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OUTLINE

OFA
TFIEOFY
OF
PRACTICE
PierreBourdieu
Cambridge Studies in Social
and Cultural Anthropology
ED ITO RS: ER N EST G EL LN ER , JACK GOODY,
ST E PH E N G U D EM A N . M IC H A E L HERZFEI.D,
JO N A T H A N PARRY

16

O U T L I N E OF
A T H E O R Y OF P R A C T I C E

r
O U T L I N E OF
A T H E O R Y OF P R A C T I C E

P IE R R E B O U R D IE U

T r a n s la t e d b y
RICHARD NICE

ffiS C a m b r i d g e
U N IV E R S IT Y P R E S S
P u b lis h e d b y th e P r e s s S y n d ic a t e o f th e U n iv e r s it y o f C a m b r id g e
T h e P it t B u ild in g , T r u m p in g t o n S tr e e t, C a m b r id g e C B 2 1R P
4 0 W e s t 2 0 th S tr e e t, N e w Y o r k , N Y 1 0 0 1 1 - 4 2 1 1 , U S A
1 0 S ta m fo r d R o a d , O a k le ig h , M e lb o u r n e 3 1 6 6 , A u str a lia

© In t h e E n g lis h la n g u a g e e d it io n C a m b r id g e U n iv e r s it y P r e s s 1 9 7 7
T h e o r ig in a l e d it io n , e n t it le d E sq u isse d 'u n e th e o rie d e la p r a ti q u e , p re c e d e d e tr o is
e tu d e s d ’e th n o lo g ie k a b y le , w a s p u b lis h e d b y L ib r a ir ie D r o z S .A . in S w itz e r la n d
© L ib r a ir ie D r o z , 1 9 7 2

F ir s t p u b lis h e d in E n g lis h tr a n sla tio n 1 9 7 7


R e p r in te d 1 9 8 5 1 9 8 6 1 9 8 7 1 9 8 8 1 9 8 9 1 9 9 0 1991 1 9 9 2 1 9 9 3 1995

P r in t e d in G r e a t B r ita in at th e
U n iv e r s it y P r e s s , C a m b r id g e

L ib r a r y o f C o n g re ss C a ta lo g u in g in P u b lic a tio n D a t a

B o u r d ie u , P ie r r e .
O u tlin e o f a th e o r y o f p r a c tic e .
(C a m b r id g e s t u d ie s in so c ia l a n th ro p o lo g y '; 16)
T r a n s la tio n w ith r e v is io n s o f E s q u is s e d ’u n e
th e o r ie d e la p r a tiq u e .
I n c lu d e s b ib lio g r a p h ic a l r e fe r e n c e s an d in d e x .
1. K a b y le s - A d d r e s s e s , e s sa y s, le c tu r e s.
2. E t h n o lo g y . I. T i t le .
D T 2 9 8 .K 2 B 6 9 1 3 3 0 1 .2 7 6 -1 1 0 7 3

I S B N 0 521 2 9 1 6 4 X
Contents

T ran slato r's forew ord page vii

1 T H E O B JEC TIV E L IM IT S OF O B JEC TIV ISM I

Section i: A n alyses i
From the mechanics o f the model to the dialectic o f strategies 3
From the "rules ” o f honour to the sense o f honour 10
Practice and discourse about practice 16
The fallacies of the rule 22
Section 1 1 : Case stu d y: parallel-cousin m arriage 30
The state o f the question 32
The functions o f kinship: official kin and practical kin 33
Officializing strategies 38
Collective beliefs and white lies 43
The ordinary and the extra-ordinary 52
M atrimonial strategies and social reproduction 58

2 STRUCTURES AND THE HABITUS 72


A false dilem m a: mechanism and finalism 72
Structures, habitus and practices ' . 78
The dialectic o f objectification and embodiment &7

3 G E N E R A T IV E SCHEM ES AND PRACTICAL LOGIC:

IN V EN TIO N W ITH IN LIM ITS 96


The calendar and the synoptic illusion 97
Economy o f logic ^ 109
The body as geometer: cosmogonic practice 114
Union and separation 124
Thresholds and rites o f passage 130
Reunion o f contraries and denial 132
M aking use of indeterminacy 140
The habitus and homologies 143

4 ST R U C T U R E S, H A B IT U S, POWER: BASIS FOR A

T H E O R Y OF S Y M B O L I C PO W E R 159
D oxa, orthodoxy, heterodoxy 159
Symbolic capital 171
Modes of domination 183
N otes 198
In d ex 240
" T h e principal defect of all m aterialism up to now - including
that of Feuerbach - is that the external object, reality, the
sensible w orld, is grasped in the form of an object or an intuition;
but not as concrete human activity, as practice, in a subjective way.
T h is is why the active aspect was developed by idealism , in
opposition to materialism - but only in an abstract w ay, since
idealism naturally does not know real concrete activity as su ch .”
K . M arx, Theses on Feuerbach
T ranslator’s foreword

Outline o f a Theory o f Practice was first published in Fren ch in 1972 (Esquisse


d ’une theorie de la pratique ). H ow ever, this E nglish text incorporates most of
the changes which Pierre Bourdieu has made since then. T h e argum ent is
carried further, particularly as regards the concepts of practical logic and
sym bolic capital, the order of exposition is recast, and, partly for reasons of
space, the ethnographic chapters with w hich the Fren ch edition opens have
been curtailed.
T h is text is the cornerstone of an oeuvre w hich encom passes num erous
m ajor works in both anthropology and sociology - which crosses and chal-
lenges the boundary dividin g their objects, tasks, and theories, and forces
attention to the social conditions in which such sciences are possible.
T h e fieldwork in K ab y lia w hich provided the ethnographic basis for this
text and the starting-point for its reflections w as carried out am id the tragic
circum stances of the Algerian w ar, w hich brought to a head the contradictions
inherent in the ethnologist’s position. T h is was one factor in Bourdieu’s
subsequent move into the field of sociology, where the separation w hich is
the hidden condition o f all academ ic activity - most insidiously so in the
behavioural sciences - could itself be grasped scientifically in the course of
inquiry into the social functions of scholarship and the m echanism s of
cultural and social reproduction.
T h e Outliney a " reflection on scientific practice w hich will disconcert both
those who reflect on the social sciences without practising them and those who
practise them w ithout reflecting on th em ” , seeks to define the prerequisites
for a truly scientific discourse about human behaviour, that is, an adequate
theory o f practice which must include a theory of scientific practice.
T h e stages through w hich Bourdieu’s work has passed, the problem s he
has set him self, are of course partly determ ined by the accidents of a
b iography; but also by the configurations of the intellectual field in France
over a certain period. T h e com m onplaces a translator m ight feel required to
adduce in order to extenuate the visible loss entailed in extracting a text from
its context touch only the surface of processes which the explicit thrust of
Bourdieu’s argum ent, here and elsew here, enables us to grasp m ore pro-
foundly as involving more than questions of " translatability Bourdieu would
[ v i i ]
Vl l l Translator's fo rew o rd

be the last to regret the shedding of all that the text was immediately and
tacitly granted, inasmuch as it bore the social marks which signal a product
conforming to the local standards: the signs of recognition eliciting the
recognition of already converted readers, the dignifyingreferences, theoretical
allusions, stylistic effects, have indeed every likelihood of remaining dead
letters once outside the magic circle of belief.
But much more besides the value set on the text is at stake when it
circulates beyond its field of production. The most autonomous work contains
implicit reference to an intellectual universe whose cardinal points are
scientific (and political) positions symbolized, in a given state of the field,
by the names of authors or schools of thought or by " is m s ” which may cover
totally different realities in different national traditions. These are the
structures of the field of production, its divisions into antagonistic groups and
rival schools, which, internalized, function as unexamined principles of
perception and appreciation. When these bearings are removed the text
becomes open to misreading.
T h u s nothing guarantees that, for some readers, this work, written against
the currents at present dominant in France, "structuralism ” or "structural-
M arxism ” , will not be merged with the very tendencies it combats. Less
pessimistically, there is still reason to fear that the frequent references made
to the Anglo-American philosophical tradition - a heaven-sent weapon against
the theoreticism which so strongly characterizes French social science, from
Durkheim to Levi-Strauss - may, when returned to their original universe,
take on a significance very different from the one they were given in a context
in which that tradition is disdained or unknown, and be seen as a sign of
allegiance to positivism (if not as an ingratiating gesture towards the intellec-
tual establishment).
The fact remains that a text which seeks to break out of a scheme of
thought as deeply embedded as the opposition between subjectivism and
objectivism is fated to be perceived through the categories which it seeks to
transcend, and to appear contradictory or eclectic (except when forcibly
reduced to one or the other alternative). T he provisional eclecticism which
can juxtapose Wittgenstein with the young M arx finds its justification in the
fact that all the resources of a tradition which from the beginning has made
practice the negative obverse of theory are needed in order to think the
unthinkable.
R. N.
I
The objective limits of objectivism

SECTION I: ANALYSES

T h e practical privilege in which all scientific activity arises never more subtly
governs that activity (insofar as science presupposes not only an epistemolo-
gical break but also a social separation) than when, unrecognised as privilege,
it leads to an implicit theory of practice which is the corollary of neglect of
the social conditions in which science is possible. T h e anthropologist’s
particular relation to the object o f his study contains the makings of a
theoretical distortion inasmuch as his situation as an observer, excluded from
the real play of social activities by the fact that he has no place (except by
choice or by way of a game) in the system observed and has no need to make
a place for him self there, inclines him to a hermeneutic representation of
practices, leading him to reduce all social relations to communicative relations
and, more precisely, to decoding operations. Charles Bally remarked that
linguistic research takes different directions according to whether it deals with
the researcher’s mother tongue or with a foreign language, emphasizing in
particular the tendency to intellectualism implied in observing language from
the standpoint of the listening subject rather than that of the speaking
subject, that is, as a "m ean s of action and expression” : "th e listener is on
the side of the language, it is with the language that he interprets sp eech ” .1
And exaltation of the virtues of the distance secured by externality sim ply
transmutes into an epistemological choice the anthropologist’s objective
situation, that of the "im partial spectator” , as H usserl puts it, condemned
to see all practice as a spectacle.

It is instructive to glance at the case of art history, which, never having really broken
with the tradition of the amateur, gives free rein to celebratory contemplation and finds
in the sacred character of its object every pretext for a hagiographic hermeneutics
superbly indifferent to the question of the social conditions in which works are
produced and circulate. Panofsky, for example, w T i t i n g on Abbot Suger and the
invention” of Gothic architecture, only exceptionally and almost accidentally aban-
dons the point of view o f the interpreter who, more concerned with the opus
operatum than the modus operandi, represses the question of artistic production under
the concept of the "objective intention” o f the work and reduces immediate com pre-
hension to a decoding that is unaware that it ii a d e c o d i n g . T o treat a work of plastic
art as a discourse intended to be interpreted, decoded, by reference to a transcendent
code analogous to the Saussurian " langue” is to forget that artistic production is always
also - to different degrees d e p e n d i n g on the art a n d on t h e historically variable styles
[ i]
2 T he objective lim its of objectivism

of practising it - the product of an " art ”," pure practice without theory ”, as Durkheim
says,2 or to put it another way, a mimesis, a sort of sym bolic gym nastics, like the rite
or the d ance; and it is also to forget that the work of art always contains som ething
ineffable, not by excess, as hagiography would have it, but by default, som ething which
com m unicates, so to speak, from body to body, i.e. on the hither side of words or
concepts, and w hich pleases (or displeases) without concepts.

S o lon g as h e rem ains unaware of the lim its inherent in his point of view
on the object, the anthropologist is con d em ned to adopt unw ittingly for his
ow n u se the representation of action w hich is forced on agents or groups w hen
th ey lack practical m astery of a h ighly valued com p eten ce and have to provide
th em selves w ith an exp licit and at least sem i-form alized su bstitute for it in
the form of a repertoire of rules, or of what sociologists con sid er, at best, as
a " r o le ”, i.e. a predeterm ined set of discourses and actions appropriate to a
particular Mstage-part ” .3 It is significant t h a t" culture ” is som etim es described
as a m a p ; it is the analogy w h ich occurs to an outsider w ho has to find his
w ay around in a foreign landscape and w ho com p en sates for his lack of
practical m astery, the prerogative o f the native, by the use o f a m odel of all
p ossible routes. T h e gulf b etw een this potential, abstract space, devoid of
landm arks or any privileged centre - like gen ealogies, in w h ich the ego is as
unreal as th e starting-point in a Cartesian sp ace - and the practical space of
journeys actually m ade, or rather of journeys actually b ein g m ade, can be seen
from the difficulty w e have in recogn izin g fam iliar routes on a m ap or tow n-plan
u ntil w e are able to bring together the axes of th e field of potentialities and
the "system o f axes linked unalterably to our b odies, and carried about w ith
u s w herever w e g o ”, as Poincare puts it, w hich structures practical space into
right and left, up and d ow n , in front and b eh in d .
H ence it is not sufficient for anth rop ology to break w ith native experience
and the native representation of that ex p er ie n c e: it has to m ake a second break
and question the p resup position s inherent in the p osition of an outside
observer, w ho, in his preoccupation w ith interpreting practices, is inclined to
introduce in to th e object th e p rinciples o f h is relation to the object, as is
attested by the special im portance he assigns to com m un icative functions
(w hether in language, m yth, or m arriage). K n o w led g e does not m erely
d ep en d, as an elem entary relativism teaches, on th e particular standpoint an
observer "situated in space and tim e ” takes u p on the object. T h e "know ing
su b jec t”, as the idealist tradition rightly calls h im , inflicts on practice a m uch
m ore fundam ental and p ernicious alteration w h ich , b ein g a constituent
con d ition of th e cognitive operation, is b oun d to pass u n n oticed : in taking
up a point of view on the action, w ithdraw ing from it in order to observe
it from above and from a d istance, he co n stitu tes practical activity as an object
o f observation an d analysis, a representation.
T he objective lim its o f objectivism 3

From the mechanics o f the model to the dialectic o f strategies

T h e social w orld may be the object o f three m odes of theoretical k now ledge,
each o f w hich im plies a set of (usually tacit) anthropological theses. A lthough
these m odes of know ledge are strictly speaking in no way exclu sive, and may
be described as m om ents in a dialectical advance tow ards adequate k now ledge,
they have o n ly one th in g in com m on , the fact that they are op posed to
practical k now ledge. T h e know ledge w e shall call phenomenological (or, to
speak in term s of currently active sch ools, " eth nom ethod ological ”) sets out
to m ake exp licit the truth of prim ary exp erience of th e social w orld , i.e . all
that is inscribed in th e relationship of fa m ilia rity w ith the familiar environ
m en t, the u n q u estion in g apprehension o f th e social w orld w hich , by defini
tion, d oes not reflect on itself and exclu d es the question of the co n d itio n s of
its ow n possibility. T h e k now ledge w e shall term objectivist (of w hich
structuralist herm eneutics is a particular case) con stru cts the objective rela
tion s (e .g . econ om ic or lin gu istic) w h ich structure practice and representa
tion s of practice, i.e ., in particular, prim ary k now ledge, practical and tacit,
o f th e fam iliar w orld. T h is con stru ction presup poses a break w ith prim ary
k now ledge, w h o se tacitly assum ed p resup position s give the social w orld its
self-ev id en t, natural character .4 It is only on condition that it poses the
q u estion w hich th e doxic exp erience of th e social w orld excludes by definition
- th e q u estion of the (particular) co n d ition s m aking that experience p ossible
- that ob jectivist k now ledge can establish b oth th e structures of the social
w orld and the objective truth of prim ary experience as experience denied
explicit k now ledge of those structures.
F in ally, it is only by m eans of a secon d break, w h ich is needed in order
to grasp the lim its of ob jectivist k now ledge - an inevitable m om ent in scientific
k now ledge - and to brin g to light the theory of theory and the theory of
practice inscribed (in its practical state) in th is m ode of know ledge, that w e
can integrate th e gains from it into an adequate scien ce of practices. T h e
critical break w ith ob jectivist abstraction en su in g from inquiry in to the
con d ition s o f p ossib ility, and thereby, into th e lim its o f th e objective and
ob jectifying standpoint w hich grasps practices from ou tside, as a fa it accom-
p li, instead o f constructing th eir generative principle by situating itself
w ithin the very m ovem ent of their accom p lish m en t, has no other aim than
to make p ossib le a scien ce of th e dialectical relations b etw een th e objective
structures to w h ich th e ob jectivist m od e of k now ledge gives access and the
structured d ispositions w ith in w h ich those structures are actualized and w hich
tend to reproduce them .
T h is q u estion in g of ob jectivism is liable to be understood at first as a
rehabilitation of subjectivism and to be m erged w ith the critique that naive
4 T he objective lim its o f objectivism

hum anism levels at scientific objectification in the nam e o f " lived exp erience ”
and the rights o f " su b je ctiv ity ” . In reality, the theory of practice and o f the
practical m ode of know ledge inherent in all practice w hich is the precondition
for a rigorous scien ce o f p ractices carries out a new reversal o f the p roblem atic
w hich objectivism has to con stru ct in order to con stitu te the social w orld as
a system of objective relations in depend en t o f individual con sciousnesses and
w ills. Just as ob jectivist k n ow led ge p oses the question of the con d ition s of
the p ossib ility of prim ary exp erience, thereby revealing that th is experience
(or the phenom enological analysis of it) is fundam entally defined as not posing
this q uestion, so the theory of practice puts objectivist know ledge back on
its feet by p osin g the q u estion of the (theoretical and also social) conditions
w hich m ake su ch know ledge p o ssib le. Because it produces its scien ce o f the
social w orld against the im p licit presup position s o f practical know ledge of the
social w orld, objectivist k now ledge is diverted from construction of the theory
o f practical know ledge of the social w orld, of w hich it at least produces the
lack.
O bjective analysis of practical apprehension of the fam iliar w orld is not a
n ew form o f sacrificial offering to the m ysteries of su bjectivity, but a m eans
o f exploring the lim its of all ob jective exploration. It teaches us that we shall
escape from the ritual eith er/or ch oice b etw een objectivism and su bjectivism
in w hich the social scien ces have so far allow ed them selves to be trapped only
if w e are prepared to inquire into the m ode o f production and fu n ction in g
of the practical m astery w h ich m akes possib le both an objectively intelligible
practice and also an ob jectively enchanted experience o f that practice; m ore
precisely, that w e shall do so o n ly if we subordinate all operations of scientific
practice to a theory of practice and of practical know ledge (w hich has n oth ing
to do w ith p henom en ological reconstitution of lived exp erience), and
inseparably from this, to a theory o f the theoretical and social con d ition s of
the possibility o f objective apprehension - and thereby to a theory o f the lim its
o f this m ode of know ledge.
A sin gle exam ple w ill suffice to sh ow how this sort o f third-order know ledge
d oes not cancel out the gains from objectivist know ledge but conserves and
transcends them by integrating the truth o f practical experience and o f the
practical m ode of k now ledge w hich this learned know ledge had to be
constructed against, that is to say, inseparably, the truth o f all learned
know ledge. It will b e rem em bered that L evi-S trau ss, criticizing M au ss’s
" p h en o m en o lo g ica l” approach to gift exchange, makes a com p lete break w ith
native experience and the native theory of that experience, p ositing that it
is the exchange as a con stru cted object w hich " constitu tes the primary
p henom en on, and not the in dividu al operations into w hich social life breaks
it d o w n ”,5 or, in other w ords, that the "m echanical la w s” o f the cycle of
From the mechanics o f the model to the dialectic o f strategies 5

reciprocity are the u nconscious principle of the obligation to g iv e, the ob liga


tion to give in return, and the obligation to receive .6 " P h en o m en o lo g ica l”
analysis and objectivist analysis b rin g to light tw o antagonistic principles of
gift exchange: the gift as exp erienced , or, at least, m eant to be experienced,
and the gift as seen from ou tside. T o stop short at the " o b jectiv e” truth of
the gift, i.e . the m od el, is to set aside the q u estion of the relationship b etw een
so-called objective truth, i.e . that of the observer, and the truth that can
scarcely be called subjective, sin ce it represents the official definition o f the
subjective experience of the exchan ge; it is to ignore the fact that the agents
practise as irreversible a seq u en ce o f actions that the observer con stitu tes as
reversible. T h e ob server’s totalizin g apprehension su b stitu tes an objective
structure fundam entally defined b y its reversibility for an equally objectively
irreversible su ccession of gifts w h ich are not m echanically linked to the gifts
they respond to or in sisten tly call for: any really objective analysis of the
exchange of g ifts, w ords, ch allen ges, or even w om en m ust allow for the fact
that each of these inaugural acts m ay m isfire, and that it receives its m eaning,
in any case, from the response it triggers off, even if the response is a failure
to reply that retrospectively rem oves its intended m eaning. T o say that the
m eaning the gift has for the d onor is recognized and consecrated only w hen
the counter-gift has b een m ade d o es not am ount to restoring the structure
of the cycle of reciprocity in different w ords. It m eans that even if reversibility
is the objective truth of the discrete acts w hich ordinary experience know s
in discrete form and calls gift exchan ges, it is not the w hole truth o f a practice
w hich could not exist if it w ere co n scio u sly perceived in accordance w ith the
m odel. T h e tem poral structure o f gift exchan ge, w hich objectivism ignores,
is what makes possible the coexisten ce of tw o o p p osin g truths, w hich defines
the full truth of the gift.
In every society it m ay be observed that, if it is not to con stitute an insult,
the counter-gift m ust be deferred and different, because the im m ediate return
of an exactly identical object clearly am ounts to a refusal (i.e . the return of
the sam e ob ject). T h u s gift exchan ge is op posed on the one hand to swapping,
w hich, like the theoretical m odel of the cycle of reciprocity, telescop es gift
and cou n ter-gift into the sam e instant, and on the other hand, to lending, in
w hich the return of the loan is ex p licitly guaranteed by a juridical act and
is thus already accomplished at th e very m om ent of the draw ing up of a
contract capable of ensuring that the acts it prescribes are predictable and
calculable. T h e difference and delay w hich the m onothetic m odel obliterates
m ust be brought into the m odel n ot, as L evi-Strauss su ggests, out of a
" phenom enological ” desire to restore the subjective experience o f the practice
of the exchange, but because th e operation o f gift exchange p resupposes
(individual and collecti%'e) m isrecognition ( meconnaissance) of the reality of
6 T he objective lim its o f objectivism

the objective " m ec h a n ism ” of th e exchan ge, a reality w hich an im m ediate


response brutally exp oses: the in terval b etw een gift and cou n ter-gift is w hat
allow s a pattern of exchange that is alw ays liab le to strike the observer and
also the participants as reversible, i.e . both forced and interested, to be
exp erienced as irreversible. " O verm u ch eagerness to d ischarge o n e’s obliga
tions is a form o f in gratitu d e”, said La R och efoucauld. T o betray on e's h aste
to be free o f an ob ligation on e has incurred, and thu s to reveal too overtly
o n e ’s desire to pay off services rendered or gifts received, so as to b e quits,
is to d en ou n ce the initial gift retrosp ectively as m otivated b y th e in tention
of ob ligin g one. It is all a question of style, w hich m eans in this case tim in g
and ch oice of occasion , for the sam e a c t - g i v i n g , g iv in g in return, offering
o n e ’s services, p aying a visit, etc. - can have com p letely different m eanings
at different tim es, com in g as it m ay at the right or the w rong m o m en t, w hile
alm ost all im portant exchan ges - g ifts to the m other of a new -born ch ild , or
on th e occasion o f a w ed d in g, etc. - have their ow n particular m o m en ts; the
reason is that the lapse o f tim e separating th e gift from the cou n ter-gift is w hat
authorizes the d eliberate oversigh t, the collectively m aintained and approved
self-d ecep tion w ithou t w h ich sym b olic exch an ge, a fake circulation o f fake
coin, cou ld not operate. If th e system is to work, the agents m ust not be
entirely unaware of th e truth of th eir exch an ges, w hich is m ade exp licit in
the anth rop ologist’s m od el, w hile at the sam e tim e th ey m ust refuse to know
and above all to recognize it .7 In sh ort, everyth ing takes place as if a g en ts’
practice, and in particular their m anip ulation o f time, w ere organized exclu
sively w ith a view to con cea lin g from th em selves and from others th e truth
o f their practice, w hich the anth rop ologist and his m odels b rin g to light
sim p ly by su b stitu tin g the tim eless m odel for a schem e w h ich w orks itself
ou t on ly in and through tim e.
T o abolish the interval is also to abolish strategy. T h e period in terp osed ,
w hich m ust be neither too short (as is clearly seen in gift exchan ge) nor too
lon g (especially in the exchange o f reven ge-m urders), is q u ite the op posite
of the inert gap o f tim e, the tim e-lag w hich the objectivist m od el m akes of
it. U n til he has giv en in return, the receiver is " obliged”, exp ected to sh ow
his gratitude tow ards his benefactor, or, at least, to have regard for h im , to
refrain from u sing against h im all the w eap on s he otherw ise m ig h t, to pull
h is p un ch es, lest he be accused of ingratitude and stand con d em n ed b y "w hat
people sa y ”, w h ich is w hat gives his actions their social m ean ing. T h e man
w h o has not avenged a m urder, not b ou gh t back his land from a rival fam ily,
not married off his daughters in tim e, sees his capital d im in ish ed from day
to day by passing tim e - unless he is capable o f transform ing forced delay into
strategic deferm ent, th e sp ace of tim e in to deliberate sp acin g o u t: p utting off
revenge or the return o f a gift can b e a w ay o f keeping o n e’s partner-opponent
From the mechanics o f the model to the dialectic o f strategies 7

in th e dark about o n e ’s in tention s; the m om ent for th e com eback becom es


im possible to p in p o in t, like the really evil m om en t in the ill-om en ed periods
of the ritual calendar, just b efore the upturn. A fter a certain p oint lack of
response ceases to be an oversigh t and b ecom es disdainful refusal. D elay is
also a w ay o f exacting from h im the deferential con d u ct that is required as
long as relations are not broken off. It is understandable w ith in th is logic that
a m an w hose daughter is asked for in m arriage sh ou ld feel he has to reply
as soon as p ossible if the answ er is no, lest he seem to be taking advantage
of th e situ ation , and offend the suitor, w hereas if he in tend s to say yes, he
m ay put off th e reply for as lon g as h e likes, so as to m ake the m ost of the
tem porary advantage of his p osition, w h ich he w ill lose as soon as he gives
his con sent. E veryth in g takes place as if the ritualization o f interactions had
the paradoxical effect of g iv in g tim e its full social efficacy, never m ore potent
than w h en n oth in g but tim e is goin g o n . " T im e ”, w e say, " is on h is s id e ” ;
tim e can also w ork against o n e. In other w ords, tim e derives its efficacy from
the state o f th e structure of relations w ith in w h ich it com es into p la y ; w hich
does not im ply that the m odel of that structure can leave it ou t of account.
W hen the u n fo ld in g o f the action is heavily ritualized, as in the dialectic of
offence and ven gean ce, there is still room for strategies w h ich consist of
playing on the tim e, or rather th e tempo, o f the action, by d elayin g revenge
so as to prolong the threat of revenge. A nd th is is true, a fo rtio ri, of all the
less strictly regulated occasion s w hich offer u n lim ited scop e for strategies
ex p lo itin g th e p ossib ilities offered by m anipulation of the tem p o of the action
- h old in g back or p u ttin g off, m aintaining su sp en se or exp ectation , or on the
other hand, h urrying, h ustlin g, surprising, and stealing a m arch, not to
m en tion the art of osten tatiou sly givin g tim e (" d ev o tin g o n e’s tim e to som e
o n e ”) or w ith h o ld in g it ("n o tim e to sp a re”). W e know , for exam p le, how
m uch advantage the holder o f a transm issible pow er can derive from the art
o f d elayin g transm ission and keeping others in the dark as to his ultim ate
in ten tio n s. T h en there are all th e strategies in tend ed sim p ly to neutralize the
action o f tim e and ensure th e continuity of interpersonal relations, drawing
the co n tin u o u s ou t of the d iscon tin u ou s, as m athem aticians d o , through
infinite m ultip lication of th e infinitely sm all, in th e form , for exam ple, of
the "little presen ts ” said to " keep friendship g o in g ” (" O present - thunticht -
you w o n ’t make m e rich b ut you are the bond of frie n d sh ip ”).
Little presents, which are halfway between "gratuitous” gifts ( elma'tar, unreturned
gift, "like a m other’s m ilk ”, or thikchi, a thing given w ithout recom pense) and the
most rigorously " forced” gifts, must be of m odest value and hence easy to give and
easy to match; but they must be frequent, and in a sense continuous, w hich implies
that they must function within the logic of "surprises” or "kind th ou gh ts” rather than
according to the m echanism s of ritual. T h ese presents intended to maintain the
everyday order of social intercourse almost always consist of a dish of cooked food,
8 The- objective limits o f objectivism

couscous (with a piece of cheese, when they mark a cow ’s first milk) and follow the
course of minor family celebrations - the third or seventh day after a birth, a baby’s
first tooth or first steps, a b oy’s first haircut, first visit to the market, or first fast;
linked to events in the life-cycle of men or the earth, they involve those wishing to impart
their joy, and those invited to take part in that joy, in what is nothing less than a
fertility rite: when the dish which contained the present is taken back, it always
contains, "for good lu ck ” ( el fa l), what is som etim es called thiririth (from er, to give
back), that is to say, a little corn, a little sem olina (never barley, a female plant and
symbol of fragility), or, preferably, som e dried vegetables, chick peas, lentils, etc.,
called ajedjig "flower”, given "so that the boy [the reason for the exchange] will
flourish ”, so that he will grow tall and be fruitful. T hese ordinary gifts (which include
som e of those they call tharzefth, which are visiting-presents) are sharply opposed to
extraordinary gifts, Ikhir or lehna, given for the major festivals called thimeghrivnn
(sing, thameghra) - w eddings, births, and circum cisions - and a fortiori to Iw'ada, the
obligatory gift to a saint. A nd indeed, the little gifts between relatives and friends are
opposed to the present of m oney and eggs which is given by affines remote both in
space and in the genealogy, and also in time - since they are seen only intermittently,
on the "great occasions” - and whose importance and solem nity make them a sort of
controlled challenge in the same way that marriages within the lineage or neighbour
hood, so frequent and so closely w oven into the fabric of ordinary exchanges that they
pass unnoticed, are opposed to the more prestigious but infinitely more hazardous
extraordinary marriages between different villages or tribes, som etim es intended to
set the seal on alliances or reconciliations and always marked by solemn ceremonies.

T h is takes u s a lon g w ay from the objectivist m odel o f the m echanical


interlocking of preregulated actions that is com m only associated w ith the
notion of ritu al: on ly a virtuoso w ith a perfect com m and o f his "art of liv in g ”
can play on all the resources inherent in the am biguities and uncertainties
of behaviour and situ ation in order to produce the actions appropriate to each
case, to do that of w hich p eop le w ill say " T h ere w as n oth ing else to be d o n e ” ,
and do it the right w ay. W e are a lon g w ay, too, from norm s and rules:
doubtless there are slips, m istakes, and m om ents of clum sin ess to be observed
here as elsew h ere; and also gram m arians o f decorum able to state (and
elegantly, too) w hat it is right to do and say, but never presum ing to
encom pass in a catalogue o f recurrent situations and appropriate con d uct, still
less in a fatalistic m odel, th e " art ” of the necessary improvisation w hich defines
excellen ce.
T o restore to practice its practical truth, w e m ust therefore reintroduce tim e
into the theoretical representation o f a practice w h ich , b ein g tem porally
structured, is intrinsically defined by its tempo. T h e generative, organizing
schem e w hich gives a d iscu ssion its unity or an im provised speech its "argu
m e n t”, and attains con sciou s expression in order to work itself o u t, is an o ften
im precise b u t system atic principle of selection and realization, ten d in g,
through steadily directed adjustm ents and corrections, to elim inate accidents
w hen they can be put to u se, and to conserve even fortuitous su ccesses. It
is therefore practice, in its m ost specific asp ect, w hich is annihilated w hen
From the mechanics o f the model to the dialectic o f strategies 9

the schem e is identified with the m odel: retrospective necessity becom es


prospective n ecessity, the product a p roject; and things w hich have h ap p en ed ,
and can no longer not happen, becom e th e irresistible future of the acts w hich
made th em happen. T h is am ounts to p ositing, with D iod oru s, that if it is
true to say of a thin g that it w ill be, then it m ust one day be true to say that
it is, or, in the w ords of another paradox, that " T o d a y is tom orrow , because
yesterday tomorrow' w'as to d a y .”8 All exp erience of practice contradicts these
paradoxes, and affirms that cycles o f reciprocity are not the irresistible
gearing o f obligatory practices found on ly in ancient tra g ed y : a gift may remain
unrequited, if it m eets w'ith ingratitude; it m ay be spurned as an in su lt .9
O nce the p ossib ility is adm itted that th e "m echanical law'” o f the "cycle of
reciprocity” m ay not apply, the w'hole logic of practice is transform ed. Even
in cases in w hich the agen ts’ h abitus are perfectly harm onized and the
interlocking o f actions and reactions is totally predictable from outside, uncer
tainty rem ains as to the ou tcom e of th e interaction as long as the sequence
has not been c o m p le te d : the passage from the highest probability to absolute
certainty is a qualitative leap w hich is n ot proportionate to the num erical gap.
T h is uncertainty, w h ich finds its objective basis in the probabilist logic of
social law s, is sufficient to m odify not on ly the experience of practice (w hich
phenom enological analysis describes, b ein g m ore attentive than objectivism
to the tem porality of action) but practice itself, in givin g an objective founda
tion to strategies aim ed at avoiding th e m ost probable ou tcom e.
T o su bstitute strategy for the rule is to reintroduce tim e, w ith its rhythm ,
its orientation, its irreversibility. S cien ce has a tim e w hich is not that of
practice. For the analyst, tim e no lon ger cou n ts: not only b e c a u s e - a s has
often been repeated sin ce M ax W eber - arriving post festum, he cannot be in
any uncertainty as to w hat m ay h app en , b u t also because he has the tim e to
totalize, i.e . to overcom e the effects o f tim e. Scientific practice is so "detem -
poralized ” that it ten ds to exclu d e even the idea of what it e x c lu d e s: because
scien ce is p ossib le only in a relation to tim e w hich is op posed to that of
practice, it ten d s to ignore tim e and, in d o in g so, to reify practices. (W hich
is to say, once again, that epistem ological reflection is con stitu tive of scientific
practice its e lf: in order to understand w hat practice is - and in particular the
properties it ow es to the fact that it u nfolds in tim e - it is therefore necessarv
to know' what scien ce is - and in particular w hat is im plied in the specific
tem porality of scientific practice.) T h e detem poralizing effect (visib le in the
syn optic apprehension that diagram s m ake p ossib le) that scien ce produces
w hen it forgets the transform ation it im poses on practices inscribed in the
current of tim e, i.e. detotalized, sim p ly by totalizing th em , is never m ore
pernicious than w'hen exerted on practices defined by the fact that their
tem poral structure, direction, and rhythm are constitutive o f their m eaning.
10 T he objective limits o f objectivism

From the "ru les” o f honour to the sense o f honour

T h ere are w ays of avoiding ethnocentrism w hich are perhaps no m ore than
so m any d ev ices for keep in g one s distance and, at all ev en ts, for m aking a virtue
ou t of n ecessity by con verting a de facto exclu sion into a ch oice of m eth od .
T h u s, there w ould be less danger of locking the exchan ge of honour or the
seem in gly m ost ritualized g ift exchange in reified, reifying m odels, if one were
able to procure a theoretical m astery of social practices of the sam e class as
those o f w hich one may have a practical m astery. T h ere is n oth ing, for
exam ple, m ore likely to inspire in an outside observer the illusion of m echan
ical necessity than “fo rc e d ” conversation, w hich , to perpetuate itself, m ust
en d lessly create and recreate, often ex nihilo, the relationship b etw een the
interlocutors, m oving them apart and bringing them together, constraining
them to seek out points of agreem ent and disagreem ent, w ith the sam e
earnestness at once sincere and feign ed , m aking them by turns trium ph and
retreat, arousing m ock quarrels that are always on the verge of b eco m in g real
on es, but q uickly settled by a com prom ise or a return to the safe ground of
shared con victions. B ut, by a radical change in p oint of view , o n e can equally
apprehend th is m echanical sequ en ce o f gestures and w ords "from a subjective
point o f v ie w ” , as th e M arx of the Theses on Feuerbach som ew hat rashly puts
it, or, preferably, from the stand point of an adequate theory of practice: the
u nceasing v igilance one n eed s to exert so as to be " carried along ” by th e gam e,
w ithou t b ein g " carried away ” beyond the gam e, as happens w hen a m ock fight
gets the better of the fighters, is evidence that practices as visibly constrained
as these rest on the sam e principle as conduct m ore likely to g iv e an equally
m isleadin g im pression o f free im provisation, such as bluff or seduction, w hich
play on th e eq u ivocation s, in n u en d os, and unspoken im plication s of verbal
or gestural sym bolism to produce am biguous con d uct that can be d isow ned
at th e slightest sign o f w ithdraw al or refusal, and to m aintain uncertainty about
in ten tion s that alw ays hesitate b etw een playfulness and seriou sn ess, abandon
and reserve, eagerness and indifference.
T h e language of rules and m od els, w hich seem s tolerable w hen applied to
" a lie n ” practices, ceases to con vin ce as soon as one considers th e practical
m astery of th e sym b olism of social interaction - tact, d exterity, or savoir-faire
- p resupposed by th e m ost everyday gam es o f sociability and accom panied
by the application of a sp ontaneous sem iology, i.e . a m ass of precepts,
form ulae, and codified cu es. T h is practical know ledge, based on the con
tin u ou s d eco d in g o f the perceived - b u t not con sciously noticed - in dices of
th e w elco m e g iven to actions already accom plished, con tin u ou sly carries out
the checks and corrections intended to ensure the adjustm ent o f practices and
exp ression s to the reactions and expectations of the other agents. It fu n ction s
From the "rules ” o f honour to the sense o f honour ii

like a se lf-r e g u la tin g d evice program m ed to redefine courses of action in


accordance w ith inform ation received on the reception o f inform ation trans
m itted and on th e effects produced by that inform ation. It can be seen that
the tvpical herm eneutic paradigm of the exchan ge o f w ords is perhaps less
appropriate than the paradigm of the exchan ge of b low s used by G eorge H .
M ead .10 In d og-fights, as in the fighting o f children or boxers, each m ove
triggers off a cou n ter-m ove, every stance o f the body becom es a sign pregnant
with a m eaning that the op p on en t has to grasp w hile it is still in cip ient,
reading in th e b egin nings of a stroke or a sid estep the im m inent future, i.e.
the blow or the d u m m y. A nd the d u m m y itself, in b oxin g as in conversa
tion, in exchanges of honour as in m atrim onial transactions, presupposes an
opponent capable of preparing a riposte to a m ovem en t that has barely
b eg u n and w ho can th u s be tricked in to faulty anticipation.
It is sufficient to carry out a sim ilar reversal of perspective in order to see
that one can, for exam ple, produce practically or reproduce theoretically all
the honour con d ucts actually observed (or p otentially ob servab le), remarkable
at once for their inexhaustible diversity and their quasi-m echanical n ecessity,
w ithout p ossessing the "filing-cabinet of prefabricated represen tation s”, as
Jakobson puts it ,11 that w ou ld enable the agent to " se le c t” the conduct
appropriate to each situ ation , and w ith ou t having to construct at great
expense of effort a " m ech a n ica l” m odel w hich w ould at best be to the man
of honou r’s regulated im provisation w hat an etiq u ette handbook is to the art
of living or a harm ony treatise to m usical com p osition . T h e scien ce of
practice has to construct the principle w hich m akes it possible to account for
all the cases observed, and on ly those, w ith ou t forgettin g that th is con stru c
tion, and the generative operation of w hich it is the basis, are on ly the
theoretical equivalent of the practical sch em e w hich enables every correctly
trained agent to produce all the practices and jud gm ents of honour called for
by the ch allenges of existence.
T o make som eon e a challenge is to cred it him w ith the dignity o f a man
of honour, sin ce th e challenge, as su ch , requires a riposte and therefore is
addressed to a man d eem ed capable of playing the gam e of honour, and of
playing it w ell. From the principle of m utual recognition of equality in h onour
there follow s a first corollary: the challenge confers h onour. " T h e m an w ho
has no e n em ie s”, say th e K ab yles, "is a d o n k ey” (th e sym bol of passivity).
T h ere is n oth in g w orse than to pass u n n oticed : thu s, not to salute som eon e
is to treat him like a th in g, an anim al, or a w om an. T h e challenge, conversely,
is ' a high point in the life o f the man w ho receives i t ”. It is the chance to
prove o n e ’s m anliness (thirugza) to others and to on eself. A second corollary
is this: he w ho ch allenges a man incapable of taking up the ch allenge, that
is, incapable of pursuing the exch an ge, d ishon ou rs h im self. T h u s elbahadla,
12 T he objective limits o f objectivism

extrem e hum iliation p ub licly in flicted , recoils on the man w h o provokes it


( am ahbul): even the man w h o m erits elbahadla p ossesses an honour; that is
w hy elbahadla boom erangs. H cncc the m an w ho finds h im self in a strong
p osition m ust refrain from p u sh in g his advantage too far, and sh ou ld tem per
his accusation with a certain m oderation, so as to let his adversary p ut him self
to sham e. " Better that he sh ou ld strip h im s e lf” , says the proverb, "than that
I sh ould unclothe h im .” H is op p on en t, for his part, can alw ays try to turn
the tables by leading him on to overstep the perm itted lim its. T h is is d one
in the hope of rallying p u b lic op in ion , w hich cannot but disapprove of the
accuser’s lack of m oderation. T h e third corollary is that only a ch allenge (or
o ffence) com in g from an equal in honour deserves to be taken u p; in other
w ords, for there to be a ch allen ge, the m an w ho receives it m ust consider
the m an w ho makes it w orthy of m aking it. An affront from a p resum ptuous
inferior rebounds on its author. " T h e prudent, circum spect m an [amahdhuq]
d oes not g et involved w ith an amahbul." E lbahadla w ould fall on the w ise man
w h o ventured to take up the am ah bufs senseless ch allenge; w hereas in
abstaining from all reply, he leaves him to bear the w eig h t o f his arbitrary
acts. L ik ew ise, dishonour w ould fall on the m an w ho dirtied his hands in an
unw orthy revenge (h en ce, in certain cases, recourse to the hired killer,
am ekri). It is therefore th e nature of the riposte w hich m akes the challenge
a ch allen ge, as opposed to m ere aggression .12
In gam e theory, the good player is the on e w ho alw ays su p p oses his
op p on en t w ill discern the b est strategy and w h o directs his ow n play accord
ingly; sim ilarly, in the gam e of honour, ch allenge and riposte alike im p ly that
each player ch ooses to play the gam e as w ell as he can w hile assu m ing that
his adversary is capable of m aking the sam e choice. T h e gift is a challenge
w hich honou rs the man to w hom it is addressed, at the sam e tim e p utting
his p oint of honour (nif) to the test; con seq u en tly, just as to in sult a man
incapable of riposting d ishon ou rs on eself, so to make a present so great that
it cannot be m atched m erely d ishon ou rs th e giver. A gift or ch allenge is a
provocation, a provocation to reply. " H e has sham ed h im ” , the M oroccan
Berbers used to say, accord in g to M arcv, apropos of the ch allen ge-gift ( taw sa)
w hich m arked the great cerem o n ies .13 T h e receiver of a gift is caught in the
toils of exchan ge and has to ch oose a line of conduct w h ich , w hatever he d oes,
w ill be a response (even if o n ly by d efault) to the provocation of the initial
act. H e can choose to prolon g the exchan ge or to break it off. If, ob ed ien t
to th e p oint o f honour, he op ts for exch an ge, his choice is identical w ith his
o p p o n en t’s initial ch o ice: h e agrees to play th e gam e, w'hich can go on for
ever, for the riposte is in itself a new ch allen ge. Form erly, it is said , as soon
as ven gean ce had been taken, the w h ole fam ily rejoiced at the en d in g of
dish on ou r: th e m en let off rifle sh o ts and the w om en uttered cries of* y o u -y o u \
From the "rules ” o f honour to the sense o f honour 13

oclaim ing that revenge was accom plished, so that all m ig h t see h ow a fam ily
of honour prom ptly restores its prestige and so that the o p p o sin g fam ily sh ould
be left in no d ou b t as to th e source o f its m isfortune.
C hoosing th e other alternative m ay take on different and even op posed
m eanings. T h e offender m ay, in term s o f h is p hysical stren g th , h is prestige,
or the im portance and authority of the group to w h ich he b elo n g s, be superior,
equal, or inferior to the person offend ed . W hile the logic o f honour presupposes
the recognition of an ideal equality in h onou r, the popular con sciou sn ess is
nonetheless aware o f actual in eq ualities. T h e m an w h o declares " I ’ve got a
m oustache, t o o ” is answ ered w ith the proverb " T h e m oustache o f the hare
is not that o f the l i o n . . . ” T h is is the basis o f a w h ole sp ontaneous casuistry.
Let us take the case w here the offended party has, at least ideally, the m eans
to riposte; if h e proves incapable of taking u p the challenge (w hether a gift
or an offence), if from pusillanim ity or w eakness he sid estep s it and renounces
the chance o f ripostin g, he is in a sen se ch oosin g to be the author o f h is ow n
dishonour, w hich is then irrem ediable. H e con fesses h im self d efeated in the
gam e that he ou gh t to have played d esp ite everyth ing. But n on-reply can also
express the refusal to reply: the m an w h o has suffered an offence refuses to
regard it as su ch , and through his d isd ain , w hich he m ay m anifest by calling
in a hired killer, he cau ses the offence to recoil on its perpetrator, w h o is
thereby d ishon ou red . Sim ilarly in the case of the gift, th e recipient may
indicate that he ch o o ses to refuse the exch an ge, either by rejecting the gift
or by p resen tin g an im m ediate or su b seq u en t cou n ter-gift identical to the
original g ift. H ere, to o , the exchange sto p s. In sh ort, w ithin th is logic, only
escalation, ch allenge an sw ering challenge, can sign ify the op tion o f playing
the gam e.
In th e case w here the offender is clearly superior to the offend ed , only the
fact o f avoiding the ch allenge is held to be blam ew orthy, and the offended
party is not required to trium ph over th e offender in order to be rehabilitated
in the eyes of p ub lic op in ion : the d efeated m an w h o has d on e his duty incurs
no blam e. T h e offend ed party is even able to throw back elbahadla on his
offender w ithou t resorting to a riposte. H e on ly has to adopt an attitude of
h um ility w h ich , by em p h asizin g his w eakness, h igh ligh ts the arbitrary and
im m oderate character of the offence. T h is strategy is, o f cou rse, only ad m is
sib le so lon g as, in the eyes of the grou p , th e disparity b etw een th e tw o
antagonists is u nequ ivocal; it is a natural course for those individuals socially
recognized as weak, clien ts (ya d h itsumuthen, those w h o lean o n ), or m em bers
o f a sm all fam ily.
F in ally, in the case w here the offender is inferior to the offend ed , the latter
m ay riposte (th u s transgressing the third corollary) b u t if he unfairly exp loits
his advantage, he exp oses him self to th e d ishon ou r w hich w ould otherw ise
14 T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

have rebounded on to the p resum ptuou s offend er. W isdom advises him rather
to abstain from any reply and to play the " c o n te m p t” gam bit: sin ce failure
to riposte cannot be im pu ted to cow ardice or w eakness, th e d ishon ou r recoils
on to the attacker. A lth ou gh each of th ese " th eo retica l” cases cou ld be
illustrated w ith a host of observations and stories, th e fact rem ains that the
differences b etw een the tw o parties are never clear-cut, so that each can play
on the am bigu ities and eq u ivocation s w hich this indeterm inacy len d s to the
co n d u ct. T h e distance b etw een failure to riposte o w in g to fear and non-reply
b espeaking con tem p t is often infinitesim al, w ith the resu lt that d isdain can
alw ays serve as a mask for pusillanim ity.
Every exchange con tains a m ore or less dissim ulated ch allenge, and th e logic
o f ch allenge and riposte is b ut the lim it tow ards w h ich every act of
com m un ication ten d s. G en erou s exchan ge tends tow ards overw h elm in g
g en er o sity ; the greatest gift is at the sam e tim e the gift m ost likely to throw
its recipient into d ishon ou r b y p roh ibitin g any cou n ter-gift. T o redu ce to the
fun ction o f com m un ication - albeit by th e transfer of borrow ed co n cep ts -
p henom en a such as the d ialectic o f ch allenge and riposte and, m ore generally,
th e exchange of gifts, w ord s, or w o m en , is to ignore th e structural am bivalen ce
w hich predisposes them to fulfil a political function of d om in ation in and
through perform ance o f th e com m u n ication fun ction .
If th e offence d oes not necessarily bear w ith in it d ishon ou r, the reason is
that it allow s the p ossib ility of riposte, w h ich is recognized b y the very act
o f g iv in g offen ce .14 But p otential d ishon ou r becom es m ore and m ore real the
longer vengeance is d elayed. T h erefore th e tim e-lag b etw een the offence and
the reparation m ust be as sh ort as p ossib le; a large fam ily has in deed
sufficient fightin g m en not to have to w ait lon g. T h e reputation o f its nif, its
sen sitivity and d eterm in ation, lead it to appear as capable of rip ostin g the very
instant an offence is com m itted . T h e respect inspired b y a good fam ily is
exp ressed in the saying that it can "sleep and leave th e door o p e n ”. T h e m an
o f honour, o f w h om p eop le say that he fulfils " h is role as a m a n ” ( thirugza),
is alw ays on his g u a rd ; h en ce h e is im m u n e from even th e m ost reckless attack,
and "even w hen he is aw ay, there is som eon e in his h o u s e ”. But th in g s are
n ot so sim p le. It is said that D jeh a, a legendary figure, asked w h en h e had
aven ged his father, replied , "A fter a hundred years had g o n e b y .” T h e story
is also told o f th e lion w ho alw ays walks w ith m easured p a ces: " I d o n ’t know
w here m y prey i s ”, he said. " I f it’s in fron t o f m e, on e day I ’ll reach it; if
it’s b eh ind m e, it’ll catch up w ith m e .”
H ow ever close it m ay com e to the logic o f practices (and to the extent that
it d o es), the abstract diagram w h ich has to be constructed in order to account
for that logic is liable to ob scu re the fact that the drivin g force of the w hole
m echanism is not som e abstract principle (th e principle of iso tim y , eq u ality
From the "rules ” o f honour to the sense o f honour *5

in h onou r), still less the set o f rules w hich can be d erived from it, but the
sense o f h onou r, a d isp osition inculcated in the earliest years of life and
constantly reinforced b y calls to order from th e grou p , that is to say, from
the aggregate of the in dividu als en d ow ed w ith the sam e d isp o sitio n s, to w hom
each is linked b y h is d isp osition s and in terests. N if, literally the n o se, is very
closely associated w ith virility and with all the d isp o sitio n s, incorporated in
the form o f bodily sch em es, w hich are held to m anifest v ir ility ; th e verb qabel,
com m only used to design ate the fundam ental virtu es of the m an o f honour,
the m an w h o faces, ou tfaces, stand s up to others, looks th em in the ey es, knows
how to receive as a host and to d o his gu est h on ou r, also m eans to face the
east (elqibla) and the future (qabel), th e m ale orientation par ex cellen ce. T h is
is sufficient to rem ind us that the point o f honour is a perm anent d isp osition ,
em bedded in the agen ts’ very bodies in the form o f m ental d ispositions,
schem es of p ercep tion and th ou gh t, extrem ely general in their application,
such as those w h ich d ivid e up th e w orld in accordance w ith th e op position s
betw een the m ale and th e fem ale, east and w est, future and past, top and
bottom , right and left, e tc ., and also, at a d eep er lev el, in th e form o f bodily
postures and stances, w ays o f standing, sittin g , look in g, sp eak ing, or w alking.
What is called the sense o f honour is n oth in g other than the cultivated
disposition, inscribed in the b ody schem a and in th e sch em es of thou ght,
w hich enables each agent to en gen d er all the practices co n sisten t w ith the
logic o f ch allenge and riposte, and on ly su ch p ractices, by m eans o f cou n t
less in ven tion s, w h ich th e stereotyped u n fold in g o f a ritual w ould in no w ay
dem and. T h e fact that there is n o " c h o ic e ” that cannot be accounted for,
retrospectively at least, d oes not im ply that su ch practice is perfectly predic
table, like the acts inserted in the rigorously stereotyped seq u en ces of a rite;
and this is true not o n ly for the observer b ut also for the agen ts, w ho find
in the relative predictability and u np redictab ility o f the p ossib le ripostes the
op portu nity to put their strategies to work. But even the m ost strictly
ritualized exchan ges, in w h ich all th e m om ents o f th e action , and their
u n fold in g, are rigorously foreseen, have room for strategies: th e agents rem ain
in com m and of the interval b etw een th e ob ligatory m om ents and can therefore
act on their o p p o n en ts b y p layin g w ith th e tempo o f the exch an ge. W e know
that returning a gift at o n ce, i.e . d oing away w ith the interval, am ounts to
breaking off the exch an ge. L ikew ise th e lesson con tained in the parables of
D jeha and the lion m ust be taken seriou sly; the m astery w h ich defines
ex cellen ce finds exp ression in th e play m ade w ith tim e w h ich transform s ritual
ized exchan ge in to a confrontation of strategies. T h e skilled strategist can turn
a capital of provocations received or con flicts su sp en d ed , w ith the potential
ripostes, ven gean ces, or con flicts it con tains, into an in stru m ent o f power,
b y reserving the capacity to reopen or cease h ostilities in his ow n good tim e.
i6 T h e objective limits o f objectivism

Practice an d discourse about practice

It w ould th u s be p ossib le to m ove on to th e grou n d w here talk of rules seem s


least m isp la ced , that of cu sto m or " p re -la w ”, and sh ow that the "custom ary
r u le s” preserved by the grou p m em ory are th em selves the p rod uct of a small
batch o f sch em es en ab lin g agen ts to generate an in finity of p ractices adapted
to en d lessly ch an gin g situ ation s, w ith ou t th ose sch em es ever b ein g constituted
as exp licit p rin cip les. T h is is w h y, like W eb er’s K ad i-ju stice, cu stom ary law
alw ays seem s to pass from particular case to particular case, from th e specific
m isd eed to th e specific san ction , n ever exp ressly form u latin g th e fundam ental
p rin cip les w h ich " ration al” law sp ells out exp licitly (e .g . all m en are equal
in h on o u r ).15 T h e appropriate acts o f jurisp ru dence co n cern in g a particular
offence, for exam p le, th ose m aking it p ossib le to assess the gravity of a theft
accord in g to the circu m stan ces in w h ich it w as com m itted , can all be produced
from a sm all n um ber of sc h e m e s that are con tin u o u sly ap plied in all dom ains
o f practice, su ch as the op p o sitio n s b etw een the h ou se (or m osq u e) and other
places, b etw een night and d ay, b etw een feast d ays and ordinary d ays, the first
m em ber of each pair alw ays corresp ond ing to the severer p en alty. It is clear
that it is sufficient to co m b in e th e corresp on d in g p rin cip les to p rod uce the
sanction appropriate to each case, real or im aginary - from , for exam p le, theft
com m itted b y n ight from a d w ellin g h ou se, the m ost h ein o u s, to th eft by day
in a d istan t field, the least h ein o u s, other th in gs b ein g eq u al, of co u rse .16 T h e
g en erative sch em es are so gen erally and au tom atically a p plicab le that th ey are
con verted in to exp licit p rin cip les, form ally stated, only in the very case in
w hich th e value o f the object stolen is su ch as to sw eep aside all extenu atin g
or aggravating circu m stan ces. T h u s the qanun of Ighil Im oula, for exam p le,
reported by H anoteau and L eto u rn eu x , p rovid es that "he w h o steals a m u le,
ox or cow , b y force or trickery shall pay 50 reals to th e djem aa and pay the
ow ner the value o f the stolen anim al, w h eth er the theft w as by night or by
d a y , from inside a house o r outside, and w hether the anim als belong to the
householder o r to someone else ” .17 T h e sam e b asic sch em es, alw ays fu n ctio n in g
in the im p licit state, ap ply in th e case of braw ls, w h ich togeth er w ith th efts
norm ally occu p y a con sid erab le place in cu sto m ; there are th e sam e
o p p osition s, b u t som etim es w ith n ew im p licatio n s, b etw een the h ouse and
other p laces (th e m urder of a person cau gh t in o n e’s h o m e , for exam p le,
en tailin g no sa n ctio n ), n ig h t-tim e and d a ytim e, feast days and ordinary days;
and there are also variations accord in g to th e social status of th e aggressor
and the victim (m a n /w om an , ad u lt/ch ild ) and th e w eap on s or m eth od s used
(w h eth er it w as b y treachery - if, for exam p le, the victim w as asleep - or in
m an-to-m an com b at) and the extent to w h ich the deed w as carried o u t (m ere
threats or actual v io le n c e). T h er e is every reason to think that if the basic
Practice and discourse about practice 17

tions o f th is im plicit axiom atics w ere sp elled out m ore com p letely than
Pr here (e .g . a crim e is alw ays m ore seriou s com m itted by n ig h t than
1S
co^ A hv
m m itted „ d av). together w ith the law s by
- w h ich th ev are com b ined
ding on the case, tw o p rop osition s m ay either be added togeth er or
ncel each other ou t, w h ich , w ith in the logic of th e rule, can on ly be
d e scrib ed as an ex c ep tio n ), it w ould be p ossib le to reproduce all th e provisions
of all the custom ary law s w h ich have b een collected and even to produce the
co m p lete universe of all the acts of jurisprudence con form in g to th e "sen se
of ju stice ” in its K ab yle form .
T h u s the p recepts o f cu sto m , very close in this resp ect to sayin gs and
proverbs (such as th ose w h ich govern th e tem poral d istrib u tion of activities),
have noth ing in com m on w ith the tran scend en t rules of a juridical code:
everyone is able, not so m uch to cite and recite them from m em o ry , as to repro
duce them (fairly accurately). It is because each agent has the m eans of acting
as a judge of others and of h im self that cu stom has a hold on h im : in d eed , in
social form ations w here, as in K abvlia, there exists no judicial apparatus
endow ed w ith a m on op oly of physical or even sy m b o lic v io len ce and w here
clan assem b lies fu n ction as sim p le arbitration tribunals, that is, as m ore or
less expanded fam ily co u n cils, the ru les of cu stom ary law have som e practical
efficacy on ly to the ex te n t that, sk ilfully m anip ulated b y the h olders of
authority w ithin the clan (th e " gu aran tors”), th ey "aw a k en ” , so to speak, the
schem es of perception and appreciation d ep osited , in their incorporated state,
in every m em ber of the grou p , i.e . the d isp o sitio n s o f the h abitus. T h e y are
therefore separated on ly b y d ifferen ces o f degree from th e partial and often
fictitious exp licit statem en ts of the g ro u p ’s im p licit axiom atics through w hich
individual m ore-or-less " a u th o r ize d ” agen ts seek to cou n ter the failures or
hesitations of th e h abitus by stating th e so lu tio n s appropriate to difficult cases.
Talk of rules, a eu p h em ized form of legalism , is n ever m ore fallacious than
w hen applied to the m ost h om o g en eo u s societies (or the least codified areas
of differentiated so cieties) w here m ost p ractices, in clu d in g th o se seem in g ly
m ost ritualized, can b e abandoned to the orchestrated im provisation of
com m on d isp o sitio n s: the rule is never, in th is case, m ore than a secon d -b est
in tend ed to m ake g o o d the occasional m isfirings o f the collective enterprise
of in cu lcation ten d in g to p rod uce h abitus that are capable o f gen erating
practices regulated w ith ou t exp ress regulation or any in stitu tion alized call to
ord er .18
It go es w ith o u t sayin g that th e im p licit p h ilo so p h y o f practice w hich
pervades the anthropological tradition w ould n ot have su rvived all th e d en u n
ciations of legalist form alism if it had not had an affinity w ith the p resu p p osi
tions in scrib ed in th e relation ship b etw een the ob server and th e o b ject of his
stu d y, w h ich im p ose th em selv es in the very con stru ction o f his ob ject so lon g
i8 T h e objective limits o f objectivism

as they are not exp licitly taken as an ob ject. N ative exp erience o f the social
w orld never ap preh en ds th e system o f ob jective relations other than in
profiles, i.e . in th e form o f relations w h ich present th em selves on ly on e by
on e, and h en ce su cc essiv ely , in the em ergen cy situ ation s of everyday life. If
agents are p ossessed by th eir h abitus m ore than th ey p ossess it, this is
because it acts w ith in th em as the organ izing p rin cip le of their action s, and
because th is modus operan di in form in g all th ou gh t and action (including
th o u g h t o f action ) reveals itself only in th e opus operatum . In vited b y the
a n th rop ologist’s q u e stio n in g to effect a reflexive and quasi-theoretical return
on to h is ow n practice, th e b est-in form ed in form an t p rod uces a discourse which
compounds tw o opposing system s o f lacunae. Insofar as it is a discourse of
fa m ilia rity , it leaves u n said all that g o es w ith o u t sayin g: the inform ant’s
remarks - like the narratives or com m en taries o f those w h o m H eg el calls
‘'original h isto ria n s” (H ero d o tu s, T h u c y d id e s, X en o p h o n , or Caesar) who,
liv in g "in the sp irit o f the e v e n t ” ,19 take for granted the p resu p p o sitio n s taken
for granted b y the historical agen ts - are in evitab ly subject to the censorship
inherent in their h abitus, a sy ste m o f sch em es of p erception and th o u g h t w hich
cannot g iv e w hat it d oes g iv e to b e th o u g h t and perceived w ith ou t ipso facto
p rod ucing an unthin k able and an u nn am eable. Insofar as it is an outsider-
oriented discourse it ten ds to ex c lu d e all direct reference to particular cases (that
is, virtually all in form ation d irectly attached to p ro p er names ev o k in g and
su m m arizin g a w h ole sy stem of previous in form ation ). B ecau se th e native is
that m uch less in clin ed to slip in to the language o f fam iliarity to th e extent
that his q u estion er strikes him as unfam iliar w ith th e u n iverse of reference
im plied b y his discou rse (a fact apparent in the form of the q u estio n s asked,
particular or general, ign oran t or in fo rm ed ), it is u nderstandable that
an th rop ologists sh ould so o fte n forget the distance b etw een learned recon
stru ction of the native w orld and the native exp erience of that w orld, an
exp erience w hich finds ex p ressio n on ly in the silen ce s, ellip ses, and lacunae
of the language o f fam iliarity.
F in ally, th e in form an t’s discou rse ow es its b est-h id d en properties to the
fact that it is the p rod uct o f a sem i-theoretical d isp o sitio n , inevitab ly induced
b y any learned q u estio n in g . T h e rationalizations prod uced from this stan d
p oin t, w h ich is no longer that of action, w ith ou t b ein g that of scien ce, m eet
and confirm the ex p ecta tio n s of th e juridical, ethical, or gram m atical
form alism to w hich his o w n situ ation in clin es the observer. T h e relationship
b etw een inform ant and an th rop ologist is som ew h at an alogous to a p edagogical
relation ship , in w hich the m aster m u st b rin g to th e state of ex p licitn ess, for
the p urposes of tran sm ission , the u n con sciou s sch em es o f h is practice. Just
as the tea ch in g o f ten n is, th e vio lin , ch ess, d an cin g , or b o x in g breaks dow n
into in dividu al p ositio n s, ste p s, or m oves, p ractices w h ich in tegrate all these
Practice an d discourse about practice 19

isolated elem en tary u nits of beh aviour in to the u n ity of an organized


artificia „ in form an t’s d isco u rse, in w h ich h e strives to give h im self the
activity, sym b olic m astery o f his p ractice, ten d s to draw attention to
a^ r n o s t rem arkable " m o v e s ”, i.e . th ose m ost esteem ed or rep reh en d ed , in
thC different social gam es (su ch as elbahadla in the h o n ou r gam e or m arriage
1 th the parallel cousin a m o n g th e m atrim onial stra tegies), rather than to the
ole from w h ich th e se m oves and all eq u ally p ossib le m o v es can be
erated and w h ich , b elo n g in g to th e u n iverse of the u n d isp u ted , m ost often
remain in their im p licit state. B ut th e su b tlest pitfall d o u b tless lies in the
fact that such d escrip tion s freely draw on the h igh ly a m b ig u o u s vocabulary
of rules, the language of gram m ar, m orality, and law , to exp ress a social
practice that in fact o b ey s q u ite different prin cip les. T h e exp lan ation agents
may provide o f their ow n practice, thanks to a quasi theoretical reflection on
their practice, con ceals, ev en from their ow n eyes, the true nature o f their
practical m astery, i.e . that it is learned ignorance (docta ignorantia), a m ode
of practical k n ow led ge not com p risin g k n ow led ge o f its ow n p rin cip les. It
follow s that th is learned ign oran ce can on ly g iv e rise to the m islead in g
discourse of a speaker h im self m isled , ignorant b oth o f th e ob jective truth
about his practical m astery (w h ic h is that it is ignorant of its o w n tru th ) and
o f the true prin cip le of the k n ow led ge h is practical m astery co n ta in s.
N ative theories are d a n gerou s not so m uch b ecause th ey lead research
towards illusory exp lan ation s as b ecau se they b rin g q u ite su perflu ous rein
forcem ent to the in tellectu alist ten d e n c y in h eren t in th e ob jectivist approach
to practices. T h is acad em icism of th e social " a r t” o f living w h ich , having
extracted from the opus operatum the su p p o sed principles of its p rod u ction ,
sets them up as norm s ex p lic itly g overn in g practices (w ith phrases like "good
form req u ires. . " c u sto m d e m a n d s . . et c. ) , takes away u n d erstan d in g
of the logic of practice in th e very m ovem en t in w h ich it tries to offer it. For
exam ple, th e id eological u se m any so cieties m ake o f th e lineage m od el and,
m ore gen erally, of g en ealogical represen tation s, in order to justify and le g iti
m ate the estab lish ed order (e .g . b y ch o o sin g the m ore orthodox of tw o
p ossible w ays o f cla ssify in g a m arriage), w ou ld d o u b tless have b ecom e appar
en t to an th rop ologists at an earlier date if the theoretical u se th ey th em selv es
make of this theoretical co n stru ct had not p revented th em from in q u irin g in to
the fu n ction s o f g en ea lo g ies and genealogists, and thereby from se ein g the
gen ealogy as th e theoretical cen su s of th e u niverse o f theoretical relationships
w ithin w hich in d ivid u als or grou p s d efine the real space o f (in b oth sen ses)
practical relation ship s in term s of their conjunctural in terests.
T h e im p osition and in cu lcation o f the stru ctures is n ever so p erfect that
all ex p licitn ess can b e d isp e n sed w ith . A nd in cu lcation is itself, togeth er w ith
in stitu tio n alizin g, w h ich is alw ays accom pan ied by a certain am oun t of
20 T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

ob jectification in d iscou rse (oral or w ritten ) or so m e other sy m b o lic support


(em b lem s, rites, e tc .), on e o f th e privileged m o m en ts for form u latin g the
practical sc h e m e s and co n stitu tin g th em as p rin cip les. It is d o u b tless no
a ccid en t that th e q u estio n o f the relations b etw een the h ab itu s and th e " r u le ”
sh o u ld be b rou ght to ligh t w ith th e h istorical em ergen ce o f an exp ress and
e x p lic it action of in c u lc a tio n :20 th e p ed a g o g y o f th e S o p h ists, forced , in order
to realize its aim , to p rod uce sy stem s of ru les, su ch as gram m ars or rhetorics,
cam e u p against the p rob lem o f the rules d efin in g th e right w ay and right
m o m en t - kairos - to apply th e rules, or, as th e phrase so aptly g o es, to pu t
into practice a repertoire of d ev ices or tech n iq u es, in sh o rt, th e w h o le art of
p erform an ce, in w h ich th e h abitus in evitab ly reappears. A n d , n o doubt
b ecau se it still partakes o f th e am b igu ou s statu s of all gram m ars, w h ich never
m ake it clear w h eth er th e y recon stitu te th e real m ech an ics o f th e sch em es
im m an en t in practice or th e theoretical lo g ic o f the m o d els con stru cted in order
to account for p ractices, C hom skian gen erative gram m ar n ow ad ays en tails
(o b jective) rediscovery that w hat creates th e p rob lem is not the p o ssib ility
o f p rod u cin g co h eren t sen ten ces in in finite n u m b er but th e fact o f coh eren tly
and appropriately u sin g an in finite n u m b er of sen ten ces in an in finite n um ber
o f situ ation s.
It is n ot easy to d efine rigorou sly th e sta tu s o f th e sem i-learn ed gram m ars
o f practice —sayin gs, p roverbs, g n o m ic p o em s, sp on tan eou s " th e o r ie s” w hich
alw ays accom pan y even th e m o st " a u to m a tic ’* p ractices, ch eck in g th e fu n c
tio n in g o f th e au tom a tism s or, m ore or less su cc essfu lly , m aking good their
m isfirin gs - and of all th e knowledges p rod uced by an "op eration o f th e secon d
p o w e r ” w h ic h , as M erleau -P on ty ob serv es, " p resu p p o ses the stru ctu res it
a n a ly ses ”21 and m ore or less rigorou sly a ccou n ts for. B ein g th e p rod u ct of
the sam e gen erative sc h e m e s as th e practices they claim to a ccou n t for, even
the m o st false and superficial o f th ese " secon d ary exp la n a tio n s ” on ly reinforce
the stru ctures by p rovid in g th e m w ith a particular form o f " r a tio n a liza tio n ”.
E ven if th e y affect practice o n ly w ith in narrow lim its ,22 the fact rem ains that
w h en ev er th e a d ju stm ent b etw een stru ctu res and d isp o sitio n s is b rok en , the
transform ation of th e gen erative sc h e m e s is d o u b tless reinforced and
accelerated by th e d ialectic b etw een th e sc h e m e s im m an en t in practice and
th e n orm s p rod uced b y reflection on practices, w hich im p o se n ew m ean in gs
on th em b y reference to alien stru ctures.
R eaction against legalist form alism in its o vert or m asked form m ust not
lead u s to m ake the h ab itu s th e ex clu siv e p rin cip le o f all p ractice. In reality,
even in social form ation s w h ere, as in K ab ylia, th e m akin g ex p lic it and ob jec
tify in g of th e gen erative sc h e m e s in a gram m ar of practices, a w ritten cod e
o f co n d u c t, is m in im a l, it is n o n eth eless p o ssib le to ob serve th e first sig n s
o f a d ifferen tiation of th e d om ain s of practice accord in g to th e d egree of
Practice an d discourse about practice 21

t on of the p rin cip les g o v er n in g th em . B etw een the areas that are
C° rently " fr e e st” b ecau se g iv e n over in reality to th e regulated im provisa-
a.PPa ^ {he h abitus (such as th e d istrib u tion of a ctivities and ob jects w ith in
the^internal space o f th e h o u se) and th e areas m ost strictly regulated by
ustom ary norm s and u p h eld b y social san ction s (su ch as the great agrarian
rites) there lies the w h ole field o f practices su b jected to traditional p recep ts,
custom ary recom m en dation s, ritual p rescrip tion s, fu n ctio n in g as a regulatory
device w hich orien ts practice w ith o u t p rod u cin g it. T h e ab sen ce o f a g en u in e
law - the product of th e w ork of a b od y of sp ecialists exp ressly m andated to
produce a coh eren t corp u s of juridical norm s and ensure resp ect for its
application, and fu rn ish ed to th is en d w ith a co ercive p ow er - m ust not lead
us to forget that any socially recogn ized form ulation con tain s w ith in it an
intrinsic pow er to rein force d isp o sitio n s sym b olically.
Our approach is th u s radically o p p o sed , on tw o essen tial p oin ts, to th e
interactionism w h ich redu ces th e con stru ctio n s of social sc ien ce to " c o n s
tructs of the secon d d egree, that is, con stru cts o f th e con stru cts m ade by th e
actors on the social s c e n e ”, as S ch u tz d o e s ,23 or, like G arfinkel, to accoun ts
of the accounts w hich ag en ts p rod uce and through w hich they p rod uce the
m eaning of th eir w o rld .24 O ne is en titled to undertake to g iv e an "accou n t
of accounts ”, so lo n g as on e d o es not p ut forw ard o n e ’s co n trib u tio n to th e
scien ce of pre-scien tific representation o f the social w orld as if it w ere a
science o f the social w orld . But th is is still too gen ero u s, b ecau se th e pre
requisite for a scien ce o f co m m o n se n se represen tation s w h ich seek s to b e m ore
than a co m p licito u s d escrip tion is a sc ien ce o f th e stru ctu res w h ich govern
both practices and th e co n co m ita n t rep resen tation s, th e latter b ein g the
principal obstacle to th e con stru ction o f su ch a sc ie n c e .25 O n ly by co n stru ctin g
the objective stru ctu res (price cu rves, ch an ces o f access to h igh er ed u ca tio n ,
law s of th e m atrim onial m arket, e tc .) is on e able to p ose the q u estion of the
m echanism s through w hich th e relation ship is esta b lish ed b etw een the
structures and th e practices or th e rep resen tation s w h ich accom pan y th em ,
instead of treating th ese " th o u g h t o b je c ts” as " r e a so n s” or " m o tiv e s ” and
m aking them th e d eterm in in g cau se o f the practices. M oreover, th e co n stitu
tive pow er w hich is granted to ordinary lan guage lies not in th e lan guage itself
but in the grou p w h ich au th orizes it and in vests it w ith au th ority. Official
language, particularly th e sy stem of co n cep ts b y m ean s o f w hich th e m em bers
of a given group p rovid e th e m se lv e s w ith a representation o f th eir social
relations (e.g . th e lin eage m odel or the vocabulary of h on o u r), san ctio n s and
im p oses what it states, tacitly layin g d ow n th e d iv id in g lin e b etw een the
thinkable and th e u n th in k ab le, th ereb y con trib u tin g tow ard s the m ainten an ce
of the sym b o lic order from w h ich it draw s its au th ority. T h u s officialization
is on ly one asp ect o f th e ob jectify in g p rocess through w h ich th e group
22 T h e objective limits o f objectivism

teaches itself and con ceals from itself its ow n tru th , in scrib ing in o b jectivity
its representation o f w hat it is and thu s b in d in g itself b y th is p u b lic
d eclaration .26
T h e agent w h o " reg u la rizes” his situ ation or puts h im self in the right is
sim p ly b eating the group at its ow n gam e; in abiding by th e ru les, fallin g
in to line w ith good form , he w in s the group over to h is sid e b y o sten tatiou sly
h onou rin g the values the grou p h on ou rs. In social form ations in w h ich the
exp ression o f m aterial in terests is heavily censored and political au th ority
relatively u n in stitu tion alized , political strategies for m obilization can be effec
tive only if the values they pursue or propose are presented in the m isrecog-
nizable gu ise o f th e valu es in w hich the grou p recogn izes itself. It is therefore
not sufficient to say that th e rule d eterm in es practice w h en there is m ore to
-b e gained b y ob ey in g it than b y d isob eyin g it. T h e ru le’s last trick is to cause
it to be forgotten that agents have an interest in o b eyin g th e rule, or m ore
precisely, in being in a regular situation. Brutally m aterialist redu ction enables
on e to break w ith th e n aiveties o f th e sp on tan eou s theory of p ra ctice; b u t it
is liable to m ake on e forget the advantage that lies in ab iding b y the ru les,
w h ich is the principle of the secon d-ord er strategies through w hich the agent
seeks to p u t him self in the right.27 T h u s, q u ite apart from the d irect profit
derived from d o in g w hat the rule prescribes, perfect con form ity to the rule
can bring secondary benefits su ch as the prestige and respect w hich alm ost
invariably reward an action apparently m otivated b y n oth in g other than p u re,
disinterested resp ect for the rule. It follo w s that strategies d irectly orien ted
tow ards th e prim ary profit o f practice (e .g . th e prestige accruing from a
m arriage) are alm ost alw ays accom pan ied b y secon d-ord er strategies w h o se
purpose is to give apparent satisfaction to th e d em an d s of the official ru le,
and th u s to com p oun d th e satisfaction s o f en ligh ten ed self-in terest w ith the
advantage of ethical im peccability.

