Power and Social Criticism: Reflections on Power, Domination and Legitimacy

Critical Horizons 11 (1):51-74 (2010)
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Both modernist and post-modern social criticism of power presuppose that agents frequently consent to power relations, which a political theorist may wish to critique. This raises the question: from what normative position can one critique power which is, as a sociological fact, legitimate in the eyes of those who reproduce it? This paper argues that "symbolic violence" is a useful metaphor for providing such a normative grounding. In order to provide an epistemological basis of critique, it is further argued that social actors have multiple interpretative horizons available to them as part of their everyday social practices. Thus, they are not caught in a preconstituted web of meaning from which there is no escape, as is sometimes implicit in the over-socialized perceptions of agency associated with post-modernism



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