HABITUS

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Pierre Bordieu argues[i] that control is created and maintained through habitus. Habitus is a cultural unconsciousness through which social activity can be regulated and harmonised, but it is also an enslaving force. Through habitus we act without being conscious of actually obeying any rules. Capitalist habitus has to be flexible and allow dynamism, but it must also rule out alternatives.

But, how can this be? How can anything be dogmatic and dynamic at the same time?

Bordieu says that this paradox is resolved by inducing aspirations and actions that are compatible with its dogma. In this way you can have individual desires and act according to the fulfilment of those desires without upsetting the status quo. Do whatever you want. Become your dreams. These are the messages that capitalism inculcates in us. Subjective aspirations are therefore defined by objective structures that represent capitalism. What matters is that which is determined by tradition: things are wrong because they are not the proper thing. They are simply wrong because we all know it, because our sense of decency tells us so, because it is common sense – because it’s always been like that.

But Habitus is really the Big Brother. He is watching, criticising, making sure our individuality doesn’t get out of control, making sure we work for the System without being conscious of working for it. Habitus creates the Matrix.

[i] See Pierre Bordieu’s dialogue with Terry Eagleton “Doxa and Common Life: An Interview” in MAPPING IDEOLOGY, edited by Slavoj Žižek.

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