T he fallacies o f the rule

T h e place w h ich a notion as visibly a m b igu ou s as that o f the rule o ccu p ies
in anthropological or lin gu istic theory cannot be fully u n d erstood u n less it
is seen that th is notion p rovid es a solu tion to the con trad iction s and d ifficulties
to w hich the researcher is con d em n ed b y an inadequate or - w hich am oun ts
to th e sam e th in g - an im p licit theory o f practice. E veryth in g takes place as
if, fulfillin g the role o f a refuge for ignorance, th is hospitab le n otion , w h ich
can su ggest at on ce the law con stru cted b y scien ce, th e tran scend en t social
norm and th e im m anent regularity of p ractices, enabled its user to escape from
the d ilem m a of m echanism or finalism w ithou t falling in to th e m ost flagrant
naiveties o f the legalism w hich m akes o b ed ien ce to the rule the d eterm in in g
T he fallacies o f the rule 23

* cip le o f all p ractices. O n e cou ld g o back to D u rk h eim and exam in e the


lace at on ce central and em p ty, occu p ied in h is system b y th e notion o f social
c o n s tr a in t. But it is sufficient to con sid er th e q uite exem plary theoretical
operations w hereby Saussure con stitu tes lin gu istics as a scien ce b y con stru ct
ing language as an au ton om ou s ob ject, d istin ct from its actu alization s in
sp e ech , in order to bring to ligh t the im p licit p resu p p osition s o f any m ode
of know ledge w h ich treats practices or w orks as sy m b o lic facts, finished
p ro d u cts, to b e deciphered by reference to a cod e (w h ich m ay be called
culture).

Finding them selves in a position of theoretical dependence on linguistics, structural


ist anthropologists have often involved in their practice the epistemological unconscious
engendered by unm indfulness of the acts through w hich linguistics constructed its
own object. Heirs to an intellectual heritage which they did not make for them selves,
they have too often been satisfied with literal translations of a term inology dissociated
from the operations of which it is the product, sparing them selves the effort of an
epistemological critique of the conditions and limits of validity of transposing the
Saussurian construction. It is notew orthy, for exam ple, that w ith the exception of
Sapir, who was predisposed by his dual training as linguist and anthropologist to raise
the problem of the relations between culture and language, no anthropologist has tried
to bring out all the im plications of the hom ology (w hich Leslie W hite is virtually alone
in formulating explicitly) between the two oppositions, that betw een language and
speech on the one hand, and on the other hand that betw een culture and conduct or
works. When Saussure constitutes language as an autonom ous object, irreducible to
its concrete realizations, that is, to the utterances it makes possible, or w hen, by a
procedure similar in every respect, Panofsky establishes that what he calls, follow ing
Alois Riegl, Kunstuollen - that is to say, roughly,- the objective sense of the work -
is no more reducible to the " w ill” of the artist than it is to the "w ill of the a g e ” or
to the experiences the work arouses in the spectator, they are perform ing an operation
with regard to these particular cases w hich can be generalized to all practice. Just as
Saussure show s that the true m edium of com m unication betw een two subjects is not
discourse, the im mediate datum considered in its observable materiality, but the
language, the structure of objective relations making possible both the production and
the deciphering of discourse, so Panofsky show s that iconological interpretation treats
the sensible properties of the work of art, together with the affective experiences it
arouses, as mere *'cultural sy m p to m s”, which yield their full m eaning only to a
reading armed w ith the cultural cipher the artist has engaged in his work.

Saussure first m akes the p oin t that sp eech appears as th e precondition for
language, as m uch from the in dividu al as from the collectiv e p oin t o f view ,
because language cannot be ap prehended ou tsid e o f sp eech , because language
is learnt through sp eech , and because sp eech is the so u rce of in novation s in
and transform ations o f language. T h is is so even th o u g h on e m ight invoke
the ex isten ce o f dead languages or d u m b n ess in old age as provin g the
p ossib ility o f lo sin g sp eech w h ile con servin g language, and even thou gh
language m istakes reveal the language as the ob jective norm o f sp eech (w ere
!t otherw ise, every language m istake w ould m od ify th e language and there
24 T he objective lim its o f objectivism

w ould be no m istakes any m ore). But h e then ob serves that the priority of
sp eech over language is p urely ch ron ological and that the relationship is
inverted as soon as on e leaves the d o m a in o f individual or collective history
in order to in qu ire into the logical conditions for d ecip h erin g. F rom this p oin t
o f view , w hich is that of ob jectivism , language is the precond ition for th e
in telligibility o f sp eech , b ein g th e m ed iation w h ich en su res the id en tity o f the
so u n d -co n cep t associations m ade b y th e speakers and so guarantees m utual
com p reh en sio n . T h u s, in th e logical order o f in telligibility, sp eech is th e
p rod u ct o f lan gu age .28 It follo w s that, because it is con stru cted from th e
strictly intellectualist stan d p oin t of d ecip h erin g , Saussurian lin g u istics privi
leges the structure of sign s, that is, th e relation s b etw een th em , at the ex p en se
of th eir practical functions, w hich are never redu cible, as structuralism tacitly
assu m es, to fu n ction s of com m u n ication or k now ledge.
T h e lim its o f Saussurian ob jectivism are never m ore clearly visib le than
in its in ability to con ceive o f sp eech and m ore generally o f practice other than
as execution ,29 w ith in a logic w h ich , th o u g h it d oes not use th e w ord , is that
of th e rule to b e ap plied . O b jectivism con stru cts a theory of practice (as
ex ecu tio n ) b ut on ly as a negative b y-p rod u ct or, on e m ig h t say, w aste
p rod u ct, im m ediately discarded, o f the con stru ction o f the system s of o b je c
tive relations. T h u s, w ith th e aim of d elim itin g , w ithin th e b ody o f lin gu istic
data, the "terrain o f th e la n g u a g e” and o f extracting a " w ell-d efin ed o b je c t” ,
"an ob ject that can be stu d ied se p a r a te ly ”, " o f h om o g en eo u s n a tu re” ,
Saussu re sets aside " th e physical part of co m m u n ica tio n ”, that is, sp eech
as a preconstructed ob ject, liable to stan d in the w ay o f con stru ctin g th e
lan guage; he then isolates w ithin the " sp eech c ir c u it” w hat he calls th e
"ex ecu tiv e s id e ”, that is, sp eech as a con stru cted ob ject defined by th e
actualization of a certain sen se in a particular com b ination of so u n d s, w hich
he finally elim inates on the grou n ds that " execu tion is never the w ork of th e
m a ss ”, b ut "alw ays in d iv id u a l” . T h u s the sam e con cep t, sp eech , is d iv id ed
by theoretical con stru ction into an im m ed iately observable preconstructed
datu m , p recisely that against w hich th e operation of theoretical con stru ction
is carried ou t, and a constructed object, the negative p rod uct o f the operation
w h ich co n stitu tes the language as su c h , or rather, wrhich produces b oth
ob jects by p rod ucing th e relation o f o p p o sitio n w ith in w h ich and b y wrh ich
th ey are d efined. It w ou ld not be difficult to sh ow that th e con stru ction o f
th e co n cep t of culture (in the cultural an th rop ology sense) or social structure
(in RadclifTe-Brown’s sen se and that o f social anthropology) sim ilarly im p lies
th e con stru ction of a n otion o f co n d u ct as execu tion w'hich coexists w ith th e
prim ary notion of con d u ct as sim p le behaviour taken at face value. T h e
extrem e con fu sion of debates on the relation ship b etw een " cu ltu re” (or " social
stru ctu r es”) and con d u ct generally arises from the fact that the con stru cted
T h e fallacies o f the rule 25

m eaning of co n d u ct and the theory of practice it im plies lead a sort


0f underground ex isten ce in the discou rse o f both th e d efen d ers and the
opponents of cultural a n th rop ology .30 O bjectivism is th u s protected by
the im plicit state in w h ich its theory of practice rem ains against the only
decisive ch allen ge, the o n e w hich w ou ld attack p recisely that th eory, the
source of all th e m etaph ysical aberrations on "the locus of c u ltu r e ” , the
m ode of ex isten ce o f the " str u c tu re”, or the u n con sciou s finality of the
history of system s, not to m en tion the all-too-fam ous " co llectiv e con scious-
ness .
It is indeed " on th e ex ecu tiv e s id e ”, as Saussure puts it, that on e finds the
essen tial w eakness of the Saussurian m odel and o f all the th eories w h ich ,
som etim es under new n am es, accept the fundam ental p resu p p osition s o f its
theoretical con stru ction . C red itin g the sp eak ing subject w ith a potentially
in finite generative cap acity m erely p ostp on es the Saussurian d ifficulty: the
power of innovation requ ired in order to generate an in finite n um ber of
sentences in no w ay im p lies th e pow er o f adaptation that is required in order
to make relevant use of th o se sen ten ces in con stantly ch an gin g situ ation s.
H ence the lin g u ists’ lo n gstan d in g stru ggle to overcom e the d ifficulties to
w hich th e Saussurian con stru ction w as con d em n ed from the very b eg in n in g ,
inasm uch as th e o n ly w ay it co u ld con stitu te the structural properties of
the m essage w as (sim p ly b y p ositin g an indifferent sender and receiver)
to neglect th e functional properties the m essage derives from its use
in a determ inate situ ation and, m ore p recisely, in a socially structured
interaction.

As soon as one m oves from the structure of language to the functions it fulfils, that
is, to the uses agents actually make of it, one sees that mere know ledge of the code
gives only very im perfect m astery of the linguistic interactions really taking place. As
Luis Prieto observes, the m eaning of a linguistic elem ent depends at least as much
on extra-linguistic as on linguistic factors, that is to say, on the context and situation
in which it is used. E verything takes place as if, from am ong the class of "sign ified s”
abstractly corresponding to a speech sound, the receiver " selected ” the one which
seems to him to be com patible with the circum stances as he perceives th em .31 T h u s
reception depends to a large degree on the objective structure of the relations betw een
the interacting agents’ objective positions in the social structure (e .g . relations of
com petition or objective antagonism , or relations of power and authority, e tc .), which
governs the form and content of the interactions observed in a particular conjuncture.
Bally show s how the very content of the com m unication, the nature of the language
and all the forms of expression used (posture, gesture, mimickrv, e tc .) and above
all, perhaps, their style, are affected by the structure of the social relation betw een
the agents involved and, m ore precisely, by the structure of their relative positions
*n the hierarchies of age, pow er, prestige, and culture: "W hen I talk to som eone, or
talk about him , I cannot help visualizing the particular type of relationship (casual,
formal, obligatory, official) betw een that person and m yself ; involuntarily 1 think not
°nly of his possible action towards m yself, but also of his age, sex, rank, and social

2 BOT
26 T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

background; all these considerations may affect my choice of expressions and lead me
to avoid what might discourage, offend, or hurt. If need be, my language becomes
reserved an d prudent; it becom es indirect and euphem istic, it slides over the surface
instead of in sistin g.’*32 Hence com m unication is possible in practice only when accom
panied by a practical spotting of cues w hich, in enabling speakers to situate others
in the hierarchies of age, wealth, power, or culture, guides them unw ittingly towards
the type of exchange best suited in form and content to the objective situation between
the interacting individuals. T h is is seen clearly in bilingual situations, in w hich the
speakers adopt cne or the other of the two available languages according to the
circum stances, the subject of conversation, the social status of their interlocuter (and
thus his degree of culture and bilingualism ), etc. T h e whole content of the
com m unication (and not just the language used) is unconsciously modified by the
structure of the relationship between the speakers. T he pressure of the socially
qualified objective situation is such that, through the mediation of bodily mim esis,
a whole way of speaking, a type of joke, a particular tone, som etim es even an accent,
seem to be objectively called for by certain situations, and, conversely, quite excluded
from others, whatever efforts are made to introduce them .
But the linguists and anthropologists w ho appeal to " co n tex t” n r " situ ation ” in
order, as it were, to "correct” what strikes them as unreal and abstract in the
structuralist model are in fact still trapped in the logic of the theoretical model which
they are rightly trying to supersede. T he m ethod known as “situational analysis”,33
which consists of "observing people in a variety of social situ ation s” in order to
determ ine "the way in which individuals are able to exercise choices within the lim its
of a specified social structure”,34 remains locked within the framework of the rule and
the exception, which Leach (often invoked by the exponents of "situational analysis”)
spells out clearly: "I postulate that structural system s in which all avenues of social
action are narrowly institutionalized are im possible. In all viable system s, there must
be an area where the individual is free to make choices so as to manipulate the system
to his advantage.”35 In accepting as obligatory alternatives the m odel and the situation,
the structure and the individual variations, one condem ns oneself simply to take
the diametrically opposite course to the structuralist abstraction which subsum es
variations - regarded as sim ple variants - into the structure. T h e desire to "integrate
variations, exceptions and accidents into descriptions of regularities ” and to show " how
individuals in a particular structure handle the choices with which they are faced -
as individuals are in all so cieties”36 - leads one to regress to the pre-structuralist stage
of the individual and his choices, and to miss the very principle of the structuralist
error.37

N o t the least of C hom sky's m erits is to have reopened d iscu ssion on the
d istinction betw een syntax and sem an tics (and secondarily, b etw een syntax
and pragm atics) and, m ore p recisely, on the dep en dence or in d ep en d en ce of
th ese different levels o f discou rse relative to the situ ation , by affirm ing the
in d ep en d en ce of th e structural properties o f linguistic exp ression s relative to
their uses and fu n ction s and the im p ossib ility of m aking any inference from
analysis of their form al structure - a p osition w hich has sim p ly adopted
exp licitly the p ostu lates im plied in th e Saussurian lan guage/sp eech
distinction.
In short, failing to con stru ct practice other than n egatively, ob jectivism is
con d em ned either to ignore the w h ole question o f th e principle u nd erlyin g
T h e fallacies o f the rule 27
the p ro d u ctio n o f the r e g u la r itie s w hich it then con ten ts itself w ith recording;
to reify abstractions, by th e fallacy of treating the ob jects constructed by
s c i e n c e , w hether " c u ltu r e ”, " structures ” , or "m od es of production ”, as
realities en d ow ed w ith a social efficacy, capable o f actin g as agents responsible
for historical actions or as a power capable of con strain in g p ra ctices; or to
save appearances by m eans of con cep ts as am bigu ous as the notions of the
ruie or the u n con sciou s, w h ich make it p ossib le to avoid ch oosin g betw een
incom patible theories o f practice. T h u s L evi-S trau ss s use o f the notion of
the unconscious m asks th e contradictions generated b y the im plicit theory o f
practice w hich "structural a n th rop ology” accep ts at least by d efau lt, restoring
the old en telech ies of the m etaphysics o f nature in th e apparently secularized
form of a structure structured in the absence of any stru cturin g p rin cip le .38
When one is reluctant to follow D urkh eim in p ositin g that none of the rules
constraining su bjects "can b e found en tirely reproduced in the applications
made o f them b y in dividu als, since they can exist even w ithou t b ein g
actually a p p lied ” ,39 and u n w illin g to ascribe to th ese rules th e tran scend en t,
perm anent existen ce h e ascribes (as S aussu re d oes to language) to all collective
" realities”, the only w ay to escape the crudest naivities o f the legalism w hich
sees practices as the p rod uct of o b ed ien ce to the rules is to play on the
p olysem ous nature of the w ord rule: m ost often u sed in th e sen se of a social
norm expressly stated and explicitly recogn ized , like m oral or juridical law ,
som etim es in the sen se o f a theoretical model, a con stru ct d ev ised b y scien ce
in order to accoun t for practices, the w ord is also, m ore rarely, used in the
sense o f a scheme (or p rin cip le) im m anent in practice, w h ich sh ou ld be called
im plicit rather than u n co n sciou s, sim p ly to indicate that it exists in a practical
state in agents' practice and not in their con sciou sn ess, or rather, their
discou rse .40
Clearly a case in point is C hom sky, w h o h old s, sim u ltan eou sly, that the
rules of gram m ar are in scrib ed in n euro-physiological m ech a n ism s ,41 that they
are system s o f norm s of w hich agents have a certain aw areness, and lastly that
they are in stru m en ts for description o f language. But it is also instructive to
reread a paragraph from L evi-Strau ss’s preface to th e secon d edition of L es
structures elementaires de la parente (E lem entary Structures o f K in sh ip) , in w h ich
one m ay assu m e that particular care has b een taken w ith the vocabulary of
norm s, m od els, or rules, sin ce th e passage deals w ith the d istin ction b etw een
preferential sy s te m s ” and "prescriptive sy s te m s ” : " C on versely, a system
which recommends m arriage w ith the m oth er’s brother’s daughter m ay be called
p rescriptive even if the rule is seld om ob served , sin ce w hat it says m ust be
d one. T h e q u estion of h ow far and in w hat proportion the m em bers of a given
so ciety respect the norm is very interesting, but a d ifferen t q u estion to that
of w here th is society sh ou ld properly be placed in a typ o lo g y . It is sufficient
28 T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

to ack n ow led ge the lik elih ood that awareness of the rule in flects choices ever
so little in the prescribed d irection , and that the percentage of conventional
m arriages is higher than w ou ld be the case if m arriages w ere m ade at random,
to be able to recogn ize w hat m igh t be called a m atrilateral *operator’ at work
in th is so c iety and actin g as a p ilot: certain alliances at least fo llo w th e path
w h ich it charts out for th e m , and th is suffices to im print a sp ecific curve in
the gen ealogical space. N o d ou b t there w ill be not just on e cu rve but a great
n um ber o f local cu rves, m erely in cip ien t for th e m ost part, h ow ever, and
form in g closed cycles o n ly in rare and excep tion al cases. But the structural
ou tlin es w h ich em erge h ere and there w ill be en ou gh for the system to b t
used in m aking a p rob abilistic version o f m ore rigid sy stem s the notion o f w hich
is co m p letely theoretical and in w hich m arriage w ou ld con form rigorously to
a n y rule the social group pleases to enunciate ”42
T h e d om in an t ton ality in th is passage, as in the w h ole p reface, is that of
th e norm, w hereas S tructu ral A nthropology is w ritten in the language of the
model or, if you like, th e structure; n ot that su ch term s are en tirely ab sen t here,
sin ce th e m ath em atical-p hysical m etaph ors organ izin g th e central passage
(" o p erator” , " c u r v e ” in "genealogical s p a c e ” , " str u c tu re s”) evok e the logic
o f th e th eoretical m od el and of the eq u ivalen ce, at on ce declared and repudia
ted , o f th e model and the norm : " A preferential sy stem is p rescriptive w hen
en visaged at th e m odel lev el, a p rescriptive system m ust b e preferential w hen
en visaged on th e level of reality .”43 B ut for the reader w h o rem em bers the
passages in S tructu ral A n thropology on th e relation ship b etw een language and
kinship (e .g . '" K in sh ip sy s te m s ’, like 'p h o n em ic sy s te m s ’, are b uilt up by
the m ind on the level o f u n c o n scio u s th o u g h t ”)44 and th e im perious way in
w hich "cultural n o rm s” and all the " ration aliza tio n s” or "secon d ary argu
m e n ts ” p roduced b y the n atives w ere rejected in favour of th e " u n co n scio u s
stru ctu r es” , not to m en tio n passages a ssertin g th e u niversality o f th e fun da
m ental rule of exogam y, th e co n cession s m ade here to "aw areness o f the r u le ”
and the d issociation from rigid sy stem s " th e n otion of w hich is entirely
th e o re tic a l’' m ay com e as a surprise, as m ay th is further passage from the sam e
preface: " I t is n on eth eless true that th e em pirical reality o f so-called
p rescriptive system s o n ly takes on its full m ean in g w hen related to a theoretical
m odel w orked out b y the natives themselves prior to e th n o lo g ists ” ,45 or again:
" T h o se w h o practise th em know fu lly that th e spirit of su ch system s cannot
be redu ced to the tautological prop osition that each grou p ob tain s its w om en
from 'g iv e r s ’ and gives its daughters to 'ta k e rs’. T h ey are also a w a re that
m arriage w ith th e m atrilateral cross co u sin (m oth er’s b roth er’s daughter)
p rovid es th e sim p lest illustration of th e rate, th e form m o st likely to guarantee
its su rv iv a l. O n the other h and , m arriage w ith the patrilateral cross cou sin
(father’s sister’s daughter) w ould violate it irrevocab ly .”46
T h e fallacies o f the rule 29

• tem ptin g to q uote in reply a passage in w h ich W ittgenstein effortlessly


1S together all the q u estio n s evad ed by structural an th rop ology and no
k ^ v T m o r e generally b y all in tellectu alism , w h ich transfers the ob jective truth
blished by scien ce in to a practice w h ich b y its very essen ce ru les o u t the
CS tical stance w h ich m akes it p ossib le to estab lish that tr u th :47 " W'hat do
I call ‘the rule by w hich he p r o c e e d s’? - T h e h yp o th esis that satisfactorily
describes his use of w ords, w h ich w e ob serve: or th e rule w h ich h e looks up
vhen he uses sign s; or the on e w h ich he g ives u s in reply w hen w e ask w hat
his rule is? - But w hat if ob servation d o es not enable us to see any clear rule,
and the question brings n on e to l i g h t ? - F o r he d id in deed g ive m e a
definition w hen I asked h im w hat he u n d erstood b y ' N*, but he w as prepared
to withdraw and alter it. S o h ow am I to d eterm in e the rule accord in g to w h ich
he is playing? H e d oes not know it h im self. - O r, to ask a b etter q u estion :
What m eaning is th e exp ression 'th e rule b y wrh ich he p ro ce ed s’ su p p osed
to have left to it h e r e ?”48
T o consider regularity, that is, w hat recurs w ith a certain statistically
m easurable frequency, as th e p rod u ct of a con scio u sly laid -dow n and co n s
ciously respected ruling (w h ich im p lies ex p la in in g its gen esis and efficacy),
or as the product of an u n co n scio u s regulating by a m ysteriou s cerebral and/or
social m echan ism , is to slip from th e m od el of reality to the reality of the
m odel .49 "C on sid er the d ifferen ce b etw een sayin g 'T h e train is regularly tw o
m inutes la te ’ and 'A s a rule, the train is tw o m in u tes la te ’ . . .th er e is the
suggestion in th e latter case that that th e train be tw o m in u tes late is as it
were in accordance w ith som e p o licy or p l a n . . . R ules co n n ect w ith plans or
policies in a w ay that regularities d o n o t . . .T o argue t h a t . . .th er e m ust be
rules in the natural language is like argu in g that roads m ust be red if th ey
correspond to red lin es on a m a p .”50 In on e case - to take up Q u in e’s
distinction b etw een fittin g and guiding - o n e form ulates a rule w h ich fits the
observed regularity in a purely d escrip tiv e w ay; in the other case on e states
a rule w hich g u id es th e behaviour and w h ich can d o so on ly to the extent
that it is know n and recogn ized (and h en ce cou ld b e sta ted ).51 O n e is en titled
to p osit an " im p licit g u id a n c e ” , as, accord in g to Q u in e, C hom sk y d o es, in
order to accoun t for a practice ob jectively govern ed b y rules u n k now n to the
agents; but on ly o n con d ition that on e d oes not m ask the q u estio n o f the
m echanism s p rod u cin g th is con form ity in the ab sen ce of the in ten tio n to
conform , by resortin g to the fallacy o f th e rule w h ich im p licitly p laces in the
con sciousness o f the in dividu al agen ts a k n ow led ge b u ilt u p against that
experience, i.e . con fers th e value o f an an th rop ological d escrip tion on the
theoretical m od el con stru cted in order to a ccou n t for practices. T h e theory
of action as m ere execution o f th e m o d el (in the tw ofold sen se o f norm and
scientific con stru ct) is just on e exam p le am ong oth ers o f th e im aginary
3 °
T he objective lim its o f objectivism

an th rop ology w h ich o b jectivism en gen d ers w h en , w ith the aid of w ords that
obscure the d istin ction b etw een " th e th in g s of logic and the logic o f th in g s!)
it p resen ts th e ob jective m ean in g o f p ractices or w orks as the subjective
p urpose o f th e action of the producers o f th ose practices or w orks, w ith \\^
im p ossib le homo economicus su b jectin g h is d ecisio n -m a k in g to ration*;
calcu lation, its actors p erform in g roles or actin g in co n fo rm ity w ith m odels
or its sp eak ers " s e le c tin g ” from a m on g p h on em es.

S E C T I O N I I : CASE S T U D Y : P A R A L L E L - C O U S I N MARRI AGE

" P h ilosop h y aim s at the logical clarification o f t h o u g h t s . . . W ithou t philo


sop h y th o u g h ts are, as it w ere, clou d y and in d istin ct: its task is to m ake them
clear and g ive th em sharp b o u n d aries .”52 In th is sen se, the fo reg o in g analyses
m ay be said to b elo n g to p h ilo sop h y . B ut u nlike p h ilo so p h ica l activity as
W ittgen stein con ceiv es it, they do not ach ieve their en d in "th e clarification
o f p r o p o sitio n s”. A rising in resp onse to scien tific d ifficu lties and not to the
reading o f tex ts, th ey are in ten d ed to h elp su rm oun t d ifficu lties, b y providing
not on ly p rocedu res for research b u t also p roced u res for valid ation , means
of d ecid in g b etw e en com p etin g accoun ts o f the sam e practices. T h e case of
m arriage - stru cturalist grou n d par ex cellen ce - and o f p arallel-cou sin mar
riage - a sort of q u asi-in cest ch allen gin g b oth the u n ilin ea l-d escen t theories
and th e m arriage-alliance th eory - co n stitu tes an ideal terrain for such a
tru th -test .53
M arriage w ith a patrilateral parallel cou sin (bent'am m , fath er’s b rother’s
d augh ter )54 appears as a sort of scandal, in C laude L e v i-S tra u ss’s ter m s ,55 only
to those w h o have internalized th e categories o f th o u g h t w h ich it disturbs.
In ch a llen g in g th e idea of exogam y, th e p recon d ition for th e con tin u ation of
separate lin eages and for the perm an en ce and easy id en tifica tio n o f con secu tive
u n its, it ch allen ges the w h o le n otion of u nilineal d escen t as w ell as the theory
of m arriage as an exch an ge o f on e w om an against an oth er, w h ich assu m es an
in cest taboo, i.e . the ab solu te n ecessity o f ex ch an ge. A n exogam ic system
clearly d iv id es alliance grou p s and d escen t gro u p s, w h ich by definition
cannot c o in c id e , gen ealogical lin eages b ein g b y the sam e token clearly defined,
sin ce p o w ers, privileges, and d u ties are tran sm itted eith er m atrilineally or
patrilineally. E n d ogam y, by contrast, resu lts in a b lu rrin g of the d istinction
b etw een lin eages. T h u s , in the extrem e case of a sy stem actually fou n d ed on
p arallel-cou sin m arriage, a particular in dividu al co u ld be related to his
paternal grandfather eq u ally through his father or h is m o th er. But on th e other
hand, b y ch o o sin g to keep the parallel co u sin , a q u a si-sister, w ith in the
lineage, the grou p w o u ld d ep rive itself o f an o p p o r tu n ity to receive a w om an
from ou tsid e and o f th u s con tractin g n ew alliances. Is it sufficient to regard
T he objective lim its o f objectivism 3i

of m arriage as th e excep tion (or the " a b erra tio n ”) w h ich proves
|ile or to rearrange th e categories o f th ou gh t w h ich m ake it p ossib le in
^ " t o ’ find a place ( i.e . a nam e) for it? Or sh o u ld w e radically q u estion
°h c a te g o r ie s of th ou gh t w h ich have p ro d u ced this " u n th in k a b le”

^ T h e c o n t r a d i c t i o n p osed b y Arab and Berber trad ition s to cu rren tly avail


able th eo ries has at least th e m erit of rem in d in g us th at, as L ou is D u m o n t
says th e th e o r y of u nilineal d escen t g rou p s and th e allian ce theory o f m arriage
rem ain " r eg io n a l th e o r ie s” in the geographical and a lso the ep istem ological
sen se, e v en th o u g h they wear the cloak o f u n iv e rsa lity .56 N eith er can th e
critical e x a m in a tio n of certain of the bases o f th ese th eo ries, w h ich is e n
cou raged or e v e n im p o sed b y the particular ch aracteristics of a cultural
trad ition , c la im to be universal. But su ch a critical exam in ation m ay con trib ute
to progress tow ards a theory free from all geograph ical or ep istem ological
region alism by p o sin g u niversal q u estio n s w h ich are raised w ith particular
in sisten ce b y the pecu liarities o f certain ob jects. F o r exam p le, it is not
su fficien t to con clu d e that, w h ile valid in the case o f an exogam ic tradition
w h ich str ic tly d istin gu ish es b etw een parallel and cro ss k in, the idea o f a
p referential m arriage is not justified in the case of a so c iety w ith ou t exogam ou s
g ro u p s. W e m ust find in this ex cep tion a reason for q u e stio n in g not o n ly th e
very n o tio n of p rescription or p referen ce, b u t also on th e on e h and, the notion
o f the g e n e a lo g ic a lly defined grou p , an en tity w h o se social id en tity is as
in variab le a n d u niform as the criteria for its d elim itatio n and w h ich con fers
on each o f its m em bers a social id en tity eq u ally d istin ct and p erm an en tly fix e d :
and o n the other hand, the n otion o f rules and rule-governed behaviour in the
tw o fo ld s e n s e of b eh aviour con form in g ob jectively to rules and d eterm in ed
bv o b e d ie n c e to rules.
T h e inadequacy o f th e language of p rescription an d rules is so clear in the
case of patrilateral m arriage that w e cannot fail to be rem in d ed of R odn ey
N eedham 's in qu iries in to the co n d itio n s o f v a lid ity, perhaps n ever fu lfilled ,
of such a lan guage, w h ich is in fact n o th in g other than legal la n g u a g e .57 But
this q u estio n in g of the ep istem ological status of co n ce p ts as com m on ly and
as w id ely u sed as th ose o f rule, p rescription , and p referen ce, in evitab ly
challenges the theory o f practice w h ich th ey p resu p p ose: can w e , even
im plicitly, treat th e "algebra o f k in sh ip ”, as M alinow sk i called it, as a theory
° f the practical u ses o f kinship and of " p ra ctica l” k in sh ip w ith o u t tacitly
postulating a d ed u ctive relationship b etw een k in sh ip term in o lo g y and " kin
ship a ttitu d e s” ? A nd can w e g ive an an th rop ological m ean in g to th is relation
ship w ith o u t p ostu latin g that regulated and regular relatio n sh ip s b etw een kin
are the resu lts of o b ed ien ce to a set of rules w h ich , althou gh a residual
D urkh eim ian scru p le m akes R adcliffe-B row n call th e m " ju ra l” rather than
32 T h e objective limits o f objectivism

legal are assu m ed to con trol b eh aviour in the sam e w ay as legal ru les?**
F in a lly , can w e m ake th e gen ealogical d efin ition of gro u p s th e o n ly means
o f d ifferen tiatin g b etw een social u n its and o f assign in g agen ts to th e se group 8
w ith o u t im p licitly p ostu la tin g that th e agen ts are d efined in every respect
and for all tim e by their b elo n g in g to the g rou p , and th a t, in sh o rt, die group
d efin es th e a g en ts and th eir in terests m ore th an th e agen ts d efine groups
in term s o f their interests?

T h e state o f the question


T h e m ost recent theories of parallel-cousin marriage, those of Fredrik Barth59 and of
Robert M urphy and Leonard K asdan,60 though diam etrically opposed, do have in
com m on the fact that they appeal to those functions w hich structuralism either ignores
or brackets off, w hether econom ic functions, such as the retention of the patrimony
w ithin the lineage, or political functions, such as the reinforcem ent of lineage inte
gration. It is difficult to see how they could do otherw ise w ithout making absurd
a marriage w hich obviously does not fulfil the function of exchange and alliance
com m only attributed to cross-cousin marriage.61 Barth em phasizes that endogamous
marriage " plays a prom inent role in solidifying the minim al lineage as a corporate group
in factional stru g g le”. By contrast, M urphy and Kasdan criticize Barth for explaining
the institution "through reference to the consciously felt goals o f the individual role
p layers’*, or more precisely by reference to the lineage h e a d s interest in keeping a
close control over his nephew s, who represent points of potential segm entation. Thus
M urphy and Kasdan relate this type o f marriage to its "structural fu n ctio n ”, that is,
to the fact that it "contributes to the extrem e fission of agnatic lin es. . .a n d , through
in-marriage, encysts the patrilineal segm en ts”. L evi-Strauss is perfectly justified
in stating that the twTo op p osin g positions amount to exactly the sam e thing: in fact
Barth’s theory makes of th is type o f marriage a means o f reinforcing lineage unity
and of lim iting the tendency to fission; M urphy’s theory sees in it the principle
of a quest for integration into larger units, founded on the appeal to a common
origin, and ultim ately encom passing all Arabs. So both adm it that parallel-cousin
marriage cannot be explained w ithin the pure logic of the matrimonial exchange
system and that any explanation must refer to external econom ic or political
fu n ction s.62
C uisenier sim ply draws o u t the consequences o f this observation, in a construction
w hich attem pts to account for the inconsistencies noted by all observers betw een the
“ m o d el” and actual practice, together with at least the econom ic external functions
of matrimonial exchanges. " It is native thinking itself w hich gives us a clue to an
explanatory m odel. T h is m odel represents in effect alliances knit together in one group
based on the fundam ental opposition o f tw o brothers, of w hom one m ust marry
endogam ously in order to m aintain the coherence of the group, and the other must
marry exogam ously in order to gain alliances for the group. T h is opposition between
the tw o brothers is found at all levels of the agnatic group; it expresses in the usual
genealogical term inology of Arab thought a choice betw een alternatives w hich may
be represented as a 'partial ord er’ diagram in w hich the num erical values of a and
6 are and % respectively. If a represents the choice of endogam y and b the choice
of exogam y, and if one follow s the branchings of the two-part fam ily tree from the
roots upwards, the choice of a at the m ost superficial genealogical levels is the choice
of the parallel cousin (Vs of the c a ses).”63 One m ight be tem pted to see it as a virtue
The functions o f kinship: official kin and p ra ctica l kin 33

, 1 that it seeks to account for the statistical data in contrast to traditional


0f this mo £ercntjaj marriage w hich w ent no further than to state the divergence
t h e o r ie s "norm ” (or the " r u le ”) and actual practice.64 But one only has to adopt
b e tw e e n restrictive definition of the marriages assim ilable to parallel-cousin
a m° re to move away, to a greater or lesser extent, from the magical percentage
V£?) w hich, w hen com bined with a native m axim , generates a "theoretical
^ a V'- and then there is no need to appeal to an epistem ological critique to show
010 t h e model fits the facts so perfectly only because it has been made to measure to
fM he facts, i.e. invented ad hoc to account for a statistical artefact, and not built up
from a theory of the principles of the production of practices. T h ere is an equation
for the c u r v e of each face, said L eibniz. A nd nowadays there w ill always be a m athe
m a tic ia n to prove that tw o cousins parallel to a third are parallel to each o t h e r .. .
But the intention of subm itting genealogies to statistical analysis has at least the
virtue of revealing the m ost fundam ental properties of the genealogy, an analytical tool
which is never itself analysed. W e can im m ediately see what is strange about the idea
of calculating rates of endogam y wrhen, as here, it is the very notion of the endogamous
group, and therefore the basis of calculation, which is in question.65 Are w e to be
satisfied with abstractly dissecting genealogies wrhich have the sam e extent as the group
memory, whose structure and extent depend on the functions actually given by the
group to those whom it rem em bers or forgets ? R ecognizing in a lineage diagram an
ideological representation resorted to by the Bedouin in order to achieve a "primary
comprehension” of their present relationships, E. L . Peters66 points out that the
genealogy ignores the real power relations between genealogical segm ents, that it
forgets about the w om en, and that it treats as "contingent a ccid en ts” the most basic
ecclogical, dem ographic, and political factors.67 M ust w e then resort to the units which
the agents them selves recognize, using criteria w hich are not necessarily genealogical ?
We discover, however, that an individual’s chances of making a marriage w hich can
be treated as a marriage w ith the daughter of his ramm are greater to the extent that
his practical, effectively m obilizable lineage (as well as the num ber of potential
partners) is larger, and the pressures on him to marry inside the lineage are stronger.
Once the family property is divided and there is nothing to recall and maintain the
genealogical relationship, the father’s brother’s daughter may be considered no
closer in degree of kinship than any other patrilateral (or even matrilateral) cousin.
On the other hand, a genealogically more distant cousin m ay be the practical equivalent
of the bent'amm w hen the tw o cousins are part of a strongly united '*h o u se” living
under one elder and ow n ing all its property in com m on. And perhaps inform ants are
simply victim s of an illusion created by the decline of the great undivided fam ilies,
when they repeat with insistence that people now marry less w ithin the lineage than
they did formerly.

T h e functions o f kinship: official kin and practical kin

It is not su fficien t to fo llo w the exam p le o f the m ore circu m sp ect fieldw orkers,
p ru dently slip from the n otion of preferential m arriage w ith a parallel
cousin to the n otion o f " lin eage en d ogam y ”, tru stin g that th is va g u e, h igh -
sounding lan guage w ill offer a w ay ou t o f th e problem s raised b y th e n otion
° f en d ogam y and con cealed b y the all-too-fam iliar co n cep t of th e group. It
first n ecessary to ask w hat is im plied in d efining a grou p by th e genealogical
relationship lin k in g its m em b ers, and in thereby im p licitly treatin g kinship
34 T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

as th e necessary and su fficien t con d ition of grou p u n ity . A s soon as we


ex p licitly about th e functions of kin relation ship s, or m ore b lu n tly , about t}*
u sefu ln ess of k in sm en , a q u estio n w hich k insh ip th eo rists prefer to treat ^
reso lv ed , w e cannot fail to n otice that th o se u ses o f k in sh ip w h ich may ^
called genealogical are reserved for official situ ation s in w h ich they ^
th e fu n ctio n of ord erin g th e social w orld and o f legitim atin g that order .68jn
th is resp ect th ey differ from th e other kinds of practical use m ade of kirj
relation sh ip s, w hich are a particular case o f the u tilization o f connections. The
g en ealogical diagram o f kin relation ship s w hich th e an th rop ologist constructs
m erely reprodu ces th e official representation o f th e social stru ctures, a repre.
sentation p rod uced b y ap p lication of the stru cturin g prin cip le that is dominant
in a certain respect; i.e . in certain situ ation s and w ith a v iew to certain
fu n ction s.

Marriage provides a good opportunity for observing what in practice separates official
kinship, single and im m utable, defined once and for all by the norm s o f genealogical
protocol, from practical kinship, w hose boundaries and definitions are as many and
as varied as its users and the occasions on w hich it is used. It is practical kin who
make marriages; it is official kin w ho celebrate them . In ordinary marriages the
contacts preceding the official proposal (akhiab) and the least avowable negotiations
relating to areas w hich the official ideology tends to ignore, such as the economic
conditions of the marriage, the status offered to the wife in her husband’s home,
relations with the husband’s m other, and similar m atters, are left to the persons least
qualified to represent the group and to speak for it (w ho can therefore be disowned
if need b e), such as an old w om an, usually a sort of professional in these secret
m eetings, a m idw ife, or som e other woman used to m oving from village to village.
In the difficult negotiations betw een distant groups a w ell-know n, prestigious man from
a group sufficiently distant and distinct from the "w ife-takers’ to appear neutral and
to be in a position to act in com plicity with another man occupying approximately
the sam e position in relation to the w ife-givers (a friend or ally rather than a kinsman)
w ill be entrusted w ith the delivery of the declaration of intent (assiw at w a w a l). He
will avoid com ing straight to the point, but w ill try to find an opportunity to meet
som eone from "the girl’s s id e ” and to disclose to him the " in ten tio n s” of the
interested fam ily. T h e official marriage proposal (akhtab) is presented by the least
responsible of those responsible, i.e. the elder brother and not the father, the paternal
uncle and not the grandfather, etc., accom panied, especially if he is young, by a
kinsman from another line. T h e m en w h o present the request may be, for example,
on the first occasion, an elder brother and a maternal uncle, then on the second
occasion a paternal uncle and one of the notables o f the group, then the third time
the sam e people accom panied by several group and village notables such as the taleb,
to be joined later by the village marabouts, and the fourth tim e the father together
with notables from the neighbouring village and even the next tribe, etc. So progressi
vely closer and more distinguished relatives of the bridegroom com e to present their
request ( ahallal) to m en in the bride’s family w h o genealogically and spatially are
increasingly distant. In the end it is the most im portant and m ost distant of the girl's
kin w ho com e to intercede w ith the girl’s father and mother on behalf of the closest
and m ost prestigious of the young m an’s kin, having been asked to do so by this latter
group. Finally, acceptance (aqbal) is proclaimed before the largest possible number
T h e functions o f k in sh ip : official km and practical kin 35

ved to the most em inent kinsman of the young man by the most
0f men and conv ^ kinsm en, w ho has been asked to support the proposal. As
eminent of t ^ an(j begin to look successful, official kin may w ell take the place
negotiations pr ^ hierarchy with respect to utility being alm ost the exact opposite
0f practica * reSpect to genealogical legitim acy. T here are various reasons
of the hierarL ^ ^ ^ advisable to " c o m m it” in the early stages kin w h o because of
for this, r i » social position m ight com prom ise their principals too dpeplv -
the^ gene2 ^ sjtuation of conjunctural inferiority, w hich is often associated w ith
particu^j s^perjorjty (because the man is marrying beneath h im ). Secondly, not
structur ^ asked to put him self in the position of a supplicant liable to receive
eVe?usa^ and a fortiori to take part in negotiations w hich w ill bring no glory, w hich
3 ^often*painful, and som etim es bring dishonour on the tw o parties (like the practice
thaj'alts which consists of paying m oney to secure the intervention of som e of the
° *soective bride’s kin). Finally, the search for maximum efficiency in the practical
hase of negotiations directs the choice towards persons know n to com m and great skill,
to enjoy particular authority over the fam ily in question, or to be on good term s with
someone in a position to influence the d ecision . And it is natural that, in the official
phase, those who have actually " m a d e” the marriage should have to make do with
the place assigned to them not by their usefulness but by their position in the
genealogy; having played their parts as "utility m e n ”, they m ust make way for the
"leading actors”.
T h u s, to schem atize, official kinship is op p osed to practical k insh ip in term s
of the official as op p osed to th e non-official (w h ich in clu d es the unofficial and
the scand alous); the co llectiv e as o p p o sed to th e in d ivid u al; th e p u b lic,
explicitly codified in a m agical or quasi-juridical form alism , as o p p o sed to the
private, kept in an im p licit, ev en h id d en state; co llectiv e ritual, su b jectless
practice, am enable to perform an ce b y agen ts interchangeable b ecau se co llec
tively m andated, as op p osed to strategy, directed tow ards the sa tisfa ctio n o f
the practical in terests o f an in d ivid u al or grou p of in d ivid u a ls. A bstract u nits
produced by sim p le theoretical d iv isio n , su ch as, here, th e u nilineal d escen t
group (or elsew h ere, age-group s) are available for all fu n ctio n s, that is, for
no sin gle on e in particular, and have practical ex isten ce o n ly for th e m ost
official uses of k in sh ip ; representational kinship is n o th in g other than the
group s self-rep resen tation and th e alm ost theatrical p resen tation it g iv e s of
itself w h en actin g in accord ance w ith that self-im age. B y con trast, practical
groups exist o n ly through and for th e particular fu n ctio n s in p ursuan ce of
v^hich they have b een effectively m ob ilized ; and th e y con tin u e to exist only
because th ey have b een kept in w ork in g order b y th eir very u se an d by
M aintenance w ork (in c lu d in g th e m atrim onial exch an ges th ey m ake p o ssib le)
and b ecause they rest on a co m m u n ity o f d isp o sitio n s (h a b itu s) and interests
u-hich is also th e b asis o f u n d ivid ed o w n ersh ip o f th e m aterial and sym b olic
patrim ony.
T o treat kin relation sh ip s as so m eth in g people make, and w ith w h ich they
do so m eth in g, is not m erely to su b stitu te a " fu n ction alist ” for a " stru cturalist ”
interpretation, as current ta xon om ies m ig h t lead on e to b eliev e; it is radically
3^ T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

to question the im p licit th eory of practice w hich causes the anthropological


tradition to see kin relation ship s " in the form of an object or an intuition
as Marx p u ts it, rather than in the form o f the practices w h ich produce,
reproduce, and use them b y reference to necessarily practical fu n ction s. The
sam e is tru e, a fo rtio ri, o f affinal relation sh ip s: it is o n ly w hen on e records
th ese relation ship s as a fa it accom pli, po st festum , as th e anthropologist does
w h en he draw s u p a gen ealogy, that on e can forget that they are the product
of strategies (con sciou s or u n con sciou s) oriented tow ards the satisfaction of
m aterial and sy m b o lic in terests and organized by reference to a determ inate
set of eco n o m ic and social co n d itio n s. O n ce on e forgets all that is im plied
in extracting from the product the p rin cip les of its p rod uction , from th e opus
operatum the modus operandi, on e con d em n s o n eself to proceed as if the
regular p rod u ct had b een p rod uced in accordance w ith the ru le s .69

T h e com petition and conflicts provoked by the transmission of first names provide
an opportunity to observe the practical and political functions of these genealogical
markers: to appropriate these indices of genealogical position (so-and-so, son of
so-and-so, son of so-and-so etc.) w hich are also emblems, sym bolizing the whole
sym bolic capital accum ulated by a lineage, is in a sense to take possession o f a title
giving special rights over the group’s patrimony. T h e state of the relations of force
and authority between contem porary kin determ ines what the collective history will
be; but this sym bolic projection of the power relations between com peting individuals
and groups also plays a part in reinforcing the initial state of affairs by giving those
w ho are in a dom inant position the right to profess the veneration of the past which
is best suited to legitim ate their present interests. T o give a new-born child the name
o f a great forefather is not sim ply to perform an act o f filial piety, but also in a sense
to predestine the child thus named to bring the eponym ous ancestor "back to life ”
( isakrad djedi-s "he has brought his grandfather 'back to life ’”), i.e. to succeed him
in his responsibilities and pow ers.70
Prestigious first nam es, like the noblest lands, are the object of regulated com peti
tion, and the " righ t” to appropriate the first name which is most coveted, because
it continuously proclaims the genealogical connection w ith the ancestor w hose name
is preserved by the group and outside the group, is distributed in accordance with
a hierarchy analogous to that governing the obligations of honour in the case of
revenge, or of the rights to land belonging to the patrimony in the case of sale. T h u s,
since first names are transmitted in direct patrilineal line, the father cannot give a child
the name of his own 'amm or his own brother (the ch ild ’s 'amm) if either of the latter
has left any sons w ho are already married and hence in a position to reuse their father’s
name for one of their son s or grandsons. Here as elsew here, the convenient language
of norms and obligations (m u st. . . c a n n o t. . .e tc .) m ust not be allowed to m islead us:
thus, a younger brother has been known to take advantage of a favourable balance
of power in order to give his children the first name of a prestigious brother who had
died leaving only very young children; the children subsequently set their point of
honour on retaking possession of the first name of which they considered them selves
the legitimate bearers - even at risk of confusion. T h e com petition is particularly
evident w hen several brothers wish to give their children their father’s first name:
whereas the need to rescue it from neglect and fill up the gap that has appeared requires
that the name should be given to the first boy born after the death of its bearer, the
T he functions o f kinship: official kin an d practical kin 37
may Put t^ie attribution of the name in order to give it to one of his
eldest |nSteacj 0f leaving it for the son of one of his younger brothers, thus
Sran - a genealogical level. But it may also happen, on the other hand, that for lack
^ male descendants, a name threatens to escheat, at which point the responsibility
° reviving” it falls first on the collaterals, and then on the group as a w hole, which
bv demonstrates that its integration and its wealth o f men enable it to reuse the
a m e s of all direct ancestors and, m oreover, to make good any gaps that may appear
elsewhere (one of the functions of marriage with the daughter of the 'amm w hen the
latter dies w ithout male heirs, being to allow the daughter to see to it that her father's
name does not disappear).

T h e eth n ologist is in a particularly bad p osition to d etect th e d istin ctio n


between official and practical kinship: as his d ealin gs w ith kinship (at least,
the kinship of others) are restricted to cogn itive u ses, he is d isp osed to take
for gospel truth the official d iscou rses wrhich in form an ts are in clin ed to
present to him as lo n g as they see th em selves as sp okesm en m andated to
present the grou p 's official account o f itself. H e has no reason to p erceive that
he is allow in g the official definition o f social reality to b e im p o sed on him -
a version w h ich d om in ates or represses other d efin ition s. W itness to th is are
the desperate efforts by generations o f an th rop ologists to confirm or d en y the
existence o f " p referen tial” cross-cou sin m arriage. A s soon as o n e poses the
problem of m arriage in strictly gen ealogical term s, as inform an ts alw ays w ill,
by referring to m arriage writh th e bent'am m , all further d iscu ssion w ill take
place w ithin certain lim its; all so lu tio n s are acceptable so lo n g as they are
expressed in gen ealogical l a ng ua ge . . . T h e eth n ologist can n ot break the c o m p
licity w hich b in d s him to the official id eology o f his inform ants and reject the
presuppositions im p lied in the m ere fact o f se ein g ex clu siv ely genealogical
relationships o f filiation or alliance in relation ship s w h ich can be read in
other w ays (e .g . in term s o f sib lin gsh ip ) and are alw ays also based on other
principles (e .g . eco n o m ic or p o litica l), u nless he situ ates th is sp ecial kind of
use of kinship w ith resp ect to the various kinds of u ses the agen ts m ay make
of it. W hen the anthropologist treats n ative k insh ip term in o lo g y as a clo sed ,
coherent sy stem of p urely logical relation sh ip s, defined o n ce and for all b y the
im plicit axiom atics of a cultural trad ition, he p roh ib its h im self from
apprehending the different practical fu n ctio n s of th e k inship term s and
relations w hich he u n w ittin gly brackets; and by th e sam e token he p roh ibits
him self from grasping the ep istem ological status of a practice w h ich , like his
°w n , p resup poses and consecrates n eutralization of the practical fu n ctio n s of
those term s and relationships.
T h e logical relation ship s con stru cted by the an th rop ologist are op posed
to practical ” relation ship s - practical b ecau se co n tin u o u sly practised, kept
UP, and cu ltivated - in the sam e w ay as the geom etrical sp ace of a m ap , an
im aginary representation of all theoretically p ossib le roads and rou tes, is
3« T h e objective limits o f objectivism

op posed to the network of b eaten tracks, of paths m ade ever m ore practicable
by con stant u se. T h e gen ealogical tree con stru cted b y th e an th rop ologist, a
spatial diagram that can be taken in at a gla n ce, uno intuitu, and scanned
indifferently from any p oint in any d irection , causes the co m p lete network
of kinship relations over several gen erations to exist as on ly theoretical objects
exist, that is, tota sim ul, as a totality p resen t in sim u lta n eity .71 Official
relationships w h ich d o not receive con tin u ou s m aintenance ten d to becom e
w hat th ey are for the gen ealogist: theoretical relationships, like abandoned
roads on an old m ap. In sh ort, the logical relations of kinship to w hich the
structuralist tradition ascribes a m ore or less com p lete au ton om y w ith respect
to econ om ic d eterm in ants, and correlatively a near-perfect internal co
herence, exist in practice on ly through and for the official and unofficial uses
m ade o f th em b y agents w hose attachm ent to keeping them in w orking order
and to m aking th em work in ten sively - h en ce, through constant u se, ever
m ore easily - rises w ith the degree to w h ich they actually or p otentially fulfil
fu n ction s in dispensab le to th em or, to put it less a m b ig u o u sly , the exten t to
w hich th ey do or can satisfy vital m aterial and sym bolic interests.72

O fficializing strategies

By th e m ere fact o f talking o f en d ogam y and o f tryin g, ou t o f a laudable desire


for rigour, to m easure its d egrees, on e assu m es the ex isten ce o f a purely
gen ealogical definition of th e lin eage. In fact, every adult m ale, at w hatever
level on th e genealogical tree, represents a p oint of potential segm entation
w h ich m ay b ecom e effective for a particular social purpose. T h e further back
in tim e and genealogical space w e place th e p oint o f origin - and n othing
forb ids a regression to in finity in th is abstract space - the m ore w e push back
the boundaries o f the lineage and th e m ore th e assim ilative pow er of genealogical
ideology grow s, but on ly at the exp en se o f its distinctive pow er, w hich
increases as w e draw nearer th e p oint o f com m on origin . T h u s the kind of
use w h ich can be m ade o f the exp ression ath (" th e d escen d an ts o f, th e people
o f . . . ”) o b eys a positional logic altogether sim ilar to that w h ich accord in g to
Evans-Pritchard characterizes th e u ses o f the w ord ciengy th e sam e person
b ein g able, d ep en d in g on circum stance, situ ation , and interlocutor, to call
h im self a m em ber o f the A th A bba (th e h ou se, akham ), of the A th Isa'd
( takharrubth), of the A th O usseb'a (adh ru m )t or of the A th Y ahia ('arch). T h e
absolute relativism w hich b esto w s upon the agents th e pow er to m anipulate
w ith ou t lim it their ow n social id en tity (or that o f th e adversaries or partners
w h om they assim ilate or exclu d e b y m anip ulating the lim its o f the classes they
each b elo n g to ), w ould at least have the m erit of repu d iating the naive realism
o f those w h o cannot characterize a grou p other than as a popu lation defined
O fficializing strategies 3 9

directly visible boundaries. H o w ever, the structure o f a group (and h en ce


the social id en tity of th e in dividu als w h o m ake it u p) d ep en d s on the fu n ction
which is fundam ental to its con stru ction and organization. T h is is also
forgotten by those w h o try to escape from genealogical abstraction by con
trasting the d escen t line w ith the local line or the local d escen t grou p , that
portion of a unilineal d escen t group w h ich , b y the m ere fact of com m on
residence, can act collectively as a g ro u p .73 O n e again su ccu m b s to realism
if one forgets that the effects of spatial d istance are d ep en d en t on the fun ction
which the social relation ship aim s to ach ieve. W e m ay adm it, for exam p le,
that the potential u sefu ln ess of a partner ten d s to decrease w ith distance
(except in the case o f p restige m arriages, w here the m ore distant the people
between w hom the relationship is estab lish ed , th e greater th e sym b olic
profit). If u nity of resid en ce con trib u tes to the integration of the grou p , the
unity given to the grou p b y its m obilization for a com m on fun ction con trib utes
towards m in im izin g the effect o f d istance. In sh ort, althou gh w e cou ld in
theory m aintain that there are as m any p ossib le groups as there are fu n ctio n s,
the fact rem ains that, as w e saw in the case o f m arriage, on e cannot call
on absolutely anyone for a n y occasion , any m ore than on e can offer o n e’s
services to anyone for a n y en d . T h u s , to escape from relativism w ithou t
falling into realism , w e m ay posit that th e con stants of the field o f potentially
useful relationships (i.e . th ose that are actually u sable, because spatially close,
and useful, because socially influential) cause each grou p of agents to ten d to
keep up b y con tin u ou s m aintenance-w ork a privileged netw ork o f practical
relationships w hich com p rises not only th e su m total of the genealogical
relationships kept in w orking order (here called practical kinsh ip ) b ut also
the sum total o f the non-gen ealogical relation ship s w hich can be m obilized
for the ordinary n eed s of existen ce (practical relation ship s).
T h e official set o f th ose in dividuals am enable to definition b y the sam e
relationship to the sam e ancestor at th e sam e level on the genealogical tree
may con stitu te a practical grou p : th is is the case w h en the genealogical
divisions cover (in both sen ses) u nits foun ded on other p rin cip les, w hether
ecological (n eigh b ou rh ood ), econ om ic (un d ivid ed p atrim on y), or political.
T he fact that the d escrip tive value o f the genealogical criterion is greater w hen
the com m on origin is nearer and the social u nit is m ore lim ited d oes not m ean
that its unificatory efficacy rises in the sam e w ay. In fact, as w e shall see, the
closest genealogical relationship, that b etw een brothers, is also th e p oin t of
greatest ten sion , and o n ly in cessan t work can m aintain the co m m u n ity of
interests. In sh ort, th e genealogical relation ship is never stron g en ou gh on
its ow n to provide a com p lete d eterm ination o f th e relationship b etw een the
individuals w hich it u n ites, and it has su ch p redictive value on ly w h en it g oes
with the shared interests, produced by th e com m on possession of a m aterial
4o T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

an d sy m b o lic p atrim on y, w h ich en ta ils co llec tiv e vu ln era b ility as w ell as


co llectiv e p rop erty. T h e e x te n t o f practical k insh ip d ep en d s on th e capacity
o f th e official grou p m em b ers to o v erco m e th e ten sio n s en g en d ered b y the
co n flict o f in terests w ith in th e u n d iv id ed p rod u ction and co n su m p tio n grou p ,
and to k eep u p the kind o f p ractical rela tion sh ip s w h ich co n fo rm to th e official
v iew h eld b y every g ro u p wrh ich th in k s o f itself as a corporate u n it. O n that
co n d itio n , th e y m ay en joy b o th th e ad van tages a ccru in g fro m ev ery practical
rela tio n sh ip and th e sy m b o lic p rofits secu red b y th e approval so cia lly con
ferred o n practices c o n fo rm in g to th e official represen tation of practices.
S tra teg ies aim ed at p ro d u c in g "regular ” p ractices are o n e categ o ry , am ong
oth ers, o f officializing strategies, th e o b ject o f w h ich is to tr a n s m u te " e g o is tic ”,
private, particular in terests (n o tio n s d efin ab le only w ith in th e relation ship
b etw een a social u n it and th e en co m p a ssin g social u n it at a h ig h er le v el) in to
d isin te re ste d , co llec tiv e, p u b lic ly av o w a b le, legitim ate in terests. In the
ab sen ce o f p olitical in stitu tio n s en d o w e d w ith an effectiv e m o n o p o ly of
leg itim a te v io len ce, p o litica l a ctio n p rop er can b e ex ercised o n ly b y th e effect
o f officialization and th u s p resu p p o ses th e competence (in th e se n se o f a
ca pacity socially recogn ized in a pu blic au th ority) required in ord er to m anip ulate
th e co llec tiv e d efinition o f th e situ a tio n in su ch a w ay as to b rin g it closer
to th e official d efin ition o f th e situ ation and th ereb y to w in th e m ean s of
m o b ilizin g th e largest p o ssib le grou p , th e op p o site strategy te n d in g to reduce
th e sam e situ ation to a m erely private affair .74 T o p o ssess th e cap ital of
a u th ority necessary to im p o se a d efin ition o f the situ a tio n , esp ecia lly in the
m o m e n ts o f crisis w h e n th e co llec tiv e ju d g m en t falters, is to be able to
m o b ilize th e grou p b y so le m n iz in g , officializin g, an d th u s u n iv e rsa lizin g a
p rivate in cid en t (e .g . b y p resen tin g an in su lt to a particular w om an as an
affront to th e hurma o f th e w h o le g r o u p ). It is also to b e ab le to d em o b ilize
it, b y d iso w n in g th e p erson d irectly co n ce rn ed , w h o , fa ilin g to id en tify his
particular in terest w ith th e " gen eral in te r e s t”, is red u ced to th e sta tu s o f a
m ere in d iv id u a l, co n d em n e d to appear u nreason able in seek in g to im p o se his
private reason - idiotes in G reek and am ah bul in K a b y le.
In fa ct, grou p s d em a n d in fin itely less than legalist form alism w o u ld have
u s b e lie v e , but m u ch m ore than th o se w h o " w o n ’t p lay th e g am e ” are w illin g
to gran t th em . B etw een th e responsible m an, w h o m th e ex c e lle n c e o f a
p ractice im m ed iately in lin e w ith th e official rule, b eca u se p rod u ced b y a
regu lated h abitus, p red isp o ses to fulfil th e fu n ctio n s o f d eleg a te and sp o k e s
m an, and th e irresponsible m an w h o , n ot c o n ten t w ith break in g th e ru les, d oes
n o th in g to ex ten u a te h is in fraction s, g r o u p s m ake room for th e w ell-m eaning
rule-breaker w h o b y c o n c e d in g th e ap pearan ces or in ten t o f co n fo rm ity , that
is, recognition, to rules he can n eith er resp ect nor d en y , co n trib u tes to the
- en tirely official - su rvival of th e ru le. It is natural that p o litics sh o u ld b e th e
O fficializing strategies 4i

ivjjeged arena for th e d ia lec tic of th e official and th e u sefu l: in their efforts
^ draw th e g ro u p ’s d eleg a tio n upon th e m se lv e s and w ith d raw it from their
rivals, the ag en ts in co m p etitio n for p olitical p ow er are lim ited to ritual
s tr a te g ie s and strategic ritu als, p ro d u cts o f th e c o lle c tiv iz in g of private
in te r e sts and th e sy m b o lic ap propriation o f official in terests.
But th e stru g g le to m o n o p o liz e th e leg itim a te exercise o f v io le n c e - that is
to say, ^ e ab sen ce o f ec o n o m ic a cc u m u la tio n , th e stru g g le to a ccu m u late
sym bolic capital in th e form of c o llec tiv ely reco g n ized credit - m u st n ot lead
us to forget th e n ecessarily h id d en o p p o sitio n b etw een th e official and th e
unofficial. C o m p etitio n for official p ow er can be se t up o n ly b etw een m en ,
while the w o m e n m ay en ter in to com p etitio n for a p ow er wrh ich is b y d efin itio n
condem ned to rem ain unofficial or ev en cla n d estin e and o cc u lt. W e find in
fact in the p olitical sp h ere th e sam e d iv isio n o f lab ou r w h ich en tru sts relig io n
- p u b lic , official, so le m n , and co llec tiv e - to th e m en , and m agic - secret,
clandestine, and private - to th e w o m e n . In th is co m p e titio n th e m en have
the w hole official in stitu tio n o n their sid e , startin g w ith th e m vth ico-ritu al
representations and th e rep resen tation s o f k in sh ip w h ic h , b y red u cin g the
opposition b etw e en th e official and th e private to the o p p o sitio n b etw een the
outside and th e in sid e, h en ce th e m ale and th e fem a le, esta b lish a sy stem a tic
hierarchization c o n d e m n in g w o m e n ’s in te rv e n tio n s to a sh a m e fu l, secret, or,
at b est, unofficial ex iste n c e . Even w h en w o m e n d o w ield th e real p ow er, as
is often th e case in m atrim onial m atters, th e y can ex ercise it fu lly o n ly on
condition that th e y leave th e appearance o f powrer, that is, its official
m anifestation, to th e m e n ; to have any p ow er at all, w o m e n m ust m ake do
with th e unofficial p ow er o f th e eminence grise, a dom in ated p o w e r w h ich is
opposed to official p ow er in that it can op erate o n ly b y p ro x y , u n d er th e cover
of an official a u th o rity , as w ell as to th e su b v ersiv e refusal o f th e rule-breaker,
in that it still serves th e au th ority it u ses.
T h e true sta tu s o f kin relatio n sh ip s, p rin cip les of stru ctu ration of th e social
world w h ich , as su c h , alw ays fulfil a p olitical fu n ctio n , is m o st clearly seen
in the d ifferen t u ses wrh ich m en and w o m e n can m ake o f th e sam e field of
genealogical rela tio n sh ip s, and in particular in th eir d ifferen t " r ea d in g s” and
u s e s ” o f gen ea lo g ica lly am b ig u o u s k in sh ip ties (w h ich are relatively freq u en t
on accou n t of the narrow area of m atrim onial c h o ic e ).

