Doxa and Common Life: An Interview

Pierre Bourdieu and Terry Eagleton

Terry Eagleton Hello and welcome.* Pierre Bourdieu and I will discuss some of the themes in our new books -- primarily his book Language and Symbolic Power, but also my book, Ideology. 1 And then we will invite questions and comments.

I would like to welcome you, Pierre, on one of your too rare visits to this country. We are delighted to see you and to have these translated essays. One of the themes of your work is that language is as much -- or is perhaps more -- an instrument of power and of action than of communication. This is a theme that informs everything you write in this book and that leads you to be properly hostile, as I would see it, to any mere semiotics. You want to look instead at what you call at one point 'the social conditions of the production of utterances', and also, I suppose, at the conditions of the reception of utterances. In other words, you are arguing that what matters in talk, in discourse, is not some power inherent in language itself, but the kind of authority or legitimacy with which it is backed. And that leads you to mobilize concepts that, I think, many of us are very familiar with from your other work -- such as 'symbolic power', 'symbolic violence', 'linguistic capital' and the rest. I would like to ask you whether I have got this right and to explain how these processes might relate to the concept of ideology -- are they synonymous, or is ideology for you something quite different? The concept of ideology does sometimes crop up in your work, but it is not a central concern in this particular book.

What follows is an edited transcript of a discussion -- one in a series of "'Talking Ideas'" -- between Pierre Bourdieu and Terry Eagleton that took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, on 15 May 1991.


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Mapping Ideology


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