Elections, State: Instruments of expropriation.


17 Sep , 2020  


Democracy and its instrument of choice are based on citizens handing over their powers to representatives or delegating them to a professional group that decides on their behalf. This implies a misjudgment, because only because the representatives exist does the represented group exist, which in turn creates its representatives as representatives of the group. (Bourdieu 2013: 24) These representatives are members of a corresponding bureaucratic organization and are given a mandate by it. Basically, a political party does not function differently from the church; in both, the delegates who become ministers or secretaries represent the usurpation of seats as a service to the organization and to those who delegated them. And if the minister wants to be recognized as legitimate, he must create a demand for his product. By supposedly being absorbed by the people, the politician makes himself the people, erases himself and thus becomes everything. The individual merges into a legal entity, which in turn makes those who are nothing but themselves into nothing, because they do not speak for the people, do not speak in their name, while the representative who speaks for the people is everything. Bourdieu calls this an oracle effect. Bourdieu recognizes in the delegation to the political professionals an expropriation, because with the election the citizen leaves all power to them. It is only through abstention or non-election that the citizen can offer immanent resistance within the framework of representative democracy, and often this is the only possibility for the subclasses, because they do not have the education or the political resources to intervene in political debates at all, so that their very silence can be understood as revenge on a system that excludes them per by including them. It is precisely their apathy that must be seen as an unconscious protest against the monopolization of politics in the state apparatuses.

Elections require that a multitude of heterogeneous and often excluding discourses, which emerge in the context of conflicting class habits, interests and strategies, be condensed into a singular act, that things be decided in an electoral act for which thousands of political disputes are needed in permanence. Real political influence of different groups is not only limited, but the citizen stripped of his interests, desires and desires recognizes with the election that all influence is delegated to professional elected officials who function within an office or apparatus.

In this process, the parties in a political field that they jointly occupy feel a certain competition with one another, although their influence is not primarily measured by their political position, but rather by their ability to mobilize the largest possible, heterogeneous electorate, which also forces each party to be fuzzy from the outset in order to get a certain clientele behind them. The hegemonic political opinion that a party represents is a guiding principle that can be put into practice precisely when the group it mobilizes through its symbolic activities is larger and more powerful. (Ibid.: 149) At the same time, a harmony of political dispositions is to be created by those who disseminate political opinions and those who receive and affirm them, whereby in the last instance the political relevance of opinions, ideas and political positions lies in the strength of a party that can mobilize them. In the opinion polls, which increase at election time, if not become epidemic, there is a questioning of what has already been formulated, without even the slightest consideration of the production of the formulation behind which class strategies are hidden.

The election is part of a political market that is by no means directed by an invisible hand, but where the professionals and representatives of the privileged classes, in particular, formulate offers that are distributed through advertising, the media, television and the Internet to those represented, who consume the electoral act, inasmuch as their political decision-making capacity is diluted to a single syncretic drawing that puts to decision things that would reasonably require thousands of questions, problems, conflicts and debates. Ultimately, the relationship between electoral behavior and social class is suspended in the election; rather, by its own logic, the election is “an instrument for blurring conflicts and antagonisms. (Ibid.:254) With the elections, the majority recognizes that their influence on concrete political decisions is zero, decisions that are determined by the representative-democratic form of choice between exchangeable parties, are hit by a professional technocratic caste, to the exclusion of and against the population, which is to be kept in the democratic game with a minimum of opportunities and rights, including the welfare state.

The State

We take Bourdieu’s lectures on the state here as a foil, not because we think that this analysis represents the non plus ultra of leftist theory of the state, but because Bourdieu emphasizes the relative autonomy of the state by analyzing it as a field and thus turning away from over-simplified functionalist analyses such as those found in traditional Marxism. The construction of the state is a fiction, even an illusion, because it can only exist if people believe in it, but if they believe in it, then this fiction becomes powerful. The state attains its strength when it is recognized as a matter of course, the genesis of which no one questions anymore. From this point of view, the state is the organized realm of trust values, the organized trust or organized belief in a collective fiction that is recognized by faith as real and precisely because of this becomes real. The state is always also a collective fiction that exists, but does not exist as one believes. (Bourdieu 2014: 78) The state articulates itself as the point of view of all points of view, or as Bourdieu says with Leibniz, as the “geometric place of all perspectives”. The state is thus to be understood under this aspect as a deification, as a secularized church. For this, it must make it credible that it is the standpoint without a point of view, which is constantly and tediously demonstrated in the daily dreary spectacles of the general. It is the effect of the state to instill in people the belief that it is self-evident, so that the question of the state no longer even arises.