In all cases o f genealogically am biguous relationship, one can always bring closer
the most distant relative, or m ove closer to him , by em phasizing what unites, w hile
one can hold the closest relative at a distance by em phasizing wrhat separates. What
ls at stake in these m anipulations, w hich it w ould be naive to consider fictitious on
the grounds that no one is taken in, is in all cases nothing other than the definition
of the practical lim its of the group, w hich can be redrawn by this m eans so as to go
beyond or fall short of an individual one w ants to annex or ex clu d e. An idea of these
subtleties m ay be got from considering the uses of the term khal (strictly, m other’s
42 T h e objective limits o f objectivism

Moussa A A,«aA
Koula (

Ahccne
± Ahmed

Ardjab

i
k.- Mohand A thm an
I
/
K hedoudja
“ Ahmed

Case i Case 2

F ig . i.

b roth er): used by a m arabout to a com m on, lay peasant, it expresses the desire to
distinguish oneself, w ithin the lim its of courtesy, by indicating the absence of any
legitim ate kin relationship; whereas between peasants, it m anifests the intention of
setting up a minimal relationship of familiarity by invoking a distant, hypothetical
affinal relationship.

It is the official reading that the an th rop ologist is accep tin g w h en , w ith his
in form an ts’ b lessin g , he assim ilates to parallel-cousin m arriage the relation
sh ip w h ich u nites, for exam p le, secon d -d egree patrilateral parallel cou sin s
w hen on e o f them is h im self th e ch ild o f a parallel-cousin m arriage, and a
fo rtio ri w h en b oth are ch ild ren of su ch m arriages (as in th e case o f an
exchan ge o f w o m en b etw een the son s of tw o b rothers). T h e m ale, that is to
say, the d om in an t reading, w h ich im p oses itself w ith particular in sisten ce in
all p u b lic, official situ a tio n s - in sh ort, in all honou r relation ship s in w hich
one m an of h onou r is sp eak in g to another - p rivileges th e n oblest asp ect,
the aspect m ost w o rth y o f p u b lic p roclam ation, of a m ulti-faceted relation ship ,
lin k ing each of th e in d ivid u als w h o are to be situated to his patrilineal
forebears and, th rou gh th e latter, to the patrilineal forebears th ey have in
co m m o n . It represses the other p ossib le pathw ay, alb eit so m etim es m ore
direct and often m ore co n v en ien t p ractically, w h ich w ou ld reckon through
the w om en . T h u s , gen ealogical prop riety requires on e to con sid er Z oubir as
having m arried in A ldja his fath er’s fath er’s b rother’s so n ’s d augh ter, or his
fath er’s b roth er’s d a u gh ter’s daughter, rather than h is m o th er’s b roth er’s
daughter, even if, as h app en s to be the case, th is latter relation ship lies at
the origin o f the m arriage (see fig. i, case i) ; or again, to cite another case
from the sam e g en ea lo g y , that K h ed oud ja sh ould b e seen as her husband
C ollective beliefs an d w hite lies 43

d ’s father's father’s b rother's son 's daughter, instead o f b ein g treated


cross cou sin (father’s siste r’s d au gh ter), w h ich sh e equally w ell is (case
^ T h e h eretical reading, w'hich p rivileges the relation s through w o m en that
exclu d ed from the official a ccou n t, is reserved for private situ ation s, if
^ot for m a g ic, w h ich , like in su lts, d esign ates its victim as " his m o th er’s son ”
and not “ h is fath er's son A part from the cases in w hich w om en are sp eak ing
to oth er w om en about a w om an ’s kin relation sh ip s, w hen use of the language
of kin sh ip through w om en is taken for granted, th is language m ay also be
current in the m ost in tim ate sp h ere of fam ily life, i.e . in a w o m a n ’s
con versatio n s w ith her father and his brothers or her h u sb an d , her so n s, or
even p erh a p s her h u sb an d ’s b rother, taking on th en the value of an affirm ation
of th e in tim a c y o f the grou p of in terlocu to rs as w ell as at least the sym b olic
participation in that in tim acy of th e person th u s d esign a ted . T h e an th rop olo
gist is in d eed the o n ly person to undertake pure, d isin terested research into
all p o ssib le routes b etw een tw o p o in ts in gen ealogical s p a c e : in p ractice, the
ch oice o f one route rather than an oth er, the m ale or the fem ale, w h ich orients
the m arriage tow ards on e or the oth er lin eage, d ep en d s on the pow er relations
w ith in the d om estic u n it and ten ds to rein force, b y legitim a tin g it, the
balance o f pow er w h ich m akes th e ch o ice p ossib le.

C ollective beliefs an d w h ite lies

T he am biguity o f the strategies in to w h ich it enters is su ch as to lead us to


ask w hether parallel-cousin m arriage sh ou ld be seen as th e ideal, hardly ever
achieved in practice, o f accom p lish ed m arriage; or as an ethical norm (a duty
of honour) w hich bears on every m arriageable person b u t w h ich can
conceivably be broken (w h en circu m stan ces m ake it im p o ssib le); or sim p ly
as a " m o v e ” recom m en d ed in certain situ ation s. It is because it is all these
things at once that it is a favoured ob ject of m anip ulation. In this case, the
second-order strategies aim ed at d isg u isin g the first-order strategies and th e
interests th ey p u rsu e, u nd er the appearances of o b ed ien ce to the rule, arise
from the a m b igu ity of a practice that is ob jectively am en able to a tw ofold
reading, th e gen ealogical reading, w h ich everyth in g en cou rages, and the
econom ic and p olitical reading, w h ich w ould p resup pose access to com p lete
inform ation on the exchan ges b etw een the groups in q u estio n . B ut the
ideological trap w orks both w ays: too m uch faith in native a ccou n ts can lead
°n e to present a m ere id eological screen as the norm o f practice; too m uch
distrust of them m ay cause on e to n eglect the social fu n ction of a lie socially
devised and en cou raged , on e o f th e m ean s agen ts have of correcting the
sym bolic effects o f strategies im p o sed b y other n ece ssitie s .75
T h ere is n o d ou b t that th e p re-em in en t p osition en joyed by parallel-cousin
44 T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

m arriage in native accoun ts and, co n seq u en tly , in eth nograph ic accoun ts, is
d u e to the fact that it is the m arriage m ost p erfectly co n sisten t w ith the
m yth ico-ritu al representation of th e sexual d iv isio n of labour, and m ore parti*
cularly o f th e fu n ction s assigned to the m en and the w o m en in inter-group
relations. F irst, it con stitu tes the m ost ab solute affirm ation of the refusal to
recogn ize the relation ship of affinity for w hat it is, i.e. w hen it does not appear
as a sim p le duplication of the relationship o f filiation: there is praise for the
result peculiar to a m arriage b etw een parallel co u sin s, the fact that the
resu lting ch ild ren (" th ose w h ose extraction is u n m ix ed , w h o se b lood is p u r e ”)
can be attached to th e sam e lineage through their father or their m oth er ("he
took his m aternal u n cles from the place w here he has his r o o ts’*- ichathel,
ikh aw el, or in A rabic, " h is m aternal u n cle is h is paternal u n c le ” - khalu
ram m u). O n the other hand w e know that the husband is free (in theory) to
repudiate his w ife, and that a w ife co m in g from ou tsid e is a virtual stranger
until sh e has p roduced a m ale d escen dan t and so m etim es even b eyon d that
tim e. W e know too the am bivalen ce of the relationship b etw een n ep h ew and
m aternal uncle ( khal): " h e w h o has no en em ies need on ly await his sister's
s o n ” (that is, the person w h o , in con tem p t o f h onou r, can alw ays claim his
m oth er’s in heritan ce p o rtio n ).
But the refusal to recogn ize the affinity relationship (" th e w om an neither
u n ites or se p a r a te s”, tham attuth u r th a zed d i ur theferreq) finds reinforcem ent,
if not a basis, in the m yth ical representation of w om an as the sou rce from
w hich im pu rity and d ishon ou r threaten to en ter the lin eage. N o th in g entirely
g ood can com e fom a w om an : sh e can bring n o th in g but evil or, at b est, the
lesser of tw o ev ils, her w ick ed n ess on ly b ein g com p en sated for by her weakness
(" G od knew what he w as creating in the d on k ey; he d id n ’t g ive him any
h o rn s”) . T h is lesser ev il, th is g o o d in evil, alw ays arises in w om en through
the corrective and p rotective action o f a m an. "S h am e is th e m a id e n ” - aVar
thaqchichth - the proverb says, and th e son -in -law is so m etim es called setter
la y u b " th e veil cast over sh a m e ” .76 It fo llo w s that a w om an is n ever w orth
m ore than the w orth o f the m en of her lin eage. It follow s too that the best,
or least bad, of w om en is the on e w h o is sp ru n g from the m en o f th e lineage,
the patrilateral parallel cou sin , the m ost m ascu lin e of w om en - th e extrem e
in stance o f w h ich , the im p ossib le figm en t of a patriarchal im agin ation , is
A th en e, born o f Z e u s’ head. "M arry the daughter o f you r 'amm; even if she
ch ew s y o u , sh e w o n ’t sw allow y o u .” T h e patrilateral parallel co u sin , a cu l
tivated, straightened w om an , is op posed to th e m atrilateral parallel cou sin ,
a natural, tw isted , m aleficen t, im pu re w om an , as the m ale-fem ale is op posed
to the fem ale-fem ale, i.e . in accordance w ith the stru cture (o f the ty p e
a :b : : b j : b 2) w h ich also organ izes the m y th ic space o f the h ouse and o f the
agrarian calen dar .77 M arriage to the father’s brother’s daughter is the m ost
C ollective beliefs an d w h ite lies 45
j 0 f ail m arriages, and the on e m ost likely to call d ow n b lessin gs on
roup- I 1 usec*t0 r^ e ° f the o p en in g rite of the m arriage season ,
nded, like the h o m o lo g o u s rite in the case of p lou gh in g, to exorcize the
threat contained in the co m in g togeth er of m ale and fem ale, fire and w ater,
kv and earth, plough sh are and furrow , in acts o f in evitab le sa crileg e .78
T h e projection of the categories of m yth ic th o u g h t on to kin relation ship s
duces op p osition s w h ich w ould rem ain relatively unreal if th e d ivision s
thev engender d id not corresp ond to a fun dam en tal d ivision in d om estic
politics: the interests of the m other, seek in g to reinforce her p osition in her
adoptive hom e by b rin gin g into the fam ily a w om an sp ru n g from her ow n
lineage, are ob jectively op p osed to the in terests of the father, wrh o, in arranging
his son ’s m arriage, as befits a m an, by an agreem en t w ith h is ow n kin, his
own brother, or som e other patrilineal kinsm an, rein forces the agnatic unit
and, thereby, his ow n p osition in the d om estic u n it.

The in-marrying woman ( thislith), depending on whether she is linked to her


husband’s father (and in that case, whether she is so by her father, or more generally
bv a man, or by her m other) or to her husband’s m other (and there again, whether
it is by her father or her m oth er), carries very different w eight in the power relationship
with her husband’s m other ( thamgharth); this relationship clearly also varies depending
on the thamgharth’s genealogical relationship to the men of the lineage (i.e . to her
husband s father). T h u s the patrilateral parallel cousin finds herself from the outset
in a position of strength w hen she has to deal w ith an "old w o m a n ” from outside the
lineage, whereas the "old w om an’s ” position may be strengthened in her relations with
thislith, and also, indirectly, in her relations w ith her ow n husband, w hen thislith is
her own sister’s daughter, and, a fortiori, her brother s daughter. Since the mother
and the father have (in a certain respect) structurally opposed interests, the so n ’s
marriage provokes a confrontation - albeit undeclared, because the wom en can have
no official strategy - betw een the parents, the father tending to favour marriage within
the lineage, i.e. the one w hich mythical representation, the ideological legitim ation
of male dom ination, presents as the best, while the mother directs her secret approaches
towards her own lineage, and at the opportune m om ent will invite her husband to give
his official sanction to the results. T h e wom en w ould not deploy in matrimonial
exploration all the ingenuity and effort that is generally conceded to them by the sexual
division of labour, at least up to the m om ent w hen official dialogue can be established
between the m en, if it were not the case that their so n ’s marriage contains the
potentiality of the subversion of their ow n pow er, and thus of a crisis in the dom estic
economy which w ould lead consum ption ( lakhla ukham, the em ptiness of the house)
to overtake the accum ulation of stocks (la'mara ukham, the fullness of the house),
resulting eventually in the break up of joint ow nership. T h is m eans, incidentally, that
the interests of "the old m an ” (amghar) and "the old w om an ” ( thamgharth) are not
necessarily antagonistic: conscious of the advantage to him self of the choice of a young
Wlfe (thislith) fully devoted to a thamgharth herself devoted to the lineage, am gharw ill
authorize thamgharth to seek out a docile girl from her lineage: moreover, since the
w ole structure of practical relationships betw een kinsm en is present in each particular
je ationship, he may deliberately choose to take for his son his own sister’s daughter
\patrilateral cross cousin) or even, w ithout being seen to do so , encourage his wife
t° marry him to her broth ers daughter (matrilateral cross cousin) rather than
46 T he objective limits o f objectivism

strengthen the hold of a brother already dom inant (by age or prestige), by agreeing
to take his daughter (patrilateral parallel cousin).

Parallel-cousin m arriage m ay in certain cases im p ose itself as a necessity


w h ich is, howrever, not that of a gen ealogical rule. In practice th is ideal
marriage is often a forced ch o ic e, w'hich p eop le som etim es try to pass off as
a p ositive ch oice of the id eal, th u s m aking a virtue of n ecessity . T h e native
" theory ”, taken up w ith en th u siasm b y legalist form alism , accord in g to which
everyon e has a sort o f " righ t o f p re-e m p tio n ” over h is parallel cou sin , is
d o u b tless sim p ly another exp ression o f the id eo lo g y o f m ascu lin ity w hich gives
the m an su periority, and therefore the in itiative, in all relations b etw een the
sexes and especially in m arriage.

It is im possible to find an informant or anthropologist who will not declare that


in Arab and Berber countries every boy has a ''rig h t” to his parallel cousin: " If the
boy wants his father’s brother’s daughter, he has a right to her. But if he d o esn ’t, he
isn ’t consulted. It’s the same as with land.” A lthough infinitely closer to the reality
of practice than anthropological legalism , which does not even suspect the homology
betw een a m an’s relation to the w om en of the lineage and his relation to the land,
this remark by an inform ant, w hich adopts the official language of law, masks the real
and infinitely more com plex relation linking an individual with his parallel cousin.
A m an’s supposed right to the bent'amm, the father’s brother’s daughter, may in fact
be a duty which obeys the same principles as the obligation to avenge a kinsman or to
buy up a piece of family land coveted by strangers, and is therefore totally binding
only in very special and even som ewhat exceptional circum stances.79 T h e fact that,
in the case of land, the right of pre-em ption (achfa') is formulated and codified by
the learned legal tradition (furnished with an institutionalized authority and guaranteed
by the courts) as w ell as by " cu sto m ” ( qanun) in no way im plies that the juridical
or customary rule can be m ade the principle of the practices actually observed when
land changes hands. Because the sale of a piece of land belonging to the patrimony
is first and forem ost an internal matter for the lineage, it is entirely exceptional for
the group to have recourse to the authorities (the clan or village assem bly) which
transmute the obligation of honour into a right, and if they do invoke the right or
custom of chafa‘ (or achfa'), they are alm ost always m otivated by principles which
have nothing to do w ith those of legal rights (e.g. the intention to challenge the
purchaser of the lands by dem anding the annulm ent of an allegedly illegal sale) and
which govern m ost of the practices of buying or selling land. T h e obligation to marry
a woman who is in a situation similar to that of fallow land, neglected by its masters
( athbur, unmarried girl; el bur, fallow land) sim ply im poses itself w ith less urgency
than the obligation to buy land put up for sale by a group m em ber, or to buy back
land fallen into the hands of outsiders, land ill defended and ill possessed ; and it is
infinitely less binding than the im perative of avenging the murder of a group mem ber.
In all these cases, the force o f the duty depends on the agent’s positions in the
genealogy and also, of course, on their dispositions. T h u s, in the case of revenge, the
obligation of honour may becom e a right to honour in the eyes of som e (the same
murder is som etim es avenged tw ice), while others w ill back out or bring them selves
to do it only under pressure. In the case of land, the material advantage o f purchase
is clear, and the hierarchy of rights to honour and obligations to buy is both more
apparent and more often transgressed, with conflicts and com plex transactions betw een
C ollective beliefs an d w h ite lies 47
of the family who feel obliged to purchase but cannot afford to, and
m e m b e rs
t^l°Se xrhn have lesser duty-rights to purchase but could afford to.
those
In practice, parallel-cousin m arriage d oes not take on the ideal sign ifican ce
and function w hich th e official a ccou n ts attribute it, ex cep t in th ose fam ilies
which are sufficiently stron gly integrated to wrant th is rein forcem en t o f their
integration. It on ly im p oses itself, at least in an a b solu te wray, in extrem e
circum stances, su ch as the case of the daughter of the am engur, the m an w ho
has " fa iled ”, w h o has n ot had a m ale heir. In this case in terest and d uty
com cide to require the m arriage of the parallel co u sin s, sin ce the amengur's
brother and his ch ild ren w ill in any case inherit not on ly the land an d the
house of the " fa ile d ” m an but also his ob ligation s w ith regard to his
daughters (particularly in the case o f w id ow h ood or rep u d iation ), and sin ce
this marriage is, m oreover, the on ly wray o f avoid in g the threat w'hich m arriage
to a stranger (a w rith ) w o u ld pose to the h onou r of th e grou p and perhaps
to its patrim ony.
T h e obligation to m arry the parallel cou sin also im p o ses itself w h en a
daughter has not fou n d a h usb and , or at least not fou n d on e w orth y o f her
family: " H e wrh o has a daughter and d oes not marry her off m u st bear her
sh am e” ; " T h e m an w h ose daughter grow s up w ith ou t m arrying w ould be
better off dead than a liv e .” T h e relation ship b etw een brothers is su ch that
a man cannot w ith h old his daughter w h en his b rother, esp ecially an elder
brother, asks for her for his son . In th is lim itin g case, in w hich the taker is
also the giver, in asm uch as he is the eq u ivalen t of and su b stitu te for the father,
shirking the obligation is scarcely thinkable, as w h en an u n cle asks for his
niece on behalf of so m eon e to wrh om he has prom ised her; it w ould m oreover,
be a serious sligh t to a m an ’s b rothers to marry off his daughter w ithou t
inform ing and co n su ltin g th e m , and a b roth er’s disapproval, often given as
a reason for refusin g, is not ahvays a ritual p retext. T h e d em an d s o f solidarity
are even m ore b in d in g , and refusal is unthin k able wrh en , g o in g against all
propriety (it is alw ays the m an w ho " a sk s” for the w om an in m arriage),
the girl’s father offers her for h is n ep h ew , h in tin g at it as d iscreetly as
possible, thou gh to con travene cu stom in th is w ay on e has to be able to co u n t
°n a relationship as stron g as that b etw een twro closely u n ited brothers. T h e
fact rem ains that, sin ce honou r and d ishon ou r are held in co m m o n , th e tw o
brothers have the sam e in terest in "coverin g u p the sham e before it is
un v eile d ”, or, in the language of sy m b o lic in terest, before the fam ily finds
that its sym b o lic capital has been d evalu ed b y the lack o f takers for its
aughters on the m atrim onial m arket .80 S o , even in th ese lim itin g situ ation s
where the ch oice of th e parallel co u sin im p oses itself writh extrem e rigour,
ere is no need to appeal to ethical or juridical rules in order to accou n t for
Practices w hich are th e result of strategies co n sciou sly or u n co n scio u sly
48 T he objective lim its o f objectivism

directed tow ards th e satisfaction o f a d eterm in ate type of m aterial and sy m


bolic in terests. T h e eth ic o f honou r is the self-in terest eth ic of social for
m ations. gro u p s, or classes in w hose patrim on y sy m b o lic capital figures
p ro m in en tly . O n ly total unaw areness o f the terrible and perm anent loss
w h ich a slur on th e honour of the w o m en o f the lin eage can represent could
lead on e to see o b ed ien ce to an ethical or juridical rule as the principle
of the a ctio n s in ten d ed to p revent, con ceal, or make good the outrage.
M arriages w h ich are id en tical as regards gen ea lo g y alone m ay th u s have
differen t, even o p p o site , m ea n in g s and fu n ctio n s, d ep en d in g on the strategies
in w h ich th ey are in v o lv ed . T h e s e can on ly be grasped b y m eans o f a re
con stru ction of th e entire system of relation ship s b etw een the twro associated
grou p s and o f th e state of th ese relation ship s at a g iven p oint in tim e. A s soon
as one con sid ers not sim p ly the m arriages already co n clu d ed , those counted
and classified by the g en ealogist, b u t also the co n scio u s and u n con sciou s
strategies and th e ob jective co n d ition s w h ich m ade them p o ssib le and n eces
sary, i.e . the in d ivid u al and collectiv e fu n ction s w h ich they have fulfilled , one
cannot fail to n otice that any tw o m arriages b etw een parallel co u sin s m ay have
n o th in g in co m m o n , d ep en d in g on w heth er th ey w ere co n clu d ed d uring the
lifetim e of the co m m o n paternal grandfather, and even perhaps by him (w ith
the agreem en t of th e tw o fathers, or "over their h e a d s”), or on th e contrary
by direct agreem en t b etw een the tw o b rothers ; w hether in th is latter case they
w ere arranged w h ile the future sp ou ses w ere still ch ild ren , or on ce th ey were
o f m arriageable age (not to m en tio n the case o f the daughter w h o has already
passed that a g e); w h eth er th e tw o brothers live and work separately or have
kept u n d iv id ed th eir farm ing activity (land, herds, and other goo d s) and their
d o m estic e c o n o m y ("a sin gle cook in g p o t ”), not to m en tion th e case in w hich
on ly the appearance of u n d ivid ed property is m aintain ed ; w h eth er it is the
elder brother ( d a d d a ) w h o g iv es his daughter to his junior, or on th e contrary
w h o takes a d augh ter from h im , a d ifferen ce in age and esp ecially in sib lin g
order so m etim es b ein g associated w ith d ifferen ces in social rank and prestige;
w h eth er the brother g iv in g h is daughter has a m ale heir or is an am engur;
w h eth er the tw o brothers are alive at the m om en t w hen the m arriage is
settled , or on ly one of th em is, and m ore p recisely w h eth er th e surviving
brother is the b o y s father, the d esign ated protector of th e girl he is taking
for h is son (esp ecially if sh e has n o adult b rother), or on the contrary, the
girl’s father, wrh o m ay u se his d om in ant p osition in order to secure the
allegiance of th e son -in -law . A nd as if to add to the a m b igu ity of this type
of m arriage, it is not u nu sual, as w e have seen , that th e d uty to sacrifice
o n eself, so as to be the " v eil cast over s h a m e ”, and to p rotect a su sp ect or
ill-favoured g irl, sh ould fall to a m an from the poorest branch o f th e lineage,
w h ose act it is easy, u seful and p raisew orthy to praise as if it sprang from
Collective beliefs a n d w h ite lies 49

h is e a g e r n e s s to fulfil a d uty of h o n o u r tow ards the d augh ter of h is 'amm or


even to exercise his right as a m ale m em b er o f the lin ea g e .81
I n f o r m a n t s con stantly rem ind u s by th eir very in coh eren ces and con trad ic
tions that m arriage can n ever be fu lly defined in gen ealogical term s, and that
it may take on different, even o p p o site m ean in gs and fu n ctio n s, accord in g
to its d eterm in in g con d itio n s. T h e y also rem ind u s that parallel-cousin
marriage can be th e w orst or the b est o f m arriages d ep en d in g on w h eth er it
is seen as voluntary or forced , i.e . d ep en d in g prim arily on th e relative p o sitio n s
0f the fam ilies in the social stru ctu re. It m ay be the best kind o f m arriage
("to marry the daughter of your 'amm is to have h o n ey in your m o u th ”), not
simply from the m y th ic p oin t o f v ie w , but also in term s o f practical
satisfactions, sin ce it is the least on erou s econ om ically and socially - the
transactions and m aterial and sy m b o lic costs b ein g reduced to a m in im u m
- and at the sam e tim e th e safest: th e sam e term s are u sed to contrast a close
marriage w ith a d istant o n e as are u sed to contrast direct exch a n g es b etw een
peasants w ith m arket tran saction s .82 It m ay also be th e w orst kind of u nion
("Marriage b etw een *paternal u n c le s ' - a z w a j el la 'm u m - is bitter in m y
heart; I pray y ou , oh m y G od , p reserve m e from that m isfo r tu n e ”),83 and
also the least prestigious (" F rien d s have com e w h o oversh adow y o u ; you re
main, you w h o are b la c k ”) w h en ever it is forced on th e grou p as a last resort.
In short, the apparent in coh eren ce o f in form an ts’ accou n ts in fact draw s our
attention to th e fun ction al a m b ig u ity o f a genealogically (i.e . id eo lo g ica lly )
unequivocal m arriage, an d th ereb y to the m an ip u lation s of the ob jective
m eaning o f practice and its p ro d u ct w h ich th is com b in a tio n of am bigu ity
and clarity allow s and en cou rages -

Perhaps the only victim of these m anipulations is the anthropologist: by putting


into the same class all patrilateral parallel-cousin marriages (and assim ilated cases)
whatever their functions for the individuals and groups involved, he assimilates
practices which may differ in all the respects left out of account by the genealogical
model. One example will suffice to give an idea of the econom ic and sym bolic
inequalities w hich may be disguised beneath the mask of the genealogical relationship
between classificatory parallel cou sin s and to bring to light the specifically political
strategies cloaked under the legitim acy of th is relationship. T h e spouses belong to the
house of Belaid ”, a big fam ily in term s both of its num bers (perhaps ten m en of
fork in g age and about forty people in all) and of its econom ic capital. Because
undivided property is never anything other than a refusal to divide, the inequalities
" nich separate the potential "shares ” and the respective contributions of different lines
strongly felt. T h u s the line of the descendants of A hm ed, from which the
, egroom com es> *s m uch richer in men than the line of Y oucef, from which the
e com es, and which is correspondingly richer in land. Wealth in m en, considered
2s reproductive strength and therefore as the prom ise of still greater wealth in m en,
18 related, provided one knows how to make the capital work, to a great num ber of
? Vantages the most im portant of w hich is authority in the conduct o f the house’s
internal and external affairs: " T h e house of men is greater than the house of ca ttle”
5° T h e objective limits o f objectivism

( akham irgazen if akham izgaren). T h e pre-em inent position of this line is shown by
the fact that it has been able to take over the first nam es of the rem ote ancestors of
the family and that it includes A hcene, who represents the group in all major external
encounters, w hether conflict or cerem onies, and A hm ed, the "wise m a n ” who by his
mediation and counsel ensures the unity of the group. T h e girl’s father (Y oucef) js
totally excluded from power, not so m uch on account of the difference in age separating
him from his uncles (A hcene and A hm ed), since A h m ed ’s sons, although much
younger than he, are associated w ith the decisions, but above all because he has cut
him self off from com petition betw een m en, from all exceptional contributions, and
even to a certain extent from work on the land. (A n only son, and, moreover, "son
of the w id o w ”, coddled by a w hole set o f w om en (m other, aunts, etc.) as the only
hope of the lineage, kept away from the gam es and work of the other children in order
to go to school, he has kept in a marginal position all his life. After a period of army
service and then agricultural labour abroad, he takes advantage, now that he is back
in the village, of his favourable position as possessor of a large share of the patrimony
with only a few m ouths to feed, restricting him self to the work of overseeing,
gardening, and tending (m ills, gardens, and fig-driers) - those tasks w hich require the
least initiative and entail the few est responsibilities, in short, the least male of male
jobs.) T h ese are som e of the elem ents which m ust be taken into account in order to
understand the internal and external political function of the marriage betw een Belaid
- t h e last son of Amar, him self the son of A hm ed, the uncle of Y oucef - and Y ou cefs
daughter Yasmina, his classificatorv parallel cousin (father’s father’s brother’s son’s
daughter). T h is marriage, arranged by A hm ed and A hcene, the holders of p o w er-
as usual w ithout consulting Y oucef, and leaving his w ife to protest in vain against a
union bringing little profit - reinforces the position of the dom inant line, strengthening
its links w ith the line rich in land, w ithout in any way com prom ising its external
prestige, since the structure of dom estic power is never declared outwardly, and
because even its m ost im poverished mem ber nevertheless shares in the brilliance of
the lineage. T h u s the com plete truth about this marriage resides in its tw ofold truth.
T he official im age, that of a marriage betw een parallel cousins in a large family
anxious to demonstrate its unity by a marriage able to reinforce it at the sam e time
as displaying its adherence to the m ost sacred of the ancestral traditions, coexists
without contradiction, even am ong strangers to the group, w ho are always sufficiently
well inform ed never to be taken in by the representations they are given, with
knowledge of the objective truth about a union w hich sanctions the forced alliance
between tw o social units sufficiently attached to one another negatively, for better or
for w orse, i.e. genealogically, to be forced to unite their com plem entary riches.
Endless exam ples could be given of this sort of collective bad faith.

It is u nd erstan dab le that, faced w ith su ch accom plished p rod ucts o f the
art of m asking con strain ts and in terests u nd er exp ressio n s capable o f sidetrack
ing sp on tan eou s h erm en eu tics tow ards the less real but m ore presentable
m otives o f m orality and d u ty , the collectiv e ju d gem en t should h esitate. But
there is n o case in w hich th e ob jective m ean in g o f a m arriage is so strongly
marked as to leave n o room for sy m b o lic transfiguration. T h u s th e marriage
of the so-called mechrut, by w h ich a m an w h o has no male d escen d an ts gives
his d augh ter in m arriage to an " h e ir ” (aw rith ) on con d ition that he com es
to live in his fath er-in -law ’s h ou se, is en cou n tered on ly in tales or anthropology'
books in the form o f th e sort of purchase of a son -in -law , recruited for his
Collective beliefs a n d w h ite lies

er§ 0f p rod uction and reprodu ction , that m echan ical application o f the
Official p r in c ip le K abyle w orld -view w ould lead u s to see in i t .84 T h e
° n f o r m a n t s w ho m en tion it, in w hatever region , are right in saying that this

form of marriage is u n k n ow n am ong th em and on ly to be foun d in other areas.


T h e m ost careful scru tin y of gen ealogies and fam ily h istories w ill not reveal
a single case w hich p erfectly m atches the d efin ition (" I g iv e y o u m y d aughter,
but vou w ill com e to m y h o m e ”). Rut on e is eq u ally en titled to claim that
there is no fam ily w h ich d oes not in clu d e at least on e a w rith y but an aw rith
disguised u nd er the official im age of the " a sso cia te” or th e "adopted s o n ”.
The word aw rith , the " h eir ”, is an official eu p h em ism a llo w in g p eop le to nam e
the unnam eable, i.e . a m an w ho cou ld o n ly be d efin ed , in the h o u se w hich
w elcom es him , as th e h usband of h is w ife. It is clear that th e m an of honour
who plays the gam e fairly can cou n t on th e b en evolen t co m p licity o f his ow n
group w hen he attem p ts to d isguise as an ad option a u n io n w h ich , view ed
cvnically, represents an inversion o f all th e honourable form s of m arriage and
which, as su ch , is no less dishon ou rab le for the aw rith (" h e is the on e w h o
is playing the b r id e ”, th ey say) than for kinsm en su fficien tly self-in terested
to give their daughter to th is kind of u np aid d om estic servan t. A nd th e grou p
is quick to join in the circle of the calculated lies w h ich ten d to con ceal its
failure to find an h onou rab le way of savin g th e am engur from resortin g to such
extrem ities in order to prevent the " b a n k ru p tcy ” ( lakh la) o f h is fam ily.

But the genealogies also contain cases about w hich it is hard to understand how
they can benefit from similar com plicity. For exam ple, in the history of one prestigious
lineage one finds a series of acquisitions of sons-in-law who are neither seen as nor
declared mechrut, although their annexation was im posed not by necessity, but as part
of a quasi-systematic effort to increase the capital o f m en, a fact w hich one m ight expect
to double the sense of scandal. In one such case, the fact that the " ill-gotten ” son-in-law
was a marabout no doubt lent credibility to the status of "adopted son ” which he was
supposed to have received, although he had put him self in the position of an awrith
by coming to live with his w ife’s family (a sign that the latter were in a stronger
position) after spending a few m onths with his own fam ily (w hich he was made to
do for the sake of appearances). N evertheless, various subterfuges were resorted to
in order to get over the problem of his presence in the h o u se : he was given the job
of miller, which made it possible to keep him at a distance; as is customary in such
c^ses, his food was brought to him at the m ill. T h en the heads o f the lineage discreetly
suggested that he should take outside work, an ingenious solution w hich kept the profits
of his labour w hile rem oving the em barrassing situation created by his presence in
ls l i f e ’s fam ily. After the death of her husband, the woman remarried and had a
son, whom she took back into her ow n lineage w hen her second husband died; this
son was not regarded as an aw ritn, either, w hen his maternal uncles married him to
j*n orphan under their protection, so as to bind him to her. T h e reason was that in
nnging up their quasi-son as "their ow n s o n ” (though he still calls them khal and
not dadda, and is called A hm ed u A gouni, after his father’s village) and marrying him
o one of their quasi-daughters, they had given sufficient proof of their adherence to
e official image of the aw rith as " h eir ” and "adopted s o n ” to im pose a collective
52 T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

recognition of it. T h is is how the second-order strategies - w hich all tend to transform
useful relationships into official ones and hence to ensure that practices which in fact
obey altogether different principles appear to be deduced fom the genealogical
definition - achieve in addition an unexpected result, in giving a representation of
practice seem ingly designed to confirm the representation the structuralist anthro
pologist has of practice.

T he ordin ary and the extra-ordinary

T h u s , far from o b eyin g a norm w hich w ou ld design ate an ob ligatory spouse


from am on g the wTh ole set o f official k in, the arrangem ent o f m arriages d epends
d irectly on the state o f the practical k insh ip relation s, relation ship s through
th e m en usable by th e m en and relation ship s through the w o m en usable bv
th e w om en , and on the state of the p ow er relations w ith in th e " h o u s e ”, that
is, b etw een the lineages u n ited b y m arriage in th e p reviou s gen eration, w hich
allowr and favour the cu ltivation of o n e or th e other field o f relationships.
If on e accep ts that on e of the principal fu n ctio n s o f m arriage is to reproduce
th e social relations of w h ich it is th e p rod u ct, then it is im m ed iately u nd er
stand able w h y the different types of m arriage w h ich can b e d istin gu ish ed as
m u ch b y the criterion o f th e ob jective ch aracteristics o f the groups brought
togeth er (th eir p osition in th e social hierarchy, their rem oteness in sp ace, etc.)
as by the characteristics of the cerem on y itself, in particular its solem n ity,
sh o u ld correspond very closely to th e characteristics o f th e social relations
w h ich have m ade th em p ossib le and w h ich they ten d to reprodu ce. T h e official
kin grou p , p ub licly nam ed and socially recogn ized , is w hat m akes possible
and necessary the official m arriages w hich provide its on ly op p ortu n ity to
m o b ilize practically and thereby to reaffirm its u n ity , a u n ity at on ce as solem n
and as artificial as th e occasion s on w h ich it is celebrated. It is w ith in practical
k insh ip , that is, in the field o f relation ship s constantly reused and thus
reactivated for future u se, that ordinary m arriages are con tracted, w ith a
freq u en cy w hich itself con d em n s th em to the in sign ifican ce o f th e unm arked
and the banality of the everyday. It is logical that the h igher a group is placed
in the social hierarchy and h en ce th e richer it is in official relation ship s, the
greater the proportion o f its work o f reprodu ction that is d ev o ted to reprodu c
ing su ch relation ship s, w hereas the poor relations, w h o have little to spend
on so lem n ities, can m ake d o w ith th e ordinary m arriages that practical
k inship en su res for them .
T h e m o st in sid ious of the d istortion s in herent in inform ants' exp lan ations
is d ou b tless the fact that they give a disproportionate im portance to extra
ordinary m arriages, w h ich d istin g u ish th em selv es from ordinary m arriages by
a p ositive or a negative m ark. A s wrell as the various curios wrhich the an th ro
p ologist often finds h im self b ein g offered by w’ell-in ten tio n ed inform ants,
such as m arriage by exchan ge (a b d a l, tw o m en " e x c h a n g e ” their sisters),
T he o rd in a ry and the extra-ordinary 53

gjfiage b y " a d d itio n ” (th im i, tw o b rothers marry tw o sisters, the second


sister being " a d d e d ” to th e first; the son marries th e sister or even the
daughter of th e secon d w ife o f h is fath er), or again, the levirate, a particular
case of marriage as " rep aration ” ( thiririth, from err, to g iv e or take back),
native discourse also d efines th e extrem e cases: parallel-cousin m arriage, the
niost perfect m yth ically, and m arriage u n itin g the h ead m en o f tw o trib es or
two different clans, the m o st perfect p olitically.

Thus, the tale, a sem i-ritualized didactic narrative, a sim ple paraphrase in parabolic
form of the proverb or saying w hich serves as its moral, only ever relates marked,
marking marriages. First, there are the different types of parallel-cousin marriage,
whether intended to preserve a political heritage or to prevent the extinction of a
lineage (in the case of an only daughter). T h en there are the most flagrant misalliances,
like the marriage of the tawny ow l and the eagle’s daughter - a pure m odel of upward
marriage (upward socially, but also m ythically, up being opposed to dow n as day,
light, happiness, purity, honour are opposed to night, darkness, m isfortune, im purity,
and dishonour) between a man at the bottom of the social ladder, an aw rith and a
woman of a fam ily of higher rank, in w hich the traditional relationship o f assistance
is inverted by the discrepancy betw een the partner’s positions in the social and sexual
hierarchies. It is the one w ho g iv es, in this case the higher, w ho must g o to the aid
of the one who has taken his son-in-law, the tawny ow l, on his back, to spare him
a humiliating defeat in com petition with the young eagles - a scandalous situation
denounced in the proverb " giving him your daughter and corn to o ’*.

Contrary to th ese official represen tation s, observation and sta tistics estab
lish that, in all the groups ob served , the m ajority of the m arriages b elo n g to
the class of ordinary m arriages, generally arranged by th e w o m e n , w ithin the
area of the practical k insh ip or practical relation ship s w hich m ake them
possible and w hich they help to stren g th en .85 T h e m arriages contracted w ithin
this area, b etw een fam ilies u n ited by frequ en t and ancient ex ch an ges along
age-old b eaten paths con tin u o u sly kept op en for gen eration after gen era tio n ,
are those about w hich n o th in g is said, as w ith everyth in g wfhich can be taken
for granted because it has ahvays been as it is - th ose w hich have no other
function, apart from b iological rep rod u ction , than the reprodu ction of those
social relationships w hich m ake them p o ssib le .86 T h e se m arriages, w hich are
generally celebrated w ith o u t cerem on y, stand in the sam e relation ship to
extra-ordinary m arriages, wTh ich are con clu d ed b y the m en b etw een different
villages or tribes, or m ore sim p ly , ou tsid e practical k insh ip , and for th is
reason alw ays sealed by solem n cerem on ies, as th e exchan ges o f everyday
life, th e little presen ts (thuntichin) exchan ged by w om en to " b in d them in
friendship ”, stand to th e extra-ordinary exchan ges on special o ccasion s, the
solemn gifts solem n ly p roclaim ed (Ikhir) w h ich are exp ected b etw een official
kin .87
Extra-ordinary m arriages ex clu d e the w om en , as d o es parallel-cousin mar-
nag e, wrhich differs in th is respect - alone 88 - from ordinary m arriages, w hich
54 T he objective lim its o f objectivism

w ould be u nthin k able w ith o u t their in terv en tio n . B u t, in contrast to marriage


arranged b etw een brothers, o r at any rate a m on g the m en of the lin eage, with
the b lessin g o f th e patriarch, a distant m arriage is officially p resen ted as
p olitical. C ontracted o u tsid e th e zon e of everyday relation ship s, celebrated
w ith cerem on ies w h ich m o b ilize exten sive gro u p s, its sole justification is
p olitical, as in the lim itin g case o f th e m arriages in ten d ed to set the seal on
peace or on an alliance b etw een th e " h e a d s” o f tw o trib es .89 M ore o fte n , it
is m arriage of the m arketplace, a neutral grou n d from w h ich w o m en are
exclu d ed and w here lin eages, clans, and tribes w arily m eet. It is " p u b lish e d ”
in the m arket by th e crier (b erra k ), u nlike other m arriages w h ich , sin ce they
on ly bring togeth er k in sm en , d o not in volve so lem n in vitation s. It treats the
w om an as a political in stru m en t, a sort of p led g e or liquid asset, capable of
earning sym b olic profits. B ein g an op p ortu n ity to ex h ib it p u b licly and
officially, and hence p erfectly legitim ately, the fam ily's sy m b o lic capital, to
m ake a show of k insh ip ties, and thereby to increase th is capital, at the cost
o f con sid erable eco n o m ic ex p en d itu re, it is faithful at all tim es to the logic
of the accum u lation of sy m b o lic capital. T h u s m arriage to a stranger w h o has
been cut off from his grou p and has fled to o n e s village is sh u n n e d , w hile
marriage to a stranger liv in g at a d istance is p restigiou s becau se it bears
w itn ess to the extent o f th e lin eage’s p restige. Sim ilarly, political m arriages,
as op posed to ordinary m arriages w hich follow w ell-w orn tracks, are not and
cannot be repeated , sin ce th e alliance w ould be d evalued b y b ecom in g
com m o n . F urth erm ore, th is typ e o f m arriage is fun d am en tally m ascu lin e and
often causes conflict b etw een the father o f th e bride and her m other, w ho
is less appreciative of the sy m b o lic profit w h ich the m arriage m ay b rin g and
m ore con cern ed about th e draw backs it m ay entail for her daughter,
co n d em n ed to a life of ex ile ( thaghribth, the ex ile, sh e w h o has g o n e off to
the w est ).90 Insofar as it b rin gs large grou p s in to in terrelation sh ip through
the fam ilies and lineages d irectly in v o lv ed , it is totally official and every aspect
of the celebration is strictly ritualized and m agically stereo ty p ed : th is is
d o u b tless b ecau se the stakes are so h igh and the ch an ces of a rift so great
that the agen ts dare not tru st to the regulated im provisation of orchestrated
habitus.

T h e marriages arranged in the sort of privileged sub-market (that o f the akham)


which the authority of the elder and agnate solidarity set up as a free zone from which
all outbidding and all com petition are absolutely excluded, unquestionably distinguish
them selves from extra-ordinary marriages by their incomparably lower material and
sym bolic cost. T h e union is generally regarded as a self-evident necessity, and when
this is not the case, the discreet m ediation of the w om en of the fam ily is sufficient
to bring it about. T h e celebration of the marriage is reduced to a strict m inim um .
First, the expenses ( thaqufats) incurred in the reception of the marriage procession
by the girl’s fam ily are very m odest; the imensi cerem ony, at w hich the bride-
T he o rd in a ry an d the extra-ordin ary 55
alth is presented, brings together only the m ost im portant representatives o f the
* * fafnilies being allied (perhaps tw enty m en) ; the bride’s trousseau ( la d ja z) is
limit** to three dresses, tw o scarves, and som e other item s (a pair o f shoes, a haik) ;
the sum agreed upon as the bridew ealth, negotiated in advance in relation to what
the girl’s parents have to buy in the market to dower their daughter (a m attress, a
illow, a trunk, as well as the blankets which are the fam ily’s own work and are handed
down from m other to daughter), is presented w ithout m uch cerem ony, and w ithout
bluff or pretence; as for the w edding-feast expenses, they are m inim ized by arranging
for the feast to coincide w ith the A id: the sheep traditionally sacrificed on that
o c c a s io n is sufficient for the requirem ents of the w edding, and the guests are more
likely to be kept at hom e at that time and present their excuses.
Compared with these ordinary marriages, w hich the old peasant morality eulogizes
(in contrast to marriages w h ich , like ’’w id ow s’ daughters’ m arriages”, go beyond
the socially recognized lim its of each fam ily), extra-ordinary marriages differ in every
wav. T o conceive the am bition of seeking a wife at a distance, one has to be
predisposed to do so by the habit of keeping up relationships that are out of the
ordinary, w hich im plies possession of the skills, especially the linguistic ones, indis
pensable in such circum stances; one also needs a large capital of very costly distant
relationships, w hich are the only source of reliable information and of m ediators
necessary to the success of the project. In short, to be able to m obilize this capital
at the right m om ent, it is necessary to have invested a lot and for a long tim e. For
example, to take only one case, the heads of marabout fam ilies who have been asked
to act as mediators are paid back in countless ways: the taleb of the village, or a fortiori
the religious figure of higher rank who takes part in the procession of iqafafen, is
given new clothes and shoes by the "m aster of the w ed d in g ”, and the gifts he
traditionally receives, in cash at the tim e of religious feasts and in provisions at harvest
time, are in a sense proportionate to the services rendered ; the A id sheep he is given
that year is sim ply com pensation for the " sh a m e” ( ihachem udhmis, he has covered
his face with sham e) he has incurred in going to solicit a layman (w ho, whatever his
power, does not "hold in h is heart” Koranic know ledge) and consecrating the
marriage writh his faith and know ledge. O nce the agreem ent is reached (possibly
involving the paym ent of thaj'alts to one or another of the girl’s close relatives), the
ceremony of " p led gin g” ( asarus, the laying dowrn of the pledge, thimristh)y which
functions as an appropriation rite (a'ayam , nam ing, or a'allam , marking, comparable
to that of the first plot of land ploughed; or m ore exactly am lak, appropriation on
the same term s as land) is in itself alm ost a w'edding. Presents are brought not only
for the bride (w ho receives her " pledge ”, a jew'el of value, and m oney from all the men
who see her on that day - tiz r i) , but also for all the other w om en o f the house; the
visitors also bring provisions (sem olina, honey, butter) and som e cattle, to be
slaughtered and eaten by the gu ests or added to the bride’s capital. T h e men of the
amily demonstrate how num erous they are w ith the noise of their rifle volleys, as on
the wedding day. A ll the feasts w hich take place betw een this feast and the w edding
are opportunities to bring thislith her " sh are” (el haq): great fam ilies at a great
istance from each other cannot be content w’ith exchanging a few dishes of couscous;
Presents appropriate to the persons they unite are added. T hough granted, that is to
g iv e n ”, "appropriated”, and "recalled to m in d ” by the m any " sh ares” she has
received, the girl is not yet acq u ired : a point of honour is set on allowing her fam ily
e time it w ishes to wait and to keep one waiting.
T he celebration of the marriage is obviously the high point of the sym bolic
confrontation of the two group s, and also the m om ent of the greatest expense, T h e
glrl s fam ily is sent thaqufats, at least tw o hundred kilos of sem olina, fifty kilos of flour,
56 T h e objective limits o f objectivism

abundant meat (on the hoof) - w hich the senders know will not all be eaten - honev
(twenty litres) and butter (tw enty litres). T h e case was mentioned of a marriage in
which the girl’s family was taken a calf and five live and one slaughtered sheep. The
delegation of iqafafen consisted, it is true, of forty rifle-bearing m en, together with
all the kinsmen and notables exem pted by their age from shooting - fifty men in all.
T h e bride’s trousseau w hich may in such cases consist of up to thirty item s, is
matched by a similar number of item s given to the various other w om en of the family.
And if one often hears it said that betw een great fam ilies there are no chrut (conditions
laid dow n by the father for his daughter before he grants her hand), it is because the
status of the fam ilies is in itself a guarantee that the "con d ition s” explicitly stated
elsewhere will here be surpassed. Although the value of the bridewealth is always
subject to strict social supervision, exceptional marriages may ignore the lim its tacitly
set by the group. T he proof may be seen in phrases nowadays used as challenges:
" Who do you think you are? T h e woman of fourteen [am arba'tach] ? ” - an allusion
to the fourteen reals paid for the most expensively bought w ife w ho became the
mistress of the house of the family which was richest and the most endow ed with men.
For w om en married around 1900-1910, the same expression speaks of a payment of
forty duros, w hich, according to the popular notion of equivalence ("W e got her for
’the equivalent of two pairs of oxen*”, elhaq nasnath natsazwijin) , must have
corresponded to the price paid for two pairs of oxen; just before the Second World
War, a typical bridewealth was worth around tw o thousand old francs (£20). A
prestigious marriage celebrated with great cerem ony in 1936, to w hich virtually all the
m en of the tribe were invited (together with a troupe of tbal who performed for three
days and nights) cost the organizer in addition to all his liquid assets, the value of
one of his best pieces of land (four days’ ploughing for one m an). T o feed his guests
he had to slaughter tw o oxen, a calf, and six sheep.
In fact the econom ic cost is probably insignificant in comparison with the symbolic
cost of imensi. T h e ritual of the cerem ony of presenting the bridewealth is the
occasion for a total confrontation betw een the tw o groups, in w hich the econom ic stakes
are no more than an index and pretext. T o dem and a large paym ent for one’s
daughter, or to pay a large sum to marry off one’s son, is in either case to assert one’s
prestige, and thereby to acquire prestige: each side intends to prove its own "worth ”,
either by show ing what price men of honour, w ho know how to appreciate it, set on
alliance w ith them , or by making a brilliant dem onstration of their estim ation of their
ow n value through the price they are prepared to pay in order to have partners worthy
of them . By a sort of inverted haggling, disguised under the appearance of ordinary
bargaining, the two groups tacitly agree to step up the amount of the payment by
successive bids, because they have a com m on interest in raising this indisputable index
of the sym bolic value of their products on the matrimonial exchange market. And no
feat is more highly praised than the prowess of the bride’s father w ho, after vigorous
bargaining has been concluded, solem nly returns a large share of the sum received.
T h e greater the proportion returned, the greater the honour accruing from it, as it-
in crow ning the transaction w ith an act of generosity, the intention was to make an
exchange of honour out of bargaining which could be so overtly keen only because
the pursuit of maximum material profit was masked under the contests of honour and
the pursuit of maxim um sym bolic profit.91
T h e m ost distant m arriages are p erfectly u nequ ivocal sin ce, at least until
recent tim es, it w as im possible to marry at a d istance for negative reasons, for
lack of anyone to marry near at hand. L ik e all close m arriages, p a rallel-co u sin
m arriage, the on ly type o f ordinary m arriage to b e p ositively and officially
T h e ordin ary and the extra-ordin ary 57

marked, often occurs in the poorest lin eages or the poorest lin es o f the
dominant lineages (th e clien ts), w h o , in resorting to th is, th e m ost econom ical
type of u nion, release the group in the m ost satisfactory wray (if only by
avoiding m isalliances) from the obligation to marry off tw o of its particularly
disadvantaged m em bers. B ut at the sam e tim e, because it alw ays has the
objective effect of rein forcin g the integration of th e m inim al unit and,
consequently, its d istin ctiven ess vis-a-vis other u n its, it is likely to b e th e tactic
of groups characterized by a strong desire to assert their distinction. T h u s its
am biguity p redisposes it to play the role of th e poor m an ’s p restige m arriage:
it offers an elegant w ay ou t for all those w h o, like the ruined n oblem an unable
to indicate other than sym b olically his refusal to derogate, seek in the
affectation o f rigour the m eans o f affirm ing their d istin ctio n , su ch as a lineage
cut off from its original group and an xious to m aintain its originality, a fam ily
aiming to affirm th e d istin ctive features of its lineage b y g o in g on e better in
purism (alm ost alw ays the case w ith on e fam ily in a m arabout co m m u n ity ),
a clan seeking to mark its d istin ction from the o p p o sin g clan b y stricter
observance of the traditions (like th e A it \la d h i at Ait H ich em ), and so on.
Because it can appear as the m ost sacred and, under certain co n d ition s, the
most " d istingu ish ed ” m arriage, it is the ch eap est form of extra-ordinary
marriage, obviating exp en d itu re on the cerem on y, hazardous negotiations,
and a costly b ridew ealth. A nd thu s there is no m ore accom plished w ay of
making a virtue of n ecessity and of p u ttin g o n eself in lin e w ith the rule.
H ow ever, any particular marriage is m ean ingfu l o n ly in relation to the
totality of sim u ltan eou sly p ossib le m arriages (or, m ore con cretely, in relation
to the range o f potential p artners); in other w ords, it is situated som ew h ere
on a con tinu um ru n nin g from parallel-cousin m arriage to m arriage b etw een
members of different trib es, the m ost risky b ut m ost p restigious ty p e, and
is therefore necessarily characterized from both stan d p oin ts, by the extent
to which it rein forces integration and by th e exten t to w h ich it exp an ds
alliances. T h ese tw o typ es o f m arriage represent the p oints of m axim um
intensity of the tw o valu es w hich all m arriages seek to m axim ize: on the one
hand the integration of the m inim al unit and its secu rity, on th e other hand
alliance and prestige, that is, op en in g up to th e ou tsid e w orld, tow ards
strangers. T h e ch oice b etw een fission and fusion, the in sid e and the ou tside,
security and adventure, is posed anew w ith each m arriage. If it en su res the
Maximum of integration for the m inim al group, parallel-cousin m arriage
duplicates the relation ship o f filiation w ith a relationship of alliance, sq uan
dering by th is redundancy the op p ortu n ity of creating new alliances w hich
n^arriage represents. D istant m arriage, on the other hand, sccu res p restigious
aHiances at the cost of lineage integration and the bond b etw een brothers,
* e foun dation of the agnatic u n it. N ative discou rse repeats th is o b sessively.
3 BO T
58 T he objective lim its o f objectivism

T h e centripetal thrust - exaltation of the in tern al, of secu rity , autarky, the
ex cellen ce o f th e b lo o d , agnate solidarity - alw ays calls forth, if o n ly to oppose
it, the centrifugal thrust, exaltation of th e p restigiou s alliance. T h e categorical
im perative alw ays m asks calcu lation of the m axim u m and the m in im u m , the
search for th e m axim u m of alliance com p atib le w ith the m ainten an ce or
rein forcem ent o f in tegration b etw een brothers. T h is can be seen from the
in form an ts’ syn tax, w h ich is alw ays that of preference: " I t is b etter to protect
your p oint o f honou r [nif\ than reveal it to o th e r s.” " I d o n ’t sacrifice adhrum
[th e lineage] to aghrum [ w h e a t c a k e ] " T h e in sid e is b etter than the o u tsid e .’1
"F irst m ad n ess [daring, risky ste p ]: to g iv e the daughter of 'amm to other
m en . S econ d m adness to g o p en n iless to m arket. T h ird m ad n ess: to vie with
the lions on th e m oun tain to p s .” T h is last sayin g is the m ost significant,
because u n d er the gu ise o f ab solute con d em n a tio n of d istant m arriage, it
expressly recogn izes the logic in w h ich it b elon gs, that o f th e ex p lo it, prow ess,
prestige. It takes great p restige and w ild audacity to go to m arket w ithout
any m oney in ten d in g to b u y th in g s, just as it takes en orm ou s cou rage to take
on lion s, th e cou rageous strangers from w h om the foun ders of the villages
had to w in back their w iv es, accord in g to m any leg en d s o f origin.

M atrim on ial strategies an d social reproduction

T h e characteristics o f a m arriage, and in particular the p osition it occupies


at a determ in ate point on the co n tin u u m ru n n in g from p olitical m arriage to
parallel-cousin m arriage, d ep en d on th e aim s o f th e co llectiv e strategies o f the
grou p s in v o lv ed . M ore p recisely, given that the ob jectives th e m selv es depend
very clo sely on the m eans available, analysis o f the op eration s w'hich have led
u p to different ty p es of m arriage sen d s u s back to analysis o f the conditions
w h ich had to be fulfilled for th em to be p ossib le, i.e . con ceivab le and
realizable. T h e m atrim onial gam e is sim ilar to a card gam e, in w h ich the
o u tco m e d ep en d s partly on the deal, the cards held (th eir value itself being
defined by th e rules of the gam e, characteristic of the social form ation in
q u e stio n ), and partly on the players’ s k ill: that is to say, firstly on the material
and sy m b o lic capital p ossessed b y the fam ilies con cern ed , th eir w ealth in
in stru m en ts o f production and in m en , con sid ered both as p rod u ctive and
reproductive p ow er and also, in a p revious state of play, as figh tin g strength
and h en ce sy m b o lic stren gth ; and seco n d ly on the co m p eten ce wrhich en
ables the strategists to m ake the best u se o f this capital, practical m astery of
the (in the w id est sen se) econ om ic axiom atics b ein g th e precondition
for p rod u ction o f the p ractices regarded as " rea so n a b le” w ith in th e group
and p ositively san ction ed b y the laws o f th e m arket in m aterial and sym bolic
g ood s.
M atrim on ial strategies an d social reproduction 59

T h e collective strategy w h ich leads up to a particular " m o v e ” (in the case


0f marriage or in any oth er area of practice) is b u t th e p roduct o f a com b ination
0f the strategies of the in terested parties w h ich ten d s to g iv e their resp ec
tive interests the w eig h t corresp on d in g to their p osition , at the m o m en t in
question, w ith in the stru cture of p ow er relations w ith in th e d om estic u n it.
It is a striking fact that m atrim onial n egotiation s are really th e b u sin ess of the
whole group, ev eryon e p layin g h is part at th e appropriate m om en t, and thu s
being able to con trib u te to the su ccess or failure o f the project. First o f all, the
women w ith their unofficial and recoverable con tacts m ake it p o ssib le to start
semi-official n egotiation s w ith ou t th e risk of a h u m iliatin g rebuff. T h e n the
most em in en t m en , th ose m ost representative o f official kinsh ip , actin g as
guarantors exp ressly m andated by the w ill of their grou p and as ex p licitly
authorized sp ok esm en , m ed iate and in terced e, p resen tin g at the sam e tim e a
striking testim on y of th e sy m b o lic capital p ossessed b y a fam ily capable of
m obilizing such p restigiou s m en . F in a lly , each grou p in its en tirety enters
into the d ecision , passion ately d iscu ssin g th e m atrim onial projects, evaluatin g
the reception g iv en to th e d elegates’ p rop osals, and d irectin g th e cou rse w h ich
future n egotiations sh o u ld take. T h is m ean s, in cid en tally - for th e benefit of
those eth n ologists w h o cou n t th em selves satisfied w'hen th ey have charac
terized a m arriage in exclu sively gen ealogical term s - that b eh in d th e q u asi
theatrical im age p u t forw ard b y the official kin at the tim e of the m arriage,
the tw o grou p s carry o u t a system atic in vestigation to estab lish com p lete
information on th e variables ch aracterizing not on ly th e cou p le (age, and
especially age differen ce, p revious m atrim onial h istory, sib lin g order, th eo re
tical and practical kin relation to th e fam ily au th ority h old er, e tc .) but also
their grou p s. Inform ation is ob tain ed on th e eco n o m ic and social history of
the fam ilies about to be allied and o f the larger grou p s to w h ich they b elo n g ;
the sym bolic p atrim on y, esp ecially th e capital o f h onou r and m en o f honour
which they c o m m a n d ; th e q uality o f th e netw ork o f alliances on w h ich they
count, and o f the grou p s to w hich th ey are traditionally o p p o sed ; each
fam ily’s p osition in its grou p - a particularly im portant factor b ecau se a
display o f p restigiou s k in sm en m ay d isg u ise a d om in ated p osition w ith in an
em inent grou p - and th e state o f its relations w ith th e other m em b ers of its
group, i.e . the fam ily’s d egree o f integration (u n d ivid ed o w n ersh ip , e t c .) ; the
structure o f th e pow er an d authority relations w ith in the d om estic u n it (and,
f° r a fam ily m arrying off a d augh ter, esp ecially th ose am ong th e w o m e n ), etc.
In a social form ation oriented tow ards sim p le reprodu ction , i.e . tow ards
the biological reprodu ction of the grou p and the p rod uction of su fficien t g o o d s
0r its su b sisten ce and b iological reprodu ction , and, inseparably from this,
wards reprodu cing th e structure o f social and id eological relations w ith in
which and through w h ich th e a ctivity o f p rod uction is carried on and le g iti
6o T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

m ated, th e strategies o f th e different categories of agen ts, w h o se interests


w ithin the d om estic u n it m ay be con trad ictory (am on g other o ccasion s, at the
tim e o f a m arriage), arise from th e system s of interests ob jectiv ely assigned
to them b y the system o f p rin cip les w h ich m ake u p a particular mode 0f
reproduction: th ese p rin cip les g overn fertility, filiation , resid en ce, inheritance,
and m arriage, and, in c o m b in in g to fulfil th e sam e fu n ctio n - the biological
and social reprodu ction o f th e grou p - are ob jectively co n ce rted .92 In an
eco n o m y characterized by the relatively equal d istrib u tion of th e m eans of
p rod uction (gen erally o w n e d in com m on b y the lineage) and by th e weakness
and stability o f th e p rod u ctive forces, w h ich rule out th e p rod uction and
accum u lation of su bstan tial su rp lu ses and h en ce the d ev elo p m en t of clearly
m arked eco n o m ic d ifferen tiation (alth ou gh it is p ossib le to see in th e levying
o f labour in th e " m u tu a l-h elp /c o rv e es” - th iw izi - a disguised form of the sale
of lab ou r-p ow er), th e fa m ily ’s efforts are d irected tow ards th e maintenance
and reprodu ction o f th e fam ily, not the p rod u ction of assets.

If one insists on seein g thinnzi as a corvee (the better, for exam ple, to force reality
into the framework of a realist, reified definition of m odes of production) one must
at least take into account the fact that this corvee is disguised under the appearance
of mutual aid. In fact th iw izi mainly profits the richer farmers and also the taleb (whose
land is ploughed and sow n co llectiv ely ): the poor have no need o f assistance with the
harvest; but th iw izi may also benefit the poor man in the case of the building of a
house (the transporting o f stones and beam s). Ostracism is a terrible sanction which
is not only sym bolic: ow in g to the lim ited technical resources, m any activities would
be im possible w ithout the help of the group (e .g . the building of a house, with the
transporting of stones, or the transporting of m ill-w heels, which used to m obilize forty
men in non-stop shifts for several days). M oreover, in this econom y of insecurity, a
capital of services rendered and gifts bestowed is the best and indeed the only
safeguard against the "thousand con tin gen cies’*on w hich, as Marx observes, depends
the maintenance or loss of working conditions, from the accident which causes the
loss of an animal to the bad weather w hich destroys the crops.

