Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’


does the key to life, to living
come not from the concrete
maze encasing society
in a man made prison
but from wide open spaces
of grass, heather, trees, mud,
rolling hills that go on forever
and release humanity
from the mad made
shackles of modern life
if only for a short time


It’s been a while since I did a blog but I do have what people will see as a good reason. As part of my dissertation at university I have to do a literature review of any relevant literature and it’s not as easy as it sounds! Reading through pages and pages of academic literature takes its toll on your brain and your sanity. Making endless notes and re-reading to make sure you haven’t missed the all-important word that could make a difference strains not only your brain but your eyes too. But having said all that it is very interesting and rewarding on many levels.

For many students the word dissertation strikes fear into them. It is the same for many employees who are asked to compile a report on their competitor’s latest product or last week’s sales figures. Where do I start! At the beginning. Sounds easy enough and for some reports it is. You will have a start point already made for you. For other reports and for a dissertation it is not so easy. My advice is to find a significant point in time to focus on and to remember that you can go back before this point as well as forwards after it too. The point provides a reference for you to focus on and to start your dissertation or report from.

As part of my dissertation I have to apply a sociological theory to my work. This is because I am studying sociology and my dissertation needs to reflect that. The theory I have chosen is that of habitus and capital from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. I have chosen Bourdieu’s work because I am interested in how power is controlled and maintained within society and within certain groups. Some groups appear to have a lot of power, others none at all. But who decides who has the power and how it is distributed amongst society? How do the powerful maintain their power? What are the subtle signs within society that many of us are exposed to from an early age that influence our perceptions of power? There are many signs that influence our decision on who are powerful and why. Bourdieu classed them as Social Capital, Cultural Capital, Economic Capital and Symbolic Capital. We are exposed to these forms of Capital from the day we are born and continue to be exposed to them till the day we die.

Many of them are so familiar to us that we don’t even notice them anymore. Statues looking down at us from on high signifying power in one form or another. If you do as well as me you may too get a statue made of you they seem to tell us as we walk by. This signifies power and who has it. If you read the plinth it may tell you why they earnt this power, in battle, in politics or maybe for writing or painting. Either way it signifies what constitutes power in society and why. Are we meant to bow down to this form of power, aspire to it or both? Either way it tells us who are the powerful and why on a daily basis.

Every day we are exposed to Economic Capital with endless news reports of sporting superstars earning vast amounts of money, companies making billions of billions of pounds of profit while still increasing prices but telling us that we should be grateful to them for providing us with energy, housing, food and other commodities at vastly inflated prices. We get told that these sporting superstars are worth every penny but is that for their talent or for the immense revenue and profits they generate from companies around the world?

Speaking of brands they enter into our Symbolic and Cultural capital unnoticed. Just think of McDonalds, Adidas, Ford and Apple to name a few. They and many others have entered into our Symbolic and Cultural society naturally and now all we have to do is see a product of theirs and we immediately know who made it, how much it cost, where it was made and based on this information we make assumptions about people. If we take the example of Ford we may assume that this person is at the lower end of the economic scale and so doesn’t have much spare cash. Compared to someone who is driving a Porsche or a Ferrari we would assume that they are at the other end of the economic scale and are very wealthy. Both examples could be wrong. The Ford driver could be rich but likes to save his pennies whilst the Porsche driver could have hired it for the day just to experience what it is like to own one.

But the point still stands that we give these products such Symbolic and Cultural capital and this is so ingrained within our natural psyche that we don’t even register the assumptions we are making about the people who use these products. We have subconsciously given these products and by association the people who use them Symbolic and Cultural capital and therefore power. With regards to this power we may position ourselves above them if we feel we have more power than them or below them if we feel we have less power than them.

This power is then transferred into where we stand within society. Someone viewed with low power will have a low social standing within society and viewed as not making much of a contribution to the running of society. On the other hand someone viewed as having high power will have a high social standing within society and viewed as having made a greater contribution to the running of that society. High power also brings more opportunities to maintain and exploit this power to the full. Once people have this power they do not want to give it up and will keep it for themselves only transferring it to their next of kin. This then maintains the status quo of the elite and any new members must have sufficient Social, Cultural, Symbolic and Economic capital of their own in order for them to join the club.

I will stress now that these are my thoughts and I am probably repeating the thoughts and ideas of many who have gone before me. This is also a very complex branch of sociology to get to grips with and a blog such as this does not have the space or scope needed to explore Bourdieu in sufficient depth and breadth. I just hope I’ve given you something to think about next time you look around at all the cultural symbols that surround you in your life.

Thanks for reading and take care 🙂


This week I’ve changed the title of my blog slightly to better reflect the content. As some of you will have noticed parts of my blog are about life at uni, whereas other parts are about anything on my mind!

