2002, p 136). The accusation is that he closes the distance between two forms of discourse by overlaying ‘what is said’ with a sociologically informed discourse that interprets ‘what is expressed’, evading any tension between them by the elision of the two. The terms which Bourdieu uses to describe his sociological method include some striking metaphors: he speaks of ‘socio-analysis’ (which echoes and displaces ‘psychoanalysis’) and of the ‘clinical sociologist’, likened to the physician who must ‘uncover the structural causes that statements and apparent signs unveil only by veiling’ (Bourdieu, P et al. 1999, p 628). However, the distinction between what is said and what is expressed leaves room for troubling differences of interpretation that reverberate in the history of feminism. It may be useful to step back here and draw some comparisons with these troubles – disputes over the terms in which complaints are expressed and those in which they are interpreted by feminists within the ‘feminist counter-public sphere’ (Felski, R, 1989) and in the sociology of gender, feminist and otherwise.

In the period following the resurgence of the western women’s movement in the 1970s, the popular forms of ‘ female complaint’ that feminists interpreted in terms of feminist politics and theory began to be preceded by disclaimers: ‘I am not a feminist [or a ‘women’s libber’], but . . .’. Feminist scholarship in an academic setting was always vulnerable to the charge that was often laid against it by grassroots feminist activists that we spoke only for women like ourselves – middle class, white, educated, articulate, western: a charge that recurs. A succession of voices emerged along these and other lines of difference,12some refusing the feminist label altogether, but identifying themselves as working-class women, women of colour, disabled women, and in the political geography of international counter-hegemony, as subaltern women of the South: that is in terms of their position as women but not necessarily in terms of the politics of feminism.

This distinction has been closed over when convenient, in the history of colonial domination, and more recently, in defence of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11. The ‘feminist card’ is freely used in the justification of war, as of imperial domination – the mission to ‘ save’ subaltern women from myriad oppressions and violations.13

The opposition is opened up once more in a distinction that can be challenging to feminism between feminism and the sociology of women that may be detected in Bourdieu’s stance towards feminism. His work on masculine domination (Bourdieu, P, 1990 and 2001) drew greater attention to his sociology amongst many feminists who had been more influenced by poststructuralism. Paradoxically however, it was his direct address to this issue, one that is simply not found in Foucault for example, that provoked feminist hostility, especially among French materialist feminists who are in many respects closer to Bourdieu than they are to feminist poststructuralism or postmodernism.14Bourdieu seemed to be claiming for his ‘clinical sociology’ the ability to read and interpret the habitus of women, against any conscious, verbal feminist stance, and with more accuracy than much feminist analysis had achieved. He analysed it in terms of the ‘ relative constancy’ (Bourdieu, P, 2001, p 94) of the feminine habitus over against overt political and analytical beliefs.15

Bourdieu, like the various constituencies of women who refused the label, saw the dominance within feminism of what he might have termed the ‘dominated sex of the dominant class’: women relatively rich in holdings of cultural and social capital, able to profit from feminism in intra-class sectional struggles for greater equality. Gains of (middle-class) women in the era of contemporary feminism in terms of educational and employment opportunities may have been at the expense of the relative position of the working class as a whole, evidence of a change of class reproduction strategy among the dominant. Bridget Fowler takes this up in a paper on Masculine Domination: ‘ we have been slow to describe the class consequences of the increasing success of women as upwards invaders of ‘service class (dominant class) jobs’. She adds that these class consequences are difficult to reconcile with ‘programmes for reducing inequality’ (Fowler, B, 2003, p 482).

Certainly it is no easy matter to separate class and gender inequality, as I have argued elsewhere (Lovell, T, 2004). But Fraser’s perspectival dualism offers strategies for attempting this, as may be seen in her essay, ‘ Beyond the Family Wage’ (Fraser, N, 1997). And I believe it is precisely the danger of ‘speaking for others’ who are differently positioned within social space, for which second wave feminists were castigated in the 1970s and 1980s, that makes Fraser so very wary of claims to interpret, or to speak for, the needs or the speech of others, as her concept of ‘needs talk’ (Fraser, N, 1989) demonstrates. There is a fine balance to be struck between the ‘decentred discourses’ of critical sociology, and subaltern speech, when these discourses rearticulate that speech in other words.