In su ch co n d itio n s an ab un dan ce o f m en w ou ld n o d o u b t be a liab ility if,


taking a strictly eco n o m ic view , on e saw in it on ly " a r m s” and therefore
" sto m a ch s”. In fact th e political in secu rity w h ich perp etu ates itself b y gen
erating th e d isp o sitio n s required in order to respond to w ar, brawling,
robbery, or v en gean ce ( reqba) w as d ou b tless the basic reason w h y m en were
valued as " r ifles” , i.e . not o n ly as a labour force but also as fig h tin g power:
the value of the land lies on ly in th e m en w h o cu ltivate and also d efen d it-
T h e patrim on y of th e lin eage, sy m b o lized by its nam e, is d efined not simply
by th e p ossession o f th e land and the h ou se, g o o d s w h ich are p reciou s and
therefore vu lnerab le, but also by the p o ssession of th e m ean s of protecting
it, i.e . m en ; th is is s o b ecau se the land and th e w om en are n ever r e d u c e d
to th e statu s of sim p le in stru m en ts o f p rod uction or reprodu ction , and stih
less to the statu s of co m m o d ities or even " p ro p er ty ”. A ttack s on the lan d ,
M atrim on ial strategies and social reproduction 61

house, or th e w om en are attacks on their m aster, on h is nif, his very


^ defined by th e g ro u p - h is " p o te n c y ”. A lienated land, u navenged
or m urder, are different form s of the sam e offence, w h ich alw ays elicits
the same response from the grou p 's p oin t of honour: just as a m urder is " paid
back’ i but at a h igher rate, b y striking if p ossib le at the person closest to
the murderer or the m ost p rom in en t m em ber in his g ro u p , so a piece of
ancestral land, even a not very fertile on e, is " b ou gh t b a ck ” a t an y price in
order to w ipe ou t the sta n d in g insult to the group's h o n o u r .93 Just as, in the
logic of challenge and riposte, th e best land b oth techn ically and sy m b olically
is that m ost closely tied to the p atrim ony, so the m an through w hom on e can
most cruelly strike at the grou p is its m ost representative m em ber.
The ethos of honour is but the transfigured expression of these econom ic and
political facts. A sharp distinction is drawn betw een n if the point of honour, and
hurma, the sum total of that w hich is haram, i.e . forbidden, all that goes to make up
the vulnerability of the group, its m ost sacred possession (from w hich there follows
a distinction betw een the challenge, w hich touches only the point of honour, and
sacrilegious outrage).94 Only the punctilious, active vigilance of the point o f honour (n if)
can guarantee the integrity of honour (hurma) - w hich, being sacred, is inherently
exposed to sacrilegious outrage - and win the consideration and respectability accorded
to the man who has sufficient poin t of honour to keep his honour safe from offence.95
Hurma in the sense of the sacred (haram ), nif, and hurma in the sense of respectability,
are inseparable. T h e more vulnerable a fam ily, the more nif it m ust possess to defend
its sacred values, and the greater the m erit and esteem opinion accords i t ; thus poverty,
far from contradicting or prohibiting respectability, makes doubly meritorious the man
who, though particularly exposed to outrage, nonetheless manages to w in respect.
Conversely, the point of honour has a m eaning and a function only in a man for whom
there exist things worthy of b ein g defended. A being devoid of the sacred could
dispense with the point of honour because he w ould in a sense be invulnerable. What
is haram (i.e. literally, taboo) is essentially the sacred of the left hand, hurma, that
,s* ^ e inside and more precisely the fem ale universe, the world of the secret, the
enclosed space of the house, as opposed to the outside, the open world of the public
square (thajm afth)f reserved for the m en. T h e sacred of the right hand is essentially
the rifles”, that is, the group o f the agnates, the "sons of the paternal u n cle”, all
those whose death m ust be avenged by blood and all those who are bound to carry
°ut blood vengeance. T h e rifle is the sym bolic em bodim ent o f the nif of the agnatic
group, nif defined as that which can be challenged and w hich enables one to take up
the challenge. T h u s to the passivity of hurma, fem ale in nature, there is opposed the
^ctive susceptibility of nif, the m ale virtue par excellence. It is ultim ately on nif, its
'physical or sym bolic) fighting capacity, that the defence of the group’s material and
symbolic patrimony - the source both o f its potency and of its vulnerability -
depends.

M en con stitu te a political and sy m b o lic force on w h ich d ep en d the p rotec-


*,Qn and exp an sion of th e p atrim on y, the d efen ce o f the grou p and its good s
against the en croach m en ts of violen ce, and at the sam e tim e the im p osition
its dom in ance and th e satisfaction of its in terests. C on seq u en tly, th e on ly
reat to the pow er of th e grou p , apart from th e sterility of its w o m e n , is the
62 The objective lim its o f objectivism

fragm en tation of the m aterial and sy m b o lic p atrim on y w h ic h w ould result


from quarrels b etw een th e m en . H e n c e th e fertility strategies w h ich aim to
p rod u ce as m an y m en as p o ssib le as q u ick ly as p ossib le (th rou gh early
I
m arriage), and th e ed u ca tiv e strategies w h ich , in in cu lcatin g an exalted
a d h eren ce to th e lineage and to th e v a lu es o f h on ou r (th e transfigured
exp ression o f the ob jective relation b etw e en th e agen ts an d an extremely
vu lnerab le and p erp etu ally threaten ed m aterial and sy m b o lic patrim ony)
collaborate to su pp ort th e in tegration of th e lin eage and to divert aggressive
ten d e n c ies ou tw ard s: " T h e land is cop p er ( nehas), m e n ’s arm s are silver."
T h e very am b ig u ity of th is sa y in g - nehas also m ean s jealou sy - p oin ts to the
p rin cip le o f th e con trad iction w h ich th e su ccessio n a l cu sto m en gen d ers in
attaching m en to the land. T h e su ccessio n a l stra teg ies, w h ich ob jectively tend
to attach as m an y m en as p o ssib le to th e p atrim on y by en su rin g eq u ality of
in h eritan ce and b y gu aran teein g the u n ity o f th e patrim ony through the
d isin h eritin g o f th e w o m e n , in trod u ce an u n a v o id a b le co n tra d ictio n : n ot only
d o th ey threaten to fragm en t th e ancestral lands by p arcelling th em out
eq u ally am on g very n u m erou s h eirs, b u t ab o v e all th ey set at the very heart
of th e sy stem the p rin cip le of co m p etitio n for p ow er over th e domestic
ec o n o m y and p o litics - co m p etitio n an d co n flict b etw een father and sons,
wrh o m th is m o d e o f pow er tran sm ission c o n d em n s to su b ord in ation so long
as the patriarch lives (m an y p arallel-cou sin m arriages are arranged by th e "old
m an ” w ith o u t th e fathers b ein g c o n s u lte d ); co m p etitio n and conflict between
b rothers or co u sin s w h o , at least w h en th e y in their turn b ecom e fath ers, are
d estin ed to find that th eir in terests c o n flic t .96 T h e strategies of agnates are
d om in a ted b y the an tagon ism b etw een th e sy m b o lic p rofits of p olitical and
ec o n o m ic n on -d ivision and th e m aterial profits o f a breakup w h ich are
con tin u a lly recalled to m in d b y th e sp irit o f ec o n o m ic ca lcu la tio n . T h e urge
to ca lcu late, repressed in m en , find s m ore overt ex p ressio n in w o m e n , who
are stru ctu rally pred isp osed to be less con cern ed w ith the sy m b o lic profits
accru in g from political u n ity , and to d ev o te th e m se lv e s m ore readily to
strictly ec o n o m ic practices.
T h e ideology which makes wom an a principle of division and discord th u s finds
an apparent basis in the effects of the division of labour betw een the sexes, w h ic h ,
as we have seen, predisposes the w om en to be less sensitive to sym bolic profits and
freer to pursue material profits.97 L en d in g b etw een w om en is regarded as the antithesis
of the exchange of honour; and it is indeed closer to the econom ic :ruth of exchange
than the m en ’s dealings. O f th e man w ho, unlike the man of honour anxious not
squander his capital of "c r e d it”, too readily seeks loans, especially of m on ey, the matf
w ho has so often blanched w ith sham e on asking for a loan that he has a "yellow face .
it is said that " his borrowing ( arrtal) is like that of w o m en ’*. T h e opposition between
the two " econom ies is so marked that the expression err arrtal, also used to e x p r e s s
the taking of revenge, means the returning o f a g ift, an exchange, in the m en ’s s p e e c h -
whereas it m eans "giving back a lo a n ” w hen used by the w om en. Loan c o n d u c t
M atrim on ia l strategies an d social reproduction 63
• 1 * more frequent and more natural am ong the w om en, w ho w ill borrow and
certai . . jor any pUrpose; it follow s that the econom ic truth, held back in
lend - c joser t0 t he surface in fem ale exchanges in w hich there may be specific
svvaP £o r r e p a y m e n t (" when m y daughter gives birth ”) and precise calculation of the
quantities lent.

In sh o r t, the sym bolic an d politica l in terests attached to th e unity o f land


ow n ersh ip , to the exten t o f allian ces, to th e m aterial and sy m b o lic p ow er o f
the agn atic g r o u p , and to th e valu es o f h on ou r and p restig e w h ich m ake a
^reat h o u se ( akham am oqrane), m ilitate in favour of th e stren g th en in g of
corporate b o n d s . C on versely, as is sh o w n b y th e fact that th e breaking u p
of joint o w n e r sh ip h a s b eco m e m ore and m ore freq u en t w ith the g en eralizin g
of m on etary exch an ges and th e spread o f the (corresp o n d in g ) calcu lative
spirit, economic in terests (in th e narrow s e n s e ), th o se relatin g to con su m p tio n ,
are c o n d u c iv e to the breakup of u n d iv id ed o w n e rsh ip .98
E ven in cases in w h ich a h older of d o m e stic p ow er has lo n g prepared for
his su c c e ssio n by th e m anip ulation of in d ivid u al asp iration s, d irectin g each
of the b ro th ers tow ards th e " s p e c ia lity ” w h ich su ited h im in the d iv isio n of
d om estic labour, com p etitio n for internal p ow er is alm ost in evitab le, and can
be su b lim a ted in to a co m p etitio n of h on ou r on ly at th e co st o f co n tin u o u s
control b y th e m en over th e m se lv e s and b y th e g rou p ov er all of th e m . B ut
the forces o f coh esion represen ted b y th e n o n -d iv isio n o f th e land and the
in tegration of th e fam ily - in stitu tio n s w h ich rein force each other - clash
con stan tly w ith forces of fission su ch as th e " je a lo u sy ” arou sed by an u nequ al
d istrib u tion of powrers or resp o n sib ilities, or th e im b alan ce b etw een resp ective
co n trib u tio n s to p rod u ction and co n su m p tio n (" T h e hard -w ork in g m a n s
labour has b een eaten u p b y th e m an w h o lean s against th e w a ll ”).99 In
general, au th ority over th e d eleg a tio n of w ork, th e con tro l o f exp en d itu re and
the m anagem ent of the p atrim on y, or over the fam ily's external relation s
(allian ces, e tc .) resid es in fact in a sin gle p erso n , w h o th u s appropriates
the sy m b o lic profits wrh ich accrue from g o in g to m arket, p resen ce at
°lan assem b lies or th e m ore excep tion al g a th erin gs o f tribal n otab les, etc . —
n°t to m en tion th e fact that th ese d u ties have the effect of e x e m p tin g
tta person w h o assu m es th em from th e ex ig en cie s o f th e daily w ork
rou tine.
O bjectively u n ited , for th e w o rse if n o t for th e b etter, th e b rothers are
o b je c tiv e ly d iv id ed , ev en in their solid arity. " M y b r o th e r ”, said an infor-
mant, is th e m an wTh o w o u ld d efen d m y h on ou r if m y p o in t o f h onour failed ,
Wh° w ° u ld save m e from d ish o n o u r but p u t m e to sh a m e .” A n oth er in form an t
reported an acq u aintance as sa y in g : " M y brother is h e w h o , if I d ie d , cou ld
I^arry m y w ife and w ou ld b e praised for i t .” T h e h o m o g e n e ity o f th e m ode
0 Production o f h abitus ( i.e . of th e m aterial co n d itio n s of life , and o f
64 The objective lim its o f objectivism

ped agogic action) p rod uces a h om ogen ization of d isp o sitio n s and in terests
w h ich , far from exclu d in g com p etition , m ay in so m e cases en g en d er it by
in clin in g th ose w h o are the product of th e sam e co n d itio n s of production to
recogn ize and pursue the sam e g o o d s, w h ose rarity m ay arise en tirely from
this co m p etition . T h e d om estic u n it, a m o n o p o listic grou p ing defined, as
W eber said, b y the exclu sive appropriation o f a determ in ate type o f goods
(land , nam es, e tc .) is the locus o f a co m p etitio n for th is capital, or rather,
for con trol over th is capital, w hich co n tin u o u sly threatens to d estroy the
capital b y d estroyin g th e fundam ental con d ition of its p erp etu ation .
T h e relationship b etw een brothers, k eystone o f the fam ily structure, is also
its w eakest p oint, w hich a w h ole series o f m echan ism s are d esign ed to
su pp ort and stren gth en ,100 startin g w ith parallel-cousin m arriage, the ideolo
gical resolu tion, som etim es realized in practice, o f the specific contradiction
o f this mode o f reproduction. If p arallel-cou sin marriage is a m atter for m e n ,101
con sisten t w ith the m en ’s in terests, that is, the h igher interests of th e lineage,
o ften arranged w ith o u t the w om en b ein g in form ed , and against their w ill (w hen
th e tw o b rothers’ w iv es are on bad term s, on e not w anting to a d m it the other’s
d augh ter to her h ou se and th e other n o t w ish in g to place her daughter under
her sister-in -law ’s au th ority), the reason is that it is in tend ed to counteract,
p ractically, d ivision b etw een the m en . T h is is taken so m uch for granted that
th e father’s ritual advice to h is son (" D o n ’t listen to your w iv es, stay united
am ongst y o u r se lv e s!”) is naturally taken to m ean "M arry you r ch ild ren to
o n e a n oth er.”
E verything takes places as if th is social form ation had had to grant itself
officially a p ossib ility rejected as in cestu o u s by m ost so cieties, in order to
resolve id eologically the ten sion w h ich is at its very centre. P erhaps the
exaltation of m arriage w ith the ben'amm (parallel cou sin ) w ould have been
better u nd erstood if it had been realized that ben amm has co m e to designate
th e en em y , or at least, the in tim ate en em y , and that en m ity is called
thaben'ammts "that of th e ch ildren of the paternal u n c le ”. In fact, the forces
o f ideological coh esion are em b od ied in the elder, djedd, w h ose authority based
o n the pow er to d isin h erit, on the threat of m aled iction , and above all on
adherence to the values sym b olized b y th adjadith, can secu re equilibrium
b etw een th e b rothers o n ly by m aintain in g th e strictest eq u ality b etw een them
(and their w iv es) both in w ork (th e w o m e n , for exam p le, taking turns to do
th e h ousew ork, prepare the m eals, carry w ater, etc .) and in co n su m p tio n . It
is no accid en t that crisis so often coin cid es w ith the disappearance of this
p ositive coh esive factor, arising w h e n the father d ies leaving adult so n s n on e
o f w h om w ield s a clear estab lish ed au th ority (b y virtue o f th e age gap or any
o ther p rin c ip le ). But the extrem ely variable relative strength of the te n d e n c ie s
to fu sion or fission d ep en d s fu n d am en tally, at th e level o f the d o m estic u n it
M atrim on ial strategies and social reproduction 65
m uch as at th e level o f larger u n its like the clan or th e trib e, on the
elationship b etw een the grou p and the external u n its: in secu rity provides a
negative principle of coh esio n capable of m aking up for the d eficien cy of
o sitive p rin cip les.102" I hate m y brother, but I hate the m an w h o hates h im .”
T h e n eg a tiv e, fo r c e d solid arity created by a shared vu ln era b ility , w hich is
reinforced every tim e th ere is a threat to the jointly ow ned m aterial and
svm b olic p atrim ony, rests o n the sam e prin cip le as the d ivisive ten d e n c y w hich
it tem p ora rily thw arts, that o f th e rivalry b etw een agnates. S o , from the
u n d ivid ed fam ily up to th e largest political units., the co h esio n en d lessly
exalted b y the m yth ological and genealogical ideology lasts no lon ger than the
pow er r ela tio n s capable o f h o ld in g in dividu al in terests togeth er.
H a v in g restated the p rin cip les w hich define the system s of in terests of the
different ca te g o r ie s of a g en ts in the d om estic pow er relations w h ich result in
the d efin itio n o f a co llectiv e m atrim onial strategy, if w e now p o sit that the
more th e w orking o f th e sy stem serves the a gen ts’ in terests, the m ore they are
inclined to serve the w orking of the system , w e are able to u nd erstan d the
fundam ental p rin cip les o f th e strategies w h ich are con fron ted on the occasion
of a m a rr ia g e.103 T h o u g h it is true that marriage is on e of th e principal
o p p ortu n ities to con serve, in crease, or (b y m isalliance) d im in ish the capital
of au th ority conferred b y stron g integration and th e cap ital of p restige
stem m in g from an ex ten siv e netw ork o f affines ( nesba), the fact rem ains that
the m em b ers of the d o m estic u nit w h o take part in arranging th e marriage
do not all id e n tify their o w n interests to the sam e degree w ith th e collective
interest o f the lineage.

As the products of elaborate strategies, of which more is expected than sim ple
biological reproduction, i.e. external or internal alliances intended to reproduce the
domestic and political power relations, marriages are a sort of short-term and long-term
investment in, am ong other th in gs, the quality of the "maternal u n cles” they procure.
It is understandable that they cannot be lightly dissolved, the most long-standing and
prestigious relationships naturally being best protected against an ill-considered break.
If repudiation becom es inevitable, then all sorts of subterfuges are resorted to so as
to prevent the total loss of the capital of alliances. T h e husband’s relatives may go and
heg the w ife’s relatives to give her back, attributing the divorce to the youth,
recklessness, thoughtless ch oice of w ords, and irresponsibility of a husband too young
to appreciate the value of alliances; it is pointed out that he did not pronounce the
ormula three tim es, but only once, im petuously, and without w itnesses. T h e divorce
ecomes a case of thutchha (the wife w ho lost her temper and w ent home to her
relatives); there may even be th e offer of a new w edding (w ith imensiand a trousseau).
the repudiation proves to be final, there are several ways of "separating” : the
greater the importance and solem nity of the marriage, the more one has " in v ested ”
*n, *he more one has therefore an interest in preserving relations w ith those from
Whorn one is separating (either out of kinship or neighbourhood solidarity, or out
tK Se^ ‘*nterested calculation), and the greater the discretion of the break; return of
e bridewealth is not dem anded im m ediately, nor is the return refused (" free”
66 T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

repudiation - battal - being a grave in su lt); it m ay not even be expected until the
woman remarries; not too m uch attention is paid to the precise am ount, and witnesses
especially outsiders, are kept away from the divorce settlem ent.

T h e in h eritan ce tradition w h ich exclu d es w om an from th e h eritage, the


m yth ic w orld -v iew w h ich accord s her o n ly a lim ited ex iste n c e and never
grants her full participation in th e sy m b o lic capital of her ad op tive lineage,
th e sexual d iv isio n of labour w h ich restricts her to d o m estic tasks leaving the
representational fu n ctio n s to th e m an - ev ery th in g co m b in es to id en tify the
in terests o f th e m en w ith the m aterial and particularly the sy m b o lic interests
o f the lin eage ; all th e m ore so , th e greater th e m e n ’s au th ority in th e agnatic
grou p . A nd th e typ ically m ascu lin e m arriages - parallel-cou sin and political
m arriages - testify u n a m b ig u o u sly to the fact that m en s’ in terests are more
d irectly id en tified w ith th e official in terests o f th e lin eage, and that their
strategies are m ore d irectly d esig n ed to rein force th e d om estic u n it’s integra
tion or th e fa m ily ’s n etw ork of alliances, con trib u tin g in b oth cases to the
g row th o f the lin ea g e’s sy m b o lic capital.
A s for th e w o m e n , it is n o accid en t that th e m arriages for w h ich they are
resp on sib le fall in to th e class of ordinary m arriages, or m ore p recisely , that
th ey are left resp on sib ility on ly for unrem arkable, u ncerem onial m arriages .104
B ein g ex clu d ed from representational k in sh ip , th e y are th row n back on to
practical k insh ip and practical u ses o f k in sh ip , in v estin g m ore econom ic
realism (in th e narrow se n se ) than th e m en in th e search for a partner for
their so n s or d a u g h ters .105 M ale and fem ale in terests are m ost likely to
d iverge w hen a daughter is to be m arried. N o t only is th e m oth er less
sen sitive to th e " fam ily in te r e st” w h ich ten d s to see the d augh ter as an
instrument for stren g th en in g th e in tegration o f th e agnatic g ro u p , or as a sort
o f sy m b o lic m on ey a llo w in g p restig io u s alliances to be set up w ith other
g rou p s; b ut also, in m arrying her daughter in to her ow n lin eage and in ten sify
ing th e ex ch a n g es b etw een th e grou p s, sh e ten d s to stren g th en her own
p osition in th e d om estic u n it. T h e m arriage o f a son raises for th e m istress
o f th e h o u se first and forem ost th e q u estion o f her d om in an ce over the
d o m estic eco n o m y . H er in terest is o n ly n egatively adjusted to that o f the
lin eage: in taking a d au gh ter from th e fam ily sh e herself cam e from , sh e is
fo llo w in g th e path traced b y th e lin eage, and a con flict am on g th e w om en
resu ltin g from a bad ch o ice w ou ld u ltim ately threaten th e u n ity o f th e agnatic
g rou p .
T h e in terest o f th e m en , alw ays d o m in an t officially and te n d in g alw ays to
b e so in reality, im p oses itself all the m ore fu lly th e stron ger th e integration
of th e agn atic grou p and th e m ore nearly equal (at least) th e fa th er’s lineage
is to th e m o th er’s in th e social hierarchy. It is n o exaggeration to claim that
th e g ro u p ’s w h o le m atrim onial h istory is p resen t in the internal transactions
M a trim on ia l strategies a n d social reproduction 67

0ver each in ten d ed m arriage. T h e lin ea g e’s in terest, i.e . the m ale in terest,
requires that a m an sh o u ld n ot b e placed in a su b ord in ate p o sitio n in th e fam ily
bv b e in g m arried to a girl of m arkedly h igh er statu s (a m an, they say, can
raise a w om an , b u t n ot th e o p p o site; y o u give - a d augh ter - to a su perior
or an e q u a l, yo u take - a d au gh ter - from an in ferior). It has m ore chance
of assertin g itself if th e m an w h o has th e resp o n sib ility (at least th e official
responsibility) for th e m arriage has not h im self b een m arried ab ove h is sta tu s.
In fact, a w h o le set o f m ech an ism s, in clu d in g th e b rid ew ealth and th e
w ed d in g exp en ses, w h ich rise in p rop ortion to the p restige o f th e m arriage,
tend to exclu d e alliances b etw een grou p s too u nequ ally m atched in term s of
econ om ic and sy m b o lic capital (th e freq u en t cases in w h ich the fam ily o f on e
sp ou se is rich in on e form o f capital - e .g . in m en - w hereas th e other
p o ssesses rather th e other form of w ealth - e .g . land - are n o ex c ep tio n s to
this): " M en ally w ith their e q u a ls” , th e sa y in g g o es ( " tsnassaben (naseb)
medden widh m'adhalen”).
In short, th e stru cture o f ob jective relation s b etw een th e kin w h o m ake th e
matrimonial d ecisio n , as m an or w om an or as m em ber o f th is or that lin eage,
helps to d efine th e stru ctu re o f relation sh ip s b etw een th e lin eages u n ited by
the proposed m arriage .106 In fact it w ou ld be m ore accurate to say that the
determ inant relation ship , b etw een th e lin eage o f th e person to b e m arried and
the lineage offerin g a p ossib le partner, is alw ays m ed iated by th e d o m estic
power structure. In d eed , in o rd er to d e scr ib e co m p letely th e m u lti-d im en sio n a l
and m u lti-fu n ction al relation ship (irred u cib le to k insh ip ties) b etw een th e tw o
groups, it is n ot sufficient to take in to accou n t o n ly th e spatial, eco n o m ic,
and social d ista n ce b etw een th em at th e m om en t of m arriage in term s of
econom ic and sy m b o lic capital (m easured b y th e n u m b er of m en and o f m en
of honour, b y th e d egree of in tegration of th e fa m ily , e t c .) . W e m u st also
take into con sid eration th e state, at that particular tim e, o f th e b alan ce-sh eet
of their m aterial and sy m b o lic ex ch an ges, i.e . th e w h o le h istory of th e official,
extra-ordinary ex ch an ges su ch as m arriages b rou ght ab out or at least co n se
crated b y the m en , and also th e u nofficial, ordinary exch a n g es con tin u ou sly
carried o n b y th e w o m en w ith th e co m p lic ity o f th e m en and som etim es
w ithout th eir k n o w led g e, a m ed iation through w h ich th e o b jectiv e relations
predisposing tw o grou p s to com e tog eth er are prepared for and realized.

Whereas econom ic capital is relatively stable, sym bolic capital is relatively pre
v i o u s : the death of a prestigious head of the fam ily is som etim es enough to dim inish
severely. Fluctuations in the group’s sym bolic fortunes are follow ed by
corresponding changes in the w hole im age of itself w hich the group aim s to present,
afld in the objectives - alliance or integration - w hich it sets for its marriages. T h u s
the space of tw o generations, a great fam ily, w hose econom ic situation was in fact
^•proving, declined from male marriages - marriages w ithin the close kin or extra-
urt»nary marriages (arranged by m en, outside the usual area, for purposes of alliance)
68 T he objective limits o f objectivism

- to ordinary marriages, generally set up by the w om en, w ithin their own network
of relationships. T h is change in m atrimonial policy coincided w ith the deaths of the
two eldest brothers (H ocine and L aid ), the long absence of the oldest men (w ho had
gone to France), and the weakening of the authority o f thamgarth, who had become
blind, with real power passing into the hands of Boudjemaa and, intermittently,
A thm an. Because it is not clear w ho is to succeed thamgarth, the wom an who imposes
order and silence ( ta'a n thamgarth, da susm i"obedience to the old wom an is silen ce’ )
the structure of relations betw een the wives reflects the structure of relations between
the husbands, leaving vacant the position of m istress of the house; in such c ir c u it
stances, marriages tend to go tow ards the w om en’s respective lin eages.107

T h e structural ch aracteristics gen ericallv d efin in g the value of a lineage’s


prod ucts on th e m atrim onial m arket are ob v io u sly sp ecified by secondary
ch aracteristics su ch as the m atrim onial statu s of th e person to be married,
h is or her age, se x , etc. T h u s th e gro u p ’s m atrim onial strategies and the type
of m arriage w hich m ay result from th em are q uite different d ep en d in g on
w heth er the m an to be m arried is a b ach elor " o f th e m arrying a g e ” or has
already "p assed the a g e ” , or w h eth er he is an already m arried m an looking
for a co-w ife, or a w id ow er or d ivorcee w antin g to rem arry (w ith th e situation
ch an gin g further d ep en d in g on w heth er or not he has ch ild ren from his first
m arriage). F or a girl the p rin cip les o f variation are th e sam e, w ith the
d ifferen ce that the depreciation en tailed by p reviou s m arriages is infinitely
greater (becau se of the price p u t on virginity and in sp ite of the fact that a
reputation as a " m an w h o repu d iates ” is just as dam agin g as that o f a " woman
to be r e p u d ia te d ”).

T h is is only one aspect of the dyssvm m etry betw een the situation of the man and
the woman before marriage: " T h e m an ”, runs the saying, "is always a man, whatever
his state [unlike the wom an, w ho can disqualify herself, and cast herself into shame,
<dr]; it is up to him to ch o o se.” H aving the strategic initiative, he can afford to wait:
he is sure to find a w ife, even if h e has to pay the price of his delay by marrying a
woman w ho has already been m arried, or is of lower social status, or has some
disability. T h e girl being the one traditionally "asked fo r ” and " g iv e n ” in marriage,
it w ould be the height of absurdity for a father to solicit a husband for his daughter.
A nother difference is that "the man can wait for the woman [to be of age] but the
woman cannot wait for the m a n ”: the father with daughters to marrv can play with
tim e so as to prolong the conjunctural advantage he derives from his position as the
receiver of offers, but only up to a certain point, or he will see his products d e v a l u e d
because they are thought to be unsaleable, or sim ply because they are past their prime.
One of the most im portant constraints on matrimonial strategies is the urgency ot
marriage, w hich obviously weakens the agents’ position. A m ong the reasons for
hurrying the marriage, there m ay be the great age of the parents, w ho hope to see
their son married and to have a daughter-in-law to look after them , or the fear of seeing
a girl they had counted on g ettin g being given to som eone else (to avoid this
happening, the parents "present a slip p er”, thus "m arking” the girl at a very early
age, and som etim es even have the fatxha recited). An only son is also married young*
so that he can continue the lineage as quickly as possible. T h e sym bolic profit
accruing from remarrying after a divorce before the ex-spouse does so often leads both
M a tiim o n ia l strategies an d social reproduction 69

seS to arrange hasty marriages (such marriages are unlikely to remain stable, which
plains why som e men seem " con d em n ed ” to marry many tim es). But there is great
avssymmetry on this point too: a man, divorced or w idow ed, is expected to remarry,
'hereas a divorced wom an is devalued by the failure of her marriage, and a w idow ,
even a very young on e, is excluded from the m atrimonial market by her status as a
pother expected to bring up her husband’s ch ild , especially if it is a boy ("a woman
c a n n o t remain - a w idow - for the sake of another woman ” is the saying applied to
a w id o w w ho, only having daughters, is encouraged to remarry, whereas a mother
0f 50ns is praised for her sacrifice, which is all the more meritorious if she is young
a n d thus liable to have to live as an outsider am ong her husband’s sisters and her
h u s b a n d ’s brothers’ w ives). But her situation varies further depending on whether she
h a s "left” her children with her deceased husband’s fam ily or gone back to her own
family with her children (in which case she is less free and hence harder to marry
o f f ) - A n interesting option arises: she may either be taken to w ife by som eone in her
h u s b a n d ’s fam ily (the official practice, particularly recom m ended if she has sons) or
be found a new husband by her father’s fam ily (w hich happens more often w hen she
is childless) or by her husband's fam ily. It is difficult to establish the universe of
v a r ia b le s (doubtless including local traditions) determ ining the " ch o ice” of one or
the other of these strategies.

But it m u st also be borne in m ind , contrary to the tradition w h ich treats


each marriage as an isolated u n it, that th e m arrying of each o f the ch ildren
of the sam e fam ily u n it ( i.e . the children o f the sam e father, or in som e cases
the grandchildren o f the sam e grandfather) d ep en d s on the m arrying of all
the others and th u s varies as a fu n ction o f each c h ild ’s position (defin ed m ainly
by sib lin g order, sex , and relationship to th e head o f the fa m ily ), w ith in the
particular configuration of the w hole set of ch ild ren to be m arried, itself
characterized b y their n um ber and se x . T h u s , for a m an th e situ ation is m ore
favourable the closer his kin relation ship to the statutory holder o f authority
over the m arriage (w h ich m ay range from so n -fa th e r to you nger b ro th e r-
elder brother, or even the relation ship b etw e en distant co u sin s). M oreover,
although there is no official recogn ition o f an y p rivilege for the eldest (o f the
boys, o f co u rse), everyth in g con sp ires to favou r him to th e d etrim en t o f his
younger brothers, to marry him first and as w ell as p ossib le, that is, o u tsid e
rather than inside th e lin eage, the yo u n g er b rothers b ein g d estin ed for
Production rather than th e exchanges o f th e m arket or assem b ly, for work on
the land rather than the h o u se’s external p o litics. H is p osition is, how ever,
ver)r different d ep en d in g on w h eth er he is the eld est o f several so n s, or the
bearer of all h is fa m ily ’s h opes as an on ly so n or on e follow ed b y several
daughters .108 T h e fam ily w ith m any d au gh ters, especially if th ey are poorly
Protected ” (by son s) and hence little valu ed b ecau se vu lnerab le and prom is-
lr*g few allies, is in an u nfavourable p o sitio n and finds itself forced to incur
debts tow ards the fam ilies w h ich receive its w o m en . In con trast, a fam ily rich
ln m en has considerable room for m a n o e u v r e : it can ch o o se to in vest each
° f its son s differently accord in g to circu m sta n ces, to increase its alliances w ith
70 T h e objective lim its o f objectivism

o n e o f th e m , to stre n g th e n its in tegration w ith an oth er, to p u t a co u sin ^ ■


o n ly has d au g h ters u n d er an o b lig a tio n b y ta k in g o n e of h is g irls for a third ^
In th is case, th e stra teg ist’s sk ill can h ave free rein and can effortlessly
re co n cile th e irrecon cilab le, b oth rein fo rcin g in teg ra tio n an d expanding
a llia n ces. T h e m an w h o o n ly has d a u g h ters, or has to o m a n y o f them , js

restricted to n egative strategies, and h is sk ill has to b e lim ited to th e manip,


u lation o f th e rela tio n sh ip b etw e en th e field o f p oten tial p artners and th e field
o f p o ten tia l co m p etito rs, p la y in g off th e " n e a r ” against th e " d ista n t” , the
req u est o f a clo se k in sm an again st that o f a stranger (in o rd er to refuse
w ith o u t o ffen ce or m ake h im w ait) in su ch a w ay as to reserve th e pow er to
op t for th e m o st p restigiou s alternative.
It w ill d o u b tle ss h ave b eco m e clear h o w artificial it is to distinguish
b e tw e e n th e en d s and th e m ean s of c o llec tiv e m atrim on ial stra teg ies. Ever}',
th in g takes place as if, o b je ctiv ely o rien ted tow ard s th e rein fo rcin g or
in crea sin g o f in tegration w ith in th e lim its o f th e m a in ten a n ce of allian ces (or
th e reverse) th e se strategies d ep en d e d for th eir lo g ic and th eir efficacy o n the
m aterial and sy m b o lic cap ital o f th e social u n it in q u e stio n , i.e . n o t o n ly on
th e v a lu e o f its m aterial h eritage b u t also on its sy m b o lic h erita g e, w h ic h itself
d e p e n d s first on th e size and in tegration o f th e agnatic g ro u p (m arked b y the
jo in t p rod u ction and co n su m p tio n o f m aterial g o o d s) an d se co n d ly on its
cap ital o f a llia n ces, b o th th e se form s o f sy m b o lic capital o b v io u sly depending
on th e w h o le m atrim on ial h isto ry . It fo llo w s th a t every m arriage tends to
rep rod u ce th e co n d itio n s w h ic h have m ad e it p o ssib le .110 M atrim on ial strate
g ie s, o b jectiv ely d irected tow ard s the con serv a tio n or ex p a n sio n of th e material
and sy m b o lic capital jo in tly p o ssessed b y a m ore or less ex te n d ed group,
b e lo n g to th e sy stem o f rep rod u ction stra teg ies, d efin ed as th e su m total of
th e stra teg ies th rou gh w h ic h in d iv id u a ls or g ro u p s o b jectiv ely ten d to repro
d u c e th e relation s of p ro d u c tio n associated w ith a d eterm in a te m o d e of
p ro d u c tio n b y striv in g to rep rod u ce or im p ro v e their p o sitio n in th e social
str u c tu r e .111
T h is takes us a lo n g w ay fro m th e p ure - b ecau se in fin itely i m p o v e r i s h e d
- realm o f the " ru les of m a rria g e” and th e " elem en ta ry stru ctu res of k in s h ip ’ •
H a v in g d efin ed th e sy ste m o f p rin cip les from w h ich th e a g en ts are ab le to
p ro d u c e regu lated and regular m atrim on ial p ractices and to understand
p ractically th e m atrim on ial p ractices of oth er a gen ts, w e co u ld u se statistical
a n a lysis o f th e relevant in fo rm a tio n to esta b lish th e w eig h t o f th e corresp ond '
in g stru ctural or in d ivid u al variables. In fact, th e im p o rta n t th in g is th a t the
a g e n ts’ p ractice b e c o m e s in te llig ib le as so o n as o n e can co n stru ct th e systerfl
of th e p rin cip les and o f th e law s of co m b in a tio n of th o se p rin cip les (or, to
p u t it a n oth er w ay, th e sy stem of variab les and op erators) w h ich th e y put
in to p ractice w h en th e y id en tify im m ed ia tely th e in d iv id u a ls so cio -lo g ica lly
M a trim o n ia l strategies a n d social reproduction 7 i

hable in a g iven state of th e m atrim on ial m ark et, or m o r e p rec ise ly , w h e n ,


inatc n t0 a particular m a n , th ey d esig n a te, for ex a m p le, th e few w o m en
*n f oractical k in sh ip w h o are in so m e se n se prom ised to h im an d th o se w h o m
wlt u |cj at a stretch b e p erm itted to m arry - and d o s o in su ch a clear and
^ I wav that any d ev ia tio n from th e m o st lik ely c o u rse, m arriage in to
tribe for ex a m p le, is felt as a ch a lle n g e to th e fa m ily co n cern ed , and
anotnei
also to the w h ole grou p .
2
S tru c tu re s and the h ab itu s

M eth od ological o b jectivism , a necessary m om en t in all research, by the break


w ith prim ary exp erien ce and th e con stru ction of ob jective relations w hich it
acco m p lish es, d em and s its ow n su p ersession . In ord er to escap e the realism
o f the structure, w h ich h ypostatizes system s of ob jective relations b y converting
them in to to ta lities already con stitu ted ou tsid e o f in d iv id u a l h istory and group
h istory, it is necessary to pass from th e opus operatum to the modus operandi,
from statistical regularity or algebraic structure to the p rin cip le o f the produc
tion of th is ob served order, and to con stru ct the theory of p ractice, or, more
p recisely, th e theory of the m od e of gen eration of practices, w hich is the
p recon d ition for estab lish in g an exp erim en tal scien ce o f the dialectic o f the
internalization o f extern ality and the extem a liza tio n o f \n tem a lity, or, more
sim p ly , o f in corporation an d ob jectification .

A false dilem m a: mechanism an d finalism

T h e stru ctu res con stitu tiv e o f a particular typ e o f en v iro n m en t (e.g . the
m aterial co n d itio n s of ex isten ce characteristic of a class co n d itio n ) produce
habitus, sy stem s o f d urable, transposable dispositions/ stru ctured structures
p red isp osed to fu n ctio n as stru cturin g stru ctu res, that is, as p rin cip les o f the
generation an d stru ctu rin g o f practices and represen tation s w h ich can be
ob jectively " re g u la ted ” &nd " regu lar” w ith ou t in any w ay b ein g th e product
o f o b ed ien ce to ru les, o b jectiv ely adapted to th eir g o a ls w ith o u t presupposing
a co n scio u s a im in g at en d s or an exp ress m astery of th e op eration s necessary
to attain th e m and, b ein g all th is, co llectiv ely orchestrated w ith o u t being the
product of th e orchestratin g action o f a con d u ctor.
E ven w h e n th ey appear as the realization of the ex p lic it, an d explicitly
stated, p u rp oses of a project or p lan, th e p ractices p rod u ced b y the habitus,
as the strategy-gen eratin g p rin cip le en ab lin g agen ts to cop e w ith unforeseen
and ev er-ch an g in g situ ation s, are on ly apparently d eterm in ed b y th e future.
If th ey se e m d eterm in ed b y an ticip ation of their ow n co n seq u en ces, thereby
en cou raging the finalist illu sio n , th e fact is that, alw ays ten d in g to reproduce
th e o b jective structures of w h ich th ey are th e p ro d u ct, they are determined
b y the past co n d itio n s w h ich have p rod uced the p rin cip le of th eir prod uction ,
[ 72 1
A fa lse dilem m a: mechanism an d finalism 73

is by th e actual ou tco m e o f id en tical or in terchan geab le past p ractices,


hich coin cid es w ith their ow n ou tco m e to th e exten t ( and on ly to the extent)
that the ob jective stru ctu res of w h ich th ey are the p rod uct are p rolon ged in
the structures w ith in w h ich th ey fu n ctio n . T h u s, for exam p le, in the
interaction b etw een tw o agen ts or grou p s of agents en d o w ed w ith the sam e
habitus (say A and B ), everyth in g takes p lace as if the actio n s of each of them
(say ai f ° r w ere organ ized in relation to the reaction s th ey call forth from
any agent p o ssessin g the sam e h abitus (say, b i, B ’s reaction to ai) so that they
objectively im p ly an ticip ation of th e reaction w h ich th e se reactions in turn
call forth (say a2, the reaction to b i). But th e teleological d escrip tion accord in g
to which each action has the purpose o f m aking p ossib le th e reaction to the
reaction it arou ses (ind ivid ual A p erform in g action ai, e .g . a g ift or ch allen ge,
in order to m ake in dividu al B p rod uce action b it a co u n ter-g ift or riposte,
so as to be able to p erform action a2, a step p ed -u p g ift or ch allenge) is q u ite
as naive as th e m ech an istic d escrip tion w hich p resen ts the action and the
riposte as m o m en ts in a se q u en ce o f program m ed actio n s prod uced by a
mechanical apparatus. T h e h abitus is the sou rce of th ese series o f m oves w hich
are objectively organized as strategies w ith ou t b ein g th e p rod uct of a g en u in e
strategic in ten tio n - w h ich w ould p resup pose at least that th ey are p erceived
as one strategy am ong other p ossib le stra teg ies .2
It is necessary to ab and on all theories w h ich ex p lic itly or im p licitly treat
practice as a m echanical reaction , d irectly d eterm in ed by the an tecedent
conditions and en tirely redu cible to th e m echan ical fu n ctio n in g of pre-
established a ssem b lies, " m o d e ls” or " r o l e s w h i c h on e w o u ld , m oreover,
have to p ostu late in in finite n um ber, like th e chance con figu ration s o f stim uli
capable o f trig g erin g th em from o u tsid e, th ereb y c o n d em n in g on eself to the
grandiose an d d esperate und ertak ing of th e a n th ro p o log ist, arm ed w ith fine
positivist cou rage, w h o recorded 480 elem en tary u n its of b eh aviour in tw en ty
m inutes' ob servation of his w ife in th e k itch en .3 B ut rejection o f m echan istic
theories in n o w ay im p lies that, in accordance w ith an oth er ob ligatory op tion ,
we sh ould b esto w on som e creative free w ill th e free and w ilfu l p o w er to
constitute, o n the in stant, th e m ean in g o f the situ a tio n by p rojectin g the en d s
aiming at its tran sform ation , and that w e sh ou ld redu ce the objective
intentions an d con stitu ted sign ification s o f action s a n d w orks to the co n sciou s
and deliberate in ten tion s o f their authors.
Jean-Paul Sartre deserves credit for having given an ultra-consistent form ulation
0 ^ e philosophy of action accepted, usually im plicitly, by all those who describe
Practices as strategies explicitly oriented by reference to purposes explicitly defined
>’ a free project4 or even, with som e interactionists, by reference to the anticipated
cues as to the reaction to practices. T h u s, refusing to recognize anything resem bling
urable dispositions, Sartre makes each action a sort of unprecedented confrontation
etween the subject and the w orld. T h is is clearly seen in the passages in Being and
7 4
Structures an d the habitus

Nothingness where he confers on the awakening of revolutionary consciousness - a sort


o f " conversion ” of consciousness produced by a sort of imaginary variation - the power
to create the m eaning o f the present by creating the revolutionary future which
negates it: "For it is necessary to reverse the com m on opinion and acknow ledge that
it is not the harshness of a situation or the sufferings it im poses that lead people to
conceive of another state of affairs in w hich things would be better for everybody.
It is on the day that we are able to conceive of another state of affairs, that a new
light is cast on our trouble and our suffering and we decide that they are unbearable.”5
If the world of action is nothing other than this universe of interchangeable possibles,
entirely dependent on the decrees of the consciousness w hich creates it and hence
totally devoid of objectivity, if it is m oving because the subject chooses to be moved,
revolting because he chooses to be revolted, then em otions, passions, and actions are
merely gam es of bad faith, sad farces in which one is both bad actor and good
audience: " It is not by chance that materialism is serious; it is not by chance that
it is found at all tim es and places as the favourite doctrine of the revolutionary. This
is because revolutionaries are serious. T h ey com e to know them selves first in terms
of the world which oppresses t h e m .. .T h e serious man is 'o f the w o rld ’ and has no
resource in him self. He does not even im agine any longer the possibility of getting
o u to i the w o rld . . . he is in bad faith .”* T h e same incapacity to encounter "seriousness”
other than in the disapproved form of the "spirit o f seriou sn ess” can be seen in an
analysis of em otion w hich, significantly, is separated by L ’imaginaire ( Psychology of
the Imagination) from the less radically subjectivist descriptions in Sketch f o r a Theory
o f the Emotions: "W hat will make me decide to choose the magical aspect or the
technical aspect of the world ? It cannot be the world itself, .or th is in order to be
manifested waits to be discovered. T herefore it is necessary that the for-itself in its
project m ust choose being the one by w hom the world is revealed as magical or
rational; that is, the for-itself m ust as a free project of itself give to itself rational or
magical existence. It is responsible for either one, for the for-itself can be only if it
has chosen itself. T herefore the for-itself appears as the free foundation of its emotions
as of its volitions. M y fear is free and m anifests my freedom . >rT Such a theory of action
was inevitably to lead to the desperate project of a transcendental genesis of society
and history (the Critique de la raison dialectique) to which D urkheim seem ed to be
pointing w hen he w rote in The Rules o f Sociological Method: " It is because the
imaginary offers the mind no resistance that the m ind, conscious of no restraint, gives
itself up to boundless am bitions and believes it possible to construct, or rather
reconstruct, the world by virtue of its own strength and at the w him of its desires. ”8
N o doubt one could counterpose to this analysis of Sartrian anthropology the
num erous texts (found especially in the earliest and the latest works) in which Sartre
recognizes, for exam ple, the “ passive syntheses* of a universe of already constituted
significations or expressly challenges the very principles of his philosophy, such as
the passage in Being and Nothingness in which he seeks to distinguish his position from
the instantaneiste philosophy of D escartes9 or a sentence from the Critique de la raison
dialectique in w hich he announces the study of "agentless actions, totalizer-less
productions, counter-finalities, infernal circularities”.10 T h e fact remains that Sartre
rejects with visceral repugnance "those gelatinous realities, m ore or less vaguely
haunted by a supra-individual consciousness, which a sham efaced organicism still seeks
to retrieve, against all likelihood, in the rough, com plex but clear-cut field o f passive
activity in w hich there are individual organisms and inorganic material realities”,
and that he leaves no room for everything that, as m uch on the side of the things of
the world as on the side of the agents, m ight seem to blur the sharp line his rigorous
dualism seeks to maintain betw een the pure transparency of the subject and the
A fa lse dilem m a: mechanism an d finalism 75
• ral opacity of the thing. W ithin this logic, "objective ” sociology can grasp only
X ? s o c ia lit y of inertia”, that is, for exam ple, the class reduced to inertia, hence to
tence, class as a thing, an essence, " co n g ea led ” in its being, i.e . in its "having
1 ' »>. « Class seriality makes the individual (w hoever he is and whatever the class)
being who defines him self as a hum anized t h i n g .. .T h e other form of class, that
* the group totalizing in a praxis, is born at the heart of the passive form and as
Its negation.”12 T h e social w orld, the site of these com prom ises betw een thing and
meaning which define "objective m ean ing” as m eaning-m ade-thing and dispositions
as meaning-made-body, is a positive challenge to som eone who can only live in the
mire transparent universe of consciousness or individual ” praxis”. T h e only lim it this
artificialism recognizes to the freedom of the ego is that which freedom sets itself by
the free abdication of a pledge or the surrender of bad faith, the Sartrian name for
alienation, or the subm ission im posed on it by the alienating freedom of the alter ego
in the Hegelian struggles betw een master and slave. S eeing "in social arrangments
onlv artificial and more or less arbitrary com b in ation s”, as Durkheim puts it ,13
without a second thought he subordinates the transcendence of the social - reduced
to "the reciprocity of constraints and autonom ies ” - to the " transcendence of the ego ”,
as the early Sartre used to put i t : " In the course of this action, the individual discovers
the dialectic as rational transparency, inasm uch as he produces it, and as absolute
necessity inasmuch as it escapes h im , in other w ords, quite sim ply, inasm uch as others
produce it; finally, precisely insofar as he recognizes him self in overcom ing his needs,
he recognizes the law which others im pose on him in overcom ing their own (recognizes
it: this does not mean that he subm its to it), he recognizes his ow n autonom y
(inasmuch as it can be used by another and daily is, bluffs, m anoeuvres, e tc .) as a
foreign power and the autonom y of others as the inexorable law which allows him
to coerce th em .”1,1 T h e transcendence of the social can only be the effect of
recurrence, that is to say, in the last analysis, o f number (hence the importance
accorded to the " series”), or of the "m aterialization of recurrence” in cultural
objects;15 alienation consists in the free abdication of freedom in favour of the
demands of "worked upon m atter” : "the 19th century worker makes himself w hat he
is, that is, he practically and rationally determ ines the order o f his expenditure -
hence he decides in his free praxis - and by his freedom he makes him self what he
was, what he is, what he m ust be: a m achine w hose wages represent no more than
its running c o s t s .. . C lass-being as practico-inert being com es to men by m en through
the passive syntheses of worked upon m atter.”16 Elsewhere, affirmation o f the " logical ”
primacy of "individual praxis”, constituent R eason, over history, constituted Reason,
leads Sartre to pose the problem of the genesis of society in the same terms as those
employed by the theoreticians of the social contract: "H istory determ ines the content
° f human relationships in its totality and these relationships. . .relate back to every
thing. But it is not H istory w hich causes there to be human relationships in general,
t is not the problem s of organization and division of labour that have caused relations
to be set up betw een those initially separate objects, m en .”17 Just as for D escartes
creation is con tin u ou s”, as Jean Wahl puts it, "because tim e is n o t” and because
extended substance does not contain w ithin itself the power to subsist - God being
^ vested w ith the ever-renewed task of recreating the world ex nihilo by a free decree
0 his w i l l - s o the typically Cartesian refusal of the viscous opacity of "objective
potentialities” and objective m eaning leads Sartre to entrust to the absolute initiative
c mdividual or collective "historical ag en ts”, such as the Party, the hypostasis of the
subiect’ t^Le indefinite task of tearing the social w hole, or the class, out of
e inertia of the " practico-inert ”. At the end o f his im m ense imaginary novel of the
eath and resurrection of freedom , with its tw ofold m ovem ent, the "externalization
76 Structures an d the habitus

of internality”, w hich leads from freedom to alienation, from consciousness to the


materialization of consciousness, or, as the title puts it, "from praxis to the practico-
in ert”, and the “ internalization of externality” w hich, by the abrupt shortcuts of the
awakening of consciousness and the " fusion of consciousnesses ”, leads "from the group
to h istory”, from th e reified state of the alienated group to the authentic existence
of the historical agent, consciousness and thing are as irremediably separate as they
were at the outset, w ithout anything resem bling an institution or a socially constituted
agent ever having been observed or constructed. T h e appearances of a dialectical
discourse (or the dialectical appearances of the discourse) cannot mask the endless
oscillation betw een the in-itself and the for-itself, or in the new language, between
materiality and praxis, betw een the inertia of the group reduced to its " essen ce”, i.e.
to its outlived past and its necessity (abandoned to sociologists) and the continuous
creation of the free collective project, seen as a series of acts of com m itm ent indispen
sable for saving the group from annihilation in pure m ateriality.18

It is, o f cou rse, never ruled ou t that the resp onses o f the h abitus m ay be
accom pan ied b y a strategic calculation ten d in g to carry on quasi-consciously
th e operation th e habitus carries on in a q u ite d ifferen t w ay, nam ely an
estim ation o f ch an ces w h ich assu m es the transform ation o f the past effect into
the exp ected o b jectiv e. But the fact rem ains that these resp on ses are defined
first in relation to a system o f ob jective p oten tialities, im m ed iately inscribed
in the presen t, th in g s to d o or not to d o , to say or not to say, in relation to
a forthcom ing reality w hich - in contrast to th e future co n ceiv ed as " absolute
p o ssib ility ” ( absolute M oglich keit), in H e g e l’s sen se, projected by the pure
project o f a " n egative fr e e d o m ” - p u ts itself forw ard w ith an u rg en cy and a
claim to ex isten ce exclu d in g all d elib eration . T o elim in a te the n eed to resort
to ‘'r u le s” , it w o u ld b e necessary to estab lish in each case a com plete
d escrip tion (w h ich invocation o f rules allow s one to d isp en se w ith ) of the
relation b etw een th e h abitus, as a socially con stitu ted sy stem of co g n itiv e and
m otivatin g stru ctu res, and th e socially stru ctured situ a tio n in w h ich the
a g en ts’ interests are d efin ed , and w ith th em the o b jective fu n ctio n s and
su bjective m otivation s o f their p ractices. It w ould th en b ecom e clear that,
as W eber in d ica ted , the juridical or custom ary rule is never m ore than a
secondary p rin cip le o f the d eterm in ation of p ractices, in terv en in g w hen the
prim ary p rin cip le, in terest, fa ils .19
S y m b o lic - that is, conventional and conditional - stim u la tio n s, w h ich act
on ly on co n d itio n th ey en cou n ter agen ts co n d ition ed to perceive th em , tend
to im pose th e m se lv e s u n con d ition ally and n ecessarily w h en in cu lcation of the
arbitrary a b olish es the arbitrariness of b oth the in cu lcation and th e sign ifica
tio n s in cu lca ted . T h e w orld of u rgen cies and of goals already ach ieved , of
u ses to b e m ade and path s to be taken, o f ob jects en d o w e d w ith a "permanent
teleological ch a ra cter”, in H u sse rl’s phrase, tools, in stru m en ts and institu*
tion s, the w orld o f practicality, can grant on ly a co n d itio n a l freedom - liberet
si liceret - rather like that of the m agnetic n eed le w h ich L eib n iz im agined
A false dilem m a: mechanism an d finalism
77
tid ily en joyed tu rn in g northw ards. If one regularly ob serves a very close
rrelation betw een the scien tifically co n stru cted objective probabilities (e .g .
the chances of access to a particular g o o d ) and subjective aspirations (" m o tiv a
tions” or " n e e d s”) or, in other term s, b etw een the a posteriori or ex post
probability know n from past exp erien ce and the a p rio ri ox ex ante probability
attributed to it, this is not becau se agen ts co n sc io u sly adjust their aspirations
t0 an exact evaluation o f their ch an ces o f su c c e ss, like a player regulating his
bets as a function of perfect inform ation as to h is ch an ces o f w in n in g, as one
im plicitly p resup poses w h en ever, forgettin g th e "everyth in g takes place as
if”, one proceeds as if gam e theory or the calcu lation of p rob abilities, each
constructed against sp on tan eou s d isp o sitio n s, am ou n ted to anthropological
descriptions of practice.
C om pletely reversin g the ten d en cy of ob jectiv ism , w'e can, on th e contrary,
seek in th e scien tific theory of p rob abilities (or strategies) not an an th rop olo
gical m odel of practice, but the elem en ts o f a negative description o f the im p licit
logic of th e spontaneous interpretation o f statistics (e .g . the p rosp en sity to p rivilege
early exp erien ces) w h ich th e scien tific theory necessarily con tain s becau se it is
explicitly con stru cted against that log ic. U n lik e th e estim a tio n o f p rob abili
ties w hich scien ce con stru cts m eth od ically on th e basis of con trolled ex p eri
ments from data estab lish ed according to precise rules, practical evaluation
of the lik elihood o f the su ccess o f a given action in a g iv en situ ation brings
into play a w'hole b ody of w isd om , sayin g s, com m o n p la ces, ethical p recepts
("that’s not for th e likes of u s ”) and, at a d eep er lev el, the u n co n scio u s
principles of the ethos w h ich , b ein g the p rod u ct of a learn ing p rocess d o m i
nated by a d eterm inate typ e of ob jective regularities, d eterm in es" reason ab le ”
and ''u n reason ab le” con d u ct for every agen t su b jected to th o se regu larities .20
"We are n o soon er acquainted w ith the im p o ssib ility o f sa tisfy in g any d esire ”,
says H u m e in A T reatise o f H um an N a tu re, " th an the d esire itself v a n ish e s.”
And Marx in the Economic and Philosophical M anuscripts: " If I have n o m oney
for travel, I have no need, i.e . no real and self-realizin g n eed , to travel. If
I have a vocation to stu d y , b u t n o m on ey for it, I have no vocation to
study, i.e . no real, true v o ca tio n .”
Because th e d isp o sitio n s durably in cu lcated b y ob jective co n d itio n s (w h ich
science ap preh en ds through statistical regularities as the p rob abilities ob jec
tively attached to a grou p or class) en gen d er asp iration s and practices ob jec
tively com p atib le w ith th ose ob jective req u irem en ts, the m ost im probable
practices are ex clu d ed , eith er totally w ith o u t exam in ation , as unthinkable, or
at the co st o f the double negation w hich in clin e s agen ts to m ake a virtu e of
necessity, that is, to refuse wrhat is an yw ay refu sed and to love th e in evitab le.
T h e very co n d itio n s of p rod uction o f the e th o s, necessity m ade into a virtu e,
^ e su ch that the ex p ectation s to w hich it g ives rise ten d to ignore the
78 Structures and the habitus

restriction to w h ich the valid ity of any calcu lu s o f p rob ab ilities is sub
ordinated, n am ely that the co n d ition s o f th e ex p erim en ts sh ou ld not have
b een m od ified . U n lik e scien tific estim ation s, w h ich are corrected after each
exp erim en t in accordance w ith rigorous rules o f ca lcu lation , practical esti
m ates g iv e d isp rop ortion ate w eigh t to early e x p e r ie n c e s: th e stru ctu res charac
teristic of a d eterm in ate ty p e of co n d ition s o f ex iste n c e, through the
eco n o m ic and social n ecessity w h ich th ey b rin g to bear on th e relatively
a u to n om ou s u n iverse o f fam ily relation ship s, or m ore p recisely , through the
m ediation of th e specifically fam ilial m an ifestation s of th is external necessity
(sexual d iv isio n of labour, d om estic m orality, cares, strife, ta stes, etc.),
p rod uce the stru ctu res of the h abitus w h ich b ecom e in turn th e basis of
p erception and ap preciation of all su b seq u en t ex p erien ce. T h u s , as a result
o f th e hysteresis effect necessarily im plied in the logic o f th e co n stitu tio n of
habitus, p ractices are alw ays liable to incur n egative san ction s w h en the
en viron m en t w ith w h ich th e y are actually con fron ted is to o distant from that
to w hich they are ob jectively fitted . T h is is w h y gen eration con flicts oppose
not age-classes separated by natural p rop erties, but h ab itu s w h ich have been
p roduced by d ifferen t modes o f generation, that is, b y co n d itio n s of existence
w h ich , in im p o sin g different d efin ition s of th e im p o ssib le, the p o ssib le, and
the probable, cau se on e grou p to exp erien ce as natural or reasonable practices
or aspirations w h ich another grou p finds unthin k able or scand alous, and vice
versa.

