This valuable collection of lectures represents Pierre Bourdieu’s thoughts on the state as expressed in lectures given at the Collège de France from 1989 to 1992. The book is 433 pages in length and contains two helpful appendixes: (1) “Course summaries as published in the Annuaire of the Collège de France 1989-1990, 1990-1991, 1991-1992”; (2) “Position of the lectures on the state in Pierre Bourdieu’s work”. The lectures themselves are a veritable treasure trove of insights, reflections, and emendations of theories that Bourdieu finds useful. It contains trenchant critiques of theories he finds lacking. The reader will also find discussions of the rich body of empirical work that Bourdieu and his research associates conducted, including references to Kabyle peasant life in Algeria, where he conducted his early fieldwork.
In the lectures delivered between 1989 and 1990, Bourdieu emphasized the state’s ability to create and monopolize symbolic capital. In “Politics as a Vocation”, Max Weber famously defined the state as “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” Establishing and reproducing the state requires constant attention to legitimating the use of force. Bourdieu took this as his point of departure, modifying Weber’s definition of the state as an organization that “successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical and symbolic violence over a definite territory and over the totality of the corresponding population.” (This definition is found in a number of Bourdieu’s works).
Bourdieu inquired into the many ways that the state ensures the reproduction of its most fundamental self-representations and political categories by framing the categories of public perception, experience, thought, and speech. For example, he explains how the state creates logical conformism through encouraging adherence to the basic categories of thought. This logical conformism must continually be reproduced because it is the condition for moral conformism and social solidarity.