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Home arrow Sociology arrow Bourdieu and Social Movements: Ideological Struggles in the British Anti-Capitalist Movement
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The power of capital

Every field contains capital, which agents try to capture to further their political position. This is especially the case within political struggles. So, within the BACMF anarchists and socialists attempt to capture valuable cultural and social capital that will further their political agenda. At the same time, they are both trying to direct the struggle against capitalism, which requires an articulation with other social and political forces that are not necessarily anti-capitalist but are anti-neoliberal. Thus they enter the AGM field when there is an opportunity to do so. Within the broader political field, however, elites will also try to stop the furtherance of anti-neoliberal and anti-capitalist agendas either through force or ideological means, for example via the cooption of more 'moderate' sections of the AGM field.

Therefore, capital is operationalized as resources. For activists it includes cultural, social and symbolic forms. Objective cultural forms could be books which are used to gain political knowledge, or political spaces such as activist meeting places, for example social centres which may hold political discussions where political and organizational knowledge is exchanged, discussed and rationalized. This could include, and has included activist training and strategies such as non-violent direct action training, legal knowledge in case of arrest, or the development and raising of political campaigns and profiles through the internet. These skills and knowledge could and do become embodied within activist circles as part of their activist socialization.

Forms of social capital include building valuable political connections with other politicos or virtual networks that may help with a given political campaign. Both cultural and social capital can and do lead to accumulating further symbolic capital within activist spaces; this is why struggles over symbolic dominance of space break out (chapter 5). For example, in chapter 5 I explain how anarchists were possibly losing political ground to socialists since the latter were gaining valuable forms of cultural and social capital that anarchists had neglected to acquire. In short, such resources enable activist groups to direct the struggle they are involved in. However, activists, and especially anti-capitalist groups, by their very nature have little economic capital; neoliberal elites, on the other hand, usually have a great deal of economic capital which can be used to thwart activist progress. However, it is not a simple case of using economic capital directly to overpower activists, although this does happen. Rather, when moral arguments are put forward by activists, elites use their economic financing to capture cultural and social capital too, thus converting it into valuable symbolic capital, and with such superior economic resources their ideological message may drown out other less affluent activists so that only distorted elite perspectives are heard.

In chapter 6, I argue that G8 elites in July 2005 used superior forms of capital to coopt moderate anti-neoliberal groups, such as the Make Poverty History campaign by presenting an argument which made it look as though their interests were combined. At the same time, the more radical anti-capitalist activists were marginalized and their activities were thwarted. My use of capital and field differ from a recent application, that of Samuel (2013), who provides a similar case study of the Toronto G20 protests in June 2010. He argues that antineoliberal groups may find themselves in the 'wrong political field' and therefore are subject to the rules and domination of that field. My contention here is that it is not so much a matter of activists being in the wrong field as of elites using their capital to coopt the AGM field and subsume, dominate and overpower the activists in the BACMF. In short, elites practise symbolic violence. Elites use symbolic violence to maintain the status quo or what Bourdieu calls the doxa. Doxa is the final concept that is operationalized as part of my framework and applied in chapter 7 of this book.

 
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