Sunday, December 30, 2007

Making a Virtue out of Necessity

As I continue my ethnographic work on beekeepers, I have concluded that one idea of Pierre Bourdieu seems quite useful. Bourdieu notes that the necessities and realities produced by one's position in an objective social space are often framed as virtues by those occupying the position. (When the fox can't reach the grapes, he says they were probably sour anyway!) So, the faculty member, whose academic background and/or lack of ability forces him/her to forego scholarly research and work for an emphasis on teaching, will construct a rationalization making teaching a greater virtue than research.

Bourdieu takes this one step further however. The winners in social struggles, not only accumulate capital, they also get the right to define their "virtues" as the rules of the social game. So, for example, if these "virtuous" teacher-professors dominate an academic institution, they often impose this "virtue" on others as the "standard" all good academics must follow and rewards are distributed accordingly.

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