This volume brings together Bourdieu's highly original writings on
language and on the relations between language, power and politics.
Bourdieu develops a forceful critique of traditional approaches to
language, including the linguistic theories of Saussure and Chomsky
and the theory of speech-acts elaborated by Austin and others. He
argues that language should be viewed not only as a means of
communication but also as a medium of power through which
individuals pursue their interests and display their practical
Drawing on the concepts which are part of his distinctive
theoretical approach, Bourdieu maintains that linguistic utterances
or expressions can be understood as the product of the relation
between a 'linguistic market' and a 'linguistic habitus'. When
individuals produce linguistic expressions, they deploy accumulated
resources and they implicitly adapt their expressions to the
demands of the social field or market. Hence every linguistic
interaction, however personal and insignificant they may seem,
bears the traces of the social structure that it both expresses and
helps to reproduce.
Boudieu's account sheds fresh light on the ways in which
linguistic usage varies according to considerations such as class
and gender. It also opens up a new approach to the ways in which
language is used in the domain of politics. For politics is, among
other things, the site par excellence in which words are
deeds and the symbolic character of power is at stake.
This volume, by one of the leading social thinkers in the world
today, represents a major contribution to the study of language and
power. It will be of interest to students throughout the social
sciences and humanities, especially in sociology, politics,
anthropology, linguistics and literature.