The chapter analyses the significance of Bourdieu’s concept of capital and addresses the highly controversial issue regarding its compatibility with the Marxian notion of capital. On the background of a recapitulation of Bourdieu’s and Marx’s accounts of capital, the chapter puts forward the thesis of a partial congruence between the two and assigns Bourdieu’s notion of capital an intermediate position between a generic economic conception and a Marxian conception. Then, four kinds of criticism according to which Bourdieu’s concept is entirely not consistent with the Marxian one are discussed: the substantialist objection, the circulationist objection, the missing exploitation objection, the trans-historical objection. Accordingly, four counter-objections aimed at supporting the partial congruence thesis are set forth. These argumentations not only refer to the three volumes of Capital and to the 1857 Introduction, but also suggest that any inquiry into the possible affinities between Marx’s notion of capital and Bourdieu’s theory of the forms of capital should bear in mind the intrinsic connection between habitus, field and capital, and resort to a broader set of Bourdieusian concepts, such as symbolic violence and the general economy of practices.
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While not appearing explicitly, it would not be improper to also speak of embodied economic capital to denote those organic and aesthetic states of the body that are directly related to the availability of economic capital, to the possibility of presenting and preserving it in certain ways through the investment of economic capital.
In the sense of the Hegelian exposition of categories: cf. Finelli (1987, 2015), Bellofiore (2013); Fineschi (2006); Micaloni (2017b); see also the now classical Rosdolsky (1977) and, for what concerns the Grundrisse, Uchida (1988) and Meaney (2002). For a different reconstruction of the critique of political economy, which modifies some crucial points of the Marxian exposition, see Arthur (2002).
“His [of the capitalist] emergence as a butterfly must, and yet must not, take place in the sphere of circulation” (Marx 1976: 269); and: “this whole course of events, the transformation of money into capital, both takes place and does not take place in the sphere of circulation. It takes place through the mediation of circulation because it is conditioned by the purchase of the labour-power in the market; it does not take place in circulation because what happens there is only an introduction to the valorization process, which is entirely confined to the sphere of production” (Marx 1976: 302).
With regard to a later stage of the exposition, see also Marx (1993b: 516): “in interest-bearing capital, therefore, this automatic fetish is elaborated into its pure form, self-valorizing value, money breeding money, and in this form it no longer bears any marks of its origin [Entstehung].”
“The science called ‘economics’ is based on an initial act of abstraction that consists in dissociating a particular category of practices, or a particular dimension of all practice, from the social order in which all human practice is immersed” (Bourdieu 2005: 1).
For an updated review, see Girometti (2020).
In this context the term ‘exploitation’ should be intended as ‘exploitation of labour-power’ or more exactly as ‘subsumption of labour-power’. Indeed, as Beasley-Murray (2000: 116) also notes, the phenomenon of the exploitation of labour per se does not quintessentially define the capitalist mode of production. There are non-capitalist forms of labour exploitation both in non-capitalist societies (serfdom, slavery, khammessa) and in capitalist societies (unpaid domestic labour).
According to Bourdieu and Passeron (1977), symbolic violence unleashes a power that enhances, as a further force, the power relationship in which it is generated precisely insofar as it masks it.
It is worth noting that behind the search for a profit in legitimacy a specific psychodynamic instance is at play. According to Bourdieu there is “a necessary link between three indisputable and inseparable anthropological facts: man is and knows he is mortal, the thought that he is going to die is unbearable or impossible for him, and, condemned to death, an end […] he is a being without a reason for being, haunted by the need for justification, legitimation, recognition. And, as Pascal suggests, in this quest for justifications for existing, what he calls ‘the world’, or ‘society’, is the only recourse other than God” (Bourdieu 2000: 239). It is this kind of search that ultimately underlies investment, illusio and forms of distinction.
For an updated account of this text, see Micaloni (2017a).
That is, to the extent to which the reproduction of the conditions of existence of the dominated is increasingly bound to earning a wage and production essentially becomes the production of more money by means of money.
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Aiello, M. (2022). Reassessing Bourdieu’s Use of the Marxian Concept of Capital. In: Paolucci, G. (eds) Bourdieu and Marx. Marx, Engels, and Marxisms. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-06289-6_10
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