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Bourdieu with Marx, from Economy to Ecology

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As I did for Michel Foucault in my book Foucault with Marx, here I show how the work of Pierre Bourdieu can contribute to a renewal of Marxism. The concept of “cultural capital” designates a second component of the dominant class: a “competence capital,” endowed with its own mode of structural reproduction. Beyond its social and political relevance, this analysis reveals the immense ecological impact in terms of productivism and consumerism of this “other front.” Its limit is due in particular to the fact that it remains within the framework of a sociology: its programme concerns “social relations,” but not the “productive forces.” As a result, it contributes to broadening the programme of “historical materialism,” but cannot replace it. It is in fact situated on the generic terrain of a “praxeology” and not on that of a theory of history.

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  1. 1.

    The term “competence,” it should be remembered, does not refer to knowledge as such (to a “knowledge-power”) but to a social competence-power: that of those who are designated as “enjoying competency,” where a juridical power is included.

  2. 2.

    Wright’s approach, despite its merits, seems to me to come up against a difficulty inherent to an “analytical” philosophy, which expresses “social relations” in terms of “inter-individual relations.” It will be noted that, for the needs of a Marxist analysis, the French language has at its disposal two distinct terms, that of “relations sociales,” appropriate to relations between individuals, and that of “rapports sociaux,” appropriate to class, gender or race, that is to say, structural relations, where English has only one term, that of “relations.” This obviously presents no insuperable semantic difficulty, but it is significant in terms of different philosophical traditions, which it is important to be aware of.

  3. 3.

    It will be noted that, in the French edition (which, as he has underlined, corrects the earlier German text), Marx modifies the title of this chapter 7, which he entitles “The production of use values and the production of surplus value,” and not “The Labor Process and the Process of producing Surplus Value.” This title, which refers to the “production of use values,” and not to the “labor process,” is more congruent with the argument he is developing and more essential to it. It is also the most significant regarding the current situation: we need only think of the ongoing debates about what is “productive,” “production,” GDP and so on, where profit contrasts with use value, and nature as the supreme use value to be protected for itself.

  4. 4.

    It will be noted, here again, that the French language specifically uses “concurrence” in the case of the market and “competition” with regard to organization—where English has only one term, “competition,” at its disposal for two different concepts—underlining a conceptual distinction.

  5. 5.

    See Théorie générale (Bidet 1999). Section 72, pp. 323–343 is devoted to Rawls. Section 91, pp. 401–430, to Habermas.

  6. 6.

    See LÉtat-monde (Bidet 2011), chapitre 5, Sexe, classe, “race”: Rapports sociaux consubstantiels.


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Bidet, J. (2022). Bourdieu with Marx, from Economy to Ecology. In: Paolucci, G. (eds) Bourdieu and Marx. Marx, Engels, and Marxisms. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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