Chomsky vs Foucault

In 1971, Chomsky and Foucault debated human nature on Dutch TV – these are the youtube videos of the debate.

Arts and criminal justice

I’m on a steering group which is framing the development of a code of practice for artists working in criminal justice settings.  There is a blog documenting the process here.  The initiative has been started by the Anne Peaker Centre, a charity who provide advocacy and support for artists and arts organisations working in this field.

Anne Peaker Centre logo

180 degree community

Tomorrow I’m giving an undergraduate lecture on the regeneration of seaside towns.  Despite not liking the sea (irrational fear of sharks), I often find myself drawn back to this topic.  I spent some time working in seaside towns in Kent, mainly, with unaccompanied minor refugees between 2000 and 2003, which gave me an insight into the ways in which coastal areas have developed since the collapse of British seaside tourism from the 1960s, espeically in terms of how their housing and hotel stock has been converted into social housing.  I then did some research last year in Folkestone, which I presented hereand which is going to be published later this year, examining  the community impacts of a  cultural regeneration scheme in Folkestone in Kent.  A lot of that research was based on interviews with artists who were also local residents, one of whom made the observation that Folkestone, in common with other seaside towns, was a ‘180 degree community’, with its back to the sea.  This is something I’ve been thinking about ever since.  What effects could this spatial arangement have on community identity? 

A Bourdieu debate…

There are a fascinating couple of posts over on the Volumizer blog about Bourdieu’s conception of capital.  Both the posts are highly critical – the first on capital generally as a concept in Bourdieu’s work and the second on cultural capital as a particular concept.  Whilst the writing is clearly concerned with the effect of a Bourdieu-inspired response to education, a subject I’m not qualified to pronounce on although I am aware of the debate, I find the criticism of Bourdieu as an enemy of the left (based on his use of the term ‘capital’) problematic.

Bourdieu is concerned with the dominance of power through legitimation, the role assigned to ideology for Marx or hegemony for the Italian Marxist, Gramsci.  However, Bourdieu criticizes these views for neglecting the symbolic dimensions of class relations, or for relegating these to the superstructure of a economically overdetermined system.  The Marxist model is critiqued by Bourdieu on the basis of its specificity – it is the growth of education and cultural markets in advanced societies that has undermined the power of the Marxist model.  To overcome this problem, Bourdieu proposes a political economy of symbolic goods that forms a chiastic structure with the economic field; this division between economic and symbolic power is then replicated within all areas of struggle for power in society and, as society is struggle for Bourdieu, it is this chiastic structure that overdetermines the social world.  

Ultimately, Bourdieu is clear that all fields of struggle are subsumed into the field of power and that this field is dominated by the struggle for economic capital.  The problem comes when commentators misuse Bourdieu, as I suspect may be happening within the ‘educational left’ that the Volumizer critiques.  Whilst it might be exciting and socially more comfortable to think that adressing cultural issues alone can change society, it is a mistake of the left to read Bourdieu as providing a competing system to Marx or of avoiding the key issue of inequality.  To use Bourdieu as intended is to unmask the symbolic means by which social inequalities are reproduced in society and to shine a light on the mis-recognised relations of capital that structure it.

Call for papers

CFP: Olympic Legacy: People, Place, Enterprise

1st Annual Colloquium

8th & 9th May 2008

University of Greenwich, London, UK. 

Submissions are invited for the 1st annual colloquium on the legacy of the 2012 Olympics, to be held at the University of Greenwich on 8th & 9th May 2008.   Please submit proposals for presentations of around twenty minutes.  Your proposal should address the themes of the colloquium which are as follows: 

  • Olympic tourism
  • Social and cultural regeneration
  • Enterprise  – including social enterprise as well as trading and merchandising
  • Skills development and education

 Proposals for presentations that do not fit neatly in to these categories, but that would contribute to the conference more generally, will also be considered, as will proposals for chaired conference sessions Proposals should be emailed to James Kennell at by 28th February 2008 and should be no longer than 400 words.