Bourdieu’s methodology is legitimated not only by the need to ‘unveil’ the speech of the dominated through its re-interpretation in terms of the social causes of the miseries suffered, the complaints laid, using the discourses of critical, ‘clinical’, ‘reflexive’ sociology, but also by the obstacles that impede the ability of subaltern speech to gain a hearing; that is to say, not (or not only) because of the obscurity to the sufferers of the causes of their discontents, but because their speech and its idioms is discounted as he indicates in his critique of Habermas:

‘The representation of political life that Habermas proposes ... obscures and represses the question of the economic and social commitments that would have to be fulfilled in order to allow the public deliberation capable of leading to a rational consensus, that is a debate in which compelling particular interests would receive the same consideration and in which participants, conforming to an ideal model of ‘communicative action’, would seek to understand the points of view of others and to give them the same weight as their own . ... Domination is never absent from social relations of communication.’ (Bourdieu 2000, p 65, emphasis added)

Bourdieu makes a complex claim that legitimates the indirect transmission of the point of view of the dominated through the interventions within the public discursive sphere of the sociologist and others. Fraser’s work has been deeply influenced by Habermas, but she, too, takes her critical distance. His concept of the public sphere – ‘a theater in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk’ (Fraser, N, 1997, p 76) – is her political/theoretical touchstone, but also her point of departure from Habermas: her touchstone because ‘indispensable to critical social theory and democratic political practice’, her point of departure insofar as this concept that emerged in liberal discourse and social practice and institutions over two hundred years ago, stands in need of a thorough reworking in relation to modern capitalism that Habermas has not fully effected. Fraser’s critique raises difficulties that parallel those signalled by Bourdieu:

We should question whether it is possible even in principle for interlocutors to deliberate as if they were social peers in specially designated discursive arenas, when these discursive arenas are situated in a larger societal context that is pervaded by structural relations of dominance and subordination. (Fraser, N, 1997, p 79)

The voices that compete for a hearing in the public discursive sphere, then, have greater and lesser degrees of success along various lines of domination, and this is Bourdieu’s main concern and also that of Honneth – and of Fraser, who in addition, argues that these lines of domination include lines of cultural difference under the impact of global capitalism, migration and multiculturalism.

6. Competing discourses in the arenas of the public sphere

Bourdieu’s model places great weight of emphasis on the power of the dominant symbolic order, but does not present it as entirely unitary. The fierce competition for ‘ distinction’ within specialized fields has a dynamic of its own that generates the oppositional stance in the challenges of new intellectual and artistic generations. These fields are ‘restricted’ , privileged: they have a high price of entry. But his first restricted oppositional field lies in the space between domination and submission. Above all it is identified, historically, in the institutions and practices of what has been termed ‘the proletarian public sphere’ (Negt, O and Kluge, A, 1993.)16Bourdieu’a s restricted field of the subordinated class of capitalism includes both formal working-class organizations such as trades unions and informal practices such as those that governed exchanges in less formal contexts such as working-class bars and pubs (Bourdieu, P, 1984, p 183n), equivalent in some respects to the coffee-houses of the eighteenth century bourgeois public sphere (Habermas, J, 1989). This sphere is restricted not in terms of the price of entry (although the distinctive nomos of the field certainly does not welcome all comers equally), but of its reach: the arenas of social and cultural life in which it commands recognition and respect.

