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One may thus construct the social space of Sentimental Education by relying for landmarks on the clues that Flaubert supplies in abundance and on the various 'networks' that social practices of cooptation such as receptions, soirées and friendly gatherings reveal. [From The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field]
Here's where I get down with my whole cultural-capital-as-literary-lens bit, as it applies to that amazing novel of French social life—Gustave Flaubert's Sentimental Education. This book is perfect for my purposes because it's all about social climbers, conspicuous consumption, fancy parties, networking before networking was networking, and hooking up before hooking up was hooking up.
All of the "social places" in the novel reflect the attitudes and desires of the characters who move around in them. And if that doesn't do it for you, there are tons of snobs and wannabes and social climbers and yearning souls to upset your stomach or set your heart aflutter, depending on your taste.
Male domination is so rooted in our collective unconscious that we no longer even see it. [From "On male domination"]
So gender's not my biggest thing, but I'll take on any power structure that's become so normalized that we don't even notice it anymore. Gender is totally one of those.
My fellow Frenchie Simone de Beauvoir said it before me, and she said it well. The upshot is that we're so used to the power inequities between the sexes that we don't even think about them anymore; they have become part of who we are and how we function, so much so that we believe we are born with these distinctions.
Don't even get me started on how oppressive it must be for women to have to walk around in short skirts and high heels trying to get things done. If you care, see what I had to say about that here.
The point of my work is to show that culture and education aren't simply hobbies or minor influences. [From "The Intellectual Class Struggle"]
Not everyone takes his or her education seriously. Shocking, I know. Some people are eggheads who spend all of their time in the library; other people cram for tests ten minutes before they take them. My point is that in the larger scope of things, education—who accesses it, where one goes, who gets left out—is serious business.
The cultures in which we are raised, the privileges or deprivations of our childhoods, the advantages and disadvantages of our educations—all of these have a huge role in determining who we are for the rest of our lives. Sound scary? That's because it is.
Television enjoys a de facto monopoly on what goes into the heads of a significant part of the population and what they think. [From On Television]
I'm not a fan of the media in general, and I definitely don't love the old idiot box. It's not because I think people should be deprived of a few hours of entertainment; it's because TV gets into your brain and pummels you with propaganda, and that leads you to adopt narrow viewpoints so that you don't actually have to do any hard critical thinking yourself.
I don't care much about PBS and the History Channel (what's left of it)—most people aren't watching the educational stuff, anyway—even if they say they are. This whole idea that television is a medium of democracy and education is a bunch of B.S. When's the last time you gleaned anything meaningful from QVC?
Your TV isn't going to guide you toward more nuanced understandings of the existential paradoxes of choice and freedom, 'kay? It's going to present spectacles of disaster and death as entertainment.
Oh, and if you think you are getting the "real" story on any channel, you're dead wrong. All the real stuff is censored, and you're left with a load of propaganda.
The most successful ideological effects are those which have no need for words, and ask no more than complicitous silence. [From Outine of a Theory of Practice]
This little gem comes from one of my earliest chart-topping works of social science (it's been reprinted seven times). In OTP, I present the idea that we live in a spiderweb of systems, constraints, rules, expectations, and so on—most of which are invisible.
But the worst part? The average Joe doesn't notice the inequities, the biases, the intolerance, or the imbalance of the system, because he thinks that it's just the natural order of things.
On top of that, these things depend on (even need) the average Joe's silence in order to perpetuate themselves. You can't have people questioning oppression; if they did, the system might fall apart and become fair. It's in the best interest of the elite to keep the average Joe convinced that things are the way they have to be—even though it's not true.
The art of eating and drinking remains one of the few areas in which the working classes explicitly challenge the legitimate (bourgeois) art of living. In the face of the new ethic of sobriety for the sake of slimness, which is most recognized at the highest levels of the social hierarchy, peasants and especially industrial workers maintain an ethic of convivial indulgence. A bon vivant is not just someone who enjoys eating and drinking; he is someone capable of entering into the generous and familiar—that is, both simple and free—relationship that is encouraged and symbolized by eating and drinking together, in a conviviality which sweeps away restraint and reticence. [From Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste]
This is one of my favorite quips because it shows that there are limits in the extent to which the lower classes aspire to be like the higher classes. Newsflash: not everyone wants to be Kate Moss. Shocking, I know, but in these lines I explain that mealtime is one of the last activities that the peasants refuse to change in order to be perceived (and to present themselves) as members of a higher class.
You won't find peasants starving themselves to make others envy them on the sands of St. Tropez. These people like to share a good meal at a long, splintery wooden table. And they like to eat together—it's an activity of enormous social pleasure and it is one of the ways in which they form social bonds.