The Media as the Neoliberalized Sediment: Articulating Laclau’s Discourse Theory with Bourdieu’s Field Theory

  • Sean Phelan


The work of Laclau and Bourdieu can, in one sense, be opposed. If Laclau can be characterized as a political theorist who is antagonistic to a “sociologistic descriptivism” (Laclau & Mouffe, 2001, p. 2), Bourdieu can be described as a sociologist who is antagonistic to abstract theory. Laclau (1990) criticizes sociology for occluding the political logic of the social, while Bourdieu (1990) reproaches scholastic articulations of theory for disparaging a positivistic interest in the empirical. To frame the relationship between Laclau and Bourdieu in these blanket terms is simplistic, and we should question to what extent the work of either can be cast in the other’s generic projection. Nonetheless, to stylize their differences in discourse theoretical terms, we can say that while Laclau’s work has been preoccupied with emphasizing the “radical contingency” of social practices, Bourdieu has focused more purposefully on understanding their “sedimentation” and stickiness (Glynos & Howarth, 2007).


Social Practice Discourse Theory Social Field Media Space Political Field 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  • Sean Phelan

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