The institutions and cultural practices of the working class found expression and a degree of at least counter-cultural legitimacy within a range of discursive arenas in the heyday of industrial capitalism in various contexts. But with the demise of heavy industry, this representation has been curtailed, transformed, diminished. Even where institutional and informal cultural practices survive, the cultural capital that is recognized and honoured in them is reduced in its reach, and lacks the power of more strategically positioned forms. It no longer circulates outside these rapidly shrinking fields. In 1987 Bourdieu characterized the (western) working class as ‘a well-founded historical construction’ (Bourdieu, P, 1987, p 9). By the close of the century, and as his death approached, he was increasingly anguished by the undermining of these foundations by global capitalism and neoliberalism. One of Bourdieu’s ‘resources for a journey of hope’17is undermined with the fragmentation of this particular restricted field.18

This fragmentation has left in its wake a large and growing number of discarded communities (Santos, B, 2001) of the type represented in The Weight of the World, across the globe. Part of Honneth’s case, drawing on this research, rests upon the argument that such constituencies have on the one hand lost out with the fragmentation of the working class and its culture and institutions, without having found the means of commanding attention among the competing dissonant voices of multiculturalism and new social movements.

But Bourdieu is not only concerned with those whose access to full participation in the discursive public sphere is impeded by domination, cultural and economic, but also with some whose access is privileged. He views with dismay the erosion of the authority of at least one sector of the dominant class under the invasive hegemony of global capitalism. People who command symbolic capital have the power, as we have seen, to exercise symbolic violence. By the same token they are in a position to challenge such violence, to accord recognition against the grain of the established recognition order, to challenge dominant cultural values. There are positions within social space that not only authorize, but also require intellectual cultural production. Bourdieu’s later, more polemical essays addressed with increasing urgency the obligations that fall upon those who are enjoined to speak, and who do so with the authority of science, to use that authority to ‘unveil’ the sufferings and injustices visited upon the dominated.19Bourdieu identifies the critical intellectual as one of the major sources of ‘opposing critical powers that are essential to genuine democracy’ (Bourdieu, P, 1998) and this was to be a recurrent theme of his later work:

I would like writers, artists, philosophers and scientists to be able to make their voice heard directly in all the arenas of public life in which they are competent. I think that everyone would have a lot to gain if the logic of intellectual life, that of argument and refutation, were extended to public life. (Bourdieu, P, 1998, p 9)20

These positions of symbolic power are found in the second of Bourdieu’s types of restricted field, located in arenas of social space that admit only those who are able to compete effectively within them. Bourdieu follows the classical sociological account of differentiation and the emergence of (semi)-autonomous sub-fields with the development of capitalist modernity, to argue that some of these sub-fields institutionalise rules that not only challenge but also even reverse the norms that obtain in the economic and political fields of power: the field of art (Bourdieu, P, 1996) and the field of science (Bourdieu, P, 2004).

The autonomy of these fields is always more or less insecure, and it is relative. It is always possible to unpick the mediations that link these specialized cultural productions to the economic field, whose effects are never entirely absent. But nevertheless Bourdieu depended increasingly on this second type of restricted field for his slender resources for hope. They are cosmopolitan, culturally dominant and privileged. But Bourdieu’s public intellectuals are honed within them. They are fields of privilege because of their relative insulation from the fields of power (economic and political), and because of the ‘ distance from necessity’ of their players. Bourdieu defends the autonomy of these fields. For it is the distinction that they have won within them in terms of rules that are specific to them – that may, like the rules of art, reverse those of the fields of power – that makes it possible for those so distinguished to step into the role of (critical) ‘public intellectual’: ‘The intellectual is constituted as such by intervening in the political field in the name of autonomy’ (Bourdieu, P, 1996, p 129).

These restricted fields are threatened by marketisation. They provide a problematic resource in the task of critical transformation whose value is the more apparent as its autonomy is threatened with its transformation into a market place. He is concerned above all with his own academic discipline: sociology. He validates its claim to objectivity to the extent that it practices a rigorous methodological reflexivity (Bourdieu, P, 2004). Engaged publicly on their authority as autonomous scholars in the discursive public sphere to publicise the transformative social criticism that is immanent in their work, rather than in the service of public and private think tanks, the task of the public intellectual may be realized.