Structures, habitus an d practices


T h e habitus, th e durably installed gen erative p rin cip le o f regulated im provi
sation s, p rod u ces practices w h ich ten d to reproduce th e regularities im m anent
in the ob jectiv e co n d ition s of the p rod u ction o f their gen erative principle,
w h ile ad justing to the d em and s inscribed as ob jectiv e p oten tialities in the
situ ation , as d efined b y the co g n itiv e and m otivatin g stru ctu res m aking up
the h ab itu s. It fo llo w s that these practices can n ot b e d irectly d ed u ced either
from the ob jective con d itio n s, defined as the in stan tan eou s su m o f th e stim uli
w h ich m ay appear to have d irectly triggered th em , or from th e con d itions
w h ich p rod u ced the durable p rin cip le of their p rod u ction . T h e se practices
can b e accou n ted for on ly b y relatin g the ob jective structure d efin in g the social
co n d ition s of th e p rod u ction of the h abitus w h ich en g en d ered th e m to the
co n d ition s in w h ich th is h ab itu s is op eratin g, that is, to th e conjuncture w hich,
short o f a radical transform ation, represents a particular sta te o f th is structure.
In practice, it is th e habitus, h istory turned into n atu re, i.e . d en ied as such,
w hich acco m p lish es practically th e relating o f th ese tw o sy stem s o f relations,
in and th rou gh th e p rod u ction o f practice. T h e " u n c o n s c io u s ” is never
an yth ing other than the forgettin g of h istory w h ich h istory itself p rod uces by
Structures , habitus an d practices jg

. corporating th e o b jective stru ctures it p rod u ces in the seco n d natures of


habitus: " . • • in each o f u s, in varying prop ortions, there is part of y esterd a y ’s
man; it IS y esterd ay’s m an w h o in evitab ly p red om in ates in u s, sin ce the
resent a m ou n ts to little com pared w ith th e lo n g past in the course o f w hich
we were form ed and from w hich w e resu lt. Y et w e d o n ot sen se this m an
of the p ast, b ecause he is inveterate in u s; he m akes u p th e u n c o n scio u s part
0f ourselves. C on seq u en tly w e are led to take no accou n t of h im , any m ore
than w e take accou n t o f his legitim ate d em an d s. C on versely , w e are very m uch
aware of th e m ost recent attain m en ts of civilization , b ecau se, b ein g recent,
they have n ot yet had tim e to settle in to our u n c o n sc io u s .”21
G enesis am nesia is also en cou raged (if n ot en tailed ) b y th e ob jectivist
apprehension w h ich , graspin g the p rod uct of h istory as an opus operatum ,
a fait accom pli, can on ly invoke the m ysteries of p re-esta b lish ed harm ony or
the prodigies of co n scio u s orchestration to acco u n t for w h at, apprehended in
pure sy n ch ron y, appears as ob jective m ean in g, w h eth er it be the internal
coherence o f w orks or in stitu tion s su ch as m yth s, rites, or b o d ies of law , or
the objective co-ordin ation w h ich th e con cordan t or co n flictin g p ractices of
the m em bers o f the sam e grou p or class at on ce m anifest and p resup pose
(inasmuch as they im p ly a com m u n ity o f d isp o sitio n s).
Each ag en t, w ittin g ly or u n w ittin gly, w illy n illy , is a p roducer and repro
ducer of ob jective m ean in g. Because h is action s and w orks are the p rod uct
of a modus operandi of w h ich he is not th e p rod ucer an d has n o co n scio u s
mastery, th ey contain an " ob jective in ten tion ”, as th e S ch o la stics put it, w h ich
always o u tru n s his co n scio u s in ten tio n s. T h e sch em es o f th o u g h t and
expression he has acquired are the basis for th e intentionless invention of
regulated im p rovisation . E n d lessly overtaken by h is o w n w ord s, w ith w h ich
he m aintains a relation of "carry and b e ca r ried ”, as N ico la i H artm ann put
it, the v irtu oso finds in the opus operatum n ew triggers and new su p p orts for
the modus operandi from w h ich th ey arise, so that h is d iscou rse co n tin u ou sly
feeds off itse lf like a train b rin gin g alon g its ow n ra ils .22 If w itticism s surprise
their author no less than their au d ien ce, and im p ress as m uch b y their
retrospective n ecessity as b y their n ov elty , the reason is that the trouvaille
appears as the sim p le u nearthin g, at o n ce accid en tal and irresistib le, of a
buried p o ssib ility . It is b ecau se su bjects d o not, strictly sp eak ing, know w hat
they are d o in g that w hat th ey d o has m ore m ean in g than th ey know . T h e
habitus is th e u n iversalizin g m ediation w h ich cau ses an in dividu al a g en t’s
practices, w ith ou t eith er ex p licit reason or sig n ify in g in ten t, to be none
the less " s e n s ib le ” and " r ea so n a b le”. T h a t part o f practices w h ich rem ains
°bscure in th e ey es of their ow n producers is th e aspect b y w h ich th ey are
objectively adjusted to other p ractices and to th e stru ctures o f w h ich the
Principle o f their p rod u ction is itself th e p rod u ct .23
8o Structures and the habitus

O n e of th e fun dam en tal effects of the orchestration o f h abitus is the


p ro d u ctio n o f a co m m o n sen se w orld en d ow ed w ith th e o bjectivity secu red by
co n se n su s on th e m ean in g (sens) of practices and th e w o rld , in other words
th e h arm onization o f ag en ts’ exp erien ces and th e co n tin u o u s reinforcem ent
that each o f th em receives from th e exp ression , in dividu al or collective (in
festiva ls, for ex a m p le), im p rovised or program m ed (co m m o n p la ces, sayings),
of sim ilar or id en tical ex p erien ces. T h e h o m o g e n e ity of h ab itu s is w hat -
w ith in th e lim its of th e grou p of agen ts p ossessin g th e sch em es (o f production
and in terp retation ) im p lied in their p rod uction - cau ses practices and works
to b e im m ed iately in telligib le and foreseeable, and h en ce taken for granted.
T h is practical co m p reh en sion ob viates th e " in te n tio n ” and "intentional
transfer in to th e O th e r ” dear to th e p h en om en o lo g ists, b y d isp en sin g , for
th e ordinary o cca sion s of life, w ith close an alysis o f th e n uan ces o f another’s
practice and tacit or ex p licit in q u iry (" W hat d o you mean ? ”) in to h is inten
tio n s. A u tom atic and im person al, significant w ith o u t in ten d in g to signify,
ordinary practices lend th em selv es to an u n d ersta n d in g no less au tom atic and
im p e rso n a l: th e p ick in g u p o f th e ob jective in ten tio n th e y exp ress in no way
im plies " r ea ctiv a tio n ” of th e " liv e d ” in ten tion of th e agent w h o performs
th e m .24 " C om m u n ica tio n of c o n sc io u sn e sse s” p resu p p o ses co m m u n ity of
" u n c o n sc io u se s” (i.e . o f lin gu istic and cultural co m p eten ce s). T h e d eciph er
in g of th e ob jective in ten tion of practices and w orks has n o th in g to d o with
th e " r ep ro d u c tio n ” ( N achbildung, as th e early D iith e y p u ts it) o f lived
ex p erien ces and the reco n stitu tio n , unnecessary'and u ncertain , o f th e personal
sin gu larities of an " in te n tio n ” w h ich is not their true origin.
T h e ob jective h o m o g en izin g of group or class h abitus w h ich resu lts from
th e h o m o g en eity o f th e co n d itio n s o f existen ce is w hat en ab les practices to
be ob jectively h arm onized w ith o u t any in ten tion al calcu lation or conscious
reference to a norm and m utually adjusted in the absence o f a n y d irect interaction
or, a fo rtio ri, ex p lic it c o -o r d in a tio n ." Im agine ”, L e ib n iz su g g ests, " tw o clocks
or w atches in p erfect agreem en t as to the tim e. T h is m ay occur in o n e of three
w ays. T h e first co n sists in m utual in flu e n c e; th e seco n d is to a p p o in t a skilful
w orkm an to correct th em and syn ch ron ize th e m at all tim es; th e third is to
con stru ct th ese clock s w ith su ch art and p recision that on e can b e assured
o f their su b se q u en t a g reem en t .”25 S o lon g as, retaining o n ly th e first or at
a p in ch the seco n d h y p o th esis, on e ignores th e tru e p rin cip le o f th e conduc-
torless orchestration w h ich g iv e s regularity, u n ity , and sy stem a ticity to the
p ractices of a grou p or class, and th is even in th e ab sen ce o f any sp on tan eou s
or extern ally im p osed organ ization of in dividual projects, on e is con d em ned
to th e naive artificialism w h ich recogn izes no other p rin cip le u n ify in g a group s
or class’s ordinary or extraordinary action than th e co n scio u s co-ordination
of a co n sp ira c y .26 If th e p ractices o f the m em b ers o f th e sam e grou p or class
Structures , habitus an d practices 81

are m ore and b etter h arm onized than th e agen ts know or w ish , it is becau se,
Leibniz puts it, " fo llo w in g on ly [his] ow n la w s”, each " n o n e th e less agrees
%vith the o th e r ”.27 T h e h ab itu s is p recisely th is im m an en t law , lex in sita, laid
j 0wn in each agent by h is earliest u p b rin gin g , w hich is th e p recon d ition not
onlv for the co-ord in ation of p ractices b u t also for practices o f co-ord in ation ,
«ince th e correction s and ad ju stm en ts the agen ts th em selv es co n scio u sly carry
out presuppose their m astery o f a co m m o n code and sin ce u nd ertak ings o f
collective m ob ilization cannot su cceed w ith o u t a m in im u m o f con cordan ce
between the h ab itu s o f th e m o b ilizin g agen ts (e .g . p rop h et, party leader, e tc .)
and the d isp o sitio n s o f th o se w h o se aspirations and w o rld -v iew th ey exp ress.
So it is becau se th ey are th e p rod u ct o f d isp o sitio n s w h ich , b ein g th e
internalization o f th e sam e ob jective stru ctu res, are ob jectively con certed that
(he practices o f the m em b ers o f th e sam e grou p or, in a differen tiated so c iety ,
the sam e class are en d ow ed w ith an ob jective m ean in g that is at on ce unitary
and system atic, tran scen d in g su b jectiv e in ten tio n s and co n sc io u s projects
whether in d ivid u al or c o lle c tiv e .28 T o d escrib e th e p rocess o f ob jectification
and orchestration in th e lan guage o f interaction and m utual a d ju stm ent is to
forget that the in teraction itself ow es its form to th e o b jectiv e stru ctures
which have p rod uced th e d isp o sitio n s of th e in teracting agen ts and w h ich allot
them their relative p o sitio n s in the in teraction and elsew h ere. E very co n fro n
tation b etw een agen ts in fact b rin gs togeth er, in an interaction d efined by the
objective structure o f th e relation b etw een th e groups th e y b elon g to ( e .g . a
boss g iv in g orders to a su b ord in ate, colleagu es d iscu ssin g th eir p u p ils,
academics taking part in a sy m p o siu m ), system s of d isp o sitio n s (carried by
'natural p e r so n s”) su ch as a lin g u istic com p eten ce and a cultural com p eten ce
and, through th ese h ab itu s, all th e ob jective stru ctures o f w h ich they are the
product, stru ctures w h ich are active on ly w hen em bodied in a co m p eten ce
acquired in th e cou rse of a particular h istory (w ith th e d ifferen t ty p es of
bilingualism or p ron u n ciation , for exam p le, stem m in g from d ifferen t m o d es
of acq u isition ).29
T h u s, w h en w e speak o f class h abitus, w e are in sistin g , against all form s
of the occasion alist illu sion w h ich co n sists in d irectly relating p ractices to
properties in scrib ed in th e situ ation , that " in terp erso n a l” relations are never,
except in appearance, in d ivid u a l-to -in d ivid u a l relation ship s and that th e truth
°f the in teraction is never en tirely con tain ed in the in teraction . T h is is w hat
social p sy ch o lo g y and in teraction ism or eth n o m eth o d o lo g y forget w h en ,
reducing the o b jective stru cture of th e relation ship b etw een th e assem b led
tfidividuals to the con jun ctural stru cture of their in teraction in a particular
situation and g rou p , they seek to explain everyth in g that occu rs in an ex p eri
m ental or ob served in teraction in term s of the exp erim en tally con trolled
characteristics o f the situ ation , su ch as the relative spatial p osition s of the
82 Structures an d the habitus

participants or th e nature o f th e ch an n els u sed . In fact it is th eir p resen t and


past p o sitio n s in th e social stru ctu re that b iological in d ivid u als carry with
th em , at all tim es and in all p laces, in th e form o f d isp o sitio n s w h ich are so
m any m arks o f social position and h en ce o f th e social d istance b etw een objective
p o sitio n s, that is, b etw een social p erson s con jun cturally b rou ght together (in
p hysical sp ace, w h ich is not th e sam e th in g as social sp ace) and correlativelv,
so m any rem in d ers o f th is d istan ce and of th e co n d u ct required in order to
" k eep o n e ’s d ista n c e ” or to m an ip u late it strategically, w h eth er sym bolically
or actually, to reduce it (easier for th e d om in a n t than for th e d om in ated ),
increase it, or sim p ly m aintain if (b y n ot " lettin g o n ese lf g o ”, n ot "becom ing
fa m ilia r”, in sh ort, " stan d in g on o n e ’s d ig n ity ”, or on th e other hand,
refusin g to " take lib erties ” and " p u t o n ese lf forw ard ”, in s h o r t" k n o w in g o n es
p la c e ” and stayin g th ere).
E ven th o se form s o f in teraction seem in g ly m o st am en able to description
in term s of " in ten tio n a l transfer in to th e O th e r ”, su ch as sy m p a th y , friend
sh ip , or lo v e , are d om in ated (as class h om ogam y a tte sts ), through th e harm ony
o f h abitus, that is to say, m ore p recisely, th e h arm on y of eth o s and tastes
- d o u b tless sen sed in th e im p ercep tib le cu es of b o d y hexis - b y th e objective
stru cture of th e relation s b etw e en social co n d itio n s. T h e illu sio n o f mutual
election or p red estin ation arises from ignorance o f th e social co n d itio n s for
th e h arm ony o f aesth etic tastes or eth ical lean in gs, w hich is th ereb y perceived
as ev id en ce o f th e ineffable affinities w h ich sp rin g from it.
In sh ort, th e h abitus, th e p rod u ct of h istory, p rod u ces in d ivid u al and
collectiv e practices, and h en ce h istory, in accord ance w ith th e schem es
en gen d ered b y h istory. T h e sy stem o f d isp o sitio n s - a past w h ich survives
in th e p resen t and ten d s to p erp etu ate itself in to th e future b y m akin g itself
p resen t in p ractices stru ctured accord in g to its p rin cip les, an internal law
relayin g th e co n tin u o u s exercise of th e law of external n ecessities (irreducible
to im m ed iate con jun ctural con strain ts) - is th e p rin cip le o f th e co n tin u ity and
regularity w h ich o b jectivism d iscern s in th e social w orld w ith o u t b ein g able
to g iv e th em a rational b asis. A n d it is at th e sam e tim e the p rin cip le o f the
tran sform ation s and regulated revolu tion s w h ich n either th e extrin sic and
in stan tan eou s d eterm in ism s o f a m ech an istic so cio lo g ism nor th e purely
internal b u t eq u ally p u n ctu al d eterm in ation o f volu ntarist or spontaneist
su b jectiv ism are cap ab le of a ccou n tin g for.
It is just as true and just as u n tru e to say that co llectiv e actio n s produce
th e even t or that th ey are its p rod u ct. T h e con ju n ctu re cap ab le of transform
in g practices ob jectively co-ordin ated b ecau se su b ord in ated to partially or
w h olly id en tical ob jective n ecessities, in to collective action ( e .g . revolutionary
actio n ) is co n stitu ted in th e d ialectical relation ship b etw een , on the on e hand,
a habitus, u n d erstood as a sy stem of lastin g, transposable d isp o sitio n s w h ich .
Structures , habitus an d practices 83

tegrating past ex p erien ces, fu n ctio n s at every m o m en t as a m atrix o f percep-


*n its ap p rec^ ons* an(* a c*i°ns an^ rnakes p ossib le th e a ch iev em en t o f infini-
11 diversified tasks, thanks to analogical transfers o f sc h e m e s p erm ittin g the
olution of sim ilarly sh aped p ro b lem s, and thanks to the u n ceasin g correction s
of the results ob tain ed , d ialectically p rod u ced by th ose resu lts, and on th e
other hand, an objective even t w h ich exerts its action of co n d itio n a l stim u lation
calling for or d em a n d in g a d eterm in ate resp on se, on ly on th o se w h o are
disposed to con stitu te it as su ch b ecau se th e y are en d ow ed w ith a d eterm in ate
type o f d isp o sitio n s (w h ich are am en able to red u p lication and rein forcem en t
by the ’'aw akening of class c o n sc io u sn e ss” , that is, b y th e d irect or in direct
possession of a d iscou rse cap ab le o f secu rin g sy m b o lic m astery o f th e practi
cally m astered p rin cip les o f th e class h a b itu s). W ith ou t ever b ein g totally
co-ordinated, since they are th e p rod uct o f "causal s e r ie s ” characterized by
different structural d uration s, th e d isp o sitio n s and th e situ a tio n s w h ich
com bine syn ch ron ically to co n stitu te a d eterm in ate co n ju n ctu re are n ever
whollv in d ep en d en t, sin ce th ey are en gen d ered by th e o b jectiv e stru ctures,
that is, in th e last an alysis, b y th e eco n o m ic bases o f th e social form ation in
question. T h e h ysteresis o f h a b itu s, w h ich is in h eren t in th e social co n d itio n s
of the reproduction of th e stru ctures in h a b itu s, is d o u b tless on e of the
foundations of th e structural lag b etw een op p ortu n ities and th e d isp o sitio n s
to grasp them w h ich is th e cau se of m issed op p ortu n ities and, in particular,
of the frequ en tly ob served in cap acity to thin k historical crises in categories
of perception and th o u g h t oth er than th o se o f th e p ast, a lb eit a revolu tionary
past.
If one ignores th e dialectical relation ship b etw een the o b jectiv e stru ctures
and the cogn itive and m otivatin g stru ctu res w h ich th ey p rod u ce and w h ich
tend to reproduce th em , if o n e forgets that th ese ob jective stru ctures are
them selves products o f historical practices and are co n sta n tly reprodu ced and
transformed by h istorical practices w h o se p rod u ctive p rin cip le is itself the
product o f the stru ctures w h ich it co n seq u en tly ten d s to rep rod u ce, then on e
is condem ned to redu ce th e relation sh ip b etw een th e d ifferen t social agen cies
( instances), treated as " d ifferen t tran slation s o f th e sam e s e n te n c e ” - i n a
Spinozist m etaphor w h ich con tain s th e truth of th e o b jectiv ist lan guage of
articulation ” - to th e logica l form ula en a b lin g any on e o f th e m to b e derived
from any other. T h e u n ify in g p rin cip le o f practices in d ifferen t d o m a in s w h ich
objectivist analysis w ou ld assign to separate " s u b -s y s te m s”, su ch at,
P atrim onial strategies, fertility strategies, or eco n o m ic ch o ic es, is n oth in g
other than the h ab itu s, th e lo cu s o f practical realization o f th e " a r ticu la tio n ”
° f fields w hich ob jectivism (from Parsons to th e stru cturalist readers of M arx)
lavs out side b y sid e w ith o u t secu rin g th e m ean s o f d isco v erin g the real
Principle o f the structural h o m o lo g ies or relations of transform ation o b ject
84 Structures an d the habitus
I
iv ely estab lish ed b etw een th e m (w h ich is n ot to d en y that th e structures are
o b jectiv ities irred u cib le to th eir m an ifestation in th e h a b itu s w h ich they
p rod u ce and w h ich ten d to rep rod u ce th e m ). S o lo n g as o n e accepts the
ca n on ic o p p o sitio n w h ich , en d lessly reappearing in n ew form s through out the
h istory o f social th o u g h t, n ow ad ays p its "h u m a n is t” a g a in st" str u c tu r a list
readings o f M arx, to declare diam etrical o p p o sitio n to su b jectivism is
n ot g en u in e ly to break w ith it, b u t to fall in to th e fetish ism of social laws t0
w h ich ob jectivism co n sig n s itself w h e n in esta b lish in g b etw e en structure and
p ractice th e relation o f th e virtual to the actual, of th e sco re to th e performance
of essen ce to ex iste n c e, it m erely su b stitu tes for th e creative m an of subjects
vism a m an su bjugated to th e dead law s of a natural h istory. A n d h ow could
o n e u n d erestim a te th e stren gth o f th e id eological cou p le su bjectivism /objec
tiv ism w h en o n e sees that th e critiq ue of th e in d ivid u a l con sid ered as ens
realissimum o n ly leads to h is b ein g m ade an ep ip h e n o m en o n of hypostatized
stru ctu re, and that the w ell-fo u n d ed assertion of th e p rim acy of objective
relation s resu lts in p ro d u cts o f h um an action , th e stru ctu res, b ein g credited
w ith th e p ow er to d ev elo p in accord ance w ith their o w n law s and to determine
an d o v erd eterm in e other stru ctu res? ,
Ju st as th e o p p o sitio n o f lan gu age to sp eech as m ere ex e cu tio n or even as
a p recon stru cted o b ject m asks th e op p osition b etw een th e o b jectiv e relations
o f th e lan guage and th e d isp o sitio n s m aking up lin g u istic co m p eten ce , so
th e o p p o sitio n b etw e en th e stru ctu re and the in d iv id u a l again st w h om the
stru ctu re has to be w o n and en d lessly rew’on stand s in th e w ay o f construction
of th e dialectical relation sh ip b etw een the stru cture and th e dispositions
m aking u p th e h abitus.

If the debate on the relationship between " cu ltu re” and " p erson ality” which
dom inated a w hole era of Am erican anthropology now seem s so artificial and sterile,
it is because, am idst a host o f logical and epistem ological fallacies, it was organized
around the relation betw een tw o com plem entary products of the sam e realist, substan-
tialist representation of the scientific object. In its m ost exaggerated form s, the theory
of "basic p ersonality” tends to define personality as a miniature replica (obtained
by " m o u ld in g ”) of the " cu ltu re”, to be found in all m em bers of the sam e society,
except deviants. Cora D u B ois’s celebrated analyses on the Alor Island natives provide
a very typical exam ple of th e con fu sion s and contradictions resulting from the theory
that " cu ltu re” and personality can each be deduced from the other: determ ined to
reconcile the anthropologist’s con clu sion s, based on the postulate that the same
influences produce the sam e basic personality, with her ow n clinical observations of
four subjects w ho seem to her to be "highly individual characters”, each "moulded
by the specific factors in his individual fa te ”, the psychoanalyst w ho struggles to find
individual incarnations of the basic personality is condem ned to recantations and
contradictions.30 T h u s, she can see M angm a as "the m ost ty p ica l” of the four ("his
personality corresponds to the basic personality stru ctu re”) after having written: " ll
is difficult to decide how typical M angm a is. I w ould venture to say that if he were
typical, the society could not con tin u e to ex ist.” Ripalda, w ho is passive and has
S tructu res , habitus a n d practices
S 5

super-ego, is " atyp ical’*, S o is Fantan, w h o has "the strongest character


a StfCfion devoid of inhibitions toward w o m e n ” (extrem e heterosexual inhibition
*°fnl the rule), and "differs from the other m en as m uch as a citv-slicker differs from
kc!°£ner ,\ T h e fourth, M alekala, w hose biography is typical at every point, is a
3 known prophet w ho tried to start a revivalist m ovem ent, and his personality seem s
^ resem b le that of Ripalda, another sorcerer w ho, as we have seen, is described as
t0 ical. All this is capped by the analyst’s observation that "characters such as
ngflia, Ripalda and Fantan can be found in any society ”. A nthony F . W allace, from
Vhom this critique is taken,31 is no doubt right in p ointing out that the notion o f modal
' -onality has the advantage of avoiding the illogicalities resulting from indifference
^differences (and thus to statistics) usually im plicit in recourse to the notion of basic
r s o n a l i t v . But what m ight pass for a m ere refinem ent of the m easuring and checking

techniques used to test the validity o f a theoretical construct am ounts in fact to the
- u b s t i t u t i o n of one object for another: a system o f h ypotheses as to the structure of
personality, conceived as a hom eostatic system w hich changes by reinterpreting
external pressures in accordance with its ow n logic, is replaced by a sim ple description
of the central tendency in the distribution of the values of a variable, or rather a
c o m b i n a t i o n of variables. Wallace thus com es to the tautological conclusion that in
a population of Tuscarora Indians, the m odal personality type defined by reference
to twenty-seven variables is to be found in only 37 per cen t of the subjects stu d ied .
The construction of a class ethos m ay, for exam ple, make use of a reading of statistical
regularities treated as indices, w ithout the principle w hich unifies and explains these
regularities being reducible to the regularities in w hich it m anifests itself. In short,
failing to see in the notion of "basic p erson ality’* anything other than a way of
pointing to a directly observable " d a tu m ”, i.e . the "personality type*’ shared by the
greatest number o f m em bers of a given society, the advocates o f th is notion cannot,
in all logic, take issue w ith those w ho subm it th is theory to the test of statistical
critique, in the name of the sam e realist representation of the scientific object.

The h abitus is the p rod uct o f the w ork of in cu lca tion and appropriation
necessary in order for th o se p rod u cts of co llec tiv e h istory, th e ob jective
structures (e .g . o f lan gu age, e c o n o m y , e tc .) to su cceed in rep rod u cin g th e m
selves m ore or less co m p letely , in th e form o f d urable d isp o sitio n s, in the
organisms (w h ich on e can, if o n e w ish es, call in d ivid u als) lastingly su b jected
to the sam e co n d itio n in g s, and h en ce placed in th e sam e m aterial co n d itio n s
° f existence. T h er efo re so c io lo g y treats as id en tical all th e b io lo g ica l in d iv i
duals w h o , b ein g the p rod uct o f th e sam e o b jectiv e co n d itio n s, are the
supports o f th e sam e h ab itu s: social class, u n d ersto o d as a sy stem o f o b jective
determ inations, m u st be b ro u g h t in to relation not w ith th e in d iv id u a l or w ith
" c la ss” as a popu lation , i.e . as an aggregate of en u m erab le, m easurable
biological in d ivid u als, b u t w ith th e class h a b itu s, th e sy stem of d isp o sitio n s
^partially) co m m o n to all p ro d u cts o f th e sa m e stru ctu res. T h o u g h it is
^ p o s s ib le for a ll m em b ers o f th e sam e class (or even tw o o f th em ) to have
h&d the sam e ex p erien ces, in th e sam e ord er, it is certain that each m em b er
the sam e class is m ore likely than any m em b er o f another class to have
een con fron ted w ith th e situ ation s m ost freq u en t for the m em b ers o f that
C,ass- T h e ob jectiv e stru ctu res w h ich sc ien ce ap p reh en d s in the form of
86 Structures a n d the habitus

statistical regu larities (e .g . e m p lo y m e n t rates, in co m e cu rv es, p rob abilities 0f


a ccess to secon d ary ed u ca tio n , freq u en cy of h olid ay s, e tc .) in cu lca te , through
th e direct or in d irect b u t alw ays co n vergen t ex p erien ces w h ich g iv e a social
e n v iro n m en t its ph ysiogn om y, w ith its " clo sed d o o r s ”, " d ead e n d s ”, and
lim ited " p r o s p e c ts ”, that "art of a ssessin g lik e lih o o d s”, as L e ib n iz put it, 0f
a n ticip atin g th e ob jective fu tu re, in sh ort, th e sen se o f reality or realities which
is perh ap s th e b est-co n cea led p rin cip le o f th eir efficacy.
In order to d efin e the relation s b etw e en cla ss, h ab itu s and th e organic
in d iv id u a lity w h ich can never en tirely b e rem o v ed from sociological discourse,
in a sm u ch as, b ein g g iv en im m ed ia tely to im m ed iate p ercep tion (intuitus
personae), it is also socially d esig n a ted and reco g n ized (n am e, legal identity,
e tc .) and is d efin ed b y a social trajectory strictly sp eak ing irred u cib le to any
o th er, th e h ab itu s cou ld b e con sid ered as a su b jectiv e b u t not in d iv id u a l system
of in tern alized stru ctu res, sc h e m e s of p ercep tio n , co n ce p tio n , and action
co m m o n to all m em b ers of th e sam e grou p or class and co n stitu tin g the
p reco n d ition for all ob jectification and a p p ercep tio n : and th e o b jectiv e co-
ord in ation o f p ractices and the sh arin g o f a w orld -v iew cou ld be fou n d ed on
the p erfect im p erso n ality and in terch an geab ility o f sin gular practices and
v iew s. B ut th is w ou ld am ou n t to regarding all the practices or representations
prod uced in accord ance w ith id en tical sc h e m e s as im person al and su b stitu
table, like sin gular in tu itio n s of sp a ce w h ich , accord in g to K a n t, reflect none
o f th e p ecu liarities o f th e in d ivid u al ego. In fact, it is in a relation of
h o m o lo g y , of d iversity w ith in h o m o g en eity reflectin g th e d iv er sity within
h o m o g e n e ity ch aracteristic o f their social c o n d itio n s o f p ro d u ctio n , that the
sin gular h a b itu s of th e d ifferen t m em b ers o f th e sam e class are u n ite d ; the
h o m o lo g y o f w o rld -v iew s im p lies th e sy stem a tic d ifferen ces w h ich separate
sin gular w o rld -v iew s, a d op ted from sin gular b u t con certed stand points.
S in ce the h istory o f th e in d ivid u al is never a n y th in g other th an a certain
sp ecifica tio n o f th e co llec tiv e h istory o f h is grou p or class, each individual
system o f dispositions m ay b e seen as a structural v a r ia n t o f all th e o th er group
or class h a b itu s, ex p ressin g th e d ifferen ce b etw e en trajectories and positions
in sid e or o u tsid e th e cla ss. " P e r so n a l” sty le, th e particular stam p m arking
all th e p ro d u cts of th e sam e h ab itu s, w h eth er p ractices or w orks, is n ev er more
than a deviation in relation to th e style of a p eriod or class so that it relates
back to th e co m m o n sty le n ot o n ly b y its co n fo rm ity - like P h id ias, who,
accord in g to H e g el, had no " m ann er ” - b u t also b y th e d ifferen ce w h ich makes
th e w h ole " m a n n e r ” .
T h e p rin cip le o f th ese in d ivid u al d ifferen ces lies in th e fact that, b ein g the
p rod u ct o f a ch ron o lo g ica lly ordered series of stru ctu rin g d eterm in a tio n s, the
h a b itu s, w h ich at ev ery m o m e n t stru ctu res in term s o f th e structuring
ex p erien ces w h ich p rod u ced it th e stru ctu rin g ex p erien ces w h ich affect its
T h e dialectic o f objectification a n d em bodiment
*7

tructure, b rin gs ab ou t a u n iq u e in tegration , d om in a ted b y th e earliest


S neriences, o f th e ex p erien ces statistically co m m o n to th e m em b e rs o f the
same class. T h u s , for ex a m p le, th e h a b itu s acq u ired in th e fam ily u n d erlies
the structuring of sch o o l ex p erien ces (in particular th e recep tio n and a ssim i
lation of the sp ecifically p ed agogic m essa g e ), and th e h a b itu s tran sform ed b y
schooling, itself d iversified , in tu rn u n d erlies th e stru ctu rin g of all su b seq u en t
experiences (e .g . th e recep tio n and assim ilation o f th e m essa g es o f th e cu ltu re
industry or w ork ex p er ie n c es), and so o n , from restru ctu rin g to restru cturin g.
Springing from th e en co u n te r in an in tegrative organ ism o f relatively
independent causal series, su ch as b iological an d social d eter m in ism s, th e
habitus m akes co h eren ce and n ecessity o u t o f accid en t and co n tin g e n c y : for
example, th e eq u iv a len ces it esta b lish es b etw e en p o sitio n s in th e d iv isio n o f
labour and p o sitio n s in th e d iv isio n b etw e en th e se x es are d o u b tle ss not
peculiar to so c ietie s in w h ich th e d iv isio n o f labour and th e d iv isio n b etw een
the sexes co in c id e alm ost p erfectly. In a class so c iety , all th e p ro d u cts o f a
given agen t, b y an essen tial overdeterm ination , speak in sep arab ly an d sim u l
taneously o f h is class - or, m ore, p recisely, h is p osition in th e social stru cture
and his risin g or fallin g trajectory - and of h is (or h er) b o d y - or, m ore
precisely, all th e p rop erties, alw ays so cia lly qualified, of w h ich he or sh e is
the bearer - sexu al p rop erties o f cou rse, b u t also p hysical p rop erties, p raised,
like strength or b eau ty, or stig m a tized .

T h e dialectic o f objectification a n d em bodiment

So long as th e w ork o f ed u cation is n ot clearly in stitu tio n a lized as a sp ecific,


autonom ous p ractice, and it is a w h o le g rou p and a w h o le sy m b o lica lly stru c
tured en v iro n m en t, w ith o u t sp ecialized agen ts or sp ecific m o m e n ts, w h ich
exerts an an o n y m o u s, p ervasive p ed agogic a ctio n , th e essen tia l part o f the
modus operandi w h ich d efin es practical m astery is tra n sm itted in practice, in
its practical state, w ith o u t attain in g th e le v el of d iscou rse. T h e ch ild im itates
not ,fm o d e ls ” b u t other p eop le's a ctio n s. B od y hexis sp eak s d irectly to the
niotor fu n ctio n , in th e form o f a pattern of p ostu res that is b oth in d ivid u al
and sy stem atic, b ecau se linked to a w h o le sy stem of tec h n iq u es in v o lv in g th e
body and to o ls, and ch arged w ith a h ost of social m ean in gs and valu es:
*n all so c ietie s, ch ild ren are particularly atten tive to th e g estu res an d p ostu res
w hich, in their ey es, ex p ress ev e ry th in g that goes to m ake an a ccom p lish ed
adult - a w ay o f w alk in g, a tilt of the h ead , facial ex p ressio n s, w ays of sittin g
and of u sin g im p lem en ts, alw ays associated w ith a to n e o f v o ic e , a sty le of
sp eech , and (h o w cou ld it be o th erw ise? ) a certain su b jectiv e ex p erien ce. B ut
the fact that sc h e m e s are able to pass from practice to p ractice w ith o u t g o in g
through d isco u rse or co n sc io u sn e ss d o e s n ot m ean that acq u isitio n o f the
88 Structures a n d the habitus

habitus co m es d ow n to a q u estion of m echanical learn ing by trial and error


U nlike an in coh eren t series o f figures, w h ich can be learnt on ly gradually
through repeated attem p ts and w ith con tin u o u s p redictable p rogress, a num e
rical series is m astered m ore easily b ecause it con tain s a structure w h ich makes
it unnecessary to m em orize all the n um bers on e by o n e : in verbal products
such as proverbs, sayin gs, m axim s, so n g s, ridd les, or gam es; in ob jects, such
as tools, th e h ou se, or the v illage; or again, in p racticcs such as con tests of
honour, gift exch an ges, rites, e tc ., the m aterial w h ich the K a b y le ch ild has
to assim ilate is the p rod u ct of th e system atic application of principles coherent
in practice ,32 wrh ich m ean s, that in all th is en d lessly redundant m aterial, he
has no difficulty in graspin g th e rationale o f w hat are clearly series and in
m aking it h is ow n in the form of a p rin cip le gen erating con d uct organized
in accordance w ith the sam e rationale.

Experimental analyses of learning w hich establish that " neither the form ation nor
the application of a concept requires conscious recognition of the com m on elements
or relationship involved in the specific i n s t a n c e s e n a b l e us to understand the
dialectic o f objectification and incorporation w hereby the systematic objectifications
of system atic dispositions tend in their turn to give rise to systematic dispositions:
when faced w ith series of sym bols - C hinese characters (H u ll) or pictures varying
sim ultaneously the colour, nature, and num ber of the objects represented (Heid-
breder) - distributed into classes w ith arbitrary but objectively based names, subjects
who are unable to state the principle of classification nonetheless attain higher scores
than they w ould if they were guessing at random, thereby dem onstrating that they
achieve a practical mastery of the classificatory schem es which in no way implies
sym bolic mastery - i.e . conscious recognition and verbal expression - of the processes
practically applied. Albert B. Lord's analysis o f the acquiring of structured material
in a natural environm ent, based on his study of the training of the guslar, the Y u g o s l a v
bard, entirely confirm s the experim ental findings: the practical mastery of what Lord
calls "the form ula”, that is, the capacity to im provise by com bining "form ulae”,
sequences of words "regularly em ployed under the sam e metrical conditions to
express a given id ea”,34 is acquired through sheer familiarization, "by hearing the
poem s”,35 w ithout the learner’s having any sense o f learning and subsequently mani
pulating this or that form ula or any set of form ulae:36 the constraints of rhythm are
internalized at the same tim e as m elody and m eaning, w ithout being attended to for
their own sake.

B etw een ap p ren ticesh ip through sim p le fam iliarization, in w h ich th e ap


prentice in sen sib ly and u n co n scio u sly acquires th e p rin cip les of th e "art
and the art of living - in clu d in g th o se w h ich are not know n to th e producer
of the p ractices or w orks im itated , and, at the other extrem e, exp licit and
express tran sm ission by precept and p rescription , every society provides for
structural exercises ten d in g to transm it th is or that form o f practical m astery.
S uch are the riddles and ritual con tests w h ich test the " sen se o f ritual
language ” and all th e gam es, often structured accord in g to th e logic of the
wager, the ch allenge or th e com bat (d u els, grou p battles, target-shootin g.
T he dialectic o f objectification a n d embodiment 89

etc ) which require the b oys to set to w ork, in th e m ode o f " le t’s p retend ”, the
chetfies gen erating the strategies of h on ou r .37 T h e n there is daily participation
in gift exchan ges and all their su b tleties, w h ich the b o y s derive from their
role as m essengers an d, m ore especially, as interm ediaries b etw een th e fem ale
xvofld and the m ale w orld . T h ere is silen t ob servation o f th e d iscu ssio n s in
the men’s assem b ly, w ith their effects o f elo q u en ce, their rituals, their
s t r a t e g ie s , their ritual strategies and strategic u ses o f ritual. T h ere are the
interactions w ith their relatives, w h ich lead them to ex p lo re th e structured
space of ob jective kin relationships in all d irection s b y m ean s o f reversals
requiring the person w h o saw him self and b ehaved as a n ep h ew o f his fath er’s
brother to see h im self and behave as a paternal uncle tow ards h is b rother’s
son, and th u s to acquire m astery o f the transform ational sch em es w h ich p erm it
the passage from th e sy stem of d isp o sitio n s attached to on e p o sition to the
system appropriate to the sym m etrically op p o site p o sitio n . T h ere are the
lexical and gram m atical com m u tation s ( " I ” and " y o u ” d esig n a tin g the sam e
person accord in g to the relation to the speaker) w h ich in stil the sen se o f the
interchangeability o f p osition s and of reciprocity as w ell as a sen se of the lim its
of each. A n d , at a d eep er level, there are th e relation ship s w ith the m oth er
and the father, w h ich , b y their d yssym m etry in an tagon istic co m p lem en tarity,
constitute one of th e op p ortu n ities to in tern alize, inseparably, the sch em es
of the sexual division o f labour and of the division o f sexual labour.
But it is in th e dialectical relation ship b etw een the b o d y and a space
structured accord in g to the m yth ico-ritu al o p p osition s that on e finds the form
par ex cellen ce o f the structural ap pren ticesh ip w hich leads to the em -b o d y in g
of the structures of th e w orld, that is, the appropriating b y the w orld o f a
body th u s enabled to appropriate the w orld. In a social form ation in w h ich
the absence o f th e svm b olic-p rod u ct-con servin g tech n iq u es associated w ith
literacy retards the ob jectification o f sy m b o lic and particularly cultural capital,
inhabited space - and above all the h ou se - is the principal lo cu s for the
objectification o f the gen erative sc h e m e s; and, through th e interm ediary of the
divisions and hierarchies it sets up b etw een th in gs, p ersons, and practices,
this tangible cla ssify in g system con tin u o u sly in cu lcates and reinforces the
taxonom ic p rin cip les u nd erlyin g all th e arbitrary p rovision s of this cu ltu re .38
T h us, as we have seen , the op position b etw een the sacred o f the right hand
and th e sacred of th e left hand, b etw een n if and h aram , b etw een m an,
^ v ested w ith p rotective, fecun datin g virtu es, and w om an , at on ce sacred and
charged w ith m aleficen t forces, and, correlatively, b etw een religion (m ale)
and m agic (fem a le), is reproduced in the spatial d ivision b etw een m ale space,
Wlth the place of a ssem b ly, the m arket, or th e fields, and fem ale sp ace, the
house and its gard en , the retreats of haram . T o d iscover h ow this spatial
organization (m atch ed b y a tem poral organization o b ey in g the sam e logic)
90 Structures an d the habitus

gov ern s practices and represen tation s - far b eyon d the frequ en tly described
rough d ivision s b etw een the m ale w orld and the fem ale w orld , th e assembly
and the fou n tain , p ub lic life and in tim acy - and thereby con trib utes to the
durable im p osition of th e sc h e m e s o f p ercep tion , th o u g h t, and action, it j8
necessary to grasp the dialectic o f objectification and em b o d im en t in the
p rivileged lo cu s o f th e sp ace of th e h ouse and the earliest learn ing processes.
T h is analysis of the relation sh ip b etw een the ob jectified sch em es and the
sch em es incorporated or b ein g incorporated p resu p p o ses a structural analysis
of the social organization of th e in tern al sp ace of the h ouse and th e relation
of th is internal space to external sp ace, an analysis w h ich is not an end in
itself but w h ich , p recisely on accou n t of the (dan gerous) affinity betw een
ob jectivism and all that is already objectified, is the on ly m eans o f fully
grasping the stru cturin g stru ctu res w h ich , rem aining ob scu re to them selves,
are revealed o n ly in the ob jects th e y stru cture. T h e house, an opus operatum,
len d s itself as su ch to a d ecip h erin g , b u t on ly to a d eciph ering w h ich does
not forget that the " b o o k ” from w h ich th e ch ild ren learn their v isio n of the
w orld is read w ith the b o d y , in and through the m o v em en ts and displacem ents
w h ich make the space w ith in wrh ich th ey are enacted as m uch as they are
m ade by it.
T h e interior of the Kabyle house, rectangular in shape, is divided into two parts
by a low w all: the larger of these tw o parts, slightly higher than the other, is reserved
for human use; the other side, occupied by the anim als, has a loft above it. A door
w ith tw o w ings gives access to both room s. In the upper part is the hearth and, facing
the door, the w eaving loom . T h e low er, dark, nocturnal part of the house, the place
of damp, green, or raw objects - water jars set on the benches on either side of the
entrance to the stable or against the "wall of darkness ”, w ood, green fodder - the place
too of natural beings - oxen and co w s, donkeys and m ules - and natural activities -
sleep, sex, birth - and also of death, is opposed to the high, light-filled, noble place of
humans and in particular of the guest, fire and fire-made objects, the lam p, kitchen
utensils, the rifle - the attribute of the manly point of honour ( tiif) w hich protects
fem ale honour ( hurma) - the loom , th e sym bol of all protection, the place also of
the tw o specifically cultural activities performed w ithin the house, cooking and
weaving. T he m eaning objectified in things or places is fully revealed only in the
practices structured according to the sam e schem es which are organized in relation
to them (and vice versa). T h e guest to be honoured (qabel, a verb also m eaning "to
stand up t o ”, and "to face the east ”) is invited to sit in front of the loom . T h e opposite
wall is called the wall of darkness, or the wall of the invalid: a sick person’s bed is
placed next to it. T h e washing of the dead takes place at the entrance to the stable.
T h e low dark part is opposed to the upper part as the fem ale to the m ale: it is the
m ost intim ate place w ithin the world o f intim acy (sexuality, fertility). T h e opposition
betw een the male and the female also reappears in the opposition betw een the " master
beam and the main pillar, a fork op en skywards.
T h u s, the house is organized according to a set of hom ologous oppositions -
fire: water :: cook ed : raw :: h ig h : low :: lig h t: shade :: d a y : night :: m a le: fem ale ♦«
nif: hurma:: fertilizing: able to be fertilized. But in fact the same oppositions are
established between the house as a w hole and the rest of the universe, that is, the
T h e dialectic o f objectification an d embodiment 91

w o r l d , the place of assem bly, the fields, and the market. It follow s that each
^ th e s e two parts of the house (and, by the sam e token, each of the objects placed
it a n d each of the activities carried out in it) is in a sense qualified at two degrees,
If t as female (nocturnal, dark, etc.) insofar as it partakes of the universe of the
U Se an<! secondarily as male or fem ale insofar as it belongs to one or the other
0 f the divisions of that universe. T h u s, for exam ple, the proverb "M an is the lamp
o f the outside, wom an the lamp o f the in sid e 99 m ust be taken to mean that man is
the true light, that of the day, and wom an th e light of darkness, dark brightness;
and we a*s0 knowr that she is to the m oon as man is to the sun. But one or the other
o f the two system s of oppositions which define the house, either in its internal
o r g a n i z a t i o n or in its relationship w ith the external w orld, is brought to the fore
g r o u n d , depending on whether the house is considered from the male point of viewr
o r the female point of view : whereas for th e man, the house is not so m uch a
nlace he enters as a place he com es out of, m ovem ent inwards properly befits the
30
woman.

All the actions p erform ed in a space con stru cted in this way are im m ediately
qualified sym b olically and fu n ctio n as so m a n y structural ex ercises through
which is b u ilt up practical m astery of th e fun dam en tal sch e m e s, w h ich
organize m agical practices and rep resen tation s: g o in g in and co m in g ou t,
filling and em p ty in g , o p en in g and sh u ttin g , g o in g leftw ards and g o in g righ t
wards, g oin g w estw ard s and g o in g eastw ard s, etc. T h ro u g h the m agic of a
world of ob jects w hich is th e p rod u ct o f th e ap plication o f th e sam e sch em es
to the m ost d iverse d om ain s, a w orld in w h ich each th in g speaks m etaph ori
cally of all th e others, each practice co m e s to be in vested w ith an ob jective
m eaning, a m ean in g w ith w h ich practices - and particularly rites - have to
reckon at all tim es, w h eth er to evoke or revoke it. T h e con stru ction of the
world of ob jects is clearly not the so vereign operation o f c o n scio u sn ess w h ich
the n eo-K antian tradition co n ce iv e s of; the m ental stru ctures w h ich con stru ct
the world o f ob jects are con stru cted in th e practice of a w orld o f ob jects
constructed accord in g to th e sam e stru ctu r es .40 T h e m ind born o f th e w orld
of objects d oes not rise as a su b jectiv ity co n fro n tin g an o b jectiv ity : the
objective u niverse is m ade u p of ob jects w h ich are the p rod u ct o f ob jectifyin g
operations structured according to th e very stru ctures w h ich th e m in d applies
t0 it. T h e m ind is a m etaphor of the w o rld of ob jects w h ich is itself b u t an
endless circle of m utually reflecting m etap h ors.
All the sym b olic m anip ulations o f b od y exp erien ce, starting w ith d isp lace
m ents w ith in a m yth ically structured sp a ce , e .g . the m ov em en ts of g o in g in
and com in g o u t, ten d to im p ose th e integration o f the b od y sp ace w ith co sm ic
space by graspin g in term s of th e sam e c o n c e p ts (and naturally at the price
great laxity in logic) th e relation ship b etw e en m an and th e natural w orld
and the com p lem en tarity and op p osed sta tes and action s o f th e tw o sex es in
the d iv ision of sexual w ork and sexual d iv isio n o f w ork, and h en ce in th e work
° f biological and social rep rod u ction . F or exam p le, the o p p o sitio n b etw een
92 Structures an d the habitus

m o v em en t ou tw ard s tow ards th e fie ld s or th e m arket, tow ards th e production


and circulation of g o o d s, and m o v em en t in w ard s, tow ards th e accum ulati0ri
and con su m p tio n of th e p ro d u cts of w ork , corresp on d s sy m b o lica lly to the
o p p o sitio n b etw een th e m ale b o d y , self-en clo sed and d irected towards the
o u tsid e w orld , and the fem a le b o d y , resem b lin g th e dark, d am p house
fu ll of fo o d , u te n sils, and ch ild ren , wrh ich is en tered and left b y th e same
in evitab ly so iled o p e n in g .41
T h e op p o sitio n b etw een th e centrifugal, m ale orien tation and th e centripetal
fem ale orien tation , w h ich , as w e have seen , is th e true p rin cip le of the
organization o f d o m estic sp ace, is d o u b tless also th e b asis o f th e relationship
o f each o f th e se x es to their " p s y c h e ”, that is, to their b o d ies and more
precisely to their sexu ality. A s in every so ciety d o m in ated b y m ale values
- and E u rop ean so c ietie s, w h ich assign m en to p o litics, history, or war and
w o m en to th e hearth, th e n ovel, and p sy ch o lo g y , are n o ex cep tio n - the
sp ecifically m ale relation to se x u a lity is that of sublim ation, th e sym b olism of
h onou r ten d in g at on ce to refuse any d irect ex p ressio n o f sex u a lity and to
en cou rage its transfigured m an ifestation in th e form o f m an ly p row ess: the
m en , w h o are n either co n scio u s of nor con cern ed w ith th e fem ale orgasm but
seek the affirm ation o f their p o ten cy in repetition rather than prolongation
o f th e sexual act, are not unawrare th at, through th e interm ediary o f th e female
g o ssip that th ey b oth fear and d esp ise, th e ey e s o f th e group alw ays threaten
their in tim acy. A s for the w o m e n , it is true to say, w ith E rikson, that male
d om in a tio n ten d s to "restrict their verbal c o n sc io u s n e s s ”42 so lon g as this is
taken to m ean n ot that th ey are forb id d en all talk o f se x , b u t that their
d iscou rse is d o m in ated by th e m ale v alu es of v irility , so that all reference to
specifically fem ale sexu al " in te r e sts” is exclu d ed from th is aggressive and
sh am e-filled cu lt o f m ale p o ten cy .
P sych oan alysis, the d isen ch a n tin g p rod uct o f th e d isen ch a n tm en t of the
w o rld , w h ich lead s to a d o m a in of sign ification that ism y th ica lly overdetermined
to b e co n stitu ted as suchy forgets and cau ses it to b e forgotten that on e's own
body and o th er p e o p le ’s b o d ies are o n ly ever p erceiv ed through categories of
p ercep tion w h ich it w o u ld be naive to treat as sexu al, even if, as is attested
b y the wTo m e n ’s lau ghter d u r in g con versation s, and the in terp retation s they
g iv e of grap h ic sy m b o ls - m ural p a in tin gs, p ottery or carpet d esig n s, etc. -
th e se categories alw ays relate back, so m etim es very con cretely, to the
o p p osition b etw een the b io lo g ica lly defined p rop erties of th e tw o se x es. As
naive as it w ou ld b e to reduce to th eir strictly sexu al d im en sio n th e countless
acts o f d iffu se in cu lcation th rou gh w h ich th e b od y and the w orld ten d to be
set in order, b y m ean s of a sy m b o lic m an ip u lation of the relation to th e body
and to th e w orld aim in g to im p ose w hat has to be called , in M elan ie Klein s
term , a " b o d y g e o g r a p h y ” , a particular case of geo g ra p h y , or better.
T h e dialectic o f objectification an d em bodim ent 9 3

sinology -43 T h e ch ild ’s in itial relation to its father or m o th er, or in other


00 t0 the paternal b o d y and m aternal b o d y , w h ich offers th e m ost
!f matic op portu nity to exp erien ce all th e fu n d am en tal o p p o sitio n s o f m yth o-
lC practice, can n ot be fou n d as the b asis of the acq u isitio n o f the
P nCiples of th e stru ctu rin g of th e ego and th e w orld, and in particular o f
very hom osexual and h eterosexu al relation sh ip , excep t insofar as that initial
relation is set u p w ith ob jects w h o se sex is d efin ed sy m b o lica lly and not
biologically. T h e ch ild co n stru cts its sexual identity, th e m ajor elem en t in its
social id en tity, at the sam e tim e as it con stru cts its im age of th e d iv isio n of
orfc betw een th e se x es, o u t o f th e sam e socially d efined set o f inseparably
biological and social in d ices. In other w ord s, the aw akening o f co n scio u sn ess
of sexual id en tity and th e in corporation of th e d isp o sitio n s associated w ith
a determinate social d efin ition o f th e social fu n ctio n s in cu m b en t on m en and
women com e hand in hand w ith th e ad op tion of a socially d efined v isio n of
the sexual d ivision of labour.

Psychologists’ work on the perception of sexual differences makes it clear that


children establish clear-cut distin ction s very early (about age five) betw een male and
female functions, assigning dom estic tasks to w om en and m others and econom ic
activities to m en and fathers. Everything suggests that the awareness of sexual
differences and the distinction betw een paternal and m aternal functions are constituted
simultaneously. From the num erous analyses of the differential perception of mother
and father it may be gathered that the father is generally seen as more com petent and
more severe than the mother, w ho is regarded as " kinder ” and more affectionate than
the father and is the object of a m ore em otional and more agreeable relationship. In
fact, as Emmerich very rightly points out, underlying all these differences is the fact
that children attribute more pow er to the father than to the m other.

It is not hard to im agin e th e w eigh t that m u st b e b rou gh t to bear on the


construction o f self-im age and w orld -im age b y the o p p o sitio n b etw een
masculinity and fem in in ity w h e n it co n stitu tes th e fu n d am en tal p rin cip le of
division o f th e social and sy m b o lic w orld . A s is em p h a sized b y th e tw ofold
meaning o f th e w ord nif, sexual p o te n c y inseparable from so cia l p o ten cy , w hat
is im posed th rou gh a certain social d efin ition of m alen ess (and , by d erivation ,
of fem alen ess), is a p olitical m y th o lo g y w h ich g overn s all b o d ily ex p erien ces,
not least sexual ex p erien ces th e m selv es. T h u s , th e op p o sitio n b etw een m ale
sexuality, pub lic and su b lim ated , and fem ale sex u a lity , secret an d, so to speak,
alienated ” (w ith resp ect to E r ik so n s " u top ia of u niversal g e n ita lity ”, i.e .
the "u topia o f fu ll orgasm ic re cip r o city ”) is o n ly a sp ecifica tio n o f th e
opposition b etw een the extraversion o f p o litics or p u b lic religion and th e
x tro v ersio n of p sy ch o lo g y or private m agic, m ad e up for th e m o st part of
n tes aim ed at d o m estica tin g th e m ale p artners.

Bodily /texts is political m ythology realized, em-bodied, turned into a permanent


lsposition, a durable m anner of standing, speaking, and thereby of feeling and
9 4
Structures an d the habitus

thinking. T h e oppositions w hich m ythico-ritual logic makes betw een the male ancj
the fem ale and w hich organize the w hole system o f values reappear, for exam p le ^
the gestures and m ovem ents of the b od y, in the form of the opposition between the
straight and the bent, or betw een assurance and restraint. " T h e Kabyle is like th
heather, he w ould rather break than b e n d .” T h e man of honour’s pace is steady and
determ ined. H is way of walking, that of a man w h o know s w here he is goin g and knovv8
he will arrive in tim e, w hatever the obstacles, expresses strength and resolution, 35
opposed to the hesitant gait (th ikli thamahmahth) announcing indecision, half-hearted
prom ises ( a v a l amahmah), the fear of com m itm ents and the incapacity to fulfil them
At the sam e tim e it is a measured p a ce: it contrasts as m uch with the haste of the man
w ho "throw s his feet up as high as his h ea d ”, "walks along w ith great strides”
" dances ” - running being weak and frivolous conduct - as it does w ith the sluggishness
of the man w ho "trails alo n g ”. T h e m anly man stands up straight and honours the
person he approaches or w ishes to w elcom e by looking him right in the eves; ever
on the alert, because ever threatened, he lets nothing that happens around him escape
him , whereas a gaze that is up in the clouds or fixed on the ground is the mark of
an irresponsible m an, w ho has nothing to fear because he has no responsibilities in
his group. C onversely, a w om an is expected to walk with a slight stoop, looking down,
keeping her eyes on the spot where she w ill next put her foot, especially if she happens
to have to walk past the thajma'th; her gait m ust avoid the excessive sw in g of the hips
which com es from a heavy stride; she m ust always be girdled with the thimehremth,
a rectangular piece of cloth w ith yellow , red, and black stripes worn over her
dress, and take care that her headscarf does not com e unknotted, revealing her hair.
In short, the specifically fem inine virtue, lahia, m odesty, restraint, reserve, orients
the w hole fem ale body dow nwards, tow ards the ground, the inside, the house,
w’hereas male excellence, nif, is asserted in m ovem ent upwards, outw’ards, towards
other m en.

If all so c ietie s and, sign ifican tly, all the "totalitarian in stitu tio n s ”, in
G off m an ’s p hrase, that seek to produce a n ew m an through a process of
" d ec u ltu ra tio n ” and " r ec u ltu ra tio n ” set su ch store on the se em in g ly most
in sign ifican t d etails of dress, bearing, p hysical and verbal manners, th e reason
is th at, treatin g th e b ody as a m em ory, they en tru st to it in ab breviated and
practical, i.e . m n em o n ic, form th e fu n d a m en tal p rin cip les o f th e arbitrary
co n ten t of th e cu ltu re. T h e p rin cip les em -b o d ied in th is w ay are p laced beyond
th e grasp of co n sc io u sn e ss, and h en ce cannot b e tou ch ed b y voluntary,
d elib erate tran sform ation , can n ot even be m ade ex p licit; n o th in g se em s more
in effab le, m ore in co m m u n ica b le, m ore in im itab le, and, th erefore, more
p recio u s, than th e v alu es g iv en b o d y , m ade b o d y b y th e transubstantiation
ach ieved b y th e h id d en p ersuasion of an im p licit p ed agogy, capable of
in stillin g a w h o le co sm o lo g y , an eth ic, a m etap h y sic, a p olitical p h ilosop h y,
through in ju n ction s as in sign ifican t as " stand u p straigh t ” or " d o n ’t hold your
knife in you r left h a n d ”.44 T h e lo g ic o f sc h e m e transfer w h ich m akes each
tech n iq u e o f th e b ody a sort o f pa rs totalis, p red isp osed to fu n ctio n in
accordance w ith th e fallacy p a rs p ro totot and h en ce to evok e th e w h o le system
o f w h ich it is a part, gives a very general sco p e to the se em in g ly m ost
circu m scrib ed and circu m stan tial ob servan ces. T h e w h o le trick o f p edagogic
The dialectic o f objectification and em bodiment 95

reason I*68 precisely in the w ay it extorts th e essen tial w h ile se em in g to dem and
the in sign ifican t: in o b ta in in g th e respect for form and form s o f resp ect w h ich
constitute th e m ost v isib le and at th e sam e tim e th e b est-h id d en (b ecau se
most * n a tu ra l”) m an ifestation o f su b m issio n to th e esta b lish ed order, th e
in c o r p o r a t io n o f th e arbitrary ab olish es w hat R aym on d R uyer calls " lateral
possibilities” , that is, all th e eccen tricities and d evia tio n s w h ich are th e sm all
change o f m ad n ess. T h e co n cessio n s o f politeness alw ays con tain p o litica l
c o n c e s s io n s . T h e term obsequium u sed by S p in o za to d en o te th e " con stan t
*iH" produced by th e co n d itio n in g through w h ich " th e S ta te fash ion s u s for
its own use and w hich en ab les it to s u r v iv e ”45 co u ld be reserved to d esign ate
the public testim o n ies o f recogn ition w h ich every grou p ex p ec ts o f its members
(especially at m o m en ts of co -o p tio n ), that is, th e sy m b o lic taxes d ue from
individuals in the ex ch an ges w h ich are set up in every grou p b etw een th e
individuals and th e grou p . B ecau se, as in g ift ex ch a n g e, th e ex ch a n g e is an
end in itself, the trib u te d em a n d ed b y th e gro u p gen erally co m es d o w n to
a matter o f trifles, that is, to sy m b o lic rituals (rites of passage, th e cerem on ials
o f etiquette, e t c .) , form alities and form alism s w h ich " cost n o th in g ” to perform
and seem su ch n atu ra l” th in g s to d em and (" It's th e least on e can d o . . . ” :
“ It w ou ld n ’t cost h im an yth in g t o . . . ”) that ab sten tio n a m o u n ts to a refusal
or a ch a llen g e.4*
T hrou gh th e habitus, th e stru ctu re w h ich has p rod uced it g o v ern s practice,
not by th e p rocesses of a m ech an ical d eterm in ism , b ut th ro u g h th e m ed iation
of the orien tation s and lim its it assign s to th e habitus's op eration s of
invention.47 A s an acquired system o f gen erative sch em es o b jectiv ely adjusted
to the particular co n d itio n s in w h ich it is co n stitu ted , th e h ab itu s en gen d ers
all the th o u g h ts, all th e p ercep tio n s, and all th e action s co n siste n t w ith th ose
conditions, and no oth ers. T h is paradoxical product is difficult to co n ceiv e,
even in con ceivab le, o n ly so lo n g as on e rem ains locked in th e d ilem m a o f
determinism and freed om , co n d itio n in g and creativity (lik e C h om sk y, for
example, w h o th o u g h t th e on ly escap e from B loom fieldian b eh aviou rism lay
in seek ing " fre ed o m ” and '‘ cr ea tiv ity ” in th e " str u c tu re” - i.e . th e " n a tu r e”
“ of th e hum an m in d ). B ecause the h abitus is an en d less cap acity to en gen d er
products - th ou gh ts, p ercep tio n s, ex p ressio n s, action s - w h o se lim its are set
bV the h istorically and socially situated co n d itio n s of its p rod u ction , the
conditioned and con d ition al freed om it secu res is as rem ote from a creation
u npredictable n ovelty as it is from a sim p le m ech an ical reprodu ction of
the initial c o n d itio n in g s .48
3
G e n e ra tiv e sch em es an d p ractical lo g ic :
in ve n tio n w ith in lim its

T h e opposite gesture, that o f inverting a sp oon, sh ou ld autom atically, as it


w ere, provoke a contrary action. T h is is what the w ife of a fqih does, among
the M tougga, to ward off im m inent rainfall.
E . L aoust, M ots et choses berberes

" I think I ’ve made a new theological d isc o v e ry . . . ”


" W hat is it ? ”
" If you hold your hands upside dow n, you get the opposite of what you pray
fo r !”
Charles M . S ch u lz, There's N o One L ike You, Snoopy

M an differs from other anim als in that he is the one m ost given to mim icry
( mimetikotaton) and learns his first lessons through m im esis (d ia mimeseos).
Aristotle, Poetics, 1448b

O b jectivism co n stitu tes the social w orld as a sp ectacle p resen ted to an observer
w h o takes up a " p o in t of v ie w ” on th e action , w h o sta n d s back so as to
ob serve it an d, tran sferrin g in to th e ob ject th e p rin cip les o f h is relation to
th e o b ject, c o n ce iv e s of it as a to ta lity in te n d ed for co g n itio n alo n e, in which
a ll in teraction s are red u ced to sy m b o lic ex ch a n g es. T h is p o in t o f v iew is the
on e afforded b y h ig h p o sitio n s in th e social stru ctu re, from w h ich the social
w orld appears as a rep resen tation (in the sen se of idealist p h ilo so p h y b u t also
as u sed in p ain tin g or the th eatre) and p ractices are n o m ore than " e x e c u tio n s’ ,
stage parts, perform an ces of sco res, or the im p lem en tin g of p lans. W ith the
M arx o f the Theses on Feuerbach, th e th eory of practice as p ractice insists,
against p o sitiv ist m aterialism , that th e ob jects o f k n o w led g e are constructed,
and against idealist in tellectu a lism , that th e p rin cip le o f th is co n stru ctio n is
practical a ctiv ity orien ted tow ards practical fu n ctio n s. It is p o ssib le to a b a n d o n
th e so vereign p oin t o f v iew from w h ich o b jectiv ist id ealism ord ers th e w orld,
w ith o u t b ein g forced to relin q u ish th e "active asp ect ” of ap p reh en sion o f the
w orld by red u cin g co g n itio n to a m ere record in g: it suffices to situ ate on eself
w ithin "real activity as s u c h ”, i.e . in th e practical relation to th e w o rld , the
q u a si-b o d ilv " a im in g ” w h ich en tails no rep resen ta tio n o f eith er th e b o d y or
th e w orld , still less o f their rela tio n sh ip , that a ctive p resen ce in th e w orld
th ro u g h w h ich th e w orld im p o ses its p resen ce, w ith its u rg en cies, its th in gs
to b e d o n e or sa id , th in g s " m a d e ” to be said and said "to be d o n e ”, w hich
[ 961
T h e calen dar an d the synoptic illusion 97

directly com m an d w ord s and d eed s w ith o u t ever d ep lo y in g th e m se lv e s as a


spectacle.
The a rgu m en ts that have d ev elo p ed as m u ch am on g a n th ro p o lo g ists (eth n o -
science) as am on g so c io lo g ists (eth n o m e th o d o lo g y ) around classification s
and classificatory sy stem s have on e th in g in co m m o n : th ey forget that th ese
instruments of cogn itio n fulfil as su ch fu n ctio n s other than th o se o f pure
cognition. Practice alw ays im p lies a co g n itiv e op eration , a practical operation
0f construction w h ich se ts to w ork, b y reference to practical fu n ctio n s,
systems of classification (ta x o n o m ies) w h ich organ ize p ercep tio n and structure
practice. P rod u ced b y th e p ractice of su cc essiv e g en era tio n s, in co n d itio n s
of existence o f a d eterm in ate ty p e , th ese sc h e m e s o f p ercep tio n , ap p reciation ,
and action, w h ich are acq u ired th ro u g h practice and ap plied in their practical
state w ith ou t a cced in g to ex p lic it rep resen tation , fu n ctio n as practical op era
tors through w h ich th e ob jective stru ctu res of w h ich th e y are the p rod u ct ten d
to reproduce th em selv es in practices. Practical taxon om ies, in stru m en ts o f
cognition and com m u n ica tio n w h ich are th e p reco n d itio n for th e esta b lish
ment of m ea n in g and the co n se n su s on m ean in g, exert th eir structuring efficacy
only to th e ex ten t that th ey are th em selv es structured. T h is d o es not m ean
that they can b e ad eq u ately treated by "structu ral ”, " co m p o n en tia l ”, or any
other form of strictly internal an alysis w h ich , in artificially w ren ch in g th em
from their co n d itio n s o f p rod u ction and u se, in ev ita b ly fails to und erstan d
their social fu n c tio n s .1
T h e coh eren ce to be ob served in all p ro d u cts of the ap p lication o f the sam e
habitus has n o other basis than th e co h eren ce w h ich th e gen erative p rin cip les
con stitutin g th a t h ab itu s ow e to th e social stru ctu res (stru ctu res o f relation s
between grou p s - th e se x es or age-classes - or b etw een social classes) of w h ich
they are th e p rod u ct and w h ich , as D u rk h eim and M au ss saw , th ey ten d to
reproduce .2 T h e practical op erators w h ich co n stitu te th e h ab itu s and w h ich
function in th eir practical state in gestu re or u tterance rep rod u ce in a trans
form ed fo rm , in sertin g th e m in to th e stru ctu re o f a sy stem o f sy m b o lic
relations, the o p p o sitio n s and h ierarchies w h ich actu ally organ ize social
groups, and w h ich th ey h elp to leg itim ate by p resen tin g th em in a m isrecog-
nizable form .

T h e calen dar an d the synoptic illusion

A nalysis o f th e agrarian calendar w ill en ab le u s to d em o n stra te, b y a sort of


proof p e r absurdum , th e error w h ich resu lts from th e in tellectu a list theory
° f social sy stem s o f classification . O w in g to th e extrem ely im p ortan t social
fu n ction w h ich it fu lfils in orchestratin g th e g rou p 's a ctiv ity , th e calendar is
indeed o n e o f th e m o st cod ified asp ects o f social e x iste n c e .3 T h e organ ization
98 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

of practices is n ot entrusted in th is case ex clu siv ely to th e practical schem es


of th e habitus: it is the object of exp licit in ju n ction s and express recom m en
d ation s, sayin gs, p roverbs, and taboos, servin g a fu n ction analogous to that
perform ed in a different order b y custom ary rules or gen ea lo g ies. A lthough
th ey are never m ore than rationalization s d evised for sem i-scholarly purposes,
th ese m ore or less cod ified ob jectification s are, o f all the products of habitus
structured in accordancc w ith the prevailing sy stem of classification, those
w h ich are socially recogn ized as the m ost representative and su ccessfu l, those
w orthiest of b ein g preserved b y the co llectiv e m em ory; and so they are
them selves organized in accordance w ith th e stru ctures co n stitu tin g that
sy stem of classification . T h e y thereby com e to be en d ow ed w ith a com m on
" p h y sio g n o m y ” rend erin g them im m ed iately " in te llig ib le ” for any agent
eq u ipp ed w ith the " s e n s e ” o f lin gu istic an d /or m yth ic roots, and are thus
pred isp osed to m ake u p for th e lap ses or u ncertain ties o f the habitus by
settin g out cod ified references and strict g u id e lin e s .4
W hat on e derives from q u estio n in g in form an ts, thereby in vitin g th em to
adopt a q uasi-scien tific attitu de, is a m ixtu re, in variable p rop ortions, of
know ledges draw n from on e or th e other o f th e available traditions w hich,
ex cep t w hen m echan ically reprodu ced, is selected and o ften reinterpreted in
term s o f the sch em es o f the h abitus and of representations produced a d hoc
from the sam e sch em es. A s soon as on e undertakes to draw u p a synoptic
calendar w h ich co m b in es th e features m ost freq u en tly attested and indicates
the m ost im portant variants (instead o f p resen tin g a sin g le calendar chosen
for the sake o f its particular " q u a lity ”, or a set o f particular calendars) one
com es up against a prim ary d iffic u lty : id en tical p eriods are g iv en different
nam es, and still m ore o ften , id en tical nam es cover periods varying con si
derably in length and situ ated at different tim es in the year, d ep en d in g on
the region, th e trib e, th e village, and even the inform ant. M oreover, at two
different p oin ts in the sam e con versation, an inform ant m ay offer tw o different
nam es (e.g . on e B erber, on e draw n from th e Islam ic tradition) for the same
m o m en t of th e year.
T h ere is a great tem p tation to am ass and collate th ese different productions
in order to con stru ct a lacuna-free, con trad iction -free wTh o le, a sort o f unwritten
score of w hich all th e calendars d erived from in form an ts are then regarded
as im perfect, im p overish ed perform ances .5 T h e p rob lem is that th e calendar
cannot be u nd erstood u nless it is set d ow n on paper, and that it is im possible
to understand h ow it w orks u n less on e fully realizes that it exists o n ly on paper
(see fig. 2).8 M oreover, wrhen it is a m atter o f transm itting all the useful
inform ation as q u ick ly as p ossib le, there is no m ore efficient and c o n v e n i e n t
w ay than a linear narrative, w h ich perm its the rapid u n fo ld in g o f th e su cces
sion of " p erio d s” and " m o m e n ts” (treatin g rival accoun ts as " v a ria n ts”).
io o G en erative schemes an d practical logic

M ost in form an ts sp o n ta n eo u sly make th e year start w ith autum n ( lakhrif)


F or som e of th em , the season starts around the ist o f S ep tem b er in the Julian
calendar; for others, it starts on about the 15th of A u g u st, on the day called
"th e door of the y ea r” ( thabburth usugas), w h ich marks th e entry in to the wet
p eriod, after the d ogd ays o f sm aim and at the b eg in n in g of la k h rif: on that
day, each fam ily sacrifices a cock, and associations and con tracts are renewed.
But for other in form an ts, th e " d oor of the y e a r ” is th e first day o f ploughing
( lahlal natsharats or lah lal n thagersa), the m ost d ecisiv e tu rn in g -p o in t of the
transitional period.
T h e tillage period (u su ally called la h la l, but so m etim es hartadem ) begins
w ith the first d ay’s p lo u g h in g (azvdjeb), after an ox b o u g h t co llectiv ely has
been sacrificed ( thimechret) and the m eat shared out am ongst all the m em bers
of the co m m u n ity (adhrum or villa g e). P lo u gh in g and so w in g , w h ich begin
im m ediately after the inaugural cerem on y (w h ich is also a rain-m aking rite),
as soon as the land is su fficien tly m o ist, m ay go on u n til m id -D ecem b er or
even lon ger, d ep en d in g on th e region and the year.

It is doubtless incorrect to speak of lahlal as a “ p erio d ”: this term , and the


corresponding tem poral unit, are defined practically, within the universe of the wet
season, in opposition to lakhrif (ploughing and sow ing being opposed to the picking
and drying of the figs, gardening work in thabhirth, the sum m er garden, and w ith la la f,
the special attention given to th e oxen weakened by treading ou t, so as to prepare them
for ploughing) ; but w ithin th e same universe it may also be defined in opposition to
lyali, the slack m om ent in w inter. W ithin a quite different logic it can also be
contrasted w ith all the other periods held to be licit for a particular type of work which
w ould be haram (the illicit) if done outside those periods: for exam ple, lahlal lafth,
the licit period for sow ing turnips (from the seventeenth day of autum n, the 3rd of
Septem ber in the Julian calendar), lahlal yifer, the licit period for stripping the fig-trees
(the end of S eptem ber), etc.

