A Bourdieusian Study of the Use of Media by Chinese Public Intellectuals

This paper studies the media phenomenon of “public intellectual” in China and tries to show it entails not only the result of the intervention of mass production of cultural field by the small scale production of intellectual field, but also the necessity of acquiring symbolic capital on behalf of the dominant class of the political-economic field. The engagements of Chinese public intellectuals are socially divided rather than publicly oriented, and the media field under the domination of the political-economic field working as a cultural intermediary inclines to support neo-liberalist discourses about them. Bourdieu’s theories of champs, Habitus and capitals are applied to analyze the media phenomenon of public intellectuals in Chinese context and the paper addresses this question in three aspects. First, the emergence of public intellectuals in the mass production of cultural field and how its power relationship with different champs including media field and political-economic field threatens the autonomy of intellectual for public engagement. Second, the competitions of accumulating capitals by intellectuals in the media field and social field, and how it affects their unified engagement. Third, how the practice of Habitus by public intellectuals on the media either improve or declines their competition for symbolic capitals, and the potential antagonism caused by the dislocation of the practice of their habitus with some groups’ positions in the social field. This paper uses mainly ethnography and textual analysis to study the public intellectuals’ media program and text, and online research is applied to study the audience reaction in the social field.
Keywords public intellectual  field  Habitus  cultural capitals  symbolic capital
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