How Pierre Bourdieu appears through Pascal Bryckner's "Tyranny of Guilt" and how it affects World Politics


We can actually observe this phenomenon everywhere around us. Somehow, acts of violence, terrorism and even structural violence, all get legitimized in the light of aesthetics in the context of socio-symbolic criteria.

Pierre Bourdieu in his masterpiece "Distinction, a social critique of the judgement of taste", explains that society must be conceived as a "field", structured by different relations between the elements that it consists, and it tends to grind out incessantly those different systems.

Pierre Bourdieu criticizes inequality and supremacy as those two notions get reformulated in the cultural sphere, by analyzing the signifier (as defined by Ferdinand de Saussure) of taste, as it is expressed and used by different socioeconomic classes.

What is really interesting is that this distinction as described by Pierrre Bourdieu, can appear not only through taste, but also through culture, economy and even politics. This distinction, expresses in a most unsparing way, a delimitation between classes and identifies to what we tend to call as "addiction or habit", that we tend to consider as free choice, but which is actually, socially motivated by a system of actions and behaviours that aim to enhance social distinction.

So maybe behind free choices, or even unconvetionality, lies a cluster of motives that reformulates social classes.

In his famous essay "The tyranny of guilt: An essay on western masochism", Pascal Bruckner, famous writer representing the "new philosophers" era, explains how the western civilization during the last years, became totally burdened with guilt, as a means to appease itself from the crimes committed since the Holocaust and the end of World War II.

As Pascal Bruckner describes it, the West has no monopoly on evil, it might have created monsters but at the same time it created mechanisms to destroy them "and should take lessons by the U.S. a country that has the strength to act decisively in a world of chaos"...

War crimes, religious wars, holly inquisition, slavery and colonialism, all get lapsed through this theory, due to the fact that the West has also created circumstances which affected the world globally in a positive and constructive way.

When i first read Bruckner's essay on "The Tyranny of Guilt", i felt a sort of "identification", and empathized with his views, as a person grown and lived in the context of a western civilization. But still something was wrong over there...and it is only when you get to think of Bourdieu's famous essay on distinction, that you realize that this mechanism of an unstated and ongoing rhetoric of classification between different socioeconomic groups, also appears in Bruckner's way of thinking, that you realize how successfully "addiction or habit" is enscripted to the core of our choices even in political way of thinking, that we can not easily get read of "prefabricated models".

In other words, Pascal Bruckner wrote an ode to the western culture, which should be freed from all guilt, because of the assets it brought to the world. If one thinks carefully on this argument, she or he can easily come down to the conclusion that Bruckner, tends to think in this context of distinction between different groups defined by the western supremacy.

Pascal Bruckner fails to explain why different cultures and even ancient ones, that appeared in this world ages ago, shouldn't also get read of their guilt for crimes committed through all those years. And he fails to explain this, because he has a prefabricated model of thinking, determined to enhance western superiority as described above. He takes as granted that western civilization is much more important to the world than any other one. He beggins his theory from a culminating point of the western civilization, thus excluding whole eras when ancient Greece together with a bunch of eastern civilizations like Egypt, Babylon, India, China and many other created and invented. He never refers to this historical period and never tries to "bulletproof" his theory against similar arguments that could also be heard from different cultures.

Briefly, Pascal Bruckner got applauded for an essay that of course expresses some useful thinking over important issues on the western background and as well encloses truths and arguments supporting the theory of Machiavelli, (that if you never succeed in eliminating your enemy, he will always remember you for the evil you caused and not for the accomlishments with which you contributed to the world history). In this way, Bruckner, pepretuates Imannuel Kant's argument on critical power...According to him abstracting "aesthetic taste" judgement from the context of the "pleasure of taste" judgement is a precondition defining superior taste. Bruckner, acting opposite to Bourdieu, underlines the superiority of the western civilization and culture, thus, excluding miracles of the eastern culture, which contributed to a useful and totally constructive dialogue and interaction between nations. This way, he confirms Kant's distinction in defining taste and superior taste, by using the exact same tools to support his argument in the political field...

Bruckner thinks and acts, exactly as the leading superpowers act. International relations between nations have been conceived, ages ago, as a field where the western supremacy should prevail, due to its undoubtedly unique civilization. Ofcourse, the west has contributed with miracles to the world. But, how representative of our values and philosophy, is this segregation between cultures, and how many the dangers of motivating a bigotry, in an already divided world...?

                                                     written by Themis Panagiotopoulou, PhD in Political Science

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