Bourdieu shares little of Fraser’s optimism with regard to the manner in which global capitalism disrupts traditional status orders because it not only fragments subaltern class communities but also simultaneously erodes the relative autonomy of the intellectual field. His is a deep Gramscian pessimist of the intellect. It is true that we glimpse a certain, almost desperate, optimism of the will in his late essays that brings him closer to Fraser, as he looks towards the renewal of trade unionism, the mobilization of artists and intellectuals in civil society, and new global movements – a collaboration in Gramsci’s terms of traditional and organic intellectuals – to counter the effects of a globalised economy, a globalised corporate/American culture (Bourdieu, P and Wacquart, L J D, 2005). The global capitalist system has a greater degree of freedom to neglect many of the problems of social disintegration it may occasion among the peoples it discards. But the limits to this freedom are marked by the strength and desperation of the resistance of these peoples, and by counter-hegemonic movements against globalization. This freedom may be greater, nevertheless, than that accorded earlier forms of capitalism more closely linked with the nation state, and it is to this issue that we turn in the concluding section of the paper.

7. Social justice and the system of global capitalism

Fraser and Honneth end the introduction to their political–philosophical exchange by agreeing to disagree over a large and fundamental question concerning the nature of global capitalism:

‘Should capitalism, as it exists today, be understood as a social system that differentiates an economic order that is not directly regulated by institutionalised patterns of cultural value from other social orders that are? Or should the capitalist economic order be understood rather as a consequence of a mode of cultural valuation that is bound up, from the very outset, with asymmetrical forms of recognition?’ (Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 5)

The second alternative is that of Honneth. He posits an emergent complex recognition order that has generated legitimate expectations, and feelings of injustice that are symptoms of disorder at Lockwood’s level of ‘social integration’ that reside in the sense that may approach outrage, that these expectations have been violated. Expressed in a multitude of ways, there is an underlying ‘unitary structure of feelings of illegitimately withheld recognition’ (Honneth, A, in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 246) embedded at his deep moral/normative level: ‘Only if the idea of a human psyche structurally directed against the unreasonable demands of society is added to…the connection between social order and subversion can one speak of the necessity of a practice of transgression’ (ibid., p 243). This approach posits, in the last resort, a commonality of ‘truly universal ends’, to borrow a phrase whose very use by Bourdieu indicates a certain degree of convergence with Honneth when he looks forward to ‘the gradual emergence of political forces, themselves also global, capable of demanding the creation of transnational bodies entrusted with controlling the dominant economic forces so as to subordinate them to truly universal ends’ (Bourdieu, P, 2003, p 96).

The first alternative is that of Fraser in her positing of ‘the operation of impersonal system mechanisms’ of modern global capitalism (Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003, p 214). Slavoj Zizek goes further: ‘Capital is effectively a global machine blindly running its course’ (Zizek, S, 1997, p 45). But Zizek ties his blind machine to the multiculturalism that Fraser valorises; he argues, invoking Frederic Jameson, that multiculturalism is simply the ‘cultural logic’ of global capitalism. In a similar spirit, Bourdieu refers to the differences that capitalist multiculturalism tolerates as little more than cultural theme parks: cultures cannibalised and drained of any anchorage in any distinctive way of life.

This bleak vision is one in which high levels of social disintegration and attendant social conflict and human suffering can be contained for lengthy periods of time without leading to system disintegration. Fraser rarely strikes such a bleak note. However she recognizes, in her use of the concept of system integration, a not unrelated claim: movements and values that were transgressive when they challenged key institutions and practices that secured the reproduction of the capitalist system, may be accommodated at the present conjecture with little difficulty at the system level as against the social dynamics of particular communities and even nation-states. Her main point in her exchange with Butler was that socially transgressive sexualities are no longer per se subversive when normative heterosexuality is no longer ‘hardwired’ to the global capitalist system. Deviations from this norm are not a threat to a modern global capitalism however they may disrupt and transgress particular communities or sensibilities (Butler, J, 1998; Fraser, N, 1998. See also Merck, M, in Lovell, T, 2007). Global capitalism can afford extensive cultural re-wiring.21

Counter-hegemonic groups and movements are notoriously diverse, in their aims, political commitments and composition. Fraser’s concept of participatory party makes a virtue of diversity, envisaging a plurality of dialogic discourses that are in principle non-integrated, and in contestation, one with another.

