Journal Article

Bridging the Study of Culture and Religion: Pierre Bourdieu's Political Economy of Symbolic Power*

David Swartz

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 57, issue 1, pages 71-85
Published in print January 1996 | ISSN: 1069-4404
e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3712005
Bridging the Study of Culture and Religion: Pierre Bourdieu's Political Economy of Symbolic Power*

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This essay examines key features of Pierre Bourdieu's sociology of culture in light of their potential contribution to the sociology of religion. For Bourdieu, religion can be analyzed as a system of symbolic power with properties analogous to other cultural domains, such as art, philosophy, science, or consumer fashion. Bourdieu's approach to culture develops a political economy of symbolic practices that includes a theory of symbolic interests, a theory of cultural capital, and a theory of symbolic power. While Bourdieu draws upon a variety of intellectual influences, the materialism of Karl Marx and Max Weber's sociology of religion have been particularly influential. This essay will focus on how Bourdieu elaborates from Marx and Weber to develop an original analytical grid for the study of culture and religion as well. Particular attention will be given to Bourdieu's concept of “field” since it is the most relevant of Bourdieu's concepts for both cultural and religious studies and currently the least well-known in the sociology of religion.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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