This week has been a largely uneventful week at uni for me. I missed the ‘Film and Cinema’ lecture on Monday morning because I was poorly. Tuesday I didn’t have a lecture so my first trip to uni was Thursday afternoon for ‘Men, Masculinity and Crime’. The lecture this week consisted of watching the film ‘Fightclub’ and analysing the film. For me the film was all about finding your identity and that applies equally to males and females and the rejection of the consumerist society we live in. the film went back to a more basic way of living where it seems it was easier to create an identity for yourself because you had less fingers pointing at you from all directions and corners of society telling you what you had to wear, what to watch, what sport to play and on and on and on, in order to be considered a woman or a man. The film seemed to go back to the caveman era and showed the base emotions of society as the foundation for the building and maintaining of an identity. I feel that many films are like ‘Fightclub’ in that there is often a hidden message underneath the plotline and it is up to the individual to find that message, make sense of it and reflect on how they live their lives in comparison. Quite often I think many people watch a film purely for entertainment without looking deeper and finding the meaning and message in the film. They watch the film for pleasure noticing only the car chases, fights and explosions without seeing the life messages behind them.

Which leads me neatly onto my next ‘the media’ as studied in the lecture ‘Representing the Social’. This module gets you thinking about the world we all inhabit and looking at it differently. This week was about one of my favourite subjects the media. The media affects all of us whether we like it or not. From the traditional forms of media such as books, newspapers, radio and television to the new forms such as Facebook, Twitter and the internet itself we are constantly surrounded by the media and therefore media representations of life, society and the world. The main question for many academics is ‘does the media represent or construct society’?

If you ask anyone who is connected to the media they will tell you that they are merely reflecting on what goes on in society and the audience can pick and choose what it watches or reads and therefore make reasoned choice about what it believes. However another very different school of thought believes the media construct the society we live in by altering the images they show us, telling a story in a particular way or reporting on one story and not another. By doing this the media can have an immense influence on how we perceive the world around us and change the way we see society.

One way of doing this is to buy three different newspapers on the same day and look at them in detail and how they are constructed. Say for instance there had been a march against austerity the day before or a murder or someone’s human right’s had been violated, do the newspaper’s report on these stories in the same way? Do they occur on the same page in-between the same stories? Are the same words used for the stories? Is the same political slant given to the stories? The simple answer is no. Different newspaper’s will report a story in different ways. One story might have the victim’s story first, another, the perpetrator. One story might have a right-wing slant, another a left-wing slant, another newspaper might not give the story much space or not even report it at all. By doing this you can see how the media in its different forms constructs a view of the world from their perspective and because the reader may only read that particular story it will influence the readers view of the world around them.

This is especially important in today’s information saturated world we live in. How do we know what is and is not real? Who do we believe? How do we know if an event happened as it has been reported or if it has been altered in some way to reflect the views of the newspaper? The answer is we don’t but if there is a story that holds your interest, gets you thinking and asking questions it is worth getting three or four different perspectives of the same story and seeing which parts are reported similarly and which are reported differently. Research the background of the story makers. What political affiliations do they have? Which people do they consider important? Who are their friends? All of this information will tell you a lot about the background to the story, why they consider it important and the world they are trying to construct for you to live in and believe in.

There is a lot more I could write about the media but I don’t have the space in this blog. The main thing to think about next time your reading a newspaper or the internet or watching the news is that the main reason the media exists is to sell stories and make money for their owners. It’s not to tell you the truth as it happened but to tell you a story that makes you want to buy that particular newspaper over another newspaper. And never be afraid to question what you read and are told. Question the motives of those behind the story, question why they think it is important and question yourself too. Why is it important to you? Why do you care about this story and not another one? Always question.

Otherwise it’s been a normal week for me. Friday was a very long day with four hours of lectures and then a trip to Hebden Bridge for a special Shindig hosted by the amazing Winston Plowes. If you don’t know a Shindig is a spoken word event which features one or two guest performers and an open mic session. I performed a couple of old favourites and a new poem which went down very well. The highlight for me though was an old lady telling the main guest he was ‘rubbish’ and should ‘get off the stage’. It was one of those moments when you shouldn’t laugh but can’t help it.

Saturday was spent watching my local amateur rugby league team Queensbury play out a tough 18-18 draw with local rivals Illingworth, the game wasn’t the most skilful but was a tough game of rugby played mainly in the forwards by two teams refusing to give an inch, a very tough game emphasised by the sound of flesh slamming into flesh, blood on faces and sweat pouring into the pitch from said players. These young lads play the game for pleasure yet still face the same pitfalls as professional players in the form of aching limbs and injuries. The main difference is that these lads have to get up for work on Monday morning with their legs still aching from chasing the opposition, bruises all over their bodies, black eyes, missing teeth and the odd broken limb. It is a tough, uncompromising sport just as much at the amateur level as it is at the professional level.

Thanks for reading and take care.