Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Structure and agency

Daily Draw: The Wild Unknown Tarot, The Emperor

Leadership - something my thesis attempts to denaturalise. 

Who gets to be a leader and seen to be a leader often depends on embodied cultural/symbolic capital (white, male, heterosexual, middle aged, of a certain social class). This is normal or 'invisible' capital - the attributes of excellence or authority or 'natural leadership'. The latter being a common sense concept which like all common sense concepts tends to bolster the power of dominant 'elites' in society. 

The embodied entitlement to space (both physical and aural) is often a strong statement of social entitlement. From the guy sitting legs sprawled on the train to the politician authorised to speak on behalf of the electorate. 

As they take up space space for others diminishes. Women commonly speak more quickly and for less time at academic conferences anticipating the value of their product on the 'linguistic market' (speech is worth what the speaker is worth) and adjusting accordingly.   

While I am critical of 'authority figures' being authoritative is worth aiming for. We may experience disadvantage that is structural in nature but we also have agency. 

With that in mind the two positive messages I take from this card are: 

1. Vision - things don't have to be the way they are and can be different
2. Structure - present an argument capable of persuading people of that

In the case of sociology however, we are always walking on hot coals, and the things we discuss are alive, they're not dead and buried.

Pierre Bourdieu, 1930-2002


  1. Reminds me of arguing against the death penalty. People only seem to listen when I show them how much it costs to keep a person on death row (even if they are eventually killed) compared to a regular long-term inmate (much less money). To lead (or grab attention), you have to know and speak the "language" (in this case, money!). :)

    1. Yes indeed. Like equal opportunities people say they are not interested until you ask so what do you think about equal pay...

  2. Can anyone really, truly be an authority on anything? With the lighting speed of change, nothing is sure. I like the tree has an portrayal of the Emperor. The Emperor is usually steadfast and strong, somewhat unyielding in his posture. Though the tree may bend a bit in the wind, it too stays planted, with deep roots to hold it firmly.

    1. One reason I like history, the past can't change although there are always new discoveries to be made...

      I think people have always thought they were living through a time of immense change - the printing press, the reformation, industrial revolution and two world wars. Change is constant.

  3. I don't mind people with natural authority leading others who are in need of guidance but I do mind authoritarian leaders who abuse their power to control others. I try to recognize this first type of leadership in The Emperor and the Kings but it isn't always easy :