Value-pluralism, where it is given a degree of legitimacy within the dominant culture, legitimates the right of groups and individuals to present and defend their values and practices, and to make injustice claims within the public sphere. In her critique of Habermas (Fraser, N, 1997), Fraser argues the case for viewing a layered, plural, dispersed structuring of the public sphere in a positive light. Subaltern counterpublics would function for their members first, as ‘spaces of withdrawal and regroupment’ and as ‘arenas of identity formation’ . But the withdrawal is strategic. It precedes and presages broader engagement: ‘To interact discursively as a member of a public…is to aspire to disseminate one’s discourse into ever-widening arenas’ (ibid., p 82). It allows space for a bottom up, dialogic, participative democracy.

Fraser’s resistance to Honneth’s wish to include within any model of justice at least a minimalist concept of ‘the good life’ is because she believes that this is not a question of justice but of ‘relevance to value’ and as such must remain, permanently, on the dialogical table, as it were, in the deliberations of the public sphere. She honours the substantive logic of ‘thick liberalism’ that she shares with Honneth – the identification of fundamental social conditions for participatory parity – so she is therefore no mere proceduralist, since this carries imperatives for radical social transformation, including economic justice. But she honours at the same time a more general deontological logic that is ‘thin enough’ not to be mortgaged to any single understanding of what constitutes ‘the good life’. Justice does not require the affirmation of any particular set of (ethical) values. Critical sociological research helps to identify impediments to participatory parity as they are embedded in social structure and process; critical political theory and critical social policy aid the analysis of alternative political and policy interventions for their ability to best redress injustices in a given conjuncture; and to critical philosophical theory falls the task of providing guidelines for the deliberations of the public sphere. Judgement and decision-making belongs, however, within the deliberative sphere itself, at a variety of levels from the local to the national and the transnational (Fraser, N, 1997 and 2005).

Candidates for the label of a (reasonable) concept of the good life will be exposed to critical scrutiny regarding their plausibility, and this scrutiny will draw upon opinions, argument, dramatisation, evidence and the views of a variety of experts and competing discourses. What is absolute, for Fraser, is the right to participate in this process of defining, discovering, advancing, criticising and judging the way that we live, the circumstances in which we do so, and the consequences that our practices have for ourselves and for others. For Fraser, this is a collective rather than an individual project insofar as it depends on a vigorous discursive process within a variety of active, democratic communities, groups, organisations and representative bodies: she concludes, with optimism: ‘I see no reason to rule out the possibility of a society in which social equality and cultural diversity coexist with participatory democracy’ (Fraser, N, 1997, p 84).

8. Conclusion

The debate between Fraser and Honneth necessarily leaves many of the issues which it touches and provokes tantalizingly unanswered, particularly those related to the shift to a transnational frame that she has begun to address more systematically in her recent work, including her contribution in (Mis)recognition, Social Inequality and Social Justice: Nancy Fraser and Pierre Bourdieu (Lovell, T, 2007, pp 17-35). However, they stand together against discourses that dismantle ‘ structure’ for ‘flow’ in their characterizations of modern global capitalism. Capitalism has never been fixed in stone, held within immovable, unchanging structures, certainly not in Marx’s account. In its moving history, there have been periods of intensive transformation, of restructuring, which may be experienced as flux, in which, as Marx famously put it: ‘all that is solid melts into air’ (Berman, M, 1983). Global capitalism is experiencing perhaps the most intensive capitalist restructuring to date – one that is very much ongoing at the present time. The discourses that valorise flux, flow, constant process, flourish in this experienced ‘melting’ , and the vertiginous exciting possibilities it promises and even to a degree delivers. For it does not only deliver the radical dislocation and misery it inflicts on so many of the world’s people. But that this is a re-structuring is clear in, for example, the negotiations of GATS, TRIPS and other trade agreements. Once in place, the emergent structures of global capitalism may prove extremely difficult to undo, for nation-states as well as for counter-hegemonic movements.