Democracy always implies the definition that the official opinion is the opinion of everyone, or at least of those worthy of having an opinion. To do this, one must also be able to play with the rules of the game created and controlled by the state, precisely by paying the highest tribute to the game that is the state through this game with the rules of the game. This includes the respect, politeness and decency exercised by the subclasses towards the officials, towards the authorities, who articulate the obligatory and fictitious “we”, making them believe that they are speaking only for this we. “Where it is said today: the opinion polls are for us, it was said earlier in another context, God is for us”. In other words, parties produce a discourse, and above all the belief in the universality of their discourse, by producing phantoms, Germany, security, foreign exchange, social justice, the people, freedom, etc., and they call this democracy, which is welded together by the belief in the phantoms. From this point of view, democracy is an accumulated and concentrated phantom-ness in the state, which represents itself as the logic of things. This requires an official discourse or speech that circulates within the institutions, the administration, the instances and the state. The state is the space of circulation of the official speech, public opinion (plus television and media), order, mandates, and ultimately the place of a universal power still officially recognized in protest. This power has been understood over long periods of public debate as a consensus, overlooking the fact that the holders of the general good are also those who have access to public goods. The state breaks off the discourse on phantoms by appropriating them and concentrating them, that is, by declaring certain phantoms to be a natural necessity – it and only it shows that meaning is equal to sound and sound equal to meaning, that its elected officials are in possession of good manners and the exquisite, official way of speaking. At this point one would have to ask the question what would happen if there were no longer a central place, and thus the state monopoly on naming would be subject to a random principle, whereby each actor would retain the right to his own perspective, and thus the state as the geometric place of all perspectives would be taken ad absurdum.

The state is the place from which the official speaks. The population ultimately agrees on this, because at any given moment the state is not only inscribed in the political field, but in the minds of the people. It is not the population that empowers the state, but the state, by means of statistics, produces the population by simultaneously granting citizenship to individuals, i.e. the state as a set of authorities, administrations and services of a territorial unit produces the state as a set of citizens within a territorial unit. (Ibid.: 70) (In most cases, cause and effect are misunderstood at this point, as if the state as organized and represented population were the origin). The opposition state-civil society, which is often presented as an opposition, can thus be set as a continuum that ensures a specific distribution of access to the material, collective and public resources with which the name state is indicated.

Bourdieu writes: “In other words, the state is not a block, it is a field. The administrative field as a particular sector of the field of power is a space structured according to the oppositions associated with specific forms of capital, with different interests”. (Ibid.: 48) Field here means that its constitution through implicit regularities, habits, rules and sanctions is like a quasi-game of immanent moments that are constantly being brought into play anew. The state is a battlefield in which one is victorious when one has perfect mastery of the immanent rules of the game. Whoever does not bow to the rules of the capitalist state is either included or excluded, in the best case both. The immanent rules usually remain unspoken, but they are always brought back into play through punishments and sanctions. The constraints under which the game is played are themselves products of the game. (Ibid.: 177) The structural analysis of the game is thus also always that of its struggles and its becoming.

The state, which does not represent a subject (it does nothing), develops through the processes of concentration and monopolization of different types of capital, which it manages and regulates as a kind of metacapital. (Ibid.: 329) The state as the owner of metacapital is a field within which the actors struggle to own a capital that gives power over the other fields. (Ibid.: 348) The differentiation of the field of power begins in the 12th century and extends beyond the French Revolution. Power is first concentrated and then differentiated into a network of dependencies, thus creating the field of power. The differentiation of the curia regis and the clash between king and parliament are the historical culmination points of a process that Bourdieu shows in the practice of using the royal seal as an establishment of mutual relations of control. “The state is “that sector of the field of power that can be called the ‘administrative field’ or the ‘field of public administration'” and that “is defined by the possession of the monopoly of legitimate physical and symbolic power” (ibid.: 18). The birth of the state is historically linked to the defeat of the king, who can only retain his power by renouncing absolute power. (ibid.: 527).

The state concentrates and monopolizes not only physical, but above all symbolic capital. Thus the accumulation and concentration of symbolic capital becomes the decisive aspect of the genesis of the state, indeed the state is the “central bank of symbolic capital” (ibid.: 222), the symbolic power that determines legitimate culture through the production and canonization of certain social classifications, which is now enforced nationally and by state authorities (ibid.:404). This also includes the monopolization of language by the state, inasmuch as it constitutes an official language through law, school and university, certainly a historical coercive measure, which consists in the normalization of language and the subjects using it, who thus renounce their own or radical perspectives in order to legitimize the equivalence of all perspectives or the universal interchangeability of all points of view. The process of monopolization goes hand in hand with universalization, whereby it is the professionals who have the prerogative of the universal precisely by monopolizing it. This process of appropriation takes the form of concentration and unification, subordinating the local, regional and dispersed to a universal standard, such as the consensus and the metric system. At the same time, one is constructed as a citizen, and this means that one is quantified, coded and classified by means of state statistics, one is given a state identity. As a citizen you are your passport. In this context, Bourdieu examines the relationship between social space, fields and the state. He writes: “The construction of the state as a relatively autonomous field that exercises a power that causes the centralization of physical violence and symbolic violence, and thus forms a deployment of struggles, is inseparably linked to with the construction of a unified social space, which is his territory”. (Ibid.: 223f.) These unification processes are those of language, of measures and weights, even of speech.