F or so m e in form an ts, w in ter b egin s on the 15th o f N o v em b er, for others


on th e ist of D ec em b e r, w ith o u t any sp ecial rite (w h ich ten ds to sh ow that
the o p p o sitio n b etw een a u tu m n and w in ter is not stro n g ly m arked) .7 T h e heart
o f w inter is called ly a li} th e n igh ts, "a period of forty d a y s ” , w ith in w hich
a d istin ction is alm ost alw ays draw n b etw een tw o equal parts, ly a li thimella-
linef the w h ite n ig h ts, and ly a li thiberkanine, the black n igh ts (a d istinction
w h ich , as is su gg ested b y its range of ap plications, is the p rod u ct o f an
en tirely abstract, form al p rin cip le of d ivision , althou gh inform ants find jus
tification s for it in clim atic ch an ges). O n ce the autum n w ork is over, the
peasants keep th e m selv es b u sy , repairing their tools w hen th ey cannot leave
th e h ou se, ga th erin g grass and leaves for the cattle, and clearing the paths
after heavy sn ow falls. T h is is the slack season o f the year, contrasted, as su ch ,
w ith sm aim , the slack p eriod of th e dry season , or, as w e have seen , w ith lahlaU
a tim e of in ten se a ctivity; but it is con trasted in another resp ect w ith the
T he calen dar and the synoptic illusion 10 1

ransition from w in ter to sp rin g (essba't or essubu', the " s e v e n s ”); and from
et a n o t h e r point of v iew , th e se are th e "great n ig h ts ” (ly a li kbira) as op posed
^ t h e l e s s er n ig h ts ” (ly a li esghira) o f February and M arch, to th e " sh ep h erd ’s
nights” a n d to the " n igh ts o f H a y a n ” . T h e first day of ennayer (January),
in the depth o f w in ter, is m arked by a w h ole set o f renew al rites and taboos
(in particular on sw eep in g an d w ea v in g ), w h ich som e inform an ts extend to
the w hole period of issemaden (th e cold d ays) ru n n in g from late D ecem b er
to early January.
T h e end of ly a li is m arked by the ritual celebration of el'a zla gennayer,
s e p a r a t io n from ennayer: life has em erged on the face of the earth, th e first
shoots are appearing on th e trees, it is "th e o p e n in g ” (el ftuh ). T h e farm er
goes out into th e fields and se ts up oleander b ranches, w h ich have th e pow er
to drive away m aras, the cockchafer g r u b ; as h e d oes so , he savs, " C om e o u t,
maras! T h e khammes is g o in g to kill y o u ! ” O n the sam e day, it is said, the
peasants g o to their stables b efore sunrise and sh ou t in th e ears of the oxen :
"G ood new s! E n n ayer is over! ” S om e in form an ts say 'a zri} the bachelor, for
'azla ("because from that day on , sp rin g is co m in g , and m arriages start to
be celebrated ”), w ith a sort o f play on w ords w hich is no d ou b t also a play
on m ythic roots. T h is is b eg in n in g of a lo n g transitional p eriod, a tim e of
waiting, covered by a term in o lo g y as rich as it is con fu sed : w hereas autu m n
is "a w h o le ”, as on e in form an t p u t it, th e passage from w inter to spring is
a patchwork of m o m en ts w h ich are ill d efin ed , alm ost all m a lig n , and variously
named.
Thus, the term thimgharine, the old w om en, or thamgharth, the old w om an,8 also
known as amerdil (the loan) in Great Kabvlia, denotes either the m om ent of transition
from one m onth to another (from D ecem ber to January, or January to February, or
February to March, and even, at Ain A ghbel, from March to A pril), or the m om ent
of transition from winter to spring. Husum, a learned term of Arabic origin, referring
to a sura of the Koran, coexists w ith hayan (or ahgan) to denote the passage from
furar to maghres. 9 But the logic o f m agic insists that it is never possible to know exactly
which is the most unpropitious m om ent in a period which is uncertain as a w h o le,10
so that the terms thimgharine or husum, relating to highly unpropitious periods, are
som etim es used to denote the w hole transitional period from late January to m id-M arch:
*n this case, they are made to include the four " w eek s” which divide up the m onth
of February, known collectively as essba't ("the se v e n s”) , i.e. el mivalah (som etim es
called \mirghane), the salt days; el quarah, the pungent days; elsw a la h , the benign days;
€l fyjatah, the open d ays.11 As the nam es of this series them selves testify, we find here,
as in the case of the nights of January, one o f the sem i-explicit dichotom ies which
always involve an attempt at rationalization: the first two periods are m align and come
the end of winter; the last tw o are benign and com e at the beginning of spring,
n the sam e way, inform ants w ho identify husum w ith the fortnight straddling the end
°f January and the beginning o f February, concentrating within it all the features
characteristic of the period as a w h ole, distinguish a first, dangerous week and a second,
j^ore favourable week. And sim ilarly, num erous inform ants (especially in the
jurdjura region) distinguish tw o ahgans (or hayans) - ahgan bu akii, the hayan of
10 2 G en era tive schemes a n d p ra ctica l logic

the N egro, seven intensely cold days during w hich work is su sp en d ed , and ahgQtl
hari, the hayan of the freem an, seven days in w hich “ everything on earth comesK u
to life ”.
D u rin g " hayan w eek ” (th e first w eek of M arch), life com p letes its work. Man m
not disturb it by goin g into the fields or orch ard s.12 T h e anim als too seem to ^
com pleted their grow th: w eaning (el h iya z) is carried out at the end of hayan weej.'
on the day of the spring eq u in ox (a d h w a l gitij, the len gth en in g o f the su n ). A tin ca^
is struck to make a noise w hich w ill prevent the oxen - w ho can understand human
speech on that day - from hearing what is said about " th e len gth en in g of t h e davg”
for if they heard it, they w ould take fright at having to work harder. By virtue o f
position , husum (or hayan) is endow ed w ith an inaugural - and augural - character very
sim ilar to that conferred on the m orning, in th e cycle of the day (for e x a m p l e , if
does not rain, the wells w ill not be full all year; if it rains, that is a sign o f p le n ty -
if there is snow at the b egin n in g, there will be m any partridge e g g s ); it is th e r e f o r e
an occasion for acts of propitiation (alm sgiving) and divination.

O n ce th e d ays of th e old w om an and husum are over, th e flock is reckoned


to be sa v ed : it is now el fw a ta h , th e tim e for c o m in g o u t, th e tim e o f births,
b o th on th e cu ltivated land an d a m o n g th e flock , an d th e y o u n g lin g s are no
lo n g er th reaten ed b y th e rigou rs o f w in ter. T h e first day o f sp rin g ( thafsuth),
th e feast o f g reen n ess and in fa n c y ,13 has already b een celeb ra ted . A ll the ritual
o f th is inaugural day of an augural p eriod is p laced u n d er th e sign of jo y and
o f o b jects that b rin g g o o d fo rtu n e and p rosp erity . T h e ch ild ren g o ou t into
th e field s to m ee t sp rin g . In th e o p en air th ey w ill eat a se m o lin a o f grilled
cereals an d b utter. T h e c o u sc o u s served on that d ay is co ok ed in th e steam
o f a broth co n ta in in g a d h ris (seksu w a d h ris) , th ap sia, a p lant w h ich causes
sw e llin g . T h e w om en a b an d on th e ta b o o s o f th e p lo u g h in g p erio d and dye
th eir h an d s w ith hen na. T h e y g o off in g ro u p s o f fifteen or tw e n ty and bring
back heath sh ru b s to m ake b ro o m s, th e eu p h e m is tic n am e for w hich is
th a fa ra h th , from f a r ah , joy, and w h ich , m ade in joy, w ill b rin g joy.
T h e d a y s grow lo n g er. T h e r e is n ot m u ch w ork to b e d o n e (apart from
tillage in the fig o rc h a r d s); m an has to w ait for life to d o its w ork . " I n M arch ”,
th ey say in G reat K ab ylia, " g o an d look at yo u r cro p s, and take a g o o d lo o k ” ;
and e ls e w h e r e :" the su n o f th e flow erin g [of th e lo n g -a w a ited p eas an d beans]
em p tie s th e d o u a r ” T h e fo o d sto ck s are ex h a u sted , and th e le n g th e n in g of
th e d ays is accen tuated b y th e ban on g o in g ou t in to th e field s (natah is not
over) and o n eatin g b ean s or oth er green v eg eta b les. H e n c e th e proverbs:
"M arch ( maghres) clim b s like a h ills id e ” ; an d " T h e d a y s o f M arch are
sev en -sn a ck d a y s.”
W ith natah or thiftirine, th e tran sition al p eriod co m e s to an e n d . T h ese
term s, w h ich d en ote th e sam e p eriod to w ith in a few d ays, are b o th o f Arabic
origin and are rarely k n ow n to th e p easan ts o f th e D jurdjura region (w here
h a ya n , or rather ahgan, as it is k now n lo cally, has sh ifte d to th is tim e o f the
yea r). D u r in g natch " th e trees are sh aken and knock to g e th e r ” ; excessive
T h e calen dar a n d the syn optic illusion 10 3

is likely, and th e w ea th er is so co ld th a t " th e boar sh iv er s in its la ir 5*.


husum , there is a ban o n en terin g th e cu ltiv a ted field s and th e orchards
fear o f ca u sin g th e d eath o f a p erson or an a n im a l). F or natah is also the
on of n atu re’s a w ak en in g, o f th e b lo sso m in g o f cro p s, life , and m arriages.
It is the m om en t for w e d d in g s an d village fe a sts .14A n d s o , b y a fam iliar d ev ice,
gome in form an ts d iv id e thiftirin e or natah in to an u n fa v o u ra b le p erio d , in
March (“ th e d ifficu lt d a y s ”) and a favourable p eriod (" th e easy d a y s ”) in

April-
The passage from th e w et season to th e dry season is effected ritually and
collectively, d u rin g n atah, o n th e day o f tharurith v ia z a l (th e return o f a z a l ),15
on a date wTh ich varies from region to region b ecau se o f clim a tic differen ces,
coming eith er in M arch, after w ea n in g , el h iy a z , or in A p ril, at sh ea rin g tim e
or just after, or, at th e v ery latest, at th e b e g in n in g of M ay: fro m th at day
on, the flock, w h ich up to th en w en t o u t late in th e m o rn in g and cam e back
relatively early, leaves early in th e m o rn in g , co m e s back and g o es o u t again
in the early a ftern o o n , and retu rn s at su n se t.
T he bad w ea th er is o ver for g o o d ; th e green fields an d th e ga rd en s are now
ready to receive th e rays o f th e su n . T h is is th e start o f th e cy c le of d ryn ess
and ripenin g; w ith ibril, a p articu larly b en eficen t m on th (" A p ril is a dow'nw'ard
slope”), a trou b le-free p eriod o f relative p len ty b eg in s. W ork o f all sorts starts
up again: in th e field s, wThere th e critical p eriod o f grow th is over, th e m en
can start th e h o ein g , the o n ly im p ortan t activ ity (w h ich u sed to b e in augu rated
by the a b d u ction of M ata, th e " brid e ” o f th e field , a rite in te n d ed to call dow n
the rain n eed ed for th e ears of th e corn to d e v e lo p ) ; in th e gard en s, th e first
beans are p ick ed . D u r in g th e p eriod o f nisany w h o se b en eficen t rain, b rin gin g
fertility and p rosp erity to every liv in g th in g , is in v o k ed writh all sorts o f rites,
the sh eep are sh orn and th e n ew lam b s are b ran d ed . T h e fact that nisan, like
all transitional p erio d s (n atah , for e x a m p le ), is an a m b ig u o u s p erio d , ill
defined in relation to th e o p p o sitio n b etw e en th e dry and th e w e t, is here
expressed not in a d iv isio n in to tw o p eriod s, o n e a u sp icio u s an d the other
inauspicious, b u t b y th e ex iste n c e o f in a u sp icio u s m o m e n ts ( eddbagh , th e 1 st
of M ay, at a m y sterio u s h our k n ow n to n o n e ), m arked b y various taboos
(pruning or g ra ftin g , celeb ra tin g w e d d in g s, w h ite w a sh in g h o u se s, settin g up
*he loom , se ttin g eg g s to b e h atch ed , e t c .) .
A s th e p erio d k n o w n as ize g za w e n " th e g reen d a y s ” co m e s to an en d , th e
last traces o f g reen ery fade from th e la n d sc a p e ; th e cerea ls, wrh ich had b een
as 'te n d e r ” ( th aleqaqth ) as a n ew -b o rn b a b y , n ow b eg in to tu rn y e llo w . T h e
changing ap pearan ce o f th e corn field s is in d icated b y th e n a m es of th e ten
or seven -d ay p erio d s in to wTh ich th e m o n th o f magu (or m ayu) is d iv id e d . A fter
l*egzaw en co m e iw ragh en , th e yellow* d a y s, im ellalen, th e w h ite d ay s, and
tquranen, th e dry d ays. S u m m e r (anebdhu) has b eg u n . T h e ch aracteristic tasks
104 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

o f the w et sea so n , tillage (in th e fig orchards) and so w in g , w h ich is


p erm itted in the "green d a y s ”, are ab so lu tely b ann ed from the p eriod known
as th e " y ello w d a y s”. T h e o n ly con cern is to p rotect th e rip en in g crops
against th e dangers w h ich threaten th em (hail, b ird s, lo cu sts, e tc .). T h e means
u sed again st predators - sh o w ers o f sto n e s, sh o u ts (ah ah i), scarecrow s -
th e co llec tiv e ex p u lsion rites (asifedh) that are in ten d ed to transfer the
m align an t forces from th e territory to b e p rotected in to a cave, b u sh , or heap
o f sto n e s, after " fixing ” th em on o b jects (d o lls) or an im als (e.g . a pair o f birds)
w h ich are th e n sacrificed, are sim p ly ap p lica tio n s o f the sch em e of
" tran sferen ce o f e v il” w h ich is se t to w ork in th e treatm en t o f a large number
of d iseases - fever, m ad n ess (p o ssessio n b y a d jin ), sterility - and also in rites
p erform ed o n fixed dates in certain villages.
A cco rd in g to m o st in form an ts, su m m er b eg in s on th e sev en teen th day of
the m o n th of m agu, also called mut el ardh " th e d ea th o f th e la n d ”.16 By the
last day o f iquraranen, k n ow n as "a fiery em b er has fallen into th e w ater”
(thagli thirgith egw am an ), an exp ression w h ich allu d es to th e tem p erin g o f iron,
th e action p rop er to th e sm ith , ev eryon e sh o u ld have started harvesting
( essaif) , w h ich is com p leted around in sla, the day o f th e su m m er solstice
(24 J u n e ), w h en purificatory fires are lit ev e ry w h er e .17 W hen treading-out
and w in n o w in g are co m p leted , th e forty d ogd ays o f smaim b egin and
w ork is su sp en d ed (just as it is in ly a li, a p eriod to w h ich smaim is always
o p p o se d ).18
In o p p o sitio n to the h arvestin g and tread in g-ou t, la k h rif is seen as a slack
p eriod in th e agrarian year, or rather in th e grain cy cle. I t is also a period
d ev o ted to rest an d to th e celeb ration s of a p len tifu l h a rv est ;19 as w ell as the
n ew ly h arvested grain th ere are figs, grap es, and various fresh vegetables,
to m a toes, sw eet p ep p ers, g o u rd s, m elo n s, etc . L a k h r if is so m etim es said to
b egin in m id -A u g u st, at thissemtith (from sem ti, to start rip en in g ), th e m om ent
w hen th e first ripe figs appear, and el haq " th e la w ” is im p osed - a ban on
fig-p ick in g, ev e n from o n e ’s o w n trees, w ith fines for d iso b ed ien ce. W hen
ichakhen co m es round (ichakh lakh rif, it is la k h rif ev ery w h ere), th e fig -h arv est
is at its peak, an d th e m e n , th e w o m e n , and th e ch ild ren are all kep t busy;
th e is t o f O ctob er is lah al y ife r (o f th e le a v es), and n ow th e leaves m ay be
strip p ed from th e fig-trees (ach raw , from chrew, to strip ) to feed th e oxen.
T h is d ate is the signal for th e "w ith d raw al of lif e ”, the work o f iqachachen
(" th e last d a y s ”), w h ich are d ev o ted to a th orou gh clea n in g o f th e kitchen
g ard en s, orchards, and fields, w ith thaqachachth la k h rif (th e last fruit is shaken
from th e trees and the rem ain in g leaves are strip p ed off) and " th e rooting
u p of th e g a r d e n ”. W hen all traces o f life p ersistin g in th e fields after the
harvest have th u s been rem oved , th e land is ready for p lo u g h in g .
T h is lin ear diagram o f th e agrarian year (lik e all d isco u rse) at o n ce m asks
T h e calen dar an d the synoptic illusion

d reveals th e d ifficulties that are en cou n tered as soo n as o n e ceases to take


actical relations o f an alogy or h o m o lo g y sin g ly (or in pairs) and su cc essiv ely ,
and e n d e a v o u r s in stead to fix th em sim u lta n eo u sly so as to cu m u la te th em
s y s te m a tic a lly . T h e se d ifficu lties w o u ld , n o d o u b t, not m erit our atten tion
(in sp ite o f th e trou b le and tim e th ey have co st) w ere it not that, as w ith ,
jn an oth er order, the statistical an alysis o f g en ea lo g ies, th ey have the effect
0 f fo rc in g u s to call in to q u estio n the very op eration w h ich gave rise to th em .
Rigour d em ands n ot that o n e sh o u ld o cc lu d e th ese co n trad iction s b y m ean s
of som e rhetorical or m ath em atical d ev ic e, so as to fall into lin e w ith the rules
of the p rofession , but rather that o n e sh o u ld m ake th em th e object of a
reflection capable o f d isco v e rin g in th em b oth th e logic o f the practical use
of tem poral o p p o sitio n s (from w h ich the con tra d ictio n s arise) an d , inseparably
from th is, th e p rin cip le of th e tran sm u tation to w h ich scholarly ob jectifica
tion su b jects this lo g ic.
Just as gen ealogy su b stitu tes a sp ace of u n eq u ivoca l, h o m o g en eo u s rela
tionships, estab lish ed o n ce and for all, for a sp atially and tem p orally d isc o n
tinuous set of island s of k in sh ip , ranked and organized to su it the n eed s of
the m om ent and b ro u g h t in to practical e x iste n c e gradually and in term itten tly ,
and just as a m ap replaces th e d isco n tin u o u s, p atchy space o f practical p ath s
by the h o m o g e n e o u s, co n tin u o u s sp ace o f g eo m etry , so a calen dar su b stitu tes
a linear, h o m o g en eo u s, c o n tin u o u s tim e for practical tim e, w h ich is m ade up
of in com m en su rab le islan d s o f d u ration , each w ith its ow n rh yth m , th e tim e
that flies b y or drags, d e p e n d in g on w hat o n e is doing, i.e . o n th e fu n c
tions con ferred on it b y th e activ ity in p rogress. By d istrib u tin g gu ide-m arks
(cerem onies and tasks) alon g a co n tin u o u s lin e, o n e turns th em in to d ivid in g
marks u n ited in a relation o f sim p le su cc essio n , thereby creatin g ex nihilo the
question o f the in tervals and co rresp o n d en ces b etw een p o in ts w h ich are no
longer to p o lo g ica lly b u t m etrically eq u iv a len t.

Proof that lyali, which every inform ant m entions, is not "a period of forty d a y s”
(all that is said is "W e are entering ly a li”) but a sim ple scansion of passing tim e, is
found in the fact that different inform ants ascribe to it different durations and
different d a te s: one of them even situates the first day of ennayer both in the m iddle
of w inter and in the m iddle o f ly a li, although he d oes not set lya li in the (geom etric)
middle of winter, thereby dem onstrating that the practical grasp of the structure w hich
leads him to think of lya li as the winter of winter overrides calculative reason. A num ber
°f ill-defined guide-m arks (e .g . the "old w o m e n ”) shift according to the region and
the inform ant, but never beyond the bounds o f w inter. T h e sam e logic is found in
*he belief that it is im possible to know exactly w hen a certain action should be
avoided, the " p erio d ” b ein g nothing other than the field of uncertainty betw een two
guide-marks. A question as innocuous in appearance as "And what com es n ex t? ”,
^ v itin g an inform ant to situate tw o " periods ” in relation to one another in a continuous
time (w hich does no more than state what the genealogical or chronological diagram
does im plicitly), has the effect of im posing an attitude to tem porality w hich is the exact
io 6 G en erative schemes an d practica l logic

opposite of the attitude involved practically in the ordinary use of tem poral terms
Q uite apart from the form w hich the questioning m ust take so as to elicit an ordered
sequ en ce of answ ers, everything about the inquiry relationship itself betrays the
interrogator's "theoretical ” (i.e . "non-practical ”) disposition and invites th e interro-
gatee to adopt a quasi-theoretical attitude: the situation in w hich the interrogation is
carried on rules out any reference to the use and conditions of use of th e temporal
guide-m arks; the interrogation itself tacitly substitutes for d iscontinuous marks
intended to be used for practical ends, the calendar as an object o f thought, predisposed
to becom e an object of discourse and to be unfolded as a totality ex istin g beyond
its "applications” and independently of the needs and interests o f its u sers. This
explains w hy inform ants w ho are invited to give the calendar often start by setting
out the scholarly series of successive units, such as mtvalah, rw alah, and fw atah , or
izegzazven, iwraghen, imellalen, and iquranen. A nd also w hy, w hen they do not send
the anthropologist (w hom they always see as a scholar) to other scholars w ith his
scholar’s questions, they endeavour to produce the form s o f learning w hich seem to
them w orthiest of being offered in reply to scholarly interrogation, su b stitu tin g for
the guides w hich really organize their practice as m uch as they can m obilize of the
series of the constructed calendar, the m onths of the M oslem calendar or the
" h o u ses”.20 In short, by tacitly excluding all reference to the practical interest which
a socially characterized agent - a man or a w om an, an adult or a shepherd, a farmer
or a sm ith, etc. - may have in dividing up the year in such-and-such a w ay, and in
using such-and-such a tem poral gu id e, one unw ittingly constructs an object which
exists only by virtue of this unconscious construction of both it and its operations.

T h e can cellin g ou t o f th e practical fu n ctio n s o f tem poral gu id e-m ark s that


resu lts from th e co n tex t of in terrogation and from scien tific record in g is the
h id d en co n d itio n o f cu m u la tin g and seriatin g the aggregate o f th e o p p o si
tio n s w h ich can be p rod u ced in relation to d ifferen t u n iv erses of discou rse,
that is, w ith d ifferen t fu n ctio n s. B y cu m u latin g in form ation wTh ich is n ot and
can n ot alw ays b e m astered b y any sin g le in form an t - at any rate, never on
th e in sta n t - th e analyst w in s th e privileg e o f totalization (th ank s to th e pow er
to perpetuate that w ritin g and all the various tec h n iq u es for reco rd in g give
h im , and also to th e abundant tim e h e has for an alysis). H e th u s se cu re s the
m ean s o f a p p reh en d in g th e lo g ic of th e system wrh ich a partial or d iscrete view
w ould m iss; b ut b y the sam e tok en , there is every lik elih ood th a t he w ill
overlook th e ch a n g e in statu s to w hich he is su b jectin g practice and its
p rod u cts, and co n seq u en tly that h e w ill in sist on tryin g to an sw er q u estio n s
w h ich are n ot and can n ot b e q u estio n s for practice, instead o f ask in g h im self
w h eth er th e essen tial ch aracteristic o f practice is n ot p recisely th e fact that
it ex clu d es su ch q u e stio n s.
T h e totalization wrh ich th e diagram effects by ju xta p o sin g in th e sim u lta n eity
of a sin gle sp ace th e com p lete series of th e tem poral o p p o sitio n s applied
su ccessiv ely b y d ifferen t agen ts at d ifferen t tim es, w h ich can n ev er all be
m ob ilized togeth er in p ractice (b ecau se th e n ece ssitie s o f e x iste n c e never
require th is sort o f sy n o p tic ap p reh en sion , ten d in g rather to d iscou rage it by
their u rgen cy) g iv es full rein to the theoretical n eu tralization w h ich th e inquiry
T he calen dar an d the syn optic illusion

r e la tio n s h ip itself p rod u ces. T h e esta b lish m en t of a sin g le series th u s creates


ex nihilo a w h o le host o f relation s (o f sim u lta n eity , su cc essio n , or sy m m etry ,
{or example) b etw een term s and gu ide-m ark s o f d ifferen t levels, w h ich , b ein g
o d u ced and u sed in d ifferen t situ a tio n s, are never b rou ght face to face in
practice a n d are th u s co m p atib le practically even w h en logically con trad ictory.
T h e s y n o p tic diagram takes all th e tem poral op p o sitio n s w h ich can be collected
and a sse m b le d and d istrib u tes th em in accordance w ith th e law s o f su ccessio n
(i.e . ( i ) " y fo llo w s x ” ex c lu d e s " x fo llo w s y ” ; ( 2) if y fo llo w s x and z fo llo w s
y , th en z fo llo w s x \ ( 3) eith er y fo llo w s x or x follo w s >•). T h is m akes it
p ossib le to ap preh en d at a glan ce, uno intuitu et tota sim ul, as D esca rtes said,
m onothetically, as H u sserl put it ,21 m ea n in g s w h ich are p rod u ced and u sed
p o ly th e tic a lly , that is to say, not o n ly on e after an oth er, b u t on e by o n e, step
by step .22

D epending on the precision w ith w hich the event considered has to be localized,
on the nature of the event, and on the social status of the agent concerned, different
svstems of oppositions are seen to em erge: for exam ple, the period known as ly a li,
far from being defined - as in a perfectly ordinate series - in relation to the period
which preceded it and the period w hich follow s it, and only in relation to them , can
be opposed to smaim as well as to el husum or thimgharine\ as we have seen , it can
also be opposed, as " lya li of D ece m b e r”, to " lyali of January”, or, by a different logic,
be opposed as the "great n ig h ts” to the "lesser nights of fu ra r” and the "lesser nights
of maghres (the sam e com binative logic w hich leads to the oppositions betw een " essba't
of w inter” and "essba't of sp rin g ” ; betw een " es-ba't of late sp rin g ”, w ith the Mgreen
days” and the "yellow d a y s”, and " essba't of su m m er”, w ith the "w hite d a y s” and
the "dry d ays” ; and betw een smaim of sum m er and smaim of autum n). T h e same
informant may at one m om ent, thinking in term s of ritual practices, oppose lakhrif
taken as a w hole ("autum n is w ithout d iv isio n s”) to lahlal, the licit period for
ploughing; and the very next m om ent, thinking in term s of the cycle of the fig
harvest, oppose lahlal to achraw , w hich is the end of lakhrif and one o f the activities
of thaqachachth, through w hich it is im plicitly opposed to thissemtith (the first figs),
or achakh (the ripeness of the figs).
When one knows that m any other oppositions could be produced, one sees the
artificiality and indeed unreality of a calendar w hich assim ilates and aligns u nits of
different levels and of very unequal im portance. G iven that all the d ivisions and
sub-divisions w hich the observer may record and cum ulate are produced and used
ln different situations and on different occasions, the question of h ow each of them
relates to the unit at a higher level, or, a fortiori, to the divisions or sub-divisions of
the " p eriods” to w hich they are op p osed , never arises in practice. If another seem ingly
ethnocentric analogy' be perm itted, one m ight suggest that the relation betw een the
constructed series obeying the laws of succession, and the tem poral oppositions put
mto practice successively so that they cannot be telescoped into the sam e spot, is
hom ologous with the relation betw een the continuous, hom ogeneous, political space
of graduated scales of op in ion , and practical political positions, w hich are always taken
UP in response to a particular situation and particular interlocutors or opponents and
make d istinctions and divisions of greater or lesser refinem ent depending on the
Political distance betw een the interlocutors (le ft:r ig h t::left o f the left:righ t o f the
left:: left of the left of the le f t: right of the left o f the le ft: :e tc.) so that the sam e agent
io 8 G en erative schemes an d practica l logic

may find him self successively on his own right and on his ow n left in the " absolute ”
space of geom etry, contradicting the third law o f succession.
T h e same analysis applies to the term inologies serving to designate social units:
ignorance of the uncertainties and am biguities w hich these products of a practical lo g ic
ow e to their functions and to the conditions in w hich they are used leads to the
production of artefacts as im peccable as they are unreal. Perhaps no anthropologist
has been more sensitive than Edm und Leach to "the essential difference betw een the
ritual description of structural relations and the anthropologist’s scientific description ”,
or, in particular, to the opposition betw een the "com pletely unam biguous” termino-
logy of *he anthropologist, with his arbitrarily devised concepts, and the concepts
which agents use in ritual actions to express structural relations. Indeed, nothing is
more suspect than the ostentatious rigour o f the diagram s of the social organization o f
Berber societies offered by anthropologists. Jeanne Favret provides an exam ple in a
recent article in w hich she follow s Hanoteau on to a " field ” on which her general ideas
are most redolent of generals’ ideas, as Virginia W oolf would have put it. If her taste
for provocative paradox had not led her to rehabilitate the worthy brigadier-general’s
"wild [sauvage] ethnography” against professional ethnology (which happens to be
somewhat under-professionalized in this area), M s Favret w ould not have gone to the
"innocent and m eticulous ethnography of Hanoteau and L etourneux” for the basis
of the pure, perfect taxonom y of political organization which she opposes to the
anthropological tradition, accusing the latter both of being "m erely more sophisticated
and more ignorant of its lim its” than the general’s military anthropology and of failing
to observe the distinctions which his work makes it possible to draw.23 A more
penetrating reading of the texts in question, produced in the main by administrators
and soldiers (or law professors), w ould show that the vagueness of the social term inolo
gies they offer could only result from a certain familiarity with K abyle reality
com bined w ith ignorance of the theoretical traditions and of the corresponding pre
tensions to theoretical system aticitv. W ithout entering into detailed discussion of
M s Favret’s schem atic presentation o f the term inology collected by Hanoteau, one can
only restate certain basic points of the description of the structure of the village of
A lt H ichem 24 which perhaps erred only by excessive "rationalization” of native
categories. T hough the vocabulary of social divisions varies from place to place, the
fact remains that the hierarchy o f the basic social units, those designated by the words
thakharubth and adhrum, is alm ost always the opposite of what M s Favret, following
Hanoteau, says it is. A few cases can be found in w hich, as Hanoteau maintains,
thakharubth includes adhrum, probably because term inologies collected at particular
times and places designate the results of different histories, marked by the splitting
up, the (no doubt frequent) disappearance, and the annexation of lineages. It also
often happens that the words are used indifferently to refer to social divisions at the
same level; this is the case in the Sidi Alch region, in w hich the terms used, starting
with the m ost restricted and hence most real unit, are (a) el hara, the undivided family
(called akham, the house, akham n A it A li, at Ait H ichem ), (b) akham, the extended
fam ily, covering all the people bearing the name of the same ancestor (as far as the
third or fourth generation) - A li ou X , som etim es also designated by a terra probably
suggested by the topography, since the path bends as one passes from one akham to
another: thaghamurth, the elbow , (c) adhrum, akharub (or thakharubth), or aharumy
bringing together the people w hose com m on origin goes back beyond the fourth
generation, (d) the suff, or sim ply "those ab ove” or "those b elow ”, (e) the village,
a purely local unit, in this case including the tw o leagues. T h e synonym s, to which
must be added tha'rifth (from 'arf, to know one another), a group of acquaintances,
equivalent to akham or adhrum (elsew here, thakharubth) may not have been used
Econom y o f logic

^ g p h a z a rd ly , since they emphasize either integration and internal cohesion ( akham or


adhrum) or the contrast with other groups ( taghamurth, aharum). Su/f, used to suggest
a n " a r b i t r a r y ” unit, a conventional alliance as opposed to the other term s which denote
n d i v i d u a l s bearing a com m on name (A it. . . ) , is often distinguished from adhrum,
with which it coincides at A il H ichem . Everything takes place as if one passed by
in s e n s i b l e gradations from the patriarchal fam ily to the clan {adhrum or thakharubth),
th e f u n d a m e n t a l social unit, with the intermediate units corresponding to m ore-or-less
a r b i t r a r y points of segm entation (w hich would explain the inform ants’ uncertainty with
v o c a b u l a r y they often indequatelv m aster). T hese points becom e especially apparent
w h e n conflict arises ( b y virtue of the fact that the units are separated only by
d i f f e r e n c e s of degree, as can be seen, for exam ple, in the different shades of obligation
in t h e c a s e of m ourning, with the closest relatives offering the meal, and the others
m a k in g their own small contribution, by helping w ith the cooking, bringing jars of
w a t e r o r som e vegetables, and the m ost distant relatives - or friends from another clan
- g i v i n g a m e a l for the fam ily of the deceased after the m ourning is over); and they
a r e s u b j e c t to constant change: the virtual lim its may becom e real ones w hen the group
e x t e n d s itself (thus at A it H ichem , the Ait M endil, who were originally united,
c o n s t i t u t e tw o thakharubth) and the real lim its may disappear (the Ait Isaad group
t o g e t h e r several reduced thakharubth in a single thakharubth). In short, the system atic
p i c t u r e of interlocking units, presented by " w ild ” or civilized anthropologists from
H a n o t e a u through Durkheim to Jeanne Favret, ignores the unceasing dynam ism of
u n i t s which are constantly form ing and reform ing, and the fuzziness which is an
i n t e g r a l part of native notions inasmuch as it is at once the precondition and the
p r o d u c t of their functioning. What is true of genealogical and political taxonom ies is
equally true of the tem poral taxonom ies of the agrarian calendar: the level at which
t h e oppositions actually m obilized are situated depends fundam entally on the situation
-th a t is to say, on the relationship betw een the groups or individuals who are to be
demarcated by m eans of taxonom ies.

Econom y o f logic

Sym bolic sy stem s ow e their practical coherence, that is, their regularities, and
also their irregularities and even in coh eren ces (b oth eq u ally necessary b ecause
inscribed in the logic of their gen esis and fu n ctio n in g ) to the fact that they
are the p rod uct o f practices w hich can n ot perform their practical fu n ctio n s
except insofar as th ey brin g into play, in th eir practical state, p rin cip les w hich
are not on ly coh eren t - i.e . capable of en gen d erin g in trin sically coh eren t
practices com p atib le w ith the ob jective co n d itio n s - b u t also practical, in the
sense o f co n v en ien t, i.e . im m ediately m astered and m anageable because
obeying a " p o o r ” and econom ical logic.
O ne th u s has to acknow ledge that practice has a logic w h ich is not that of
logic, if on e is to avoid asking of it m ore lo g ic than it can give, thereby
con d em n in g o n ese lf either to w rin g in coh eren ces out of it or to thrust upon
*t a forced c o h er en ce .25 A nalysis of the various b u t clo sely interrelated asp ects
° f the theorization effect (forced sy n ch ro n iza tio n of the su cc essiv e, fictitious
totalization , n eutralization o f fu n ction s, su b stitu tio n o f th e sy stem of products
1 10 G en erative schemes and p ractical logic

for the system of p rin cip les o f p rod u ction , e tc .) brings o u t, in negative form (
certain properties of th e logic o f practice w h ich by definition escape theoretical
ap p reh en sion , sin ce they are con stitu tive of that ap preh en sion. Practical logic
- practical in both sen ses o f the w ord - is ab le to organize the totality of an
agent's th ou gh ts, p ercep tions, and action s by m eans of a few generative
p rin cip les, th em selves redu cible in the last analysis to a fundam ental dicho
to m y , o n ly because its w hole econ om y, w h ich is based on th e principle of
the econ om y of logic, p resu p p oses a loss of rigour for th e sake o f greater
sim p licity and generality and because it finds in " p oly th esis ” the conditions
required for the correct use of p olysem y.
T h an k s to " p o ly th e sis”, the " con fu sion of sp h e r e s”, as the logician s call
it, resu lting from the highly econ om ical, b ut necessarily approxim ate,
application of the sam e sch em es to different logical u niverses, can pass
u nn oticed because it entails no practical co n seq u en ces. N o one takes the
trouble to system atically record and com pare th e su ccessiv e products o f the
application of the generative sch em es: th ese discrete, self-su fficien t u n its owe
their im m ed iate transparency not on ly to th e sch em es w hich are realized in
them , b u t also to the situation ap p reh en d ed through th ese schem es and to the
a gen t’s practical relation to that situ ation . T h e p rin cip le of the ec o n o m y of
lo g ic, w hereby no m ore logic is m ob ilized than is required by the n eed s of
p ractice, m eans that th e universe of d iscou rse in relation to w hich this or that
class (an d therefore the com p lem en tary class) is co n stitu ted , can rem ain
im p licit, because it is im plicitly defined in each case in and b y the practical
relation to th e situ ation . G iven that it is unlikely that tw o contradictory
ap p lication s of the sam e sch em es w ill be b rou ght face to face in w hat w e m ust
call a universe o f practice (rather than a universe of d isco u rse), the sam e thing
m ay, in different u niverses of practice, h ave d ifferent th in gs as its com p lem en t
and m ay, therefore, receive differen t, even o p p o sed , properties, according to
the u n iv e rse .26 T h e h ou se, for exam p le, is glob ally defined as fem ale, dam p,
e tc ., w h en con sid ered from o u tsid e , from th e m ale p oin t of v iew , i.e . in
o p p o sitio n to the external w orld , b ut it can be d ivid ed in to a m ale-fem ale part
and a fem ale-fem ale part w hen it ceases to be seen by reference to a universe
o f practice co exten sive w ith the u niverse, an d is treated instead as a universe
(of practice and d iscou rse) in its ow n righ t, w hich for the w o m en it indeed
is, especially in w in te r .27
T h e fact that sym b olic ob jects and practices can enter w ith ou t contradiction
in to su ccessiv e relation ship s set up from different p oin ts of v iew m eans that
they are subject to overdeterm ination through indetermination: the application
to the sam e ob jects or practices of different sch em es (such as o p en in g/closin g,
g o in g in /co m in g ou t, g o in g u p /g o in g d o w n , e tc .) w h ich , at the d egree of
p recision (i.e . o f im precision ) w ith w hich th e y are d efined, are all practically
Econom y o f logic iii

e q u iv a le n t, is the sou rce of the polysem y characterizing th e fundam ental


r e la tio n s h ip s in the sy m b olic system , w hich are alw ays d eterm in ed in several
respects at o n ce. T h u s a relation sh ip su ch as that b etw een th e h ou se and the
ihajm ath (for w h ich one cou ld su b stitu te th e m arket, or the field s) con d en ses
a good n um ber of th e system 's fundam ental op p o sitio n s - th e full and the
empty, the fem ale and th e m ale, n ight and day, etc. - w hich are also fo u n d ,
with only sligh t d ifferen ces, in relation ship s as accessary in appearance as those
between the cook in g-p ot and the w heatcake griddle or the stable and the
kanun.
T he m ost sp ecific properties o f a ritual corpu s, th ose w h ich define it as a
system coh eren t in practice, cannot be perceived or ad eq uately understood
unless the corpu s is seen as th e product (opus operatum ) of a practical m astery
(modus operandi) ow in g its practical efficacy to the fact that it m akes
connections based on w hat Jean N ico d calls overall resemblance. 28 T h is m ode
of apprehension never ex p licitly or system atically lim its itself to any on e aspect
of the term s it links, b ut takes each on e, each tim e, as a w h o le, exp lo itin g
to the full the fact that tw o " d a ta ” are never entirely alike in a ll respects but
are always alike in som e resp ect, at least in directly (i.e . through the m ediation
of som e com m on term ). T h is exp lain s, first, wrhy am ong the d ifferen t aspects
of the at on ce u n d eterm in ed and overdeterm in ed sy m b o ls it m anipulates,
ritual practice never clearly op p oses asp ects sym b olizin g so m eth in g to aspects
sym bolizing n o th in g and h en ce disregarded (such as, in the case o f the letters
of the alphabet, the colou r or size of the strokes, or, in a page of w riting,
the vertical wro rd -o rd er). For exam p le, although on e of the d ifferen t aspects
through w h ich a " d a tu m ” like gall can be con n ected w ith other (equally
equivocal) data - viz. b ittern ess (it is eq u ivalen t to oleander, wormwrood, or
tar, and op posed to h o n e y ), green ness (it is associated w ith lizards and the
colour g reen ), and h o stility (inherent in the p revious tw o q ualities) -
necessarily com es to th e forefront, the other aspects do not th ereb y cease to
be perceived sim u lta n eou sly; the sym b olic chord m ay be so u n d ed eith er in
its fundam ental form , w h e n th e fun dam en tal quality is em p h a sized , or in its
inverted form . W ithou t w ish in g to p ush the m usical m etaph or too far, one
m ight n o n eth eless su g g est that a n um ber of ritual seq u en ces can b e seen as
Modulations: occurring w ith particular frequ en cy because the sp ecific principle
° f ritual action , th e desire to stack all the od ds on one's ow n s id e , is con d u cive
to the logic o f developm ent, w ith variations against a background o f
redundancy, these m o d u lation s play on the harm onic p rop erties o f ritual
sym bols, w h eth er d u p licatin g on e of th e th em es w ith a strict eq u ivalen t in
all respects (gall evok in g wrorm w ood, w h ich , like gall, u n ites b itterness and
greenness) or m od u latin g in to rem oter tonalities by playing on th e associations
°f the secondary h arm onics ( l i z a r d t o a d ).29
112 G en erative schemes and practica l logic

Ritual practice effects a fluid, "f u z z y ” abstraction, b rin gin g th e sam e sym bol
in to different relations through different aspects or b rin gin g d ifferen t aspects
o f the sam e referent in to th e sam e relation o f o p p o sitio n ; in other w ords, it
exclu d es th e S ocratic q u estion o f the respect in which th e referent is appre-
h en ded (shap e, colour, fu n ctio n , e t c .) , thereby ob viatin g the need to define
in each case th e prin cip le g overn in g the ch oice o f the aspect se lec te d , and,
a fo rtiori, the n eed to stick to that p rin cip le at all tim es. B ut in relating objects
and selectin g asp ects, this practical taxon om y ap plies, su ccessiv ely or
sim u ltan eou sly, prin cip les w h ich are all in directly redu cible to on e another,
and this en ab les it to classify the sam e " d a ta ” from several different stand
p o in ts w ith ou t classifyin g them in different w ays (w h ereas a m ore rigorous
sy stem w o u ld m ake as m any classification s as it fou n d p rop erties). The
u n iv erse th u s u n d ergoes a d ivision w h ich can be said to be logical, though
it seem s to break all the rules of logical d ivision (for ex a m p le, by making
d ivision s w hich are n eith er exclu sive nor ex h a u stiv e), for all its dichotom ies
are in d efin itely redu n dan t, b ein g in th e last analysis the product of a single
principium division is. B ecause the p rin cip le o p p o sin g the term s w h ich have
b een related (e .g . the su n and th e m oon ) is n ot d efined and u sually com es
d o w n to a sim p le contrariety (w hereas con trad iction im p lies a prelim inary
analysis) analogy (w h ic h , w h en it d oes not fu n ction purely in its practical state,
is alw ays exp ressed ellip tically - "w om an is the m o o n ”) estab lish es a
h om o lo g y b etw een o p p o sitio n s (m a n :w o m a n ::su n :m o o n ) set up in accor
dance w4th tw o in d eterm in ate, overd eterm in ed p rin cip les ( h o t : c o ld : : m ale:
fe m a le ::d a y :n ig h t::e tc .) w h ich differ from the p rin cip les gen eratin g other
h om o lo g ies in to wTh ich either o f the tw o term s in q u estion m igh t enter
(m a n :w o m a n ::e a st:w e st or s u n : m o o n : : d r y : w e t). In other w ords, fluid
abstraction is also false abstraction. B ecau se the properties d istin g u ish in g one
" d a tu m ” from another rem ain attached to n on -p ertin en t p rop erties, the
assim ilation is co m p reh en sive and com p lete even w hen fun dam en tally m oti
vated in on ly on e resp ect. T h e aspect o f each o f the term s w h ich is (im p licitly)
selected from a sin gle stan d p oin t in any particular con n ectio n m ade betw een
them rem ains attached to th e other asp ects through w h ich it can su b seq u en tly
be o p p osed to oth er asp ects of an oth er referent in other co n n ectio n s. T h e same
term cou ld th u s en ter in to an infinite n um ber o f con n ectio n s if the num ber
of w ays of relating to wrhat is not itself w ere not lim ited to a few fundamental
o p p o sitio n s. Ritual practice p roceed s n o differen tly from th e ch ild who
drove A ndre G id e to despair b y in sistin g that th e o p p o site o f "blanc
w as " b la n c h e ” and the fem in in e o f " g r a n d ” , " p e t it ”. In sh ort, the
"analogical s e n s e ” in cu lcated in th e earliest years o f life is, as W allon says of
th in k in g in cou p les, a sort o f " sen se o f th e con tra ry ” , w h ich g iv e s rise to the
co u n tless ap p lication s of a few basic contrasts capable o f p rovid in g a m in im u m
Econom y o f logic "3

0f determ ination (a m an is not a w om an - > a toad is not a frog) and cannot


ive anv inform ation about the relations it relates, b ecause it is p recisely their
indeterm inacy and fu zzin ess that perm it it to op erate. T h e u ncertain ties and
m isunderstandings in herent in th is logic of su g g estio n and a m b igu ity are thu s
the price that has to be paid for the economy w h ich resu lts from redu cing
the universe o f the relations b etw een o p p osites and o f the relation s b etw een
these relations to a few basic relations from w hich all the o th ers can be
generated.
Sym patheia ton holon, as th e S to ics called it, the affinity b etw een all the
objects of a universe in w h ich m ean in g is everyw h ere, and everyw here
superabundant, is ach ieved at the cost of the fu zzin ess and vagu en ess of each
of the elem en ts and each of the relation ship s b etw een th em : logic can be
everyw here on ly b ecause it is really n ow h ere. If ritual p ractices and represen
tations are ob jectiv ely en d ow ed w ith partial, approxim ate system a ticity , this
is because they are th e p rod uct o f a sm all n um ber of g en erative sch em es that
are pra ctica lly interchangeable, i.e . capable o f p rod u cin g eq u ivalen t resu lts
from the p oint of view o f the " lo g ic a l” d em an d s of practice. If th ey never
have more than partial and ap proxim ate sy stem a ticity , th is is b ecause the
schem es o f wrh ich they are the product can be q uasi-u n iversally applied on ly
because th ey fu n ctio n in their practical state, i.e . on the h ith er side of exp licit
statem ent and co n seq u en tly ou tsid e o f all logical con trol, and by reference
to practical en d s w h ich are su ch as to im p ose on them a necessity w h ich is
not that of logic.

It is by "practical sense ” that an agent know s, for exam ple, that a given act or object
requires a particular place inside the house; that a given task or rite corresponds to
a particular period of the year or is excluded from another. H e only needs to possess,
in their practical state, a set of schem es functioning in their im plicit state and in
the absence of any precise delim itation of the universe of discourse, to be able to
produce or understand a sym bolic series such as the follow ing: w hen a cat enters the
house with a feather or a wisp of w hite wool in its fur, if it heads for the hearth, this
presages the arrival of guests, w ho w ill be given a meal with m eat; if it goes towards
the stable, this m eans that a cow w ill be bought if the season is spring, an ox if it
autumn. T h e question-begging and the approxim ations in this series are obvious:
the cat, an intruder w hich enters by chance and is driven out again, is only there as
a bearer of sym bols, which realizes practically the m ovem ent of entering; the feather
is im plicitly treated as the equivalent of the w ool, no doubt because both substances
are called upon to function as the mere supports of a beneficent quality, "the w h ite” ;
the opposition betw een the hearth and the stable, the centre of the rite, is engendered
by the schem e w hich structures the internal space of the house, opposing the top and
the bottom , the dry and the w et, the male and the fem ale, the noble part where guests
are received and where meat is roasted (the dish served to guests par excellen ce), and
the lower part, the place reserved for the anim als. T h is schem e only has to be
com bined with the schem e generating the opposition betw een two seasons - autum n,
the tim e of the collective sacrifice of an ox follow ed by the ploughing, and spring,
the season of milk - to give the ox and the co w .30
ii4 G en erative schemes and p ra ctica l logic

A nother exam ple occurs in a w ell-known tale, the story of Heb-H eb-er-Rem m an.
A girl who has seven brothers falls foul of the jealousy of her sisters-in-law. T h ey make
her eat seven snake’s eggs, concealed in dum plings: her belly sw ells and people think
she is pregnant; she is driven from the house. A w ise man discovers the cause of h e r
ailm ent: to cure her, a sheep must be slaughtered and its meat roasted, with a lot
of salt. T h e girl m ust eat it and then be suspended by her feet with her m outh open
over a pan o f water. When this is done, the snakes com e out and they are killed. T h e
girl marries; she has a child whom she calls H eb-H eb-er-R em m an "pomegranate
se e d s”. She goes back to her brothers, who recognize her when she tells them h e r
story, show ing them the seven snakes which she has dried and salted. It can
im m ediately be seen that to produce this narrative, or to decode (at least in an
approxim ate form) its significance, it is sufficient to possess the set of schem es which
are at wrork in the production of any fertility rite. T o fecundate is to penetrate, to
introduce som ething which sw ells and/or causes sw elling: the ingestion of food, and
of food w hich sw ells ( ufthyen) is hom ologous with sexual intercourse and ploughing.31
But here there is a false fecundation: the snakes, a sym bol of the male life-principle,
of sem en, o f the ancestor w ho must die in order to be reborn, and thus of the dry,
are ingested in the form of eggs, i.e. in their fem ale state, and return to maleness
inopportunely, in the girl’s stom ach (in a fertility rite reported by Westermarck, it
is the heart - a male part of the snake - that is eaten ). T h e sw elling which results from
this inverted procreation is sterile and pernicious. T h e cure is logically self-evident.
T he dry m ust be made to move in the opposite direction, from the high to the low
- the girl sim p ly has to be turned upside dow n - and from the inside to the outside
- which cannot be done by a sim ple mechanical operation: the dry must be further
dried, parched, by adding to it what is pre-em inently dry, salt, and reinforcing its
propensity tow ards the moist, which in normal fecundation - procreation or sowing
- carries it towards the inside, towards the damp w om b of woman or of the earth opened
by the ploughshare. At the end of the story, the w om an’s fecundity is proved by the
birth of H eb-H eb-er-R em m an ‘'pom egranate se e d s ” (the sym bol par excellence of
female fecundity, identified with the w om b ), i.e. the many sons born (or to be born)
from the fertile wom b of a woman herself sprung from a wom b prolific of m en (her
seven brothers). And the seven snakes end up dried and salted, i.e . in the state to
w hich they are structurally assigned as sym bols o f male seed, capable of grow ing and
m ultiplying through the cycle of im m ersion in the wet follow ed by em ergence towards
the dry.

T he body as geom eter: cosmogonic practice

U n d erstan d in g ritual practice is not a q u estion of d eco d in g the internal logic


o f a sym b o lism but of restoring its practical n ecessity b y relating it to the real
co n d ition s of its g en esis, that is, to the co n d itio n s in w hich its fu n ctio n s, and
the m ean s it u ses to attain th em , are d efin ed . It m eans, for exam ple,
recon stitu tin g - b y an operation of logical recon stru ction w h ich has n oth ing
to d o w ith an act of em p ath ic projection - th e significance and fu n ction s that
agents in a d eterm in ate social form ation can (and m ust) con fer on a d eter
m inate practice or exp erien ce, given the practical tax o n o m ies w hich organize
their p ercep tion . W hen con fron ted w ith m yth and ritual, social theory has
alwrays h esitated b etw een the lofty d istan ce w h ich the m ost com p rehensive
scien ce seek s to keep b etw een itself and th e elem en tary form s o f reason and
T h e b o d y as geom eter: cosmogonic practice 1 15

the m ystical participation of the great initiates of the g n o stic trad ition. T h e
objectivist reduction w h ich b rings to ligh t the so-called ob jective fu n ction s
0f m yth s and rites (for D u rk h eim , fu n ction s of m oral in tegration ; for L evi-
Strauss, fu n ction s o f logical integration) m akes it im p ossib le to understand
bow these fu n ction s are fu lfilled , b ecau se it brackets th e agents' ow n repre
sentation o f th e w orld and o f their practice. " P a rticip a n t” anth rop ology,
on the other hand - w h en it is not m erely inspired b y nostalgia for the
agrarian paradises, th e prin cip le of all con servative id eo lo g ies - regards the
human invariants and the u niversality o f th e m ost basic exp eriences as
sufficient justification for seek in g eternal answ ers to the eternal q u estio n s of
the cosm ogon ies and co sm o lo g ies in the practical answ ers w h ich the peasants
of K abylia or elsew h ere have given to th e practical, h istorically situated
problem s w h ich w ere forced on th em in a determ in ate state o f th eir in stru
m ents o f m aterial and sy m b o lic appropriation of th e w orld . Even w hen they
are asym ptotic w ith scien tific tru th , the inspired in terp retation s fostered by
such a d isp osition are never m ore than the in version o f th e false objectification
performed b y colonial an th rop ology. By cu ttin g practices off from their real
conditions o f ex iste n c e, in order to credit them w ith alien in ten tion s, by a
false g en erosity co n d u civ e to stylistic effects, the exaltation o f lost wrisd om
dispossesses th em , as su rely as its o p p osite, o f everyth in g that co n stitu tes their
reason and their raison d'etre, and locks th em in the etern al essen ce of a
" m en tality ”. T h e K ab yle w om an settin g up her loom is not perform ing an
act o f co sm ogon y; sh e is sim p ly settin g up her lo o m to w eave clo th in tend ed
to serve a techn ical fu n ctio n . It so happ en s that, given the sy m b o lic eq u ip m en t
available to her for th in k in g her ow n activity - and in particular her language,
which con stantly refers her back to the logic of p lou g h in g - sh e can on ly think
what sh e is d o in g in th e en ch an ted, that is to say, m ystified , form w hich
spiritualism , thirsty for eternal m ysteries, finds so en ch an tin g.
R ites take place b ecau se and o n ly b ecau se they find th eir raison d'etre in
the co n d itio n s of ex isten ce and the d isp o sitio n s o f agen ts w h o cannot afford
the luxury of logical sp ecu la tio n , m ystical effu sion s, or m etaph ysical anxiety.
It is not sufficient to rid icu le the m ore naive form s of fu n ction alism in order
to have d one w ith th e q u estion o f the practical fu n ctio n s o f p ractice. It is clear
that a universal d efinition of the fu n ction s of m arriage as an operation
intended to en su re th e b iological reproduction of the g ro u p , in accordance
with form s approved b y the grou p , in n o w ay ex p lain s K ab yle marriage ritual.
But, contrary to appearances, scarcely m ore u n d erstan d in g is d erived from
a structural analysis w h ich ign ores the sp ecific fu n ctio n s of ritual practices
and fails to inquire in to the eco n o m ic and social co n d itio n s o f the p roduction
° f the d isp o sitio n s gen eratin g both these practices and also th e collective
definition of th e practical fu n ctio n s in w h ose service th e y fu n ctio n . T h e
n6 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

K abyle peasan t d oes not react to " ob jective c o n d itio n s” but to th e practical
in terp retation w hich he prod uces of th o se con d itio n s, and the principle
of wfh ich is the socially con stitu ted sc h e m e s of his h abitus. It is th is inter
pretation w h ich has to be con stru cted in each case, if w e w ant to give an
account of ritual p ractices w h ich w ill d o justice b oth to their reason and
to their raison d'etre, that is, to their inseparably logical and practical
n ecessity .
T h u s , tech n ical or ritual practices are d eterm in ed b y the m aterial conditions
of ex isten ce (that is, in this particular case, by a certain relation ship between
the clim a tic and ecological con d ition s and th e available tech n iq u es) as treated
in p ractice b y agents endowred w ith sc h e m e s of p ercep tion of a determ inate
sort, wrh ich are th em selv es d eterm in ed , n egatively at least, b y th e material
con d itio n s of existen ce (th e relative au to n o m y o f ritual b ein g a ttested by the
invariant features fou n d th rou gh ou t the M agh reb, d esp ite the variations in
th e clim a tic and econ om ic co n d itio n s). It is in a particular relationship
b etw een a m ode of p rod uction and a m o d e of p ercep tion that th e specific
contradiction of agrarian a ctivity is defined as the hazardous or even sacrilegious
con fron tation of antagonistic p rin cip les, togeth er w ith th e ritual apparatus
w h ose fu n ctio n it is to resolve that con trad iction . It is through th e m ediation
o f th e fu n ctio n thereby assigned to tech n ica l or ritual p ractice that the
relation sh ip observed b etw een the eco n o m ic system and the m ythico-ritual
sy stem is estab lish ed p ractically .32
R ites, m ore than any other ty p e of practice, serve to u n d erlin e the mistake
of en clo sin g in co n cep ts a logic m ade to d isp en se w ith co n cep ts; of treating
m o v em en ts o f the body and practical m an ip u lation s as purely logical opera
tio n s; o f speaking of an alogies and h om o lo g ies (as on e so m etim es has to, in
order to understand and to con vey that u nd erstan ding) w h en all that is
in v o lved is th e practical transference of incorporated, quasi-postural
sc h e m e s .33 R ite is in d eed in som e cases n o m ore than a practical mimesis of
the natural p rocess w h ich n eed s to b e facilitated : u nlike m etaphor and
ex p licit analogy, mimetic representation (apom im em a) estab lish es a relationship
b etw een the sw ellin g of grain in th e cook in g-p ot, the sw ellin g o f a pregnant
w om an ’s belly, and th e germ ination of w h eat in the grou n d, w h ich entails
no ex p licit statem en t of th e properties of th e term s related or th e principles
of th eir relationship; the m ost characteristic operations of its " lo g ic ” -
in v ertin g, transferring, u n itin g, separatin g, etc. - take th e form of m o v e m e n t s
of the b o d y , turnin g to th e right or le ft, p u ttin g th in g s u p sid e d o w n , going
in, co m in g ou t, ty in g , cu ttin g, etc.
T o sp eak , as w e have h ere, of overall resem b lance and u ncertain abstraction,
is still to u se th e intellectualist language o f represen tation - the language w h i c h
an an a ly st’s relation to a corpus spread ou t before him in th e form of
The bo d y as geom eter: cosmogonic practice 117

docum ents q u ite n aturally forces on him - to express a lo g ic w h ich is acted


oUt directly in th e form of b odily gym n astics w ith ou t p a ssin g through the
express ap preh en sion of the " a s p e c ts” selected or rejected , of the sim ilar or
dissimilar " p r o f i l e s T h e lo gicism inherent in th e ob jectivist stand point leads
those w h o adopt it to forget that scien tific con stru ction cannot grasp the
principles o f practical lo g ic w ith ou t ch an gin g th e nature o f th ose p r in c ip le s:
when m ade exp licit for objective stu d y, a practical su ccessio n b eco m es a
represented su c c e ssio n ; an action oriented in relation to a sp ace objectively
constituted as a stru cture o f d em and s (th in gs " to be d o n e ” and " n ot to be
d on e”) b ecom es a reversib le operation carried ou t in con tin u o u s, h o m o
geneous space. F o r ex am p le, as lon g as m vthico-ritual sp a ce is seen as an
opus operatum , that is, as a tim eless order of th in gs co e x istin g , it is never
more than a theoretical sp ace, in w hich th e on ly landm arks are provided by
the term s of relations o f op p osition (u p /d o w n , e a st/w e st), and w here on ly
theoretical op eration s can b e effected, i.e . logical d isp lacem en ts and transfor
mations w hich differ toto coelo from m ovem en ts and action s actually per
formed, su ch as falling or rising. H avin g estab lish ed that th e internal space
of the K abyle h ou se receives a sym m etrically op p osite sign ification w hen
re-placed in th e total sp a ce ou tsid e, w e are justified in sa y in g , as w e did
earlier, that each o f th e se tw o sp aces, inside and ou tsid e, can be derived from
the other b y m eans of a sem i-rotation , on ly on con d itio n that th e m athem atical
language exp ressin g su ch operations is reunited w ith its b asis in practice, so
that term s like d isp la cem en t and rotation are given their practical sen ses as
movements o f the b ody, su ch as g oin g forw ards or backwards, or turning round.
Just as, in th e tim e of L ev y -B ru h l, there w ould have b een less am azem ent
at the od d ities of the " p rim itive m en ta lity ” if it had b een p ossib le to con ceive
that the logic of m agic an d " p articip ation ” m igh t have so m e con n ection w ith
the experience o f em o tio n , so now adays th ere w o u ld b e le ss aston ish m en t at
the '"logical” feats of th e A ustralian ab origin es if the "savage m in d ” had not
been u nconsciously cred ited , b y a sort of inverted eth n o cen trism , w ith the
relation to the w orld that in tellectu alism attributes to ev ery " c o n scio u sn e ss”
and if an th rop ologists had not rem ained silen t about th e transform ation
leading from operations m astered in their practical state to th e form al opera
tions isom orphic w ith th em , failin g by th e sam e token to in qu ire in to th e social
conditions of p rod uction o f that transform ation.
T h e scien ce o f m yth is at liberty to d escrib e the syn tax o f m yth in the
language of group th eory, so lon g as it is not forgotten that th is language
destroys the truth it m akes available to ap preh en sion, b ecau se it has b een w on
3nd built up against th e exp erience it enables on e to n a m e : it is scarcely
necessary to in sist that w e can no m ore id en tify th e scien tific stu d y of
oxidation w ith th e ex p erien ce o f fire than w e can offer th e con tin u ou s,
ii8 G en erative schemes and p ra ctica l logic

h o m o g en eo u s sp ace of geom etry as the practical sp ace of practice, w ith it$


d y ssym m etries, its d isco n tin u ities, and its d irectio n s co n ceiv ed as substantial
p rop erties, left and righ t, east and w est. W e m ay say that gym n astics or
d a n cin g are g eom etry so lo n g as w e d o n ot m ean to say that the gym nast and
th e dancer are geom eters. Perhaps there w ou ld be less tem p tation to treat the
agent im p licitly or exp licitly as a logical operator if (w ith o u t en terin g into the
q u estion o f chron ological priority) on e w en t back from the m y th ic logos to
th e ritual praxis w h ich en acts in th e form o f real action s, i.e . b o d y m ovem ents,
the op eration s wrh ich ob jective an alysis d iscovers in m yth ic d iscou rse, an opus
operatum con cealin g the co n stitu tin g m om en t of " m y th o p o eic ” practice under
its reified sign ification s. L ike th e acts of jurisp ru dence, ritual practice owes
its pra ctica l coherence (w h ich m ay be recon stitu ted in th e form o f an objecti
fied diagram of op eration s) to the fact that it is th e p rod uct of a sin g le system
of conceptual schemes im m anent in practice, organ izing not on ly th e perception
o f ob jects (and in this particular case, the classification o f th e possible
in stru m en ts, circum stances - place and tim e - and agents of ritual action) but
also th e p rod u ction of p ractices (in this case, the g estu res and m ovem ents
co n stitu tin g ritual a ctio n ). P erform ing a rite p resu p p o ses so m eth in g quite
different from the co n scio u s m astery o f th e sort of catalogue o f oppositions
that is draw n up b y acad em ic com m en tators strivin g for sy m b o lic mastery
o f a dead or d y in g tradition (e .g . the C h in ese m and arin s’ tables o f eq u iva
len ces) and also by an th rop ologists in the first stage of their w ork. Practical
m astery of p rin cip les n either m ore com p lex nor m ore n u m erou s than the
prin cip les o f solid statics ap plied w h en u sin g a w heelb arrow , a lever, or a
nutcracker 34 m akes it p ossib le to p rod uce ritual action s that are com patible with
the en d s in v iew ( e .g . ob tain in g rain or fertility for the livestock ) and
intrinsically (at least relatively) coherent, that is, co m b in a tio n s o f a particular
ty p e o f circu m stan ces (tim e s and p la ce s), in stru m en ts, and agen ts an d, above
all, o f d isp lacem en ts and m o vem en ts ritually qualified as p rop itiou s or
u n p rop itiou s. T h e se in clu d e g o in g (or th row in g so m eth in g ) upw ards or
eastw ards, d ow n w ard s or westwrards, togeth er w ith all the eq u ivalen t actions
- p u ttin g so m eth in g on the roof o f th e h ou se or th ro w in g it tow ards the kanun\
b u ryin g it on the th resh old or th ro w in g it tow ards the stable; g o in g or
th row in g to th e left or w ith the left hand, and g o in g or throw ing to the right
or w ith the right hand; tu rn in g so m eth in g from left to right, or right to left;
clo sin g (or ty in g ) and o p en in g (or u n ty in g ), etc. In fact, an analysis of the
universe of m yth ically or ritually defined ob jects, startin g w ith th e circum
stan ces, in stru m en ts, and a gen ts of ritual action , m akes it clear that the
co u n tless o p p o sitio n s ob served in every area o f ex isten ce can all be brought
d o w n to a sm all n um ber o f cou p les wrh ich appear as fundam ental, sin ce, being
linked to one an oth er on ly by w eak analogies, th ey can n ot be redu ced to one
T h e body as geom eter: cosmogonic practice ll9

another excep t in a forced and artificial w ay. A n d alm ost all prove to b e based
0n m ovem en ts or p ostu res o f the hum an b o d y , su ch as g o in g u p and com in g
down (or g o in g forw ards and g o in g b ackw ards), g o in g to the left an d g o in g
to the right, g o in g in and co m in g ou t (or filling and em p ty in g ), sittin g and
standing ( e tc .). T h e reason w h y th is practical g eo m etry , or geom etrical
practice (" geom etry in the tangib le w o r ld ”, as Jean N ico d p uts it ),35 m akes
so much u se o f in version is perhaps th at, like a m irror b rin gin g to lig h t the
paradoxes o f bilateral sym m etry, the hum an b od y fu n ctio n s as a practical
operator w h ich reaches to th e left to find the right hand it has to sh ake, puts
its right arm in the sleev e of th e garm ent w h ich had b een ly in g on th e left,
or reverses right and left, east and w est, b y th e m ere fact o f turnin g about
to " fa ce” som eon e or "turn its b a c k ” on h im , or again, turns " u p sid e d o w n ”
things w h ich w ere " the right w ay u p ” - so m any m o vem en ts w h ich the m yth ic
w orld-view charges w ith social sign ification s and w h ich rite m akes in ten sive
use of.
I catch m y self d efin in g th e threshold
A s the geom etric locu s
O f arrivals and departures
In th e H o u se of the F a th er .36

T h e poet goes straight to th e heart of th e relation ship b etw een the space
inside the h ouse and th e o u tsid e w o r ld : th e reversal of d irectio n s (sens) and
m eanings (sens) in g o in g in and c o m in g ou t. A s a b elated , sm all-scale producer
of private m yth o lo g ies, it is easier for him to sw eep aside dead m etaphors and
go straight to the prin cip le of m yth op oeic practice, that is, to the m ovem en ts
and gestu res w h ich , as in a sen ten ce o f A lb ert th e G reat’s p ick ed up b y R ene
Char, can reveal th e d u ality u n d erly in g the seem in g u n ity o f the ob ject: " In
Germ any there w as a pair o f tw in s, on e o f wTh o m op en ed doors w ith his right
arm, the other o f wrh o m sh u t th em w ith h is left arm .”37
If w e sim p ly fo llo w the o p p o sitio n d efined b y W ilh elm von H u m b o ld t, and
move from ergon to energeia, i.e . from ob jects or acts to the p rin cip les of their
production, or, m ore p recisely, from th e f a it accom pli and dead letter of the
already effected analogy (a : b : : c : d ) f w hich ob jectivist h erm en eu tics con sid ers,
to analogical practice as scheme transfer carried o u t b y the h abitus on the basis
° f acquired eq u ivalen ces facilitatin g th e in terch an geab ility of reaction s 38 and
enabling th e agen t to m aster by a sort o f practical gen eralization all sim ilar
Problem s lik ely to arise in newTsitu ation s, then at on ce w e break the sp ell of
the panlogism en cou raged b y the exoteric version of structuralism , in w'hich
the revelation of a n on -in ten tion al coh eren ce, often d escrib ed b y lin gu ists
(Sapir and T ru b etzk o y , for exam p le) and even an th rop ologists as an " u n
con scious fin a lity ”, serves as th e basis for a m etap h ysics o f nature dressed
12 0 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

up in the lan guage of natural scien ce. W e are th en in a p osition to question


the p erfect co h eren ce w h ich ten d s to be conferred on historical system s by
th o se w h o con v ert th e m eth od ological p ostu late o f in tellig ib ility into an
ontological th e sis. T h e fallacy, w h ich Ziff p oin ts o u t, of co n v ertin g regularity
in to a rule, th u s p resu p p o sin g a plan, is o n ly apparently corrected in the
h y p o th esis of th e unconscious, held to be th e on ly alternative to final causes
as a m ean s o f exp la in in g cultural p hen om en a p resen tin g th e m selv es as totali
ties en d ow ed w ith stru ctu re and m ea n in g .39 In fact this p lannerless plan is
n o less m ysteriou s than th e plan o f a su p rem e planner, and it is understandable
that th e structuralist v u lg a te sh o u ld have b eco m e for so m e p eop le an intellec
tually accep table form of T eilh ard ism - that is to say, on e acceptable in
in tellectu al circles.
T h e language of th e b od y, w h eth er articulated in gestu res or, a fortiori,
in w hat p sy ch o so m atic m ed icin e calls " th e language of the o rg a n s” , is incom
parably m ore a m b ig u o u s and m ore overdeterm in ed than th e m ost overdeter
m ined u ses of ord in ary lan guage. T h is is w h y ritual " r o o ts” are always
broader and vaguer th a n lin g u istic roots, and w h y th e g y m n a stics o f ritual,
like d ream s, alw ays se em s richer than th e verbal translations, at o n ce unilateral
and arbitrary, that m ay b e given o f it. WTord s, h ow ever charged w ith connota
tio n , lim it the range o f ch o ic es and render difficult or im p o ssib le, and in any
case ex p licit and th erefore " fa lsifia b le”, the relations w h ich th e language of
the b od y su g g ests. It fo llo w s that sim p ly by b rin gin g to th e level of discourse
- as one m u st, if on e w an ts to stu d y it scien tifically - a practice w hich owes
a n u m b er of its p rop erties to th e fact that it falls sh o rt of discou rse (which
d oes not m ean it is short on lo g ic) one su b jects it to n o th in g less than a change
in on tological status the m ore seriou s in its theoretical co n seq u en ces because
it has every chance o f p a ssin g u n n o tic e d .40
R itual p ractice, w h ich alw ays aim s to facilitate passages an d /or to authorize
en co u n ters b etw een op p o sed orders, n ever d efines b ein gs or th in g s otherwise
than in and through th e relation ship it estab lish es practically b etw een them ,
and m akes the fu llest p ossib le u se of the p oly sem y of th e fundam ental
action s, m y th ic " r o o ts” w h ose p olysem y is partially reproduced b y linguistic
roots: for exam p le, the root f t h m ay m ean - figuratively as w e ll as literally
- to op en (transitive) a d o o r or a path (in ritual, extra-ordinary co n tex ts), the
heart (cf. op en in g o n e ’s h eart), a sp eech (e .g . w ith a ritual form ula), th e sitting
of an assem b ly, an action , the day, e t c . ; or to b e op en - applied to the " door
in th e sen se of the b eg in n in g of a series, the heart (i.e . the a p p etite), the skv,
a knot; or to op en (in tran sitive) - ap plied to a b u d , a face, a sh o o t, an egg;
and m ore gen erally, to in augu rate, b less, m ake easy, p lace u n d er good
au spices (" M ay G od op en th e d o o r s”), a cluster of sen se s co verin g virtually
all the m ean in gs attached to sp rin g. B u t, b ein g broader and vaguer than the
T h e body as geom eter: cosmogonic practice 12 1

jstic r o o t, th e m y th ic a l ro o t le n d s itse lf to r ic h e r a n d m o re v aried


•flterplay, a n d th e s c h e m e : to o p e n ( tr a n s .) - to o p e n ( in tr a n s .) - to b e o p e n
0iakes it p o ssib le to se t u p a s so c ia tio n s a m o n g a w h o le se t o f v e rb s a n d n o u n s
that go b e y o n d sim p le m o rp h o lo g ic a l a ffin ity : it can ev o k e th e r o o ts f s u ,
to u n b in d , u n tie , re so lv e , d iss o lv e , o p e n , a p p e a r (u s e d of y o u n g sh o o ts ; h e n c e
the name thafsuth g iv e n to s p r in g ) ; FRKh, to b lo ss o m , give b ir th (h en c e
asafrurakht b lo ss o m in g , a n d la fra k h , th e s p r o u ts w h ic h a p p e a r o n th e tre e s
in sp rin g , a n d m o re g e n e ra lly , o ffsp rin g , th e o u tc o m e o f a n y b u s in e s s ), to
proliferate, m u lt ip ly ; f r y , to f o rm ( tr a n s .) , to fo rm ( in tr a n s .) (a p p lie d to fig s),
to begin to g ro w (a p p lie d to w h e a t o r a b a b y ), to m u ltip ly (a n e s tfu l o f b ir d s :
ifruri eVach, th e n e s t is fu ll o f fled g lin g s re a d y to ta k e w in g ), to sh e ll, o r b e
shelled (p ea s a n d b e a n s ), a n d t h u s , to e n te r th e p e rio d w h e n fre s h b e a n s ca n
be picked (lah lal usafruri), to sift a n d b e sifte d (w h e a t b e in g p re p a re d fo r
grinding), s e p a ra te o r b e s e p a r a te d ( o p p o n e n ts ) , a n d th u s , to reco n cile,
appease, p ac ify , d a w n (d a y lig h t w h ic h " fig h ts ” w ith th e n ig h t a n d " se p a ra te s ”
from it, ifruri w a s), to b e c o m e b r ig h te r (th e w e a th e r, ifru ri elhat) ; finally,
by o p p o sitio n , it c a n evoke th e ro o t f l q , to b re a k , b u r s t, s m a s h , to b e b ro k e n ,
burst, sm a sh e d , to s p lit a n d b e s p lit like th e eg g o r p o m e g ra n a te b ro k e n at
the time of m a rria g e a n d p lo u g h in g .41
One w ould on ly have to let on eself be carried alon g by the lo g ic of
associations in order th e recon stru ct th e w h ole system o f sy n o n y m s and
antonyms, sy n o n y m s o f sy n o n y m s and an ton ym s of an ton ym s, and so on . On
one side, on e co u ld approach th e roots ' m r , fill - be filled, or f t h , increase
(intrans.), m u ltip ly (in tr a n s.), or u f f , inflate, and through th e m pass to the
root zdy , u n ite (tran s.) - u n ite (in tra n s.) - be in u n ity (th e h ou se " fu ll” of
men and g o o d s is a n u m ero u s, u n ited h o u s e ) ; on the other sid e, through the
antonym s, on e w ou ld find e m p t y - b e em p tied or ruin - be ru in ed ( k h l ),
separate (tran s.) - separate (in tra n s.) - be separated ( f r q ), c u t - b e sharp
(QD‘), ex tin gu ish - be ex tin g u ish e d (t f ), e t c .42 S im ilarly, starting from the
mythical root "go u p ” on e w ou ld find go eastw ard or b e turned eastw ard,
go toward th e lig h t, go tow ard th e op en cou n try, go rightw ard, g o forw ard,
go in to th e future, be born, sp ro u t, grow up (a bridge to th e p reviou s set
°f roots), stand u p , b e aw ake, be above, etc. or, through th e an ton ym s, go
dow n, go tow ard the dark ness, go leftw ard, d eclin e, fall, lie d o w n , sleep , be
below , etc.
T h e nearest eq u ivalen t to th is series of gen erative sch em es b o u n d together
bv relations of practical eq u iv a len ce is the system of adjectives (lourd/leger}
chaudlfroid, tem e/b rilla n tf e t c .)43 w h ich are available in F rench to exp ress the
ultim ate valu es o f taste and w h ich can b e applied equally w ell to a d ish or
a sch o o l exercise, a play or a p ain tin g, a joke or a w alk, an accent or a
garm ent, and so o n . T h is practical taxonom y ow es its efficacy to th e fact that,

BOT
122 G enerative schemes and p ra ctica l logic

as is evid en ced b y the n u m erou s sen ses recorded in the d iction aries, the
m ean ing o f each adjective, and of its relation ship w ith its an ton ym , is
sp ecified in each case in term s o f the logic of each of the fields in w hich it
is a p p lie d : fro id m ay be sy n on ym ou s w ith calm e or indifferent, b ut also with
frig id e or g ra v e, or again w ith austere and d istan t, d u r (hard) and sec (dry),
p la t (flat) and tem e (d u ll), d ep en d in g on w h eth er it is applied to a m an or
a w o m an , a head or a heart, a m elod y or a ton e of v o ice, a tin t or a work
of art, a calcu lation or a fit of anger, e t c .; and it w ill have as m any antonym s
as it has different sen ses: chaud (h ot) or cou rse, but also ardent or emporte
(ira scib le), sensuel or chaleureux (cord ial), brillan t or expressif, eclatant (dazz
lin g) or piq u a n t (p u n g en t), etc. It follow s th at, con sid ered in each of their
u ses, the pairs o f qualifiers w h ich as a sy stem con stitu te the eq u ipm en t of
-th e ju d g m en t of taste are extrem ely " p o o r ”, quasi-in determ in ate, and
extrem ely rich, their in d efin iten ess p red isp osin g th em to inspire or express
the sen se of th e indefinable: on the on e h an d , each use o f on e o f these pairs
is on ly m ean in gfu l in relation to a universe o f practice w hich is different each
tim e, u su ally im p licit, and alw ays self-su fficien t, ru lin g out the p ossib ility of
com p arison w ith other universes. O n the oth er hand, the m ean in g w h ic h these
pairs are giv en in a particular field has for h arm onics all the m ean ings w hich
they th e m selv es, or any o f the cou p les that are interchangeable w ith them
to w ith in a m atter of nuan ces, m ay be giv en in other fields, i.e . in slightly
different con texts.