Fraser’s concept of participatory parity has strong prima facie plausibility as a principle of justice in addressing a broad range of social conflicts, disputes and injustice claims in this newly emerging global order. Moreover, she is in a position to draw upon a rich legacy of feminist counter-hegemonic practices of longstanding. Two movements spring to mind here. First, the one generated in the UK in the course of negotiating often difficult relationships with the left, confronting institutionalised forms of political organization with the more decentred, participatory forms that arose in the Women’s Liberation Movement. Beyond the Fragments (Rowbotham, S, et al., 1979) was a tremendously influential text in the history of that troubled relationship and of the formulation of a different kind of political practice. The second is encapsulated in the concept of transversal politics that Cockburn ascribes to Italian feminism, and that Nira Yuval-Davis has developed (Yuval-Davis, N, 1997).22Cynthia Cockburn drew on this idea in her study of four groups engaged in attempts to establish connections between women ‘across the divide’ in zones of bitter conflict: Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine, and Bosnia-Hercegovina (Cockburn, C, 1998).

The fabric of the interactive, inter-relational networks in such ventures is fragile, easily broken, and with no short route to radial social transformation on a broader scale. However, one interesting aspect is that it has built on the practice of creating bridges across lines of inequality between members of the different communities who engage in these links. Participatory parity is a principle that aims in the longer term to eliminate such inequality as impediments to its achievement. Meanwhile it has to work with and against them. Dependency, as she has also recognized (Fraser, N and Gordon in Fraser, N, 1997), is ubiquitous in social relations, endemic in human life. Not all inequalities can be entirely offset through democratic participatory politics. In any case, in the short to medium term we face the urgent requirement to develop practices that ensure equal moral respect across difference, and non-damaging means of handling dependency (Sennett 2004). Democratic communication, representation, dialogue, across lines of inequality and dependency, as Fraser fully recognizes, cannot wait.


1 In August 2005, the journal Feminist Theory included a special feature entitled ‘(Re)Claiming the social’ .

2 In Andrew Sayer’s critical realist perspective, we find a full acknowledgement of the importance of the textual/cultural is combined with a robust refusal of any positioning of ‘the social’ as exclusively textual (Sayer, A, 2000).

3 One example must suffice. Seyla Benhabib (Benhabib, S, 1995) identified ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ versions of postmodernism’s theses in her critical engagement with Judith Butler. Fraser’s contribution to the debate identified an intermediate ‘medium strength’ variant in order to avoid losing the value-pluralism and ‘difference’ of postmodernism without compromising those theoretical and political commitments that require defensible forms of universalism (Fraser, N, 1995).

4 Too intimately, in Margaret Archer’s critical realist critique of Bourdieu. She accuses him of ‘central conflationism’ of structure and social process (Archer, M, 1983 and 1993).

5 In a critique of Fraser, Sylvia Walby valorizes ‘reference groups’ over ‘communities’ (Walby, S, 2001)

6 Fraser falls foul, he argues, of what Calhoun terms ‘normative idealism’: the airbrushing out of exclusionary, racist, violent ‘recognition struggles’ (Calhoun 1995, cited in Fraser, N and Honneth, A, 2003 p 120 passim). Yet Fraser, in her critique of Habermas, wrote: ‘ Let me not be misunderstood. I do not mean to suggest that subaltern counterpublics are always necessarily virtuous; some of them, alas, are explicitly antidemocratic and anti-egalitarian’ (Fraser, N, 1997, p 82).

7 Dual systems theory emerged with the ‘psychoanalytic turn’ in Marxist feminism in the 1970s. It posited the existence of two parallel, interconnected systems of domination, consisting of the social relations of production, and the sex/gender system. For a brief discussion, see the Introduction to Part IV on psychoanalysis and feminism in Lovell (Lovell, T, 1990, p 187–195).

8 It is true that Young instances Bourdieu as exemplary in refusing to separate them, either substantively or analytically (Young, I M, 1997, p 154).

9 Honneth pointed out in an earlier article (Honneth 1986), that Bourdieu proffers a more gently sloping relationship of domination across his ‘map’, between positions closer to ‘the economic’ and those closer to ‘the cultural’: ‘the economic’ has relative primacy, ‘the cultural, only relative autonomy. Bourdieu’s dominant regions of social space cross the whole range, but his ‘cultural dominants’ are ‘dominated dominants’. In his discussions with Loic Wacquant that touch upon his relationship with British cultural studies, he explains that he was concerned ‘to bend the stick a little’ (Bourdieu, P and Wacquant, L, 1992). But for Honneth this comes perilously close to quasi-Marxist reductionism.

