Culture, Life-World, and the Constitution of Symbolic Power
Sociology University of Konstanz Konstanz, Germany
Culture according to Max Weber is a finite segment of the meaningless infinity of the world process. Clifford Geertz, following up on Weber?s reflections, argues that ?man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun? and these webs are what he considers to be ?culture?. From the perspective of phenomenologically oriented sociology and focusing on the dialectical relationship between individual and society (Berger/Luckmann), this presentation concentrates on how culture is ?impregnated? by specific power relations. The individual social actor experiences the cultural world as web of social relationships, as system of signs and symbols with a particular meaning structure, and also as institutionalized forms of social organization, of systems of status and prestige, etc. (Alfred Schutz). Human consciousness is ?impregnated? by stratifications related to inequality and power hierarchies, which serve as a frame for consciousness activities. Therefore, the subjectively centered life-world of the individual is affected by power hierarchies in relation to its different multiple reality spheres. The intersubjective life-world including the social world is determined by relevance structures which are dependent on the recognition of what Pierre Bourdieu calls symbolic capital consisting of cultural and economic capital. The recognition of symbolic capital within a social group forms the basis for the constitution of symbolic power relations which are a reflection of ?in real? existing power relations. Phenomenologically oriented sociology allows the explication of how symbolic power hierarchies are culturally defined; they are constituted on the basis of the culturally structured life-world of the individual actor.