In long agonizing processes of concentration, which emanate from military power and the tax system, the state appropriates precisely the capital of physical violence that arises from it, i.e., the process of concentration is simultaneously a process of separation (it expropriates the population from power and thought); the state monopoly on the use of force, which, however, cannot do without the state’s appropriation of symbolic capital, thus forms on the basis of historical expropriations. The state was created, so to speak, in a long coup d’état that established once and for all that there is a single legitimate and dominant standpoint that is the yardstick for all other standpoints. In exaggeration, Bourdieu speaks of the state as an organized criminal gang extorting protection money, as we know it from Chicago, i.e. it is not so different from the state. Bourdieu summarizes: 1. the state is an extortion gang, but not only that. 2. it is a legitimate extortion gang. 3. a legitimate blackmail gang in the symbolic sense.

Bourdieu understands the development of the state as a process of integration and homogenization, as a productive instance of objectification: “The state is closely linked to objectification and to all objectification techniques: it treats social facts as things, people as things-it was Durkheimian long before Durkheim. (Ibid.: 377) Unification and integration are inseparable from expropriation, inasmuch as knowledge and skills related to local values and measures are now devalued. Thus universalization goes hand in hand with the concentration of universality. This transition also characterizes the transformation from the local market to the national market, whether on an economic or symbolic level. Precisely the latter level is an effect of the power associated with the institution of the state, and this effect consists in a naturalization, a doxa, based on relatively arbitrary presuppositions made at the time the state was created. (Ibid.: 208) Here the institution exists in objectivity and subjectivity, in things and brains, as Bourdieu says. By existing in the objectivity of the rules and in the mental structures, the institution disappears. (Ibid.: 209) The state can then play with the so-it-is effect, an extremely violent action of the state that is imposed on the population and which it must accept without ifs and buts. The state thus always closes the space of possibilities, especially that of resistance.

And what must be taken into account is that the processes of homogenization, standardization and unification through which the state makes itself a state, go hand in hand with the processes of its reproduction. (Ibid: 219) School-leaving qualifications, nation, education or orthography are generated and reproduced as forms of misjudgement. The state (A) as administration, apparatus, ministries, even as a form of government produces the state (B) as territory and as the totality of citizens, not the other way around, as is often assumed. State (A) is formed by forming state (B) through the recognition relationships of the citizens. Bourdieu conceives of the differentiations that simultaneously exist in the state not as functionalist, but rather as conflictual differentiations of power. This is where the differentiation of the legal field comes into play. Historically, the institution of the jurists was early on parliament; they received a royal authority to uphold the law, and “this is the worm that penetrates the fruit” (ibid.:578).

State and Fascism

The AfD currently dominates the election campaign, having succeeded in publicly replacing the opposition between rich and poor with the opposition of Germans versus foreigners, and all major parties are more or less aligning their policies accordingly. With their tireless warning against the AfD, the enlightened wing of the German people shows one thing above all else: they are determined to carry on as before, to pull together in their small country and close both eyes to the world outside, except to imagine it as a cheap vacation paradise and a garbage dump for their own goods, in social amnesia, to accept every institution to which one submits as a matter of course and, above all, to understand anything that disturbs, be it AfD, as a cause for mental indigestion, which could possibly lead to a further increase in depression and a sharp rise in admissions to closed institutions in two years’ time. The ascription of racism to the AfD alone conceals the racism of the majority. In order to dominate the refugee, one must integrate him and at the same time turn him into a camel driver or, alternatively, into a potential criminal, into racially despised dominated. For the refugee, integration means imitating the German. This was and is the misunderstood idea of German education: to educate a monkey.

The state can universalize the categories of perception within the boundaries of its territory by constituting a population whose members possess the same categories of perception after they have gone through and suffered the same conditioning and inoculation of certain procedures by the state, for example, the school that gives them common principles of perception and division. The so-called national character, which is by no means the same as citizenship, but which Germans always mix with it, is the result of certain inoculation procedures, all of which amount to sublimated racism. In contrast to the national character, the citizen is a purely juridical entity that exists insofar as it maintains relations of rights and duties to the state, whereas the nation is considered an ethnocultural entity that can be defined by law but is clearly distinct from citizenship. The citizen is anyone who is recognized as such by a constitution; he or she need not have any special characteristics linked to blood or origin, as is assumed by popular racism.

If the masses are constituted as a nation, then this is a specific process which George Mosse described exactly in his book “One People, One Empire, One Leader. For Mosse, National Socialism is merely the borderline case of democracy, pushing the indoctrination of homogeneous collective ideas, which can always be observed in democracies, to the extreme. (Ibid.: 606) The preaching of power is here related to the irrationalism of a fascist mass policy, which makes a unity that only exists on paper tangible, so to speak. The general will is presented as collective emotion. The Nazis extended the process of constructing a unity of emotion to an entire people and pushed it to the extreme of annihilation. It is a rapid increase of tendencies that can be found in certain democratic procedures and ceremonies. Deleuze and Guattari have sharply criticized democracy in all its collaborations, usually calling it the cousin of totalitarianism. The nation now congeals into the imaginary incarnation of the people, a national self-representation based on what unites the people: language, history, homeland, blood, etc.

Bourdieu, Pierre (2013): Politik. Writings on Political Economy 2

(2014): About the state.

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Translated with (free version)

Translated with (free version)

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