American Political Development using Bourdieu’s “Science”?

The purpose of this last post on the topic of Bourdieu is to draw attention to the capability of political scientists in researching American political development.

Analysis may proceed as follows: There is a historical and biased structure with habitus regarding the political languages of authoritarianism, liberalism, and republicanism in American political development.

If political languages are like planets, then they occupy unique political space. We can take data on America and “send it back to its origin.”

Because the structure of a political language employs habitus “(competent, endowed with a sense of the game) which does function as a space of possibilities, the range of possible ways…” (59, italics in original), APD could benefit from a singular “multiple traditions inquiry.”

Bourdieu makes plain that as habitus occupy different space, they “…may rule out some sectors, disdaining them as uninteresting or unimportant” (ibid). And, “A field contains potentialities, a probable future, which a habitus adapted to the field is able to anticipate” (60). Hence, we can see that political languages, like republicanism, are their own planets (structure), with their own gravity (culture), and their own seasons (habits). Therefore, we should expect an authoritarian to be blasted by culture shock if travelling to the liberal planet or the republican overnight. To be sure, the slavery at America’s founding would not be eradicated overnight at the sight of a republican constitution.

Bourdieu provides a pathway to help clarify the external through language; whereas, “these a priori constructions have to be described as languages” (2004, 79, italics added). In this line of research, rationality and objectivity give way to “a free convention governed by pragmatic” criteria according “to the choice of this or that language or linguistic framework” (2004, 79-80). This pragmatic approach argues that a language structure explains what it advocates, holds constant, and admonishes.

Unfortunately, the possibility of achieving non-significant findings is endless. Bourdieu recognizes a reflexive force purported by Wittgenstein, “…there are not only several mathematical frameworks, as in Carnap, but several languages for constructing the world” (2004, 81). In science, we can observe political languages as actors (or as I said earlier—planets). In understanding the construct, we may seek more practical positions and position-takings against an unwelcomed reality. We may expand our political potential by understanding when and why a political language is able to dominate culture, or laws, etc.

For example, republicanism, according to Geise (1984) does: (1) advocate the possibility of action as distinct from behavior; (2) advocate the presupposition that actions can be efficacious by nature and more than random nomenclature; (3) advocate the fact that political action is worthwhile for every individual, regardless of preferences (25). Moreover, these premises “reflect convictions about what is possible for humans, not about what is guaranteed to them” (Geise 1984, 25).

For instance, republicanism fights against invigilation and intimidation by both members of society and the state itself (Pettit 2012). Thus, a republican society cannot by definition create a state apparatus resembling an authoritarian panopticon, whereby the citizenry is monitored by the government under secret surveillance and citizens are removed from society when they call for protests against the state. Herein is not republicanism or liberalism; rather, authoritarianism.

Since members of a republican society do not propose invigilation and intimidation (Pettit 2012); the state is unable to create a panopticon, which is practically the definition of invigilation. However, an authoritarian regime advocates the panopticon. This regime determines justice, freedom, and life is full of injustice and people are unfree by every republican standard. Hence, considering Geise and Pettit and many others, for instance, will give us an understanding of the habitual rules and regulations of republicanism, and we can determine if republicanism is salient in any given state, society, identity, etc.

Can we determine how republicanism triumphs over authoritarianism, etc? For instance, did America create a panopticon after 9/11 in order to simply find terrorists? To what degree does that panopticon, if present, affect the people under its authority?

Using evidence of political languages’ habitus, we can then begin to put the puzzle of political development together in new and invigorating ways. We shall note which empirical evidence belongs to republicanism, to liberalism, to authoritarianism, etc. Conversely, all political language structures are available for use. And it is likely culture which determines the political language in use. How are culture shifts translated into institutional or governance shifts? The method proposed in this essay is a framework for beginning this research.

In the face of reality, one political language may rise up radically. Authoritarianism may become legislation practically overnight after a tragedy. If so, we should be able to predict liberal and republican responses to authoritarianism given the structure of the society and polity in reality. Successful analysis will help the field develop strategies for political development for both old and emerging democracies, as well as non-democracies.

in closing

If this gestalt shift is accepted, I believe that scientists will better illuminate political language structures and the games they engage in their structuring of politics by political actors and by the people. Languages do not violate their own tenets—people do–and people implement some political language structure, even if informally.


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