Bourdieu in Beirut : Wasta, the state and social reproduction in Lebanon
Title: Bourdieu in Beirut : Wasta, the state and social reproduction in Lebanon
Publisher: Routledge Journals, Taylor & Francis Ltd
Citation: Middle East critique, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 249-270
ISSN: 1943-6149; 1943-6157
This article uses Pierre Bourdieu's theory to analyze the relation between the Lebanese state and the reproduction of unequal power relations, in particular through the phenomenon of wasta (an Arabic word referring to the use of connections to obtain scarce goods or services). We attempt to demonstrate how social reproduction in Lebanon has come to rely on the clandestine exchange of certain symbolic and material resources, exemplified in practice by the ways in which different social agents make use of wasta. We further attempt to show how such exchange, rather than any negation of the state, in fact is connected intimately to effects produced by the state in the organization of these resources. We achieve this by analyzing the particular configuration of resources and reproduction mechanisms produced by the Lebanese state and demonstrating how these objective structures lead to determinate effects in the habitus of agents. These effects are expressed through variance in agents' (social) reproduction strategies, which can be demonstrated most vividly by comparing the habitus of agents firmly embedded within the Lebanese social space to the 'destabilized' (or 'tormented') habitus of agents less adjusted to it. In this way, we show how Bourdieu's analysis can reveal the means by which even supposedly 'weak' states such as Lebanon nonetheless may produce strong social effects.
Subject: Bourdieu; Habitus; Lebanon; State; Wasta
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