This is true, for example, of the way in which the opposition between “ in front”
and " behind” functions in ritual practice: behind is where things one wants to get
rid of are sent44 (e.g. in one of the rites associated with the loom, these words are
uttered: "May the angels be before me and the devil behind me"; in another rite,
a child is rubbed behind the ear so that he will send evil "behind his ear”); behind
is where ill fortune comes from (a woman on her way to market to sell the products
of her industry, a blanket, yarn, etc., or the produce of her husbandry, hens, eggs,
etc., must not look behind her or the sale will go badly; the whirlwind - thim siw ray
-attacks from behind the man who faces the qibla to pray); "behind” is naturally
associated with "inside ”, with the female (the eastern, front door is male, the western,
back door is female), with all that is private, hidden, and secret; but it also is
associated with that which follows, trailing behind on the earth, the source of fertility,
ab ru \ the train of a garment, an amulet, happiness: the bride entering her new house
strews fruit, eggs, and wheat behind her, symbolizing prosperity. These meanings
interweave with all those associated with "in front”, going forward, confronting
(qabel ), going into the future, going eastward, toward the light, and it would not be
difficult to reconstruct the quasi-totality of Kabyle ritual practices from this one
scheme.

T h is p lurality of m ean ings at on ce different and m ore or less closely


interrelated is a product of scien tific co llec tio n . Each o f th e significations
co llected exists in its practical state on ly in th e relationship b etw een a schem e
T he body as geom eter: cosmogonic practice 123

(or th e product o f a sc h e m e , a w ord for exam p le) and a sp ecific situ ation .
T h is is w h y it is n ot legitim ate to speak o f the different m ea n in g s o f a sym bol
UIje s s it is borne in m ind that th e assem b lin g o f th ese m ea n in g s in sim u ltan eity
(or o n th e sam e page o f a dictionary, in the case o f w ord s) is a scientific
artefact and that they n ev er exist sim u ltan eou sly in practice. O n the on e hand,
as V endryes p o in ted o u t, a w ord cannot alw ays appear w ith all its m eanings
at once, w ith o u t tu rn in g d iscou rse into an en d less play on w o r d s ; on the other
hand, if all the m ean in gs a w ord is capable of taking w ere perfectly
independent of the basic m ean in g, no play on w ord s w ould ever b e p ossib le.
T h is is eq u ally true o f th e sy m b o ls o f ritual. A m on g the fo rm s w h ich a basic
opp o sitio n m ay take, there are alw ays som e w h ich fu n ction as " sw itc h e rs”,
concretely esta b lish in g th e relation ship b etw een the u n iv erses of practice:
here, fo r ex a m p le, the relation sh ip b etw een " b e h in d ” and " in s id e ”, w hich
provides the passage from " b e h in d ” to fem ale p rosp erity, i.e . fe r tility -
male prosperity b ein g lin k ed to "in fr o n t” through the in term ed iary of the
bond b etw een "in fr o n t” , th e fu tu re, and ligh t. T h e ob jectified path of th ese
passages is so m etim es m arked o u t b y sayin gs w h ich state th e an alogies ("the
m aiden is th e wall of d a rk n ess” , or "w om an is the w e s t ”, or "w om an is the
m o o n ”) b etw een the d ifferen t series.
T h e universes of m ean in g corresp ond ing to different u n iv erses o f practice
are at on ce self-con tain ed - h en ce protected from logical con trol through
system atization - and objectively con sisten t w ith all the o th ers, insofar as they
are the loosely system atic prod ucts o f a system o f m ore or less com p letely
integrated gen erative p rin cip les fu n ction in g in a structurally invariant w ay in
the m ost d iverse fields o f practice. W ithin the " f u z z y ” logic o f approxim ation
which im m ed iately a ccep ts as eq u ivalen ts " fla t”, "dull*’, and " in sip id ”,
favourite valu e-ju d g m en t term s o f th e F rench aesth ete or teach er, or, in the
Kabvle trad ition, " f u ll”, " c lo se d ”, " in s id e ”, " u n d ern ea th ” , wTh ich on closer
inspection are p erfectly in com m en su rab le, the generative sc h e m e s are in ter
changeable p ractically; th is is w h y th ey can only generate products that are
indeed system atic but are so b y virtue o f a fu zzy sy stem aticity and an
approxim ate lo g ic wrh ich cannot w ithstand the test o f rational system atization
and logical criticism .45 L ack in g sym b olic m astery o f the sc h e m e s and their
products - sch em es w h ich th ey are, p rod u cts w h ich th ey d o - th e only w ay
m w hich agents can ad eq u ately m aster th e p rod uctive apparatus w hich
enables th em to gen erate correctly form ed ritual p ractices is b y m aking it
operate .46 T h is is wrhat the observer is likely to forget, b ecau se he cannot
recapture th e logic im m an en t in th e recorded prod ucts of th e apparatus excep t
by con stru ctin g a m odel w h ich is p recisely th e su b stitu te requ ired w hen one
does not have (or n o lon ger has) im m ed iate m astery of th e apparatus.
Every su ccessfu lly so cia lized agen t thu s p o ssesses, in th eir incorporated

5’2
124 G en erative schemes an d practica l logic

state, the in stru m en ts of an ord erin g of th e w orld , a system of classify^


sch em es w h ich organ izes all p ractices, and o f w h ich the lin g u istic schern^
(to w h ich th e n eo-K an tian tradition - and th e eth n om eth od ological school
n ow adays - attribute unjustified au ton om y and im portance) are only one
asp ect. T o grasp through the con stitu ted reality of m yth the constituting
m o m en t of th e m yth op oeic act is n ot, as id ealism su p p oses, to seek in the
co n sc io u s m ind th e universal stru ctures o f a "m y th o p o eic su b jec tiv ity ” and
th e u n ity of a spiritual prin cip le gov ern in g all em pirically realized configura
tio n s regardless of social co n d itio n s. It is, on the contrary, to reconstruct the
p rin cip le gen erating and u n ify in g all p ractices, th e system o f inseparably
co g n itive and evaluative stru ctures w h ich organ izes the vision o f th e world
in accordance w ith th e ob jective stru ctures of a determ inate state o f the social
w orld : th is prin cip le is n o th in g other than the socially inform ed body, with
its tastes and d ista stes, its co m p u lsio n s an d rep u lsio n s, w ith , in a w ord, all
its senses, that is to say, not on ly th e traditional five se n se s - w h ich never escape
th e stru ctu rin g action of social d eterm in ism s - but also the sen se o f necessity
and the sen se o f d u ty , th e sen se of d irection and th e sen se of reality, the sense
o f balance and the sen se o f b eau ty, com m on sen se and th e sen se of th e sacred,
tactical sen se and the sen se o f resp on sib ility, b u sin ess sense and th e sense of
propriety, the sen se o f h u m ou r and the sen se of absurdity, m oral sense and
th e sen se o f p racticality, and so on .

Union an d separation

T o th e foregoin g list sh ou ld b e added w hat m ig h t b e called th e sense o f limits


an d o f the legitim ate transgression o f lim its, w h ich is th e basis at o n ce o f the
ordering of th e w orld (k n ow n , sin ce P arm enides, as diakosmesis) and o f the
ritual action s in tend ed to au th orize or facilitate the necessary or unavoidable
breaches o f that order. " T h e w orld is based on th e lim it [thalasth] ” , said an
old K a b y le. " H eav en and earth are separated by th e lim it. T h e ey es have an
en closure [zerb ], T h e m ou th has a lim it. E veryth in g has a lim it.” T o bring
order is to brin g d istin c tio n , to d ivid e the u n iverse into o p p o sin g entities,
w h ich the p rim itive sp ecu lation o f the P yth agoreans set out as tw o "columns
o f co n tra ries” (sustoichiai) ,47 B u t the n ecessities o f practice d em and the
reunion of th in g s w h ich practical logic has su nd ered - in m arriage or plough-
in g, for exam p le - and on e fu n ctio n o f ritual is precisely to eu p h em ize, and
th u s to m ake licit, th ese u navoid able tran sgression s of the b oun dary. N ot
su rp risin gly, it proved difficult to find a p lace in the "colu m n s of contraries
for an op p osition as p ro d u ctiv e as that of th e odd and the even , and more
gen erally, for all the sy m b o lic ob jects and action s w h ich can be generated from
the sch em e unite (tran s.) - unite (in tran s.) - be in unity (the root z d y ) and its
Union and separation I2 5

n o site separate (tran s.) - separate (in tra n s.) - be separated (th e root f r q , or
« cUt - be sharp, and all the roots associated w ith them from the p oint of
riew of ritual m ean in g, close - b e clo sed , ex tin g u ish - be ex tin g u ish ed , kill,
laughter, harvest, e t c .) . T h e p rinciple o f d iv isio n can n ot easily be classified
among the th in g s that it m akes it p ossib le to classify. T h is d ifficulty w as
encountered b y E m p ed o cles, w h o set asid e p h ilia and neikos, love and strife,
as two ultim ate p rin cip les irreducible to th e op p o sitio n s w h ich thanks to them
can be dialecticallv c o m b in e d .48 W hen E m p ed o cles g iv e s as sy n o n y m s of
diakrisis and synkrisis - an op p osition w h ich seem s to b elo n g to the order of
logic, in w h ich u nion and d ivision do in deed figure, but in a v ery su blim ated
form - wrords as load ed as p h th ora, co rru p tio n , or genesis, gen eration, and for
the secon d, m ixis, w h ich can also be translated as u n io n , but th is tim e in the
sense of m arriage, he p o in ts to th e p rin cip le o f th e practical logic of rite, w'hose
operations are in sep arab ly logical and b io lo g ica l, as are th e natural p rocesses
which it reproduces, w'hen th ou gh t in accordance w ith the sch em es of
magical th o u g h t .49
It is th u s p ossib le to d escrib e th e w h ole system of ritual sy m b o ls and
actions by m ean s of a sm all n um ber of antagonistic sym bols (th e paradigm of
which is the op p o sitio n b etw een the sex es, and w h ich are p roduced from a
small num ber o f sch em es) and a sm all num ber o f (logical and b iological)
practical operators w h ich are n o th in g other than natural p rocesses culturally
constituted in and through ritual p ractice, su ch as m arriage and p lou gh in g
seen as the union o f contraries and m urder or h arvestin g seen as the separation
of contraries (p rocesses w h ich the logic of ritual mimesis, as su ch , rep rod u ces).
Because the u n ion of contraries d oes not d estroy th e op p o sitio n (wrhich it
p resupposes), th e reun ited contraries are just as m uch o p p o sed , but nowTin
a quite d ifferen t w ay, th ereb y m anifestin g th e d u ality of th e relationship
between th em , at on ce antagonism and com p lem en ta rity, neikos and p h ilia ,
which m igh t appear as th eir ow n tw ofold " n a tu r e ” if th ey w ere con ceived
outside that relation sh ip . T h u s the h o u se, wrh ich has all th e n egative charac
teristics o f the dark, n octurnal, fem ale w orld , and is in this respect the
equivalent o f th e tom b or the m aiden, ch an ges its d efinition w h en it becom es
what it equally is, the place par excellen ce o f coh ab itation and of the m arriage
of contraries, w h ich , like th e w ife, " th e lam p of th e in s id e ”, en clo ses its ow n
light. W hen the roof has b een put on a n ew h ou se, it is the m arriage lam p
that is called u p o n to bring the first ligh t. Each th in g th u s receives different
properties accord in g as it is apprehended in th e state o f u n io n or th e state
° f separation, but it is not p ossib le to con sid er eith er of th ese states as its
objective tru th , w ith the other b ein g regarded as an im p erfect, m utilated form
of that tru th . T h u s cu ltiv a ted nature, th e sacred of th e left h and, the
^ a le-fem a le, or m ale-d om in ated fem ale, for exam p le m arried w om an or
12 6 G en erative schemes an d p ra c tic a l logic

lan d , i 9 o p p o sed n ot o n ly to th e m ale in gen eral - u n ited or se


arated - but also and esp ecially to natural nature, w h ich is still w ild and
u ntam ed - fallow land and th e m aid en - or has returned t o th e twisted
m aleficen t naturalness in to w h ich it falls o u tsid e m arriage - th e harvested field
or th e old w itch , w ith th e cu n n in g and treachery w h ich relate her to the
jackal .50

T h is opposition betw een a fem ale-fem ale and a m ale-fem ale is attested in countless
ways. T h e fem ale wom an par excellence is the wom an w ho d oes not depend on
any m an, who has escaped from the authority of her parents, her husband, and her
husband’s fam ily, and has no children. Such a wom an is w ithout hurm a: "she is bad
w o o d ”; " she is tw isted w o o d ”. S h e is akin to fallow land, the w ilderness; she has
affinities w ith the dark forces of uncontrolled nature. M agic is her b usiness (thamgarth
thazemnith, the old w itch; settuth, the w itch in the tales). A sterile -woman must not
plant in the garden or carry seed s. Every wom an partakes of the diabolic nature of
the fem ale w om an, especially during m enstruation, w hen she m ust not prepare meals,
work in the garden, plant, pray, or fast (elkhalethf the collective noun for
" w om anhood ” is also em p tin ess, the void, the desert, ruin). A n d conversely, the
unbridled, sterile old w om an w ho no longer has any " restraint ” brings the virtualities
inherent in every wom an to their full realization. Like the young sh o o t w hich, left
to itself, tends to the left and has to be brought back to the right (or the upright)
at the cost of a " k n o t”, "wom an is a knot in the w o o d ” (thamttuth d iriz). T h e "old
w om an ” is in league w ith all that is tw isted (a 'w a j, to tw ist) and all that is warped
or warping: she is credited w ith thi'iw ji, the m aleficent, suspect craftiness w hich also
defines the smith ; she specializes in the magic w hich uses the left hand, the cruel hand
(a "left-hander’s b lo w ” is a deadly b low ), and turns from right to left (as opposed to
m an, w ho uses the right hand, the hand used in sw earing an oath, and turns from
left to right); she is adept in the art of slyly "tw isting her g a z e ” (abran w alan) away
from the person to w hom she w ishes to express her disapproval or annoyance (abran,
to turn from right to left, to make a slip of the tongue, to turn back to front, in short,
to turn in the wrong direction, is opposed to geleb, to turn on e’s back, to overturn,
as a discreet, furtive, passive m ovem ent, a female sid estep p in g, a " tw iste d ” move,
a magical device, is to op en , honest, straightforward, male a g gression ).51

T h e fu n d am en tal operators, u n itin g and sep aratin g, are th e practical eq u i


v alen ts o f filling and em p ty in g (plerosis and ken osis): to m arry is 'am m ar, to
be fu ll. T h ro u g h th is, they can even b e redu ced to th e fundam ental
o p p o sitio n s: to m oisten and to d ry , to fem in ize and to m a scu lin ize. T h is is
seen clearly in th e sign ifican ce assign ed to ev ery th in g sy m b o lizin g th e union
o f con traries. T h u s th e crossroads, w h ich is op p o sed to th e fork as th e place
"w h ere th e paths m e e t ” (anidha itsam yagaran ibardhan) to th e place "w here
th e paths d iv id e ” (anidh a itsam faraqen ibardhan) , is the p o in t o f convergence
o f th e four cardinal d irectio n s and of th o se w h o co m e and g o in those
d irectio n s. A s su ch , it is th e sym b ol of fu lln e ss ( i 'mar u bridh, th e path is
p eo p led , fu ll), an d, m ore p recisely, of m ale fu lln ess, w h ich is o p p o se d o n the
on e hand to th e em p tin ess of th e field and forest ( lakhla) a n d on th e other
hand to fem ale fu lln ess ( la'm ara), the village or th e h o u s e .52 A sterile w om an ,
Union an d separation 12 7

a girl w ho can n ot find a h u sb an d , g o es to a crossroads, a full p lace p eopled


° f men, to bathe naked in th e w ater from th e tem p erin g vat just before
^nrise, that is, at th e m o m en t w h en the day is stru gg lin g w ith th e n ig h t; and
the water in w h ich sh e has b ath ed is poured away at a crossroads regularly
used bv the flocks (a p rom ise o f fe c u n d ity ).53 T h e fearfu ln ess o f any operation
reuniting contraries is particularly em p h asized in th e case of tem p erin g (asqi,
also m eaning b roth , sau ce, and p o iso n in g ), w h ich stan d s in the sam e relation
to copulation as the crossroads - fu lln ess in em p tin ess, m ale fu lln ess - to the
house: sequi is to u n ite th e w et and th e d ry, in th e action of sp rin k lin g
couscous w ith sa u ce: to u nite th e hot and th e cold , fire and w ater, the dry
and the w et, in tem p erin g ; to p our ou t b u rn in g (or b u rn t) w ater, p oison.
T em pering is a terrib le act of v io len ce allied w ith cu n n in g , perform ed b y a
terrible b ein g, th e sm ith , w h o se an cestor, S id i-D a o u d , cou ld h old red -h ot iron
in his bare hands and w ou ld p u n ish tardy payers by offerin g th em on e o f his
products w ith an in n ocen t air after first h eatin g it w h ite -h o t.
U n itin g and separatin g each entail th e sam e sacrilegiou s v io le n c e, w h ich
breaks th e natural order of th in g s to im p ose on th em th e counter-natural order
which d efin es cu ltu re. W itn ess th e fact that th e acts co n sistin g o f m ix in g or
cutting, u n itin g or d iv id in g , in fact fall to th e sam e p erson s, all eq u ally feared
and d esp ised - th e sm ith , th e b u tch er, and th e co rn -m ea su rer .54 It is alm ost
always th e sm ith w h o is ap p oin ted to p erform all th e sacrilegiou s, sacred acts
of cu ttin g, w h eth er it be th e slau gh ter of th e sacrificial ox or circu m cision
(although he d oes n ot sit in th e a ssem b ly, h is o p in io n is alw ays taken into
account in m atters of war or v io le n c e ), and, if certain testim o n ie s are to be
believed, in so m e villages he is even en tru sted w ith th e inaugural p lo u g h in g .
C onversely, in at least on e village, the p erson charged w ith starting the
ploughing, the last d escen d an t o f th e m an w h o fou n d a piece o f iron in the
earth at th e sp ot w h ere lig h tn in g had stru ck , and m ade h is p lou gh sh are ou t
of it, is resp on sib le for all th e acts o f v io le n c e by fire and iron (circu m cisio n ,
scarification, ta to o in g , e t c .).55 T h e reason for th is is that in all su ch ca ses m an's
in tervention , h is very p resen ce at th e crossroads o f th e o p p o sin g forces w hich
he m ust b rin g in to con ta ct in order to en su re th e su rvival o f th e g rou p , is
a su prem ely d angerou s op eration . Just as a m an can n ot con fron t w om an u ntil
assured o f the m agical p rotection g iv en b y circu m cisio n , so th e p lough m an
p uts on a w h ite w o o lle n sk ull-cap and arkasen , leather sandals w h ich m ust
not enter th e h o u se , in order to avoid m akin g h im self th e m eetin g -p o in t of
sky and earth and their an tagon istic forces (w h ereas, to glean and clear the
fields, th e w o m e n , w h o partake o f th e terrestrial p ow ers, go b arefoot in to the
fields ).56
T h e tem poral d istrib u tion of tasks and rites, that is, th e ch ron ological
structure of the agrarian year or of th e cy cle o f life , is th e p rod uct at on ce
128 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

o f the diacritical intent (separation) w h ich orders by op p o sin g , and the


synthetic intent (un ion) w h ich creates passages betwreen the contraries by means
o f rites (of passage) w h ich attain th eir full in ten sity w hen the union or
separation o f the antagon istic p rin cip les is effected b y hum an agency. On the
o n e h and, there is the fundam ental o p p ositio n , alw ays m entioned bv
in form an ts, b etw een the tw o " u p b e a ts” stru cturin g the year, lyali, "the
n ig h ts ”, and sm aim , th e d ogdays, in w h ich the properties of the w et season
and the dry season are brought to th eir h ighest degree o f in ten sity; on the
other hand, there are th e in sen sib le, ever-threatened transitions between
o p p o sin g p rin cip les, and the rites of p assage o f a particular kind w hich are
in ten d ed to en su re that m en and th e elem en ts respect "th e order of tim e”
(chronou taxis), that is, th e order of th e w orld : fem inization o f th e male in
a u tu m n , w ith p lou gh in g and so w in g and the rain-m aking rites which
accom pan y th em , and m ascu lin ization of the fem ale in sp rin g, with the
p rogressive separation o f the grain and th e earth w hich is com p leted with the
harvest.
T h e prim ary reason w h y ly a li, "the n ig h t s ”, is referred to by all informants,
and alw ays in relation to sm aim , is that th e w inter o f w in ter and the summer
o f su m m er in a sen se concentrate w ith in th em selves all the oppositions
stru ctu rin g th e w orld and th e agrarian year. T h e period of forty days which
is b elieved to represent the tim e the se ed sowTn in autum n takes to emerge
is th e prim e exam p le o f the slack p eriod s, d u rin g w h ich n oth in g h appens and
all w ork is su sp en d ed , and w h ich are m arked by n o major rite (ex p ect a few
p rogn ostication rites ).57 T h e fecu n d ated field, d u ly p rotected , like a woman,
w ith a thorn fen ce ( zerb), is the site of a m ysteriou s, u np redictab le toil which
n o outw ard sign betrays, and w h ich resem b les the cooking of w'heat or beans
in th e pot or the w ork accom p lish ed in w om an 's w o m b . T h is period is indeed
th e w inter o f w in ter, the n igh t o f n ig h t, wThen th e boar m ates, the m om ent
w h en th e natural wTorld is given over to th e fem ale forces o f fecun dity -
natural, w ild forces w hich can never be said to be perfectly, finally
d o m e stica ted .58 T h e con tin u in g assaults o f w in ter, cold, and n igh t serve to
rem ind m en o f the h idd en violen ce of th e fem ale nature. In the "quarrel
betwreen w inter and m a n ” ,59 w in ter is p resen ted as a w om an (th e nam e of
the season , chathw a, b ein g treated as a personified w o m a n ’s n am e), and
d o u b tless an old w om an, th e incarnation o f th e m aleficen t forces of death and
d estru ction , d isorder and d ivision , wTh o is forced to renou n ce her lust for
v io len ce and sh ow m ore m oderation and clem en cy w hen defeated in her
stru ggle w ith m an. T h is is a sort o f origin m yth em p h asizin g th e fact that
w in ter, like w om an , is d u al-n atu red : w in ter con tains b oth th e purely fem ale
w o m an , u nadulterated, u n tam ed , incarnated in the old w om an , em p ty , dry,
sterile w o m a n . i.e . the fem ale p rin cip le w h ich old age reduces to its objective,
Union and separation 129

rely negative tr u th ;60 b ut there is also th e tam ed, d om esticated w om an,


^ m a n fulfilled, i.e . fertility, the work of gestation and germ ination accom p
lished by nature w hen fecun dated by m an. It is w ith in th is lo g ic that the
famous "days of the old w o m a n ”, and the other m om en ts o f tran sition and
rupture, m ust be u n d erstood . T h e w hole o f nature - the earth w ith its buried
seed, but also the w om b - is th e scen e of a stru ggle sim ilar to that betw een
the cold and darkness of w in ter, an evil, sterile old w om an , and th e springtim e
forces of light w ith w h ich m an is in league. In all th e legen d s of th e borrow ed
days (am erdil, th e loan ), w h ich are perhaps m ore than just a way o f accoun ting
for the u nexpected return o f bad w eather, a b ein g partaking o f th e nature
of winter, usually an old w om an (like W inter h erself), a goat, or a N eg ro (the
slave H ayan ), som etim es even a jackal, the em b od im en t of natural disord er ,61
is sacrificed b y w in ter, or, n o d ou b t, sacrificed to w in ter, as a scapegoat. T h is
is perhaps the price that has to be paid for th e old w itch W inter to agree to
respect the lim its assigned to her, as sh e d oes w h en she asks th e follow in g
period to lend her a few days.
Sm aim, the d ogdays, is to the dry season exactly w hat ly a li is to the w et
season: th is slack p eriod, w h ich is op p osed to essaif, the harvest, just as w ithin
the wet season lyali, another slack p eriod, is op p osed to lahlal, p lou gh in g,
presents all the properties of the dry season . T h e dry, sterile kingd om of
summer is en tered in M ay, a m onth regarded as u n p rop itiou s fo r any act of
procreation (h en ce for m arriages ).62 T h e rites w hich mark th e '"first day of
sum m er”, also know n as " th e death o f the la n d ” , and even m ore, th e rites
of the su m m er so lstice, in sla> w h ich occurs at the b egin n in g of sm aim , make
use of iron and fire, and in stru m en ts forged w ith fire - the p lou gh sh are, the
sickle, the carding-com b, an d also th e dagger (w h ich cu ts th e throats of
sacrificial anim als and m en s throats too) - in stru m ents u sed to cu t, ch op ,
pierce, burn, or b leed (tattooin g; p reven tive or curative scarification w ith a
stick of oleander, a plant not u sed in the a z a l b ou q u et; piercing th e little g irls’
ears; b leed in g perform ed on the m en and the anim als, e tc .).63 T h e night of
sla , in the course o f w h ich sterile, p u rifyin g fires are lit in th e h ouse, in
the m idst of the flock, in th e orchards, in th e fields, by th e h iv es, on the
threshing-floor, e tc ., is g iv e n over to sterility; it is said that w o m en cannot
conceive th en , and that ch ild ren born on that day are th em selv es con d em n ed
to sterility (as are m arriages celebrated th e n ). T h e tim e o f th e d ry is also the
time for salt, for roast, sp iced food , virile and virilizin g, like the dried herbs
Used to m ake it, the tim e for w heatcake and o il, w hich is to su m m er food
as butter is to w in ter fo o d .64 A ccord ing to D esta in g , th e Beni S n o u s used to
Set an upturned cook in g pot ( a sym b ol o f th e b lackness and w etn e ss o f w inter)
With its bottom coated w ith lim e (blackness w h iten ed ) in the k itchen gardens
(the place for fem ale cu ltivation ) at the tim e of in sla. Sm aim p resen ts all the
130 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

features of su m m er in their pure state, i.e . w ith ou t adm ixture or attenuation-


it is to the year w hat a z a l (th e h ottest tim e o f the day) or, m ore exactly, the
m id d le of a z a l (thalm asth uzal)> is to th e cycle of th e day. L ike a z a l, smaim,
the desert ( lakh la) of the h arvested fields, th e tim e o f iron and fire, violence
and death (th e tim e of th e sw ord -ed ge, semm) is the m ale tim e par excellen ce.

Thresholds an d rites o f passage

T h e transitional p eriods have all th e properties of the threshold, a sort of sacred


boundary b etw een tw o sp aces, w here the an tagon istic prin cip les con fron t one
another and the w orld is reversed. T h e rites of these m om en ts also ob ey the
p rin cip le, already en co u n tered , o f th e m axim ization o f m agical profit. T hey
.aim to en su re the con cordan ce of the m yth ical calendar, w hich requires rain
to co m e a t the right moment, p lou gh in g tim e, and the clim atic calendar, with
its w h im s and vagaries, b y facilitatin g the p assages, a ccom p an yin g or if need
be acceleratin g the passage from th e dry to the w et in a u tu m n or from the
w et to the dry in sp rin g, en d eavou rin g at the sam e tim e to con serve for as
lo n g as p ossib le th e ad vantages of the d eclin in g season . T h is is ob viou sly the
case w ith all the au tu m n rites in ten d ed to aid th e co m in g o f rain: not only
the ritual g am es, w h ich are p layed in every season w h en rain is n eed ed , such
as kura (a ball gam e in w h ich tw o team s, east and w est, eq u ip p ed w ith wooden
stick s, try to push a ball, th e ku ra, in to the o p p o sin g ca m p ), but also
thimechret, the sacrifice of an ox (ch osen for the rain-cloud colour (a zeg za w )
o f its coat and evok in g th u n d er b y its low in g) and th e inauguration o f the
p lo u g h in g (a w d jeb ), w h ich insofar as it ritually m im es the fearful union of
contraries, is in itself an in vocation of rain. It is also true o f the com position
and preparation of the food con su m ed on ordinary and extraordinary occa
sio n s, w h ich , practically treated as a ritual o f p a rticipation , m anifests the
sign ifican ce con ferred on the tran sition from o n e season to another. T h e diet
o f au tu m n , gen erated in accordance w ith the sch em e of soaking th e dry, is
m ade up of dry fo o d s (cereals, dry v egetab les, dried m eat) w h ich are boiled
in w a ter, w ithou t spices, in the cook in g-p ot, or (w h ich am ou n ts to the sam e
th in g ) steam ed , or raised w ith yeast. But au tu m n is also the p oin t w here the
cou rse o f the w orld turns round and everyth in g is turned over to enter its
o p p o site , th e m ale in to the fem ale, the seed in to the w om b of the earth, men
and b easts in to the h o u se, ligh t (w ith th e lam p) into darkness, u n til th e return
of sp rin g, w h ich w ill set back on its feet a w orld turned u p sid e d ow n,
m om entarily abandoned to the su prem acy o f the fem ale p rin cip le, the w om b ,
w om an , the h o u se, and th e darkness of n ig h t .65
In d eed , m ore so than au tu m n , w h ich is d om in ated b y the sharp break that
p lo u gh in g m arks, and b y th e lo g ic o f fecu n d ation , in terw oven w ith the ritual
Thresholds and rites o f passage

work of m o isten in g th e dry, sp rin g is an in term in able tran sition, con stantly
suspended and threaten ed , b etw een the w et and the dry, b eg in n in g im m edia-
telv after lyali; or, b etter, a stru ggle b etw een tw o p rin cip les w ith u n ceasin g
reversals and ch an ges in fortu n e. T h e role of m ankind in this stru ggle, w hich
resembles th e battle fo u gh t ou t every m orn in g b etw een darkness and light,
can only be that of an xious on lookers: h en ce perhaps, a m on g other sig n s, the
m ultitude o f calendar term s alm ost all d escrib in g the state of th e w eather
or the crops. In th is tim e of w aitin g, w hen the fate of the seed lin g s d ep en d s
on a fem ale, am b igu ou s nature, and m an can n ot in tervene w ith o u t danger,
the virtual cessation o f activity reflects his lim ited con trol over the processes
of germ ination and gestation ; it falls to w om an to play th e part of a m id w ife
and to offer nature a sort of ritual and tech n ical assistance (h o e in g , for
exam ple) in its lab o u r .66
T h is tim e o f rupture and separation has the sam e role in the cycle of the
grain as that played in the cycle of life b y th e rites in ten d ed to en su re the
progressive virilization o f the g row in g boy (initially a fem ale b e in g ), b eg in n in g
at birth and alw ays in volvin g fire or in stru m en ts m ade w ith fire .67 A ll the
characteristic features of this d ifficult transition are in a sense concentrated
in the series of critical moments, like husum and natah, tim es of crisis w h en
all the evil p ow ers o f w in ter seem to revive and to endanger g row th and life
one last tim e, or nisan, w h ich th ou gh regarded as b en ignan t is not exem p t
from threats - am b igu ou s p eriods w h ich , even at their w orst, con tain th e hope
of the b est and, even at their b est, the threat of the w orst. E veryth in g takes
place as if each of th em bore w ith in it th e conflict w h ich oversh ad ow s the
w hole season - and also th e u ncertain ty ab out the future w h ich cau ses th ese
inaugural p eriods (esp ecially husum or th e first day o f sp rin g ) to b e , like
m orning, tim es for the rites of progn ostication and inaugural p ractices.
T h e am bigu ity is in sp rin g it s e lf : sp rin gtim e m eans grow th and ch ild h o o d ,
to be celebrated w ith jo y , like the inaugural day o f the sea so n , b u t it also
m eans the vu lnerab ility and fragility o f all b eg in n in g s. S p rin g is to su m m er
as green and raw ( a z e g za w ) and ten der ( th alaqaqth ) th in gs - th e u n rip e corn
or the baby, and green p rod u ce, the eatin g of w h ich is seen as u n tim ely
destruction ( a d h a m ) - are to fu ll-grow n , y ello w (iw ragh en ), ripe, dry, har
dened p ro d u ce .68 T h e w om en are logically charged w ith all th e tasks in v o lv in g
the protection o f th in g s that grow and sh o o t, that are green and ten der; it
is the w o m e n ’s d u ty to w atch over th e grow th of the y o u n g h um ans and
anim als, the m orn in g of life. A s w ell as h o ein g , th e w o m en ’s w ork in clu d es
gathering herbs and vegetab les in the garden, look in g after the co w , m ilk ing
*t, and m aking b u tter, a fem ale p rod uct w h ich is op p osed to oil as th e inside
and the w et to th e ou tsid e and th e dry.
T h e precise locu s of the th resh old , w h ere th e order of th in g s turns u p sid e
I 32 G en erative schemes and practica l logic

d ow n ( aqlab), "lik e a w heatcake in the p a n ”, is ex p licitly m arked by the


"return o f a z a ll ” ( tharurith w a z a l) , th e p oin t of d iv isio n b etw een th e w et season
and the dry sea so n , w here th e year tip s over: th e rh ythm o f th e w orking dav
- d efined b y th e m om en t w hen the flock g o e s ou t - ch a n g es, and w ith it the
group's w h o le ex isten ce. T h e fire is brought out and the kanun is set up in the
cou rtyard. T h e flock w ith its sh ep h erd , the h o u sew ife b u sy w ith the tasks
o f m ilk in g and treatin g th e m ilk , b rin g in to th e rites n ew elem en ts partaking
m ore o f the dry than of th e w et. T h e flock ceases to b e fed on ten d er green
p lants from th e cu ltivated fields and g o es and grazes instead on w ild , dry
p lants. T h e h erb s, flow ers, and branches that th e sh ep h erd b rin gs back with
h im on h is first return at th e hour o f a z a l, w h ich g o to m ake u p th e bouquet,
called a z a l, that is ritually placed ab ove th e th resh old (fern , cv tisis, bramble,
th y m e, len tisk , m ale fig-tree b ran ch es, asparagus, elm , thap sia, myrtle,
tam arind, heather, broom - in sh ort, " everyth in g the w in d shakes in the
co u n trysid e ”) are th e w ild p ro d u cts of fallow land ( and not th e p rod u ct, even
parasiticallv, o f cu ltivated lan d, like th e p lan ts gathered by th e w om en while
h o ein g ). T h e ch an ge in food is even clearer: th e sp ecial d ish es of tharurith
w a z a l give a p rom in en t place to m ilk , as in th e p rev io u s p eriod, b ut it is now
eaten in cook ed or boiled form .

Reunion o f contraries an d denial

T h e tim es o f separation , w h en the o p p o sin g p rin cip les m ay be said to exist


in th eir p ure state, as in su m m er, or to threaten , in th e case of w in ter, to
return to it, and th e tim e s of reu n ion , w hen the dry returns to th e w et, as
in au tu m n , or th e w et returns to th e d ry, as in sp rin g, are m o m en ts opposed
to on e an oth er; b ut they are also op p osed in a d ifferen t w ay, as m o m en ts in
w h ich reunion and separation are a ccom p lish ed w ith o u t any m ore than
sy m b o lic participation on th e part of m an, to th e tim es w hen reun ion and
separation take on a critical form b ecau se it falls to m an h im self to b rin g them
ab ou t. It is p recisely here that th e stru cture o f ritual practice is articulated
w ith th e structure o f farm ing a c tiv ity : th e o p p o sitio n b etw een th e propitiator)'
rites o f th e transitional p eriod s and th e san ctio n in g rites w hich are obligatory
for th e w h o le grou p and ab ove all for th e m en , d uring the periods o f hum an
in terven tion in nature, harvestin g and p lo u g h in g , appears in fact as the
retranslation in to th e sp ecific logic o f ritual o f the o p p o sitio n - structuring
th e agrarian year - b etw een the tim e of w ork and the m u ch lon ger tim e of
p rod u ctio n , d u rin g w h ich th e grain - like th e pottery set ou t to dry -
u n d ergoes a p urely natural p rocess of tran sform ation . T h e h igh m om en ts in
th e agrarian year, th ose w h ich M arx d esig n a tes w orkin g perio d s, are m arked
b y rites co n trastin g in their gravity, so le m n ity , and im perative character w ith
Reunion o f contraries an d denial *33

t^e rites o f th e production perio d s, w h o se so le fu n ctio n is to lend m agical


assistance to nature in its labour (see fig. 3).69
T h e rites w h ich accom pan y p lo u g h in g or m arriage have the fu n ctio n o f
disguising and th ereb y sa n ctio n in g th e in evitab le co llisio n o f tw o contrary
principles that th e peasant b rin gs ab out in forcin g nature, d o in g it violen ce
and violation, as he m u st, w ith p lou gh sh are and k nife, sickle and loom -
instrum ents fearful in th e m selv es, b ein g the w ork o f th e sm ith , th e m aster
of fire. T h e aim is to transform in to in ten tion ally perform ed, and hen ce
judiciously eu p h em ized , ritual acts the o b jectiv ely sa crilegiou s acts o f separat
ing, cu ttin g, and d iv id in g th in g s w h ich nature (i.e . th e ta x o n o m y ) has u n ited
(when reaping, cu ttin g th e yarn after w ea v in g , or cu ttin g the throat of the
sacrificial ox );70 or to reu n ite - in tem p erin g , m arriage, or p lo u g h in g - th in g s
which nature (i.e . th e taxon om y) has p ut asu nd er. W hen o b jectiv ely sacri
legious acts can n ot b e d elegated to an inferior b ein g , a sacrificer and scap e
goat w hose role is to "take aw ay ill fo r tu n e ”71 (lik e th e slau ghter o f th e ox in
the collective sacrifices, w h ich is en tru sted to th e sm ith or a N eg ro , and tem p er
ing, the task of th e sm ith , a m an b oth feared and resp ected ) b u t m ust be
shouldered by th o se w h o undertake and b en efit from th e m (lik e th e defloration
of the bride, tu rn in g th e first furrow , c u ttin g th e last thread in w ea v in g ,
harvesting the last sh ea f), th ey are transfigured by a collectiv e mise en scene
intended to im p o se on th em a co llectiv ely proclaim ed sy m b o lic value w hich
is the exact o p p osite o f their socially recogn ized , and hen ce no less ob jectiv e,
truth. T h e w hole truth o f m agic and collectiv e b elief is con tain ed in th is gam e
of tw ofold ob jective tru th , a d o u b le gam e played w ith tru th , through w hich
the grou p , the so u rce o f all ob jectiv ity , in a sen se lies to itself, p ro d u cin g a
truth w hose so le m ean in g and fu n ctio n are to d en y a truth know n and
recognized by all, a lie w h ich w ould d eceiv e no o n e, w ere not everyon e
d eterm ined to d eceiv e himself.
In the case o f th e h arvest, th e social tru th to be co llectiv ely d en ied is an
u nam biguous o n e: th e harvest (tham egra) is a m urder (tham gert, th e throat,
violent death, reven ge; am gar, sic k le ), in w h ich the earth, fecu n d ated by
p lou gh in g, is strip p ed of th e p rod uce it has b rou gh t to m aturity.

T he ritual of the last sheaf, of w hich w e have countless descriptions - no doubt


because attention was drawn to it by Frazer’s analyses72 - and hence alm ost as many
Variants, always consists essentially in sym bolically denying the inevitable murder of
the field, or of the source of its fecu n d ity, the ‘'spirit of the co rn ” of "spirit of the
field ”, by transforming it into a sacrifice conducive to resurrection. From the names
given to the last sheaf, it seem s that the " spirit of the field ” w hose perpetuation is
to be affirmed is practically identified, depending on the variant, either with an animal
(inform ants speak of "the mane of the field ” and " the tail of the field ”) or w ith a
bride, thislith, destined to die after having borne her fruit (inform ants speak of ‘'the
curl of the field' and ‘the plait of the fie ld ”). T o these different representations
2
O
O
h
— X
w

S
i.'

Id
ca -s*.
s
fm O
iJ 4

Fig. 3. The fanning year and the mythical year


Reunion o f contraries and denial *35
correspond d iffe re n t ritu a ls: in so m e v illa g e s it is h e ld to be a sin to re a p th e last sh eaf,
^ h ich is le ft sta n d in g in th e m id d le o f th e field fo r th e p o o r, th e o x e n , o r th e b ir d s ;
jn oth er v illa g e s , it is m o w n (o r u p ro o te d b y h a n d to a v o id c o n ta c t w ith th e s ic k le ),
but alw ays in a c c o r d a n c e w ith a sp e c ia l ritu a l. T h e ritu a l m u rd e r o f th e field m a y be
enacted in th e sa c rifice o f an a n im a l w h ic h is b o th its e m b o d im e n t a n d its s u b s titu te .73
It m ay also h e p e rfo rm e d on th e la st sh e a f its e lf, trea te d lik e a s a c rific ia l a n im a l: in
one tra d itio n (o b s e rv e d in c e n tra l K a b y lia b y Jean S e r v ie r ) , th e m a ste r o f th e field
turns to fa c e th e e a st, la y s th e la st sh e a f on th e g r o u n d w ith its " h e a d ” to w a rd s th e
east, as if it w e re an o x , a n d sim u la te s c u ttin g its th ro a t, le ttin g a h a n d fu l o f so il trick le
from h is le ft h a n d in th e m id d le o f th e w o u n d to re p re sen t b le e d in g . F in a lly , in th e
S ou m m am reg i ° n » th e la st sh e a f m a y b e trea te d as if it w e re a d e a d m a n a n d be b u rie d
in an e a s tw a rd -fa c in g g r a v e to th e a c c o m p a n im e n t o f p ra y e rs ( chahada ) an d ch a n ts
an n ou n cin g its re s u rre c tio n ( e .g . " D i e , d ie , O fie ld , o u r m a ster c a n b r in g y o u back
to life! ” ). E v e n w h e n w h a t se e m s to b e th e o rig in a l fo rm o f th e ritu a l h as d isa p p e a re d
(as it has in G r e a t K a b y lia ) , it is still th e m a ster o f th e field w h o re a p s th e last sh e a f
and b rin g s it b a c k to th e h o u se , w h e re it is h u n g fro m th e m a in b e a m . R e su rre c tio n
can co m e o n ly th r o u g h re p e titio n o f th e p rim a l m a rria g e o f sk y a n d e a r t h : a n d fo r
this reason th e h a rv e st rites r e a p p ly th e lo g ic o f th e ra in -m a k in g rite s a t a tim e w h en
rain is n o t re q u ire d fo r its sp e c ific a lly te c h n ica l fu n c tio n (w h ic h is n e v e r a u to n o m iz e d )
and can o n ly se r v e th e p u rp o se o f r e v iv ify in g th e sa cre d stre n g th o f th e c o rn or th e
field. T h u s th e w h o le a p p a ra tu s o f th e ra in -m a k in g rite s re a p p e a rs , w it h th e ch a ra cte rs
(A n za r an d h is w ife G h o n ja , h e re p re s e n tin g rain an d th e s k y , a n d sh e th e y o u n g v irg in
soil, th e b r id e , e tc .) an d th e o b je c ts (d o lls , b a n n e rs) wrh ic h fig u r e in it. S o m e tim e s
one e ven fin d s th e m a rria g e b y a b d u c tio n o f th e h o e in g g a m e s.

T h e p lo u g h in g cerem on y, another ritual in ten d ed to san ction th e u nion o f


contraries, can n ot be fully und erstood u n less on e know s that th e period
follow ing th e harvest, w ith its rites to en su re the perp etu ation o f th e fecu n d at
ing principle, is a time o f separation, d evoted to the m anly v irtu es, the point
of honour and co m b a ts .74 L a k h r if, an extra-ordinary period o f p len ty and rest,
which cannot be defined eith er as a labour period, lik e p lo u g h in g and
harvesting, or as a p roduction p eriod, like w inter and sp rin g , is th e male tim e
par ex cellen ce, w h en the group op en s up to the ou tsid e w orld and m ust
confront outsiders, in feasts and in w ar, so as to knit alliances w h ich , like
extra-ordinary m arriages, are far from exclu d in g ch allenge. L ik e th e grain set
aside as seed corn, w hich w ill be kept in a state of separation , the you n g boy
is sym bolically torn from the fem ale wrorld b y circu m cision , a cerem on y from
w hich w om en are rigorously exclu d ed , the fu n ction o f w h ich is to co-op t the
boy into the w orld o f m en by m eans o f an operation regarded as a second
birth, a purely m ale ev en t th is tim e , on e w h ich , as th e sa y in g go es, "m akes
*nen ”. In on e variant of the ritual, th e new ly circu m cised b o y s are surrounded
by tw o or three con centric circles o f m en seated on plough sh ares w ith their
rifles in their h a n d s .75 T h e land itself is d ivested o f every trace of life as the
trees are strip p ed , th e last fruit p ick ed , and any rem aining veg eta tio n uprooted
from th e fields and gard en s. T h e state o f separation en d s, for the natural
w orld, w ith aw djeb , the solem n inauguration o f the p lo u g h in g , w hich ce le
136 G en erative schemes an d p ra ctica l logic

brates the m arriage of the sky and the earth, the p lough sh are and the furrow
b y the co llectiv e en actm en t o f a w h ole range o f m im etic practices, including
hum an m arriage.
T h e return to the ordinary order is also m arked b y the reassertion of the
prim acy of th e stren gth en in g of kin-group u n ity over the p ursuit of distant
alliances, w ith thimechret, th e sacrifice o f an ox at th e door of the year; its
throat is cu t, its b lood is sprinkled on the grou n d , callin g dow n rain, and the
consecrated m eat is shared ou t am ong all m em b ers o f th e com m u n ity. This
sacrifice, in ten d ed to sanction th e im p osition o f the hum an order on fecund
but w ild nature (sym b o lized b y the jackal, " w h o has n o h o u s e ” and feeds
on raw flesh - a z e g z a w - and b lo o d ), is a m eal o f alliance. In solem nly
reaffirm ing th e b on d s of real or official b lood k inship w h ich u n ite all living
m em bers of th e adhrum ( thaym ats) in and through th e original com m unity
(th a d ja d ith ), that is, the relation to com m on ancestors, the source of all
fecu n d ity , th is act of sacred com m en sality p roclaim s th e specifically human
(i.e . m ale) order o f the oath of loyalty, against nostalgia for the struggle of
all against all, again em b od ied in the jackal (or w om an , the source of division)
and his sacrilegiou s cu n n in g (th ah raym ith ). L ike th e natural w orld , within
w h o se d om esticated fertility lie the o n ly half-tam ed forces of a w ild nature
(th ose em b o d ied and exp loited b y th e old w itc h ), the social order sp ru ng from
the oath w h ich tears the assem b ly o f m en from the disorder of individual
interests rem ains haunted b y con scio u sly repressed nostalgia for the state of
nature.

T h i s p h ilo s o p h y o f h is to ry , im p lic it in th e w h o le ritu a l c a le n d a r, is ex p resse d in


a ta le : " T h e a n im a ls o n c e m e t to g e th e r in an assembly a n d swore n ot to p re y on one
a n o th er a n y lo n g e r , a n d to liv e on e arth in p e a c e . T h e y c h o se the lio n to be th eir
k i n g . . . d e v is e d la w s, a n d d e fin e d s a n c t io n s . . . T h e a n im a ls liv e d in p e a c e . . . L ife
w o u ld h a v e b e e n fin e if J a c k a l, th e lio n ’s c o u n s e llo r, had n ot ru in ed e v e r y th in g . He
w a s an o ld h a n d at e v e ry s o rt o f treachery . . . a n d h e re g re tte d th e fo rm e r state o f affairs;
th e sm ell o f fresh meat and warm blood , w h ic h w e re n o w fo rb id d e n , u se d to se n d him
in to a f r e n z y . . . H e d e c id e d to re s o rt to guile ( thahraymith ) and s e c re tly to in cite the
c o u rtie rs to d is o b e y , on e a fte r a n o th e r - th e w o rk o f a d e m o n .”76 In th e sam e tale,
th e jackal eats th e a n im a ls h e is s u p p o s e d to b u r y . H e h a s th e ta sk of fe tc h in g w ater.
A n o th e r fe a tu re h e sh a re s w ith w o m a n is th a t he is twisted: " t h e y p u t a ja c k a l’s tail
d o w n a rifle b a rr e l fo r fo r t y d a y s , a n d w h e n th e y to o k it o u t a g a in , it w a s ju s t as b e fo r e . ’
M o re o v e r, lik e w o m a n , he divides, a n d d o e s so b y h is c u n n in g .

Rite m u st resolve b y m ean s o f an op eration socially approved and collec


tively assu m ed - that is, in accordance w ith the lo g ic o f the taxonom y that
g iv es rise to it - the specific con trad iction w h ich the prim al d ich otom y makes
inevitable in co n stitu tin g as separate and an tagon istic p rin cip les that m u st be
reunited in order to en su re the reprodu ction o f the grou p . By a practical d enial,
not an in d ivid u al, asocial on e like that d escrib ed by F reud , but a co llectiv e,
Reunion o f contraries and denial '37

ublic denial (as in all b elief), rite neutralizes the dangerou s forces con tained
jn the w ild , u n tam ed , natural nature of w om an or the earth, as w ell as those
that may be u n leash ed b y violation of its haram , tran sgression o f th e sacred
lim it -77 E nacted in this w ay. collectiv ely and p u b licly , th rou gh th e in ter
mediary o f an authorized d elegate, in accordance w ith the arbitrarily pre
scribed rules of a ritual, sacrilege is sym b olically d en ied in th e very act in
which it is p erform ed. A ctin g as a delegated representative of the grou p , and
also as a scapegoat d esignated to con fron t the cu rse of the earth, th e m an to
whom it falls to op en th e p lou gh in g, "th e m an of the w e d d in g ”78 as he is
som etim es k now n, solem n ly reprodu ces, w ith h is p lough sh are b o m of a
thunderbolt, th e m arriage o f sky and earth, th e archetypal fecun dation w hich
is the con d ition of the su ccess of all hum an acts o f fecu n d a tio n .79 M ale and
female, w et and dry, are in a sen se separated o n ly so as to be reu n ited , sin ce
only their u n ion - in p lou gh in g or m arriage - can free them from th e negative
properties (n egative o n ly in the respect in q u e stio n , that of fecu n d ity ) that
are associated w ith them so long as th ey rem ain in th e odd-num bered, imperfect
state of sep a raten ess .80 T h e ploughshare, an in stru m en t wrhich is forged in
another reunion o f contraries, the tempering of iron, and has th e sam e nam e
as the th u n d erb olt, thagursa, is in itself dry and sterile, like the seed it
introduces in to th e earth: it is a source o f fertility on ly through th e violen ce
it inflicts. A s for the earth, left to itself it returns to sterilitv or the w ild
fecundity of fallow land, w h ich , tw isted and m align ant like th e m aid en , cannot
produce all its b en efits u nless it is forced and violated , and also raised and
straightened.
T h e rites of p lo u g h in g ow e th eir com p lex ity to th e fact that th ey m ust not
only sanction the u nion of op p osites but also facilitate that state o f th e u n ion
of contraries in w h ich suprem acy tem porarily p asses to the fem ale p rin cip le:
the seed tem porarily con d em ned to d ryn ess and sterility returns to life only
through im m ersion in fem ale w e tn e s s ;81 b u t the future o f the grain (for the
earth, like the ew e, m ay fail to b rin g forth - tham azgults, from zgel, to m isfire)
depends on fem ale pow ers w hich the act o f fecu n d atio n has had to force. T h e
door of th e y e a r ” is not the m o m en t w hen th e year b eg in s (it has no
b egin ning, b ein g an everlasting b eg in n in g a n e w ); it is the m om en t w h en , like
the h ou se, w hich m ust rem ain op en to the fecu n d atin g ligh t of th e su n , the
year o p en s up to the m ale principle w h ich fecu n d ates and fills it. P lou ghin g
and so w in g mark the cu lm in ation of the m o v em en t of the o u tsid e in to the
m side, the em p ty in to th e full, th e dry in to th e w et, su n lig h t in to earthly
shadow s, the fecu n d atin g male in to the fertile fem ale.
M arriage rites and p lou gh in g rites ow e their n um erous sim ilarities to the
fact that their objective intention is to san ction the u n ion of contraries w hich
is th e co n d itio n of the resurrection of th e grain and th e reproduction of the
G en erative schemes and practical logic

grou p . T h is d ialectic of death and resurrection is exp ressed in the saying (often
u sed now adays in another sen se w h en sp eak ing o f gen eration conflicts):
" F rom life they draw death, from death th ey draw lif e ” (a sch em e which
reappears in th e riddle: " S o m eth in g dead ou t of som eth in g liv in g ” - an egg.
" S o m eth in g liv in g ou t o f som eth in g d e a d ” - a ch ick ). T h e sacrifice and
co llective eatin g of the ox is a m im etic representation of th e cycle of the grain,
w hich m ust d ie so as to feed the w hole com m u n ity, and wrh ose resurrection
is sym b olized by the solem n m eal b rin gin g together the w h o le com m un ity
in a recalling of the dead. A s is show n by th e status of the ou tsider, th e man
w h o cannot " c ite ” any ascendant and w ill not be " c ite d ” b y any descendant
( asker, to cite and also to resurrect) the grou p m em bersh ip that is affirmed
by gathering together in com m en sality im p lies the p ow er to recall ascendants
.and the certainty o f b ein g recalled b y d escen d an ts. T h e return of the dead,
that is, resurrection, is called for by every asp ect o f sy m b o lism , particularly
that of cook in g: thu s the broad bean, the m ale, dry seed par ex cellen ce, akin
to the b on es, the refuge of th e sou l wraitin g for resurrection, is served in the
cou scous offered to the dead at th e start th e p lou gh in g (and also on the eve
of feast d ays, especially th e eve o f A chu ra ) ; it is on e o f the articles thrown
into the first furrow'; it is u sed in the b o iled d ish es alw ays served on such
occasions: an alm ost transparent sy m b ol of the dead (" I put a bean in the
g r o u n d ”, runs a ridd le, "and it d id n ’t com e u p ” - a dead m a n ), w h ose food
it is (" I saw the dead n ib b lin g b e a n s” - I alm ost d ied ), it is predisposed
to carry the sym b olism of death and resurrection as a d esiccated seed
w h ich , after ritual burial in the dam p w om b of nature, sw ells and com es up
again, m ore n um erous, in sp rin g (w h en it is the first sign o f plant life to
appear ).82
A s acts o f procreation, that is, of re-creation, m arriage and p lou gh in g are
b oth con ceiv ed of as m ale acts o f op en in g and sow in g d estin ed to produce
a fem ale action o f sw ellin g , and it is logical that ritual en a ctm en t should
m ob ilize on the one hand everyth in g that op en s (keys, n a ils), ev eryth in g that
is open (u n tied hair and g ird les, trailing garm en ts), everyth ing that is sw eet,
so ft, and w hite (sugar, h o n ey , dates, m ilk ), and on the other hand everything
that sw ells and rises (pancakes, fritters, seed s w hich sw ell w h ile cooking -
ufthyen), everyth in g that is m u ltip le and tig h tly packed (grains o f seksu,
co u scou s, or berkukes, coarse cou scou s, pom egranate seed s, fig se ed s), every
th in g that is fu ll (eg g s, n uts, alm ond s, p om egranates, fig s), the m ost effective
• • • • 83
objects and actions b ein g th ose wrhich com p oun d the various properties.
S u ch are the egg, the sym b ol par excellen ce of that w hich is full and pregnant
w ith life, or th e pom egranate, w'hich is at on ce fu ll, sw o llen , and m ultip le,
and of w hich on e riddle says, " Granary upon granary, the corn in sid e is red ,
and another: " N o bigger than a p ou n d in g-ston e, and its ch ild ren are more
Reunion o f contraries an d denial *39

than a h u n d r ed .” A nd a w h ole aspect of the m ulti-fu n ctional action perform ed


in p lough in g and marriage is su m m ed up in th e plough m an 's gestu re of
breaking (felleq , to b urst, sp lit, d eflow er) a pom egranate or an egg on his
ploughshare.

