Wendy Bottero: Class subjectivities, everyday critique and constraint
Wendy Bottero (University of Manchester)
Foto: University of Manchester
Many accounts (most notably in class analysis, but with parallels in analyses extending across a range of social inequalities) have struggled with the question of how everyday understandings of inequality are related to the experience of inequality. Class analysts have been rather more successful in explaining why people fail to acknowledge and challenge inequality than in accounting for when and why they do. Yet people do protest, mobilise and organise, and rather more often than many accounts seem to suggest, so how can we explain this? Conventional approaches to the subjectivities of class inequality have focused on how inequality is naturalised and misrecognised, often characterising 'recognition' as emerging from moments of 'crisis' or 'exception', with a comparative neglect of 'everyday' critique and 'ordinary' expressions of grievance and a voluntaristic suggestion that the stability of unequal relations rests in ignorance or consent. Here I explore alternative explanations of persisting relations of power and inequality, which argues that the key issue rests not in questions of symbolic legitimation but rather in how power relations are constituted as constraining collective practices. The central question then becomes not whether power relations are 'recognised' (or not), but rather how the constraining nature of collective practices becomes susceptible to renegotiation and transformation. Both social stability and social transformation can then be understood as features of the collective nature of practices.