10 Both Fraser and Honneth would offer very different analyses and political responses to those of Sarkozy, the French Minister of the Interior. Yet even Sarkozy responds in terms of a double analysis that invokes both ‘disrespect’– to be sure, not of the disrespect suffered (not least at the hands of Sarkozy in the terms in which he responded to the explosive events in cities across France in the autumn of 2005, but rather the disrespect shown to others by the angry demonstrators), and the need for interventions aimed at more sustained economic renewal. A similar disjunction underpins Tony Blair’s ‘respect agenda’. The work of Richard Sennett (2004) offers a more nuanced and subtle sociological account or ‘respect’.

11 For an account by Bourdieu of this concept, see Bourdieu, P, 1990, chapter 3.

12 For a useful discussion of the various forms that ‘difference’ took within feminism, see Barrett, M, 1987.

13 This card is sometimes played within feminism. In an interview (Guardian, G2, 4th April 2006, pp 24–25) Phyllis Chesler argues that ‘feminism has failed Muslim women by colluding in their oppression’.

14 For an example of this response in France, see Armengaud, F and Ghaïss, J, 1993. For a useful introduction to materialist feminism, see Leonard, D and Adkins, L, 1996.

15 Typically, those feminists in the UK who have been influenced by his work have drawn on his conceptual framework rather than on what he writes specifically on women and gender, see for example Adkins, L and Skeggs, B, 2004.

16 Bourdieu does not use this Habermasian term, and his accounts of the working-class habitus cuts across public and domestic life.

17 Raymond Williams uses this phrase to title the concluding chapter of his book Towards 2000 (Williams, R, 1983).

18 Bourdieu’s pessimism with respect to working-class culture has been resisted among those schooled in the tradition of British cultural studies and labour history, with its practice of seeking out oppositional values in working-class popular culture. But Bourdieu has rejected what he sees as an over-optimistic search for markers of resistance in popular forms, and especially where these are commercial. Bourdieu has been criticized by Bridget Fowler, among others, for this stance: she argues that he ‘regards the linguistic ‘market’ for popular speech as inherently weak and relegated to an unofficial existence, cut off from the places where decisions are made’ (Fowler, B, 2003, p 476).

19 But Spivak’s warning should be noted: ‘the substantive concern for the politics of the oppressed . . . can hide a privileging of the intellectual’ (Spivak, G C, 1988, p 292).

20 Bourdieu prefaces the English edition of a second set of occasional essays (Bourdieu, P, 2003), with ‘A letter to the American reader’. In this he expresses the hope that American scholars, stepping into the role of ‘public intellectuals’, might ‘ strengthen the critique of and resistance to the neoliberal dogma by showing that this critique can strike at, and radiate from, it’s very nerve centre and global hub’ (Bourdieu, P, 2003, p 10).

This was written before the events of 9/11, but it is interesting to note that the membership of the American Sociological Association, alone among professional associations in the US, on the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, passed a resolution opposing it by a two-thirds majority. The ASA conference in 2004 was dominated by a debate on public sociology.

21 ‘Gay men in full-time jobs earn on average £34,000 a year, compared with the national average for men of £28,800. Lesbians earn £6,000 more than the national average for women…according to the survey of readers of Diva and Gay Times by the marketing consultancy OUT Now’ (Guardian, Monday 23 January 2006, p 7). Of course these readers are hardly representative of the lesbian and gay population as a whole.

22 Cockburn draws on William Connolly’s concept of ‘agonistic democracy’ (Connolly, W, 1991) which ‘breaks with the comfortable and dangerous illusion of “ community” and the politics of communitarianism, that assumes consensus is (must be) possible. Instead it settles for the difficult reality of unavoidable, unending, careful, respectful struggle’ (Cockburn, C, 1998, p 216).


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