T he first tim e the yoke of oxen, the plough, and the seed corn set out for the fields
and the m om ent of the bride’s arrival in her new house are marked by the same rites.
Th e girl is w elcom ed on the threshold by the "old w om an ” who holds the “ sieve of
the traditions”, containing fritters, eggs, wheat, beans, dates, nuts, dried figs,
pomegranates, etc. T h e bride breaks the eggs on the head of the mule that bears her,
wipes her hands on its mane, and throws the sieve behind her, and the children who
have follow ed her scram ble (num ber = abundance) to pick up the titbits it contained.
Similarly, the “ ploughing siev e ” w hich, depending on the local traditions, may be
carried by various persons (the ploughm an, his w ife) at various tim es (in the morning,
when the ploughm an leaves the house, or on his arrival in the fields, when he yokes
the oxen, or at the tim e of the m idday m eal), always contains pancakes, dried beans,
wheat, and a pomegranate, w hich the ploughm an throws into the furrows over the
oxen and the plough, and which the children scram ble for (with countless variants,
such as th e s e : the ploughm an breaks tw o pomegram ates, a few wheatcakes, and som e
fritters on the ploughshare, and distributes the rest among those present; the offerings
are buried in the first furrow'). Endless exam ples could be given of features com m on
to the tw o rituals: the bride (and her procession) are sprinkled with milk and she
herself often sprinkles water and milk as she enters her new house, just as the mistress
of the house sprinkles the plough with water or milk as it leaves for the fields. T he
bride is presented with a key with which she strikes the lintel of the door (elsewhere
a key is put under her clothes as she is being d ressed ); a key is put in the bag of seed
corn and som etim es thrown into the furrow. T h e bridal procession is preceded by
a woman bearing a lamp ( mesbah) which represents sexual union, with the clay, the
oil and the flame of w hich it is com posed sym bolizing the constituent parts of the human
being - the body, the dam p, fem ale, vegetative soul, nefs (a word som etim es used as
a euphemism for the genitals, the seat of the "bad in stin cts” - thinefsith) and the dry,
male, subde soul, ruh (a euphem ism for the penis) ;M and on the first day of ploughing,
a lamp is taken to the fields and kept alight until the first delim ited plot of land
(thamtirth) has been sow n. T h e bride m ust not wear a girdle for seven days, and on
the seventh day her girdle m ust be tied by the m other of many sons; the woman w ho
carries the seed corn must avoid tying her girdle too tight and she m ust also wear
a long dress which trails behind in a lucky train ( abrur). T h e bride’s hair must remain
untied for the first seven days; the woman w ho carries the seed corn always lets her
hair hang loose. A lso com m on to both rituals are: rifle shots (in even num bers),
stone-throwing, and target-shooting, all of w hich frequently figure in the rain-making
rites as sym bols o f male sprinkling w hich have the power of untying that which is tied .85
T he bride’s life continues in this way under the sign of fertility: on the seventh day,
when she com es out of the house to go to the fountain for the first tim e, before
drawing water sh e throws into the spring the grains of corn and the beans which had
been placed under her bed; the first work she does is to sift the wheat, the noble task
Par excellence.
140 G en erative schemes an d practica l logic

M akin g use o f indeterm inacy

T h e propitiatory mise-en-scene through w h ich ritual action aim s at creating


the co n d itio n s favourable to the su ccess o f th e m iracle of the resurrection of
the grain by reprodu cing it sym b olically presen ts a certain n um ber of
am b igu ities w h ich appear, for exam p le, w hen one con sid ers th e ritual of the
last sheaf. In som e places the last sh eaf is "treated practically as a female
personification of the field (" th e strength o f the ea r th ”, " th e bride ”), on w hom
m ale rain, so m etim es personified as A n zar ,87 is called d ow n ; in others it is
a m ale (p h allic) sym bol o f " th e spirit o f the c o r n ”, d estined to return for a
w hile to d ryn ess and sterility before inaugurating a new cy cle of life by
p ouring dowrn in rain on to th e parched earth. T h e sam e am bigu ities reappear
in th e p lo u g h in g ritual, althou gh at first sigh t the acts ten d in g to favour the
w o rld ’s return to w etn ess (and in particular the rites sp ecifically in tend ed to
provoke rain, w h ich are p erform ed in identical form in sp rin g) can be
co m b in ed q u ite logically w ith the action s in ten d ed to favour th e act of
fecu n d ation , p lo u gh in g or m arriage, as the im m ersion of the dry in the wet,
celestial seed in th e fertile earth. In the p resen ce of rain, dry w ater, w'hich
through its h eaven ly origin partakes of solar m alen ess, w hile on the other hand
it partakes of w et, terrestrial fem in in ity , the sy stem of classification hesitates.
T h e sam e is true o f tears, u rin e, and b lo o d , m uch u sed in the hom oeopathic
strategies of the rain-m aking rites, and also sem en , w hich g iv e s n ew life to
w om an as rain d oes to the earth, and of w h ich it m ay be said indifferently
either that it sw ells or that it m akes sw ell, like beans or w heat in the cooking
p o t .88 H e n c e the h esitation s o f m agical practice, w hich , far from being
troubled b y th ese a m b igu ities, takes advantage of th e m .89A fter system atically
catalogu in g the m u ltip le variants o f th e rain-m aking rites, L aou st (th e only
an th rop ologist to have seen th e con trad iction clearly) infers th e fem ale nature
o f thislith, th e betrothed (or thlonja, th e lad le), a d oll m ade o u t o f a ladle
dressed like a b rid e, w hich is taken round in a p rocession w hile rain is called
d o w n . T h e m eticu lou sn ess and rigour o f h is in ven tory provide u s w ith the
m eans of graspin g the p rop erties w h ich m ake of th e " doll ” o f the rain-m aking
rites, h oein g rites (it is " M a ta ” w h ose ab du ction is sim u la ted ), and harvest
rites a b ein g w'hich is unclassifiab le from th e p oint of view of the very system
o f classification o f w h ich its p rop erties are the p rod uct. First, there is a nam e,
thislith, w h ich m ay w ell be no m ore than a eu p h em ism to d en o te a phallic
sym b ol, and w h ich , b y en co u ra g in g the " fe m a le ” reading, orien ts th e ritual
action s, sin ce b ein g m ale it sprinkles and b ein g fem ale it is sp rin kled . T h en
there is a sh ap e, an am b igu ou s on e for the taxonom y itself, sin ce the ladle
can be treated as a h ollow , liq u id -filled ob ject w h ich sprinkles, or as a h ollow ,
M ak in g use o f indeterm inacy 14 1

em pty object asking to be sprinkled. F in ally, there is a fu n ctio n , that o f the


ladle itself, an im p lem en t m ade to sprinkle or to serve from the (fem ale)
cooking-pot.
Here is a series of scattered, contradictory observations, w hich were collected in
the hope of rem oving the am biguity of the ladle but only serve to confirm it. (1) On
her w edding day the bride plunges the ladle into the pot: she w ill bear as many sons
as she brings up pieces of m eat. (2) A proverb: “ W hatever there is in the cooking-pot,
the ladle will bring it u p .” (3) T h e ladle is hung on a piece o f string so that it balances
evenly, in front of a piece of wheatcake; if it dips tow ards the wheatcake, the hoped-for
event w ill occur. (4) Of a man who cannot do anything w ith his hands: " H e’s like
the ladle.” (5) Y ou must never hit anyone w ith a ladle: either the im plem ent w ould
break (there is only one in the house) or the person struck w ould break. (6) A man
must never eat out of the ladle (to taste the soup, as the w om en d o ) : the consequence
would be storm s and rain w hen he marries. (7) If a man scrapes the bottom of the
pot with the ladle, it is bound to rain on his w edding day. (8) T o som eone using a
tool clum sily: “ W ould you have eaten with the ladle ? ” - if one eats with the ladle one
is liable to be cheated. T h is sort of taxonom ic hesitation is not u n co m m o n : it can be
found in relation to m oonlight ( tiziri), the unlooked-for light, or em bers (times, a word
which is taboo in the presence of men and is replaced by eu p h em ism s), a fem ale fire
which consum es and is consum ed, like passion ( thinefsith, a dim inutive of nefs which
we have already encountered), under the ashes, a crafty, treacherous fire which
suggests female sexuality (as opposed to the flame, ahajuju, w hich purifies and sets
alight); or even in relation to clearly attributed objects like the egg, the sym bol par
excellence of fem ale fertility, which also partakes of the male through its colour (w hite)
and its name ( thamellalts, plural ihimellalin, egg; 1mellalen, the w hite (m asculine
plural), the testicles of the adult; ihimellalin, the w hite (fem inine plural), eggs, the
child’s testicles). But, because the fundam ental schem es are roughly congruent, the
divergences never run, as they do here, into contradiction.
The uncertainty of usage duplicates the uncertainty of significance: because the
ritual use that can be made of an object depends on the m eanings it is given by the
taxonom y, it is not surprising that when agents are dealing, as they are here, with
objects w hose properties are a challenge to the system o f classification, they should
put them to uses quite incom patible with som e o f the m eanings that they could have
outside that relationship (especially in situations like drought, w hen the urgency of
practical necessity requires agents to relax the dem ands of logic even further and to
make use of anything that will serve). And because the m eaning of a sym bol is only
ever fully determ ined in and through the actions it effects or undergoes (the raven,
for exam ple, being less om inous when it flies from w est to east), the uncertainties
of the interpretation sim ply reflect the uncertainties of the use that the agents th em
selves may make of a sym bol so overdeterm ined as to be indeterm inate even from
the point of viewr of the schem es which determ ine it (the error in this case lying in
wanting to im pose decision on the undecidable, in decreeing male or female a
sym bol wrhich different practices treat indifferently as dry or w et, fecundating or
fecundable). T h e cultural artefact, thisliih thought and fashioned for the specifically
cultural needs of rite, is thus endowed w ith the plurality o f aspects (different or
even contradictory ones) w hich the objects of the world possess until the cultural
system of classifications frees them from it through the arbitrary selection w hich it
effects.
With this example we draw near the principle of practical logic, wrhich functions
142 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

practically only by taking all sorts of liberties w ith the m ost elem entary principles of
logical logic: thus the sam e sym bol can relate to realities that are opposed even frorri
the standpoint of the axiom atics of the system - or rather, w e m ust include in that
axiom atics the fact that the system does not exclude contradiction. If being able to
write out the algebra of practical logics is not a p rio n unthinkable, it can be seen that
the precondition of doing so w ould be the know ledge that logical logic, which only
ever speaks of them negatively in the very operations through which it constitutes itself
by denying them , is not prepared to describe them w ithout destroying them . It would
sim ply be a question of constructing the m odel of this pa rtia lly integrated system of
generative schem es w hich, p a rtia lly mobilized to deal with each particular situation,
in each case produces, w ithout acceding to discourse and the logical verifiablity which
it makes possible, a practical “ d efin ition ” of the situation and of the functions of the
action - alm ost always m ultiple and overlapping - and, in accordance w ith a combina
tive logic at once com plex and inexhaustible, generates the appropriate actions to fulfil
these functions given the m eans available. M ore precisely, one only has to compare
the diagrams corresponding to the different dom ains of practice - the agrarian year,
cooking, the w om en ’s work, the day - to see that these different series spring from
different schem es: the oppositions betw een the wret and the dry, the cold and the hot,
and the full and the em pty, in the case o f the agrarian year; betw een the w et and the
dry (in the form of the boiled and the roast, tw o form s o f the cooked), the bland and
the spiced, in the case of cooking; betw een the dark and the light, the cold and the
hot, the inside (or the closed) and the outside in the case of the day; betw een the
fem ale and the male, the tender (green) and the hard (dry), in the case of the cycle
of life. T h en one w ould only have to add other structured universes, such as the space
inside the house or the parts of body, to see other principles at w'ork: above and below,
east and w est, etc. T h ese different schem es are at once partially independent and more
or less closely interconnected: thus the opposition dry/w et (or drying/soaking) can
be used to generate practices or sym bols that cannot be produced directly from the
opposition inside/outside or darkness/light, and vice versa; on the other hand, there
is a direct passage from hot/cold to dry/w et, whereas hot/cold is connected with
inside/outside only through the intermediary of light/darkness, and the path to
oppositions like standing up/lying dow n, em pty/fu ll, or above/below is even longer.
In other w ords, each of the oppositions constituting the system can be linked with
all the others, but along paths o f varying length (w hich may or may not be reversible),
i.e. at the end of a series of equivalences which progressively em pty the relationship
of its content (e .g . w aking/sleeping ~ outside/inside ~ standing u p /lyin g down ~
east/w est ~ light/darkness ~ hot/cold ^ spiced/bland); m oreover, each opposition
can be linked with several others in different respects by relations of differing intensity
and m eaning (e.g . spiced/bland can be directly related to m ale/fem ale and less directly
to strong/w eak or em p ty/fu ll, through the intermediary, in the latter case, of
m ale/fem ale and dry/w et, them selves interconnected). It follow s that all the opposi
tions do not have the same role in the system ; it is possible to distinguish secondary
oppositions w hich specify the principal oppositions in a particular respect and have
a low yield on account of this (yellow /green, a sim ple specification of d ry/w et), and
central oppositions (such as m ale/fem ale or dry/w et) strongly interconnected w ith all
the others by logically very diverse relations w hich constitute arbitrary cultural
necessity (e .g . the relations betw een fem ale/m ale and inside/outside or left/right,
tw isted/straight, below /ab ove). G iven that, in practice, no more than one particular
sector of the system of schem es is m obilized at any one tim e (w ithout all the
connections with the other oppositions ever being entirely severed) and that the
T he habitus an d homologies *43
d iffe r e n t schem es m obilized in different situations are partially autonom ous and
rtially linked w ith all the others, it is natural that all the products of the application
of th e s e schem es, both individual rites and series of ritual actions such as the rites
0f p a s s a g e , should be partially congruent and should appear as roughly, that is,
p ra c tic a lly , equivalent to anyone possessing practical m astery of the system of
sc h e m e s .90

T h e habitus a n d homologies

T he presence of sym b olically identical ob jects or acts in the rituals associated


with such d ifferen t ev en ts in the ex isten ce of m an and th e land as funerals,
ploughing, h arvestin g, circu m cisio n , or m arriage can n ot and n eed not be
exp lain ed in any other w ay. T h e partial co in cid en ce o f th e sign ification s w hich
the practical ta xon om ies con fer on th ese ev en ts is m atched b y the partial
coincidence o f the ritual acts and sy m b o ls, w h ose p o lysem y is perfectly
appropriate to the requ irem en ts o f essen tially " m u lti-fu n ctio n a l” p ractices.
An agent d oes not need sy m b o lic m astery o f the co n cep ts of sw elling (or
durable sw elling) and resurrection to associate the d ish called ufthyen, a m ixture
of w heat and b ean s w h ich sw ells w h en b o iled , w ith the cerem o n ies of
marriage, p lo u g h in g , or burial, through the interm ediary o f w hat is there
subordinate to th e " resu rrectio n ” fu n ction ; or to rule out eatin g th is dish
("because the gu m w ou ld stay s w o lle n ”) w hen teeth are b ein g cu t (in favour
of thibujajin, a sort o f pancake w h ich as it cook s form s b u b b les w h ich burst
at once) and on the occasion of circu m cision , w hich as a rite o f purification
and virilization, that is to say, of breaking w ith th e fem ale wrorld, is seen
syncretically as associated w ith the dry, fire, and v io len ce, g iv e s a pro
m inent place to target-sh ootin g, and is accom pan ied b y roast m eat. B ut th is
does not p revent the d ish b ein g associated w ith target-sh ootin g in at least
one variant o f the ritual of a m u lti-fu n ction al cerem on y like m arriage, in
w hich " in te n tio n s” of virilization (o p en in g ) and fertilization (sw ellin g ) are
com b ined.
A pp lication of the sam e sch em es in fields as different as the " calen d a rs”
of co ok in g or of the w o m e n ’s tasks, the series of m om en ts in th e day or th e
cycle of life, is th e prin cip le u n d erly in g the h o m o lo g ies w h ich analysis
discovers in practices and w orks. T h u s , to exp lain the essen tial features of
the series o f ordinary and extraordinary d ish es wrh ich , on accou n t o f th e
participation-rite fu n ctio n conferred on eatin g ,91 are associated w ith the
different p eriods of th e agrarian year (see fig. 4) on e on ly has to g o to th e
op position b etw een tw o classes of food and tw o classes o f operations: on one
side there are the dry food s (cereals (w heat and b arley), dried vegetab les
(beans, peas, ch ick peas, len tils, e t c .) , dried m eat) w h ich are boiled in w a ter,
unspiced, in the cooking-pot, in doors, or (w h ich am ou n ts to the sam e th in g)
*44
T he habitus a n d homologies r45

gteam ed, or raised w ith leaven (fritters), op eration s w hich all m ake th e food
##//; and on th e other sid e there are th e raw, green , or fresh fo o d s (three
m eanings of th e w ord a z e g z a w , associated w ith sp rin g and u nripe corn) w hich
are eaten r a w (as ten d s to b e th e case in sp rin g) an d /or boiled or grilled (on
the griddle, bufrah) and h ea v ily sp iced (as in su m m er ).92 A nd th e variations
0bServed are fu lly accoun ted for w hen on e has n oted that the first com b in ation
is characteristic of late au tu m n and w in ter, the period w h en the dry is
m oistened and the fertilized earth and w om an are ex p ected to s w e ll, w hereas
the second is associated w ith sp rin g, a tran sitional season, and su m m er, the
period of d esicca tio n o f th e w et and separation from the fem ale, w hen
evervthing that has d ev elo p ed in w ard ly, like grains of w heat and beans
(ufthyen) m u st op en out and ripen in th e ligh t o f d a y .93

Without entering into a description - strictly speaking, an interm inable one, ow ing
to the innum erable variants - of the feast-day dishes w hich in a sense concentrate the
characteristic properties o f the cooking associated w ith the various periods, it is
nonetheless possible briefly to indicate their pertinent features, bearing in mind that
the dishes differ not so m uch in their ingredients as in the processes applied to them ,
which strictly define cooking (so that certain " polysem ous ” item s reappear at different
times of the year and in very different rites: for exam ple w heat, of course, but also
broad beans, which figure in the meals of p loughing tim e, the first day of January,
harvest tim e, funerals, e tc .). On ploughing days, the meal eaten outside in the fields
is, as always, m ore m ale, i.e. " d rier”, than the food of autum n and winter as a w hole,
which is boiled or steam ed, like th e food eaten at the tim e of w eddings or burials; but
the meal taken in the evening after the first day’s ploughing always consists of boiled
cereals, with num erous variants, or a coarse-grained, unspiced couscous, a dish
explicidy excluded from the m eal of the first day of spring (" because the ants would
multiply like the grains of sem o lin a ”) or ufthyen, made from grains of wheat and beans
cooked in wrater or steam , or abisar, a sort of thick bean puree, the food o f the dead
and of resurrection (these dishes are always associated w ith m anv-seeded fruit,
pomegranates, figs, grapes, nu ts, or sw eet foods, honey, dates, e tc., sym bols of
"easiness”). W heatcake, the dry, male food par excellence, m ust not be cooked during
the first three days of p lo u g h in g ; it is even said that if roast meat were eaten (the meat
of the thimechretox is eaten b oiled ), the oxen would before long be injured in the neck.
The couscous (berkukes) eaten on the first day of ennayer contains poultry, typically
female (am ong other reasons because the fowl are the w om en ’s personal property).
But it is no doubt on the eve of th is day (som etim es called the "old w o m e n ” of
ennayer) that the schem e generating w inter food, that of m oistening the dry, shows
through m ost clearly: on that day, people must eat nothing but boiled, dry grains
(som etim es with fritters), and m ust eat their fill; they must not eat m eat ("so as not
to break the b o n e s”) or dates (" so as not to expose the sto n e s”). T h e meal eaten on
the first day of ennayer (A chura) is very similar to that of the first day of ploughing:
it is always substantial (being an inaugural rite) and consists of abisar or berkukes and
fitte r s , or boiled cereal. From the first day of spring, as well as the traditional
elem ents of fertility-giving food (couscous cooked in the steam o f adhris, thapsia, which
causes sw elling, hard-boiled eg g s, which m ust be eaten to satiety), the diet includes
grilled cereals (w hich the children eat outdoors), raw, green produce (beans and other
146 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

vegetables) and milk (warmed or cooked). W ith the return of a za l, dry pancakes dipped
in hot milk, and sem olina with butter, announce the dry, male food of sum m er. The
com bination characterizing the feast-day m eals of the dry season is wheatcake and
grilled meat with or w ithout couscous (depending mainly on whether it is eaten in
the fields or in the h o u se ); more ordinary m eals consist of wheatcake dipped in oi7
(a dry, male food contrasting w ith wet, fem ale butter) and dried figs and also, f0r
indoor meals, grilled fresh vegetables.

T h e sam e structure reappears in the " calendar ” of the w o m en ’s w ork, w hich


co m p lem en ts th e farm ing "calendar ” to w h ich it is directly subordinated (see
fig. 5) . T h e action h o m ologou s w ith m arriage and p lo u g h in g , th e assem bly
of th e loom , w hose tw o u prights and tw o beam s - called the "sky b ea m ”
and th e "earth b e a m ”, or th e east beam an d w est beam - d elim it the weaving
just as the furrow d elim its the field, takes place in autum n (" th e figs and
blackberries are ripe, and w e have no b la n k e ts”): passers-by are offered figs,
d a tes, and alm on d s, and a m eal of m o ist, sw ellin g food ( tighrifin, fritters) is
e a te n .94 Like p lo u g h in g, w eavin g is a m arriage of sky and earth, and th e cloth
is the product o f a birth: thanslith, th e triangular m otif w ith w h ich w eaving
starts, is a sym b ol o f fecu n d ity (from th e root n s l , to b egin , to en gen d er);
unm arried girls m u st not sit astride th e thread, m arried w o m en m ay; the
cro ssin g o f the thread is called ruh, th e so u l .95 W eaving is th e w in te r
a ctivity, w'hich en d s w ith the w et season, in M ay. Just as the last sh eaf is often
cut b y hand, by the m aster o f the field, so it falls to the m istress of the house
to unfasten the w o v en clo th , w ithou t th e u se o f iron and after sprinkling it
w ith w ater, as is d on e to th e dead. Care is taken not to perform this
d angerou s operation in the presence of a m an: every birth b ein g a rebirth,
the law' o f th e eq u ivalen ce o f lives, a " s o u l” for a " s o u l”, is capable of
ex a ctin g th e death o f a hum an b ein g as the price o f the birth of the c lo th .96
W h en th e cloth has been rem oved , the loom is d ism antled and p ut awray for
the d uration of "the death o f the fie ld ”.

W ool and potter)', natural products, have much the same cycle. Pottery, being
derived from the earth, partakes of the life of the field ; the clay is collected in autumn,
but it is never worked in that season, nor in w inter, when the earth is pregnant, but
in spring. T h e unfired (azegzaw ) pottery dries slowly in the sun (w et-dry) w hile the
ears o f corn are ripening (the wet-dry p eriod). S o long as the earth bears the ears,
it cannot be baked; it is only after the harvest, when the earth is bare and no longer
producing, and fire is no longer liable to dry up the ears (the drv-dry period) that
baking can be carried out, in the open air (dry-dry).

T h e w o o l, w h ich is sheared at the en d of the cold period, is w ashed w ith


soap and w ater, at the m om en t w h en everyth in g is o p en in g and sw ellin g
( thafsuth) and b oiled in a pot into w hich so m e w heat and beans ( ufthyen) have
b een throwrn , so that the flocks o f w ool w ill sw ell like the ears of corn in the
^ p o rtin g

[.5 . The cycle of the w o m e n ’s a c tiv itie s


1 4 7
148 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

fields. It dries at th e sam e tim e as the p ottery, in the w et-d ry period. It is


carded w ith in stru m ents as typically " sh a r p ” and m ale as the carding-com b,
the sym b ol of separation and m ale rou gh n ess, a p rod uct o f the w ork of the
sm ith w h ich is u sed in the virilization rites and in the p rophylactic rites
in tend ed to ward off the diseases associated w ith ev en in g and the w e t .97
T h e structure of the day (w hich integrates the five M oslem prayers very
naturally) con stitu tes another, particularly leg ib le, product o f the applica
tion o f the sam e stru cturin g p rin cip les. T h e w et-season day is nocturnal even
in its diurnal p a rt: b ecau se the flock goes out and returns on ly on ce in the
course of th is day, it appears as an in com p lete form o f the dry-season dav
(see fig. 6).98 O n the day called "the return of a z a l ”, the threshold o f the
dry season , w hen the m istress of the house brings the fire out into the
courtyard and ligh ts the kanun in thim etbakth, there is an abrupt changeover
to a m ore com p lex rh ythm , defined by the d ou b le departure and return of
the f l o c k s t h e y g o out for the first tim e at daw n and com e back as soon
as the heat b ecom es b u rd en som e, that is, around eddoha\ the secon d departure
co in cid es w ith the m idday prayer, eddohor, and they return at nightfall.
Just as the year runs from au tu m n tow ards su m m er, m ovin g from w est to
east, so th e day (as) runs from th e ev en in g tow ards m idd ay: although the
w hole system is organized in accordance wTith the perfect cycle of an eternal
recurrence - even in g and au tu m n , old age and d eath, b ein g also the locu s of
procreation and sow in g - tim e is n on eth eless orien ted tow ards the culm inating
p oint represented b y m idd ay, su m m er, or m ature age (see fig. 7). N ig h t, in
its darkest part, the " s h a d o w s” of " th e m id d le o f the n ig h t”, w hich brings
m en , w o m en , and children togeth er in the m ost secret part o f the h ou se, close
to the anim als, in the closed , d am p, cold place o f sexual relations, a place
associated w ith death and the grave, is o p p o sed to the d ay, and more
precisely to its su m m it, a z a l, the m om ent w hen the ligh t and heat o f the sun
at its zen ith are at their stron gest. T h e link b etw een n ight and d eath, which
is underscored b y nocturnal so u n d s like the h ow lin g of d ogs and the grating
o f the sleep ers’ teeth , sim ilar to that of the d yin g , is m arked in all th e taboos
o f the even in g: the p ractices forb id d en - b ath ing, or even w and erin g round
stretches of w ater, especially stagnant, black, m u d d y , stin k in g wrater, looking
in m irrors, an ointin g th e hair, to u ch in g ashes - w ould have the effect of in
a sen se d o u b lin g the m alignancy o f th e nocturnal darkness through contact
w ith su b stan ces wThich are all en d ow ed wTith the sam e properties (and are in
som e cases interchangeable - the hair, m irrors, black wraters).
T h e m orn in g is a m o m en t o f transition and rupture, a threshold. Dawrn is
a stru ggle b etw een day and n igh t: it is d uring the hours b efore daybreak, as
the reign o f night com es to an en d , that the rites of e x p u lsio n and purification
Dry s e a s o n

5 a.m . flo c k g o e s o u t
el fjar m en go o u t
6 a .m . (to fie ld s a n d m a r k e t)

7 a.m.

8 a.m .

9 a.m.
eddoha - flo c k r e t u r n s i s t t i m e - flo c k g o e s o u t
i o a.m. lm e k li (m e a l) ^ m e n go o u t
( to f ie ld s a n d m a r k e t)
azal re st
*•’ ( le m q il) •* A
thanalth (snack)

1 p .m . flo c k g o e s o u t 2 n d t i m e .
cddohor A
2 pm . d e c lin e o f a za l
L
3 P-m . t h a n a l t h (s n a c k )

4 p .m . flo c k returns
el ‘aser

tim e spent
resting outdoors

I 1 tim e spent working (outdoors)

Fig. 6. Daily rhythms in summer and winter


1 5 0

ansaf ass
(middle ot the day)

F ig . 7. S tru c tu re of the dry-scason day


T h e habitus an d homologies

perform ed, and the break is m ade w ith darkness, ev il, and d eath, so that
0ne m ay "be in the m orn in g ”, i.e . op en to th e lig h t, the g o o d , and th e luck
that are associated w ith it (th is is, for exam p le, the m o m en t w h en the
semolina left overnight near the head o f a jealous baby, or on e afflicted by
transferred ev il - aqlab - is p ou red over h im ). E very m orn in g is a birth.
jylorning is the tim e for g o in g o u t, th e opening o f the day and an o p en in g up
to light (fa ta h , to o p en , b lo sso m , is sy n o n y m o u s w ith sebah} to be in the
m orning). It is an o p en in g first in the sen se that th is is the m om en t w h en
the day is born ( thallalith w a ss, the birth o f th e d ay), w h en " th e eye of the
light ” {th it antafath) o p en s an d th e h o u se and th e village, w h ich had clo sed
in upon th em selv es for th e n ig h t, pour out their m en and their flocks into
the fields. A n o p en in g too in the sen se of " b e g in n in g ” : m o rn in g is an
inaugural m om en t w h ich m en w orth y of the nam e feel it right to b e present
at and take part in ( esbah, to be p resen t, to b e alive in th e m o rn in g ).
" M orn in g”, it is said, " m ean s fa c ility .” T o get u p early is to place on iself
under favourable au spices ( leftah, o p en in g , good a u gu ry). T h e early riser is
safe from the en cou n ters w h ich b rin g m isfortu n e; w hereas the m an w h o is
last to set ou t on the road can have n o other com p an ion than th e on e-eyed
man (associated, like th e b lin d , w ith n igh t) w h o w aits for broad d ayligh t before
setting o u t, or th e lam e m an w h o lags b eh in d . T o rise at cockcrow is to put
one’s days in the p ro tectio n o f th e an gels of th e m o rn in g and to d o them
honour; it is, so to speak, to put o n eself in a state o f grace, to act in such
a way that " th e an gels d ecid e in o n e ’s s te a d ”. In fact the m orn in g, an
inaugural tim e b lessed by th e return of lig h t and life, is the best m o m en t for
making d ecisio n s and u n d ertak in g action : the inauguration rites w h ich mark
the days o f transition are p erform ed at daybreak, w h eth er it be the w aking
of the cattle at the w in ter so ls tic e , the renew al rites on the first day o f the
year (ennayer), th e sh ep h e rd s’ departure to gather p lants on the first day of
spring, the flock ’s g o in g ou t on the return o f a z a l, etc.
T h e m orn ing, like the h o m o lo g o u s period in th e agrarian year or hum an
life, sp rin g or ch ild h o o d , w o u ld be en tirely favourable - sin ce it m arks th e
victory of ligh t, life, and th e future over n ig h t, d eath, and the past - d id not
its p osition confer on it th e fearful pow er to d eterm in e th e future to w h ich
it b elon gs and w h ich it g overn s as th e inaugural term of the s e r ie s :100 thou gh
intrinsically b en eficent, it is frau ght w ith th e danger o f m isfortu n e, inasm uch
as it can d ecid e, for good or for ill, th e fate of the day. W e m ust take a closer
look at th is lo g ic , that of m agic, w h ich has perhaps never b een fully
und erstood , b ecau se it is all too easily half u nd ersto o d on th e basis o f the
quasi-m agical exp erien ce o f th e wrorld w h ich , u nd er th e effect o f em o tio n , for
exam p le, im p o ses itself even on th ose w h ose m aterial co n d itio n s of ex isten ce,
*52 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

and an in stitu tion al en viron m en t ten d in g to discourage it, best p rotect thein
against th is " regression W hen th e w orld is seen as " a fatal system ”101 whose
startin g-p oin t is its cau se, w hat h app en s in the w orld and w hat people do
govern w hat w ill happen and w hat w ill be d o n e. T h e future is already
inscribed in the p resen t in th e form of o m e n s .102 M en m ust d eciph er these
w arnings, not in order to su b m it to th em as a d estin y (like the em otion which
accepts th e future a n n ou n ced in th e p resen t) but in order to be able, if
n ecessary, to ch an ge th em : this is on ly an apparent con trad iction , since it is
in the nam e o f th e h yp o th esis o f the fatal system that a m an w ill try to remake
the future an n ou n ced in the p resen t by m aking a n ew present. M agic is fought
w ith m agic: th e m agical p oten cy o f the om en -p resen t is fought w ith conduct
aim ing to ch an ge th e startin g-p oin t, in th e nam e of the b elief, w hich was
the w h ole stren gth o f th e o m en , that th e sy ste m ’s starting-point is its cause.

M orning is the time w hen everything becom es a sign announcing good or ill to come.
A man who m eets som eone carrying milk sees a good om en in the encounter; a man
who hears the shouts of a quarrel w hile he is still in bed draws a bad om en from them.
Men anxiously watch for the signs (esbuh, the first encounter of the morning,
portending good or ill) through w hich evil forces may announce their im m inence, and
an effort is made to exorcize their effect: a man w ho m eets at dawn a blacksmith, a
lame man, a one-eyed m an, a wom an w ith an em pty goatskin bottle, or a black cat
must "remake his m orn in g”, return to the night by crossing the threshold in the
opposite direction, sleep again, and remake his "going o u t”. T h e w hole day (and
som etim es the wThole year or a m a n s w hole life, w hen it is the m orning of an inaugural
day) hangs on his know ing how to defeat the malignant tricks of chance. T h e magical
potency of words and things works w ith particular intensity here, and it is more than
ever necessary to use the euphem ism s which replace baleful words: of all the words
tabooed, the most dreadful are those expressing term inal acts or operations -
shutting, extinguishing, leaving, spreading - w hich m ight invoke an interruption, an
untim ely destruction, em ptiness (e.g . "T here are no dried figs left in the sto re”, or
the mere word "n o th in g ”) or sterility.103

A zaly and in particular thalmasth u z a l, the m id d le of a z a l, the m o m en t when


the su n is at its zen ith , n oon , th e m om en t w h en "azal is at its h o tte s t” (ihma
uzal), broad d ayligh t, is op p osed b oth to n ight and to m orning, first light,
the n octurnal part o f the d a y .104H om o lo g o u s w ith th e h ottest, driest, brightest
tim e o f th e year, it is th e day o f the d aytim e, th e dry of the dry, in a sen se
bringing the characteristic properties o f th e dry season to th eir fu llest
exp ression . It is the m ale tim e par excellen ce, th e m om en t w hen the m ark ets,
paths, an d /or fields are full (o f m e n ), w h en the m en are outdoors at th eir m en s
tasks .105 E ven the sleep of a z a l ( lam qil) is the ideal lim it of m ale rest, just
as the fields are the lim it o f the habitual places for sleep , such as th e threshing
floor, the driest and m ost m ascu lin e sp ot in the space close to th e h o u se, where
the m en often sleep ; one can see w hy a z a l, w h ich in itself partakes o f the
T he habitus an d homologies *53

dry a n d the sterile, sh o u ld be stron gly associated w ith the d esert (lakhla) of
the harvested field.
Eddohor, th e secon d prayer, roughly coin cid es w ith the en d of the a z a l rest:
this is the start of " th e d eclin e o f a z a l” , the en d o f th e fiercest heat (a zg h a l),
when for th e seco n d tim e the flocks set out for the fields and th e m en go
0ff to w ork. W ith the third prayer, eVasar, a z a l en d s and thameddith (or
thadugwalh) b e g in s : n ow " the m arkets have em p tied ” an d n ow too the taboos
of the ev en in g take effect. T h e d eclin e of th e sun ( agh aluy itij), w h ich " slop es
to the w e s t ”, is in a sen se the paradigm of all form s o f d eclin e, in particular
old age and all kind s of political d ecad en ce ( yeghli itij-is, his su n has fallen)
or physical decay (yegh li Iwerq-is): to g o w estw ard , tow ards the se ttin g sun
(ghereb, as o p p o sed to cherraq, to go tow ards the risin g su n ), is to go tow ards
darkness, n ight, d eath, like a h ouse w h ose w estw ard -facin g door can o n ly
receive sh adow s.
Pursuing the analysis o f the different fields o f application of the system
of generative sch em es, w e could b uild up a sort of sy n o p tic diagram of the
cycle o f life as stru ctured by the rites of passage: birth (w ith the practices
associated w ith th e cu ttin g o f th e um b ilical cord b y the qabla and th e rites
intended to p rotect the ch ild against evil s p e lls ) ; n am e-givin g on the third
or seven th day; the first tim e th e m oth er and ch ild co m e out of th e h ou se,
on the fortieth day (w ith , in the m ean tim e, all th e rites of "the breaking of
the link w ith the m o n th ”, thuksa an-tsucherka w a y u r , on th e third, sev en th ,
fourteenth, th irtieth , and fortieth d ays, to "break the association w ith the
month ” - to drive ou t evil and also to separate the ch ild p rogressively from
the fem ale w’o rld ); the "first v en tu r es” (in to th e courtyard, away from the
fam ily); the first haircut, a purificatory ritual o ften associated w ith the first
visit to th e m arket; circu m cision , m arriage, and burial. T h e cycle of th e rites
of passage is in fact subordinated to th e agrarian calendar w h ich , as w e have
seen, is itself n o th in g other than a su ccession o f rites o f passage.

This is primarily because in a number of cases the rites of passage are more or less
ex p lic itly associated with particular moments in the year, by virtue of the homology
betw een them a n d the moment in question; thus, for example, a birth is auspicious
*f it c o m e s at lahlal (or in the morning), ill omened if it comes at husum or in sla (or
th e afternoon betw een eVasar and el maghreb); early afternoon is the best time for
circum cision, but not w inter, and eVazla gennayer is the propitious m om ent for the
first haircut; autum n and spring (after eVazla) are the right tim es for marriage, which
ruled out on the last day of the year, at husum and nisan, and in May and June.
The springtim e rites (and in particular those of the first day of spring and the return
° f azal) set to work a sym bolism which applies as m uch to the unripe corn, s till,e bound,
fettered, k notted ” (igan), as to the lim bs of the baby w hich cannot yet walk ( aqnan
lfadnis) and remains in a sense attached to the earth .106 T h o se rites of passage that
are not linked to a particular period of the year always ow e som e of their properties

6 BO T
1 54 G en erative schemes and practica l logic

to the ritual characteristics of the period in w hich they are perform ed, a fact which
explains the essential features o f the variants observed. For exam ple, the beneficent
water of ntsan, a necessary com ponent in the rites specific to that period (like the
first milk in spring, the ears o f the last sheaf in sum m er, e tc .), also appears as
a supplem entary elem ent in the rites of passage w hich happen to take place at that
tim e.
B u t, at a d eep er level, it is the w h ole o f hum an ex isten ce that, b ein g the
p rod u ct o f th e sam e system of sch e m e s, is organized in a m anner hom ologous
to that o f th e agrarian year and the other great tem poral " series Thus
procreation (a k h la q y creation) is very clearly associated w ith ev e n in g , autumn,
and the d am p , nocturnal part of the h ouse. Sim ilarly, gesta tio n corresponds
to th e u nd ergrou nd life of th e grain, i.e . th e " n ig h ts ” ( l y a l i ) : the taboos of
p regnancy (o f fecu n d ity) are th e taboos o f ev e n in g and death (look in g in a
m irror at n igh tfall, e tc .); th e pregnant w om an , like the earth sw ollen in spring,
partakes o f the w orld o f the d ead (ju f, w h ich d en o tes the belly o f th e pregnant
w om an , also m eans north, the h om ologu e of n igh t and w in ter). G estation,
like germ in ation , is id en tified w ith cook in g in th e p o t: after ch ild b irth the
w om an is served th e b oiled food of w in ter, of the dead , and of ploughing,
in particular abisar (th e food of the dead and o f fun erals) w h ich , excep t on
th is occasion , is n ever eaten b y w o m en , coarse-grained cou sco u s b oiled in
water ( a b a zin ), pancakes, fritters, and eg g s. C hildb irth is associated w ith the
" o p en in g ” o f th e en d of w in ter, and all th e taboos on clo sin g that are
observed at that tim e reappear here (crossin g th e legs, fo ld in g th e arms,
clasping th e hands togeth er, w earing b racelets or rin g s). T h e hom ology
betw een sp rin g, ch ild h o o d , and m orn ing, inaugural p eriods o f uncertainty
and exp ectation , m an ifests itself in , a m on g other th in g s, the abundance of
p rogn ostication rites w h ich are practised th en . A lth ou gh d escrib ed as an
untim ely d estru ction (a n a d a m ), the harvest is not a death w ith o u t issue
( m a'dum, the bachelor, w h o d ies ch ild le ss), and m agic, w h ich allow s the profits
of contradictory action s to be co m p ou n d ed w ith ou t co n trad iction , is expected
to bring ab out resurrection in and through a n ew act of fecu n d a tio n . Sim ilarly,
old age, w h ich faces the w e st, the settin g su n , n ight and d eath, the dark
direction par ex cellen ce, is at the sam e tim e turned tow ards the east of
resurrection in a new b irth. T h e cycle en d s in death, that is, th e w est, only
for the ou tsid er (aghrib), the m an of the w est (elgharh) and o f exile (elghorba),
hence w ith o u t issu e (anger). H is grave is o ften u s e d - a s an exem plary
realization of u tter o b liv io n and annihilation - in th e rites for the expulsion
of evil: in a u niverse in w h ich a m an ’s social ex isten ce requires that he be
linked to h is ancestors through h is ascen dan ts and b e " c ite d ” and "resur
re c te d ” (asker) b y h is d escen d an ts, the death o f th e o u tsid er is the only
absolute form of d ea th .107
T he habitus an d homologies I 55
q'he different generations occupy different positions in th is cycle, diametrically
0osed for successive generations, those of father and son (since one conceives when
0ther is conceived, and enters old age w hen the other is in ch ild h ood ), and
dentical for alternate generations, those of grandfather and grandson (see fig. 8). Such
1 the logic w hich, making of birth a rebirth, leads the father w henever possible to
^ve his first-born son the name o f his own father (asker: to name and to resurrect).
And the fields go through a perfectly analogous cycle, that of tw o-year rotation: just
as the cycle o f generation is closed by A ’s death and resurrection, i.e . w hen B conceives
q so the cycle of the field is closed w hen field A, w hich has lain fallow , awaiting its
r e s u r r e c t i o n , for the duration of the life of the fecundated field B , is "raised from the
dead” by p loughing and sow ing, i.e . w hen field B is laid fallow.

fatherhood

B’s bi rth

s’ .

vV
. O'

A ’s b irth

Fig. 8. The cycle of reproduction

It is n o accid en t that the d ifficulties o f the G reek and C hinese ex eg etes b eg in


when th ey try to con stru ct and su p erim p ose series (in the sen se of
asym m etrical, tran sitive, " c o n n e c te d ” relation ship s w h ich R ussell g iv es the
word in his Introduction to M ath em atical Philosophy) :108 w h en one tries to push
the su p erim p o sitio n of the various series b eyon d a certain d egree o f refine
m ent, b eh in d the fun dam en tal h o m ologies (b rou gh t together in fig. 9),
difficulties b eg in to m u ltip ly system atically, d em on stratin g that true rigour
does not lie in an analysis w h ich tries to p u sh th e sy stem b eyon d its lim its,
by a b u sin g the p ow ers o f th e d iscou rse w h ich g iv e s v o ice to the silen ces of

6-2
156 G enerative schemes and pra ctica l logic

practice and b y ex p lo itin g th e m agic o f the w ritin g w hich tears practice and
discou rse o u t o f the flow' o f tim e .109 It is only w hen practical m etaphor,
schem e-tran sfer effected on the h ith er sid e of d iscou rse, b ecom es metaphor
or analogy that it is p ossib le, for exam p le, to w ond er like Plato w hether "it
was the earth that im itated w om an in b ecom in g pregnant and b rin gin g a being
in to the w orld , or w om an that im itated the e a r th ” (.Menexenus, 238a).
Ign oran ce o f the objective truth of practice as learned ignorance is the
source o f in nu m erab le theoretical errors, not least the error from which
W estern p h ilosop h y originated (and w hich an thropological scien ce endlessly
reprodu ces ).110 R ites and m yth s w h ich w ere " acted o u t ” in th e m ode of belief
and fulfilled a practical fu n ction as collective in stru m ents of sym b olic action
on the natural w orld and above all on th e grou p , receive from learned
reflection a fu n ctio n w hich is not their owrn b ut that w hich th ey have for
scholars. T h e slow evolu tion "from religion to p h ilo so p h y ”, as Cornford and
the C am bridge school p ut it, i.e . from analogy as a practical schem e o f ritual
action to an alogy as an ob ject o f reflection and a rational m eth o d o f thou ght,
is correlative w ith a transform ation o f the fu n ction w hich the grou p s concerned
confer on m yth and rite in their p ractice .111 M yth ten ds to cease to have any
fun ction o th er than the one it receives in the relations o f co m p etition betw een
the literate scholars w h o question and interpret its letter by reference to the
q u estio n s and readings of past and contem porary interpreters: on ly then does
it becom e ex p licitly w hat it alw ays w as, b ut on ly im p licitly or practically so,
i.e . a sy stem o f so lu tio n s to cosm ological or anthropological prob lem s w hich
scholarly reflection thinks it finds in them b u t w hich it in fact creates ex nihilo
by a mistaken reading that is im p lied in any reading ignorant o f its objective
truth as a literary read in g .112
T h e p rob lem s w hich n ascent p hilosop h y thin ks it raises in fact arise of their
ow n accord from its unanalysed relation ship to an object w h ich never raised
th em as su c h . A nd th is is no less true o f its m ost sp ecific m od es of thou ght:
th e pre-S ocratic thinkers w ou ld not h old su ch fascination for certain p h ilo
sop hers (w h o practically never p ossess the m eans o f really u nd erstan ding
th em ) w ere it not that they su p p ly its m ost accom plished m od els to the tradi
tion (m o st " e m in e n tly ” represented b y H eidegger) o f th e play on w ords of
com m on o rigin w hich estab lish es a doubly determ ined relationship b etw een the
lin g u istic root and the m yth ic root, or the (H eg elia n ) tradition of etym ology
seen as a m ean s of reappropriating th e treasures accum ulated b y th e historical
w ork of rea so n .113 It is in d eed the essen ce of learned reflection that it situates
the p rinciple o f relations con fu sed ly sensed in the order o f m ean in g (sens),
in relations wrh ich m anifest th em selv es at th e level of the letter (h om op h on v,
h om ograph y, p aronym y, etym ological kinsh ip , e tc .). T h e in anity o f m eta-
'57

^ G H T (fro m left ,0 ri> /t

^ ^ reU^ . p u blic)

. , . « » « ' 5AC#ED « ft , ' %


O _0^' fire, su n , g o ld ^ Q jl *
^ eag le, lig h t, sky
r a h (h e a rt), n if, red ^ m aturity
*2^ k a n u n , roast, s p ic c d , rip e , w h eatcak e, sek su , w h e a t, salt
k n ife, rifle, p lo u g h sh a re , sick le, c a rd in g c o m b , uttinex

h a rv e s t ( m j r d e r )
c u tt i n g w oven c lo th

old age
DRY
ft?
/5: A B O V E (m a s te r b eam )
*

- ¥-s
»<"
O U T S I D E (fields, asse m b ly , m ark e t)
*r?
o

between WET
d e a th = fec u n d a tio n O P E N IN G O U T - k
w

s p r in g
G O IN G O U T E T
> S TH RESH OLD N -
vail o f d o o r
c w all o f d a rk n e s s ^ / ' ’s Ns \vall o f w eav in g lo o m
N TH RESH OLD S I
E w
c*. O P E N IN G - F U L L (sw elling) g re e n , raw *

G
% E N T E R IN G
C L O S E D (d ifficu lt, e n c lo su re) co w . grass ^
z ^ ia m p , p lo u g h in g

h* in
m ilk, b u t te r

l ,CT
q
\ ^ b e a n , egg, snake I N S I D E (h o u se , g a rd e n , fo u n ta in , w o o d ) u n rip e corn
£ s ta r t o f w eaving
B E L O W (ly in g d o w n , m ain b e a m )
rfi ox , oil
S’,
W ET c h ild h o o d
o
■9
.^
w o m b , p o m e g ra n a te , p a rtrid g e , h en
th a m g h a rth , p a ra lle l c o u sin , sc cre t, b lac k
g e sta tio n co o k in g -p o t, b o ile d m e a t, g ru el, sw e e t, b la n d JO b irth
<J b lo o d , n e fs (liv e r), h u rm a
*V^i ~ sta b le , sle e p (d e a th ), e a rth
OjTfj to m b , d a rk n e s s , m o o n ^

c° tl o f ™ e '%<&*■
A o^ T H - n ig h t - v

( u n o f f ic i a l, m a g i c * 1’ oT^ ,^ £ 0

r (from right to ic^

O D D -N L M B E R E D

n a k e d n e ss, m a id e n , s ta g n a n t w a te r
o g ress, w itch , tre a c h e ry , g u ile
N e g ro , s m ith , jac k a l (div isio n ), bo ar

Fig. 9. Synoptic diagram of pertinent oppositions


*58 G en erative schemes an d practical logic

p h y sics w ou ld escap e n o on e if, as Carnap th in k s, its " pseu do-propositions ”


w ere on ly "an in adequ ate m ean s of exp ressin g the feelin g of lif e ” .114 Plato’s
remark m u st b e taken literally: " T h e p h ilosop h er is a m y th o lo g ist.” L ogiCaj
criticism in evitab ly m isses its ta r g e t: b ecau se it can on ly ch allen ge th e rela*
tio n sh ip s co n scio u sly estab lish ed b etw een w ord s, it can n ot b rin g out the
in coh eren t coh eren ce of a d iscou rse w h ich , sp rin g in g from u n d erly in g mythic
or id eological sch em es, has th e capacity to su rvive every reductio a d absurdum.
4
Structures, habitus, power: basis for
a theory of symbolic power

D o rn , orthodoxy, heterodoxy

There is, perhaps, n o b etter w ay of m aking f e ltth e real fu n ctio n o f classificatory


system s than to evok e as con cretely as p ossib le th e abrupt and total transfor
mation of d aily life w h ich occurs on " th e return of a z a l” . E verything,
without ex cep tio n , in th e a ctivities of the m en , the w o m e n , and the ch ild ren ,
is abruptly altered b y the ad option o f a new rh yth m : th e m o v em en ts o f the
flock, o f cou rse, b u t also the m e n ’s w ork and the d o m estic activities of the
wom en, the place w here th e cook in g is d on e, the rest p eriods, the food eaten,
the tim es and th e itinerary o f th e w o m e n ’s m o v em en ts and ou td oor w ork, the
rhythm of th e m e n ’s assem b ly m eetin gs, of th e cerem on ies, prayers, m arkets,
and m eetin gs o u tsid e the village.
In the w et sea so n , in the m orn in g, before eddoha, all the m en are in the
village ; w ith the ex cep tion o f th e m eetin g som etim es held on a F riday after
collective prayer, th is is the tim e o f day for m eetin g s o f the clan assem b ly
and all th e con ciliation co m m ittees (b efore a d ivorce, or to p revent a d ivorce,
before d ivision of an estate or to avoid d iv isio n ); this is also th e tim e w hen
an nou ncem en ts con cern in g all th e m en are m ade from the top o f the m inaret
(sum m onin g th em to participate in collectiv e w ork, repairing roads, d ig g in g
drains, tran sporting flagstones, e t c .) . A b ou t the tim e o f eddoha th e sh ep herd
sets o u t w ith h is flock and the m en go off to th e fields and gardens, either
to work on th e m ajor seasonal tasks su ch as p lo u g h in g or d ig g in g or to sp en d
their tim e on the m in or a ctivities w h ich o ccu p y th e slack periods o f the
agrarian year or day (co llectin g grass or d iss, d ig g in g or clearing d itch es,
gathering w o o d , d iggin g u p tree-stu m p s, e t c .) . W h en rain, sn o w , or cold rule
out work in the fields and th e earth is too w et to be trod d en on w ith ou t
jeopardizing th e future crop or the p lo u g h in g to com e, and w hen the state
of the roads and th e fear of b ein g w eather-bou n d far from the h ouse su sp en d
traditional relation s w ith the o u tsid e w orld , th e m e n ’s im perative d uty to be
outside b rin gs th em all to the com m u n al h ouse (even across clan an d /o r league
d iv isio n s). In d eed , at that tim e of the year, not a m an is m issin g from the
village (to w h ich the in hab itants of the a zib - ham let - return at thaqachachth
'-e n d o f O cto b er).
T h e ev en in g m eal (im ensi) is served very early, as soon as the m en have
taken off their m occasin s and w ork -cloth es and have had a short rest. By
[ 159]
i6 o Structures , habitus , po w er

nightfall, everyon e is at h o m e, excep t th ose w h o w ant to offer ev en in g prayer


in th e m osq u e, w here th e last prayer ( eVicha) is generally brought forward
so as to be said at the sam e tim e as maghreb. B ecause the m en eat all their
m eals in doors (excep t th e afternoon snack), the w o m en , ou sted from their
ow n sp ace, strive to recon stitu te a separate u niverse, m aking the preparations
for the m eal over by the w all o f darkness, d uring the aftern oon, w h ile the
m en are aw ay, taking care not to attract a tten tio n , even w h en b usy, or be
fou n d d oin g n o th in g : the lo o m , w h ich is up throu gh ou t th e w et season , affords
th em a sort of veil, b eh ind w h ich they can w ithdraw , and also the alibi of
a perm anently available activity. T h e sam e strategies appear in the use made
of the village sp ace: if th e m en are presen t, the w ife cannot g o to the fountain
all m orning, especially sin ce th e risk o f a fall requires special precautions;
so the " old w o m a n ” is th e on e w h o goes and g ets the w ater in the m orning
and, if there is no little girl available, keeps ch ickens and anim als aw ay from
the m attin g on w h ich the olives or grain are spread o u t b efore b ein g taken
to the press or the m ill.
T h e grou p ’s w ithdraw al into itself, and also in to its ow n past, its traditions
- w ith th e tales and leg en d s in the lon g ev en in gs in the room reserved for the
m en - is follow ed by the o p en in g on to th e ou tsid e w orld in the dry sea so n .1
W hereas d uring the w et season the village aw oke every m orn in g w ith o u t much
ado, on ce a z a l returns it awakes w ith a great deal o f noise and b u s tle : the
tread of m ules as m en m ake their w ay to m arket is follow ed by the
unin terrup ted tread o f th e o u tg o in g flocks, and then by the clatterin g hooves
o f the asses ridden or led b y the m en goin g off to th e fields or the fo rest. A bout
the tim e of eddhoha, the sh ep herd brings back his flock and som e o f th e men
return to th e village for th eir m idday rest. T h e m u ezzin ’s call to eddohor is
th e sign al for the secon d g o in g out of th e day. In less than half an h our, the
village is th is tim e alm ost com p letely em p tied : in the m orn in g, the w om en
w ere kept in the h ou se b y th eir d om estic tasks and above all b y the im propriety
there w ou ld be in taking their m idday rest ou tsid e, under a tree, like th e m en,
or in h urryin g to get h om e, w hich is a w om a n ’s proper place at a m om ent
reserved for in tim a c y ; b y contrast, in the afternoon, all b ut a few o f th e w om en
accom pan y the m en , at least on certain occasion s: there are first, o f course,
th e "old w o m e n ” w h o, after " givin g th eir o rd ers” to the daughters-in-law
w h ose turn it is to prepare d inn er, taking the m easure of flour from th e akufi,
g ettin g the b u n ch o f o n io n s and th e other vegetables required for imensx out
o f th arichth and p u ttin g th e keys to all the stores back on their g ird les, go
and m ake th eir con trib ution to the w ork and assert their au th ority in their
ow n w ay, b y in sp ectin g the gardens, m aking good the m en ’s n eglig en ce -
the stray p iece o f w ood , the handful o f fodder dropped on the w ay, th e branch
left b eh in d under a tree - and in th e ev en in g b rin gin g back, on to p of the
D o x a t orthodoxy , heterodoxy 161

jar o f w ater from the sp rin g in the gard en , a bun ch o f herbs, v in e-lea v es, or
fliaize, for the d o m estic anim als. T h ere are also the you n g w ives w ho,
especially at the tim e of the fig-harvest, follow their h u sb an d s around the
orchard, picking up the fruit the m en have b eaten d o w n , so rtin g it and
setting it ou t on trays, and g o h om e in th e even in g , each a few p aces b ehind
her h usb and , alone or accom panied b y the "old w o m a n ”.
T h u s the d o u b le g o in g ou t d elim its a z a l, a sort of " d e a d ” tim e w hich
everyone feels he m ust respect: all is silen t, still, and austere; th e streets are
" d esertlik e” . M ost of th e m en are scattered far from the village, so m e living
in the a zib , others aw ay from h om e for lon g p eriods looking after th e garden
and the pair of oxen that are b ein g fatted , others w atch in g over th e fig-drying
shed (in this season every fam ily’s fear is that in an em ergen cy it w ould not
be able to assem b le its m en ). N o on e can say w heth er th e p u b lic space of
the village b elo n g s to m an or to w om an . S o each of th em takes care not to
occupy it: there is so m eth in g su sp iciou s about an yon e w h o v en tu res in to the
streets at that hour. T h e few m en w h o have not stayed in the field s to sleep
under a tree take their siesta in any sp ot that is to hand, in th e shade of a
porch or a h ed ge, in front o f the m osq u e, on th e flagstones or indoors, in
the courtyards o f their h ou ses, or in sid e room s if th e y have o n e. F urtive
shadows slip across the street from on e house to another: th e w o m e n , eq u ally
unoccupied, are taking advantage of the lim ited presence of the m en to m eet
together or visit on e another. O n ly th e sh ep h erd s 2 w h o have returned to the
village w ith their flocks bring life to th e outer crossroads and th e m inor
m eeting-places w ith their gam es - thigar, a kicking con test, thighuladthy stone-
throwing at targets, thim rith, a sort o f d rau ghts, etc.
D o in g o n e’s d u ty as a m an m eans co n fo rm in g to the social order, and this
is fun dam en tally a q uestion of resp ectin g rh ythm s, k eep in g p ace, not falling
out of lin e ." D o n ’t w e all eat the sam e w heatcake (or th e sam e b arley) ? ” " D o n ’t
we all get up at the sam e tim e? ” T h ese various w ays of reasserting solidarity
contain an im plicit d efinition of the fundam ental virtue of con fo rm ity , the
opposite of w h ich is the desire to stand apart from others. W orking w hile the
others are resting, stayin g in th e house w hile the others are w ork in g in the
fields, travelling on d eserted roads, w andering round the streets of th e village
while the others are asleep or at the m arket - these are all su sp icio u s form s
of b ehaviour. T h e eccentric w h o d oes everyth in g d ifferently from other people
is called am kh alef (from khalef, to stand o u t, to transgress) and th ere is often
a play on w ords to the effect that am kh alef is also th e m an w h o arrives late
(from khellef, to leave b eh in d ). T h u s , as w e have seen , a w orth y m an,
conscious o f h is resp on sib ilities, m u st get up early .3 " T h e m an w h o d oes not
settle h is b u sin ess early in the m orn ing w ill never settle i t ” ; " I t’s th e m orning
that giv es the hunters th eir g a m e ; bad luck for late sleep ers! ” and again " T h e
162 Structures , habitus , po w er

suq is the m o r n i n g " T h e m an w ho sleep s u n til the m idd le of a z a l w ill find


the m arket e m p ty 0 (sebah, to be present in th e m orn ing, also m eans to be
fittin g, b eco m in g ).4 But g ettin g up early is not a virtue in itself: if they are
ill-u sed , w asted , the first hours are no m ore than "tim e taken from th e night *\
an offence against the p rin cip le that "there is a tim e for e v e r th in g ”, and that
"everyth in g sh ou ld be d on e in its t im e ” (k u l w aqth salw aqth-is "everything
in its t im e ”). What is the u se o f a man's g ettin g up at th e m u ezzin ’s call if
he is not g o in g to say the m orning prayer? T h ere is on ly m ockery for the
m an w ho, d esp ite gettin g up "u nd er th e sta r s” or w hen "daw n has not taken
sh a p e ” ('alam ) has achieved little. R espect for collective rhythm s im plies
resp ects for the rhythm that is appropriate to each action - n either excessive
haste nor slu ggish n ess. It is sim p ly a q u estion of b ein g in the proper place
- at the proper tim e. A m an m ust walk w ith a "m easured p a c e ” ( ikthal
uqudmis) neither laggin g b eh ind nor ru n nin g like a " d a n cer”, a shallow ,
frivolous way to behave, unw orthy of a m an of honour. S o there is m ockery
too for th e m an w h o h urries w ithou t thin king, w ho runs to catch up with
som eon e else, w ho w orks so hastily that h e is likely to "m altreat the ea r th ”,
forg ettin g th e teachin gs o f w isd om :

" It is u seless to pursue the w orld,


N o on e w ill ever overtake it .”
" Y ou w ho rush along,
Stay and be rebuked;
D a ily bread com es from G o d ,
It is not for you to concern y o u rse lf.”

T h e over-eager peasant m o v es ahead o f the co llective rhythm s w h ich assign


each act its particular m om en t in the space o f the d ay, the year, or human
life; his race w ith tim e threatens to drag the w hole group in to the escalation
o f d iabolic am bition , thahraym ith, and th u s to turn circular tim e in to linear
tim e, sim p le reproduction into in definite accu m u lation .5
T h e tasks o f farm ing, horia erga, seasonable wrorks, as th e G reeks called
th em , are defined as m uch in their rh ythm , w hich d eterm in es their duration,
as in their m om en t. T h e sacred tasks, su ch as p lou gh in g and so w in g , fall to
those w h o are capable o f treating th e land w ith th e respect it deserves, of
approaching it (qabel) w ith the m easured pace o f a m an m eetin g a partner
w hom h e w ants to w elcom e and honour. T h is is u nd erlin ed b y the m yth of
the origin of w heat and barley. A dam w as so w in g wTheat; E ve brought him
som e w heatcake. S he sawr him sow in g grain b y grain, " coverin g each seed
w ith earth ” , and in voking G od each tim e. S h e accused him o f wasting his time.
W hile her husband w as b u sy eating, sh e started to broadcast the grain,
w ithou t in vok in g the nam e o f G od . W hen the crop cam e u p , A dam found
, ,
D o x a o rth o d o xy heterodoxy i6 3

his field full of strange ears, d elicate and b rittle, like w om an . H e called this
plant (barley) ech'ir" w ea k ”. O n e of the effects o f the ritualization o f practices
js precisely that of assign in g them a tim e - i.e . a m o m en t, a tem p o , and a
duration - w hich is relatively in d ep en d en t o f external n ecessities, th ose of
climate, tech n iq u e, or econ om y, thereby conferring on th em th e sort of
arbitrary n ecessity w h ich sp ecifically d efines cultural arbitrariness.
T h e reason w h y su b m ission to the collective rh yth m s is so rigorously
dem anded is that the tem poral form s or the spatial structures structure not
only the g rou p ’s representation o f the w orld b ut the grou p itself, w hich orders
itself in accordance w ith th is representation: th is m ay be clearly seen , for
exam ple, in the fact that the organization of the ex isten ce of the m en and the
women in accordance w ith different tim es and different places co n stitu tes tw o
interchangeable w ays of secu rin g separation and hierarchization o f th e m ale
and fem ale w orld s, th e w om en g o in g to th e foun tain at an hour w h en the m en
are not in the streets, or b y a special path, or both at o n c e .6 T h e social
calendar ten ds to secure in tegration by co m p ou n d in g the synchronization of
identical p ractices w ith the orchestration of different but structurally h o m o lo
gous practices (su ch as p lou gh in g and w eavin g ).7A ll the d iv isio n s of the group
are projected at every m om en t in to the spatio-tem poral organization w hich
assigns each category its place and tim e: it is here that the fu zzy logic of
practice wTorks w ond ers in en ab lin g th e group to ach ieve as m uch social and
logical integration as is com p atib le w ith th e d iversity im p osed by the d ivision
of labour b etw een the sexes, the ages, and the " o c cu p a tio n s” (sm ith ,
butcher ).8 S yn ch ron ization , in the case o f rites or tasks, is that m u ch m ore
associated w ith spatial grou p ing the m ore there is co llectively at stake: rites
thus range in im portance from the great solem n rites (e .g . aw djeb) enacted
by everyone at the sam e tim e, through the rites perform ed at the sam e tim e
but by each fam ily separately (th e sacrifice o f a sh eep at the A id ), through
those w h ich m ay be practised at any tim e ( e .g . the rite to cure stie s), and
finally to th o se w hich m u st only take place in secret and at u nusual hours
(the rites of love m a g ic).
Practical taxonom ies, w h ich are a transform ed, m isrecogn izable form o f th e
real d iv ision s of the social order, con trib ute to th e reproduction o f that order
by p rod ucing ob jectively orchestrated p ractices adjusted to th ose d iv isio n s.
Social tim e as fo rm , in the m usical sen se, as su ccessio n organized b y the
application to p assin g tim e o f the principle w h ich organizes all d im en sio n s
°f practice, tends to fulfil, even m ore effectively than th e d ivision o f sp ace,
a function of integration in and through d ivisio n , that is, through hierarchiza
tion. But m ore p rofou n d ly, the organization of tim e and the g rou p in accor
dance w ith m ythical structures leads collective p ractice to appear as " realized
my t h ”, in the sen se in w hich for H e g el tradition is "realized m o ra lity ”
164 Structures, habitus, p o w e r

(S ittlic h k e it), the recon ciliation o f su b jective dem and and objective (i e
co llectiv e) n ecessity w hich grou n d s the belief of a w hole group in what the
group b elie v es, i.e . in th e group: a reflexive return to the prin cip les of the
op eration s o f ob jectification , practices or d iscou rses, is p revented by the
very rein forcem en t w hich these p rod u ction s co n tin u o u sly draw from a
w orld o f ob jectification s p roduced in accordance w ith the sam e subjective
p rin cip les.
E very estab lish ed order ten d s to p rod uce (to very different d egrees and with
very d ifferen t m eans) the naturalization of its owTn arbitrariness. O f all the
m ech an ism s ten d in g to p rod u ce this effect, the m ost im portant and the best
con cealed is u n d o u b ted ly the dialectic o f the ob jective ch an ces and the agents’
aspirations, out of w hich arises the sense o f lim its, com m on ly called the sense
o f re a lity , i.e . th e corresp ond en ce b etw een the ob jective classes and the
in tern alized classes, social structures and m en tal stru ctures, w hich is the
basis o f the m ost ineradicable adherence to th e estab lish ed order. S y stem s of
classification w hich reprodu ce, in their ow n specific lo g ic, the objective
cla sses, i.e . the d ivisio n s b y sex, age, or p osition in the relation s o f production,
m ake th eir sp ecific con trib u tion to the reproduction of the pow er relations
o f w h ich they are th e p rod u ct, by secu rin g the m isrecogn ition , and h en ce the
recogn ition , of th e arbitrariness on w hich they are b a se d : in th e extrem e case,
that is to say, w hen there is a q uasi-p erfect corresp ond en ce b etw een the
ob jective order and th e su b jective p rin cip les o f organization (as in ancient
so cieties) th e natural and social w orld appears as self-ev id en t. T h is experience
w e shall call doxa, so as to d istingu ish it from an orthodox or heterodox belief
im p ly in g aw areness and recogn ition o f th e p ossib ility of different or
an tagon istic b eliefs. S ch em es o f th ou gh t and p ercep tion can produce the
o b jectivity that th ey d o produce on ly by p rod u cin g m isrecogn ition o f the limits
o f th e co g n itio n that they m ake p ossib le, thereby fou n d in g immediate
a d h eren ce, in the d oxic m od e, to the wrorld o f tradition exp erienced as a
"natural w o r ld ” and taken for granted. T h e in stru m ents o f k now ledge o f the
social w orld are in this case (ob jectively) political in stru m en ts w hich
co n trib u te to the reprodu ction o f the social w orld by p rod u cin g immediate
ad heren ce to th e w orld, seen as self-evid en t and u n d isp u ted , of w hich they
are th e p rod uct and of w h ich they reproduce the structures in a transformed
form . T h e political fu n ctio n o f classifications is never m ore lik ely to pass
u n n o ticed than in the case o f relatively undifferentiated social form ation s, in
wThich the prevailing classificatory system en cou n ters n o rival or antagonistic
p rin cip le. As w e have seen in the case o f the d o m estic con flicts to wThich
m arriages often give rise, social categories disadvantaged by the symbolic
ord er, su ch as w o m en and th e y o u n g , cannot but recogn ize the legitimacy
o f th e d om in ant classification in th e very fact that th eir only ch an ce of
D o x a , orthodoxy , heterodoxy

neutralizing th ose of its effects m ost contrary to th eir ow n in terests lies in


subm itting to them in order to m ake use o f them (in accordance w ith the logic
0f the eminence grise).
T h e ta x o n o m ies o f the m ythico-ritual system at o n ce d ivid e and u nify,
legitim ating u n ity in d ivision , that is to say, hierarchy .9 T h er e is no need to
insist on the fun ction of legitim ation of the d iv isio n of labour and power
between the sexes that is fulfilled by a m yth ico-ritu al sy stem entirely d o m
inated by m ale values. It is perhaps less ob viou s that the social structuring
of tem porality w h ich organizes representations and practices, m ost solem n ly
reaffirmed in the rites of passage, fulfils a political fu n ction by sym bolically
m anipulating age lim its, i.e . the b oundaries w h ich d efine age-group s, but also
the lim itations im posed at different ages. T h e m yth ico-ritu al categories cut
up the age con tin u u m into d isco n tin u o u s seg m en ts, co n stitu ted not b io lo g i
cally (like the p hysical sig n s of ageing) but so cia lly , and m arked by the
sym bolism o f co sm etics and cloth in g, d ecorations, orn am en ts, and em b lem s,
the tokens w hich exp ress and u nd erlin e the represen tation s o f the u ses o f the
body that are legitim ately associated w ith each socially defined age, and also
those w h ich are ruled ou t b ecau se th ey w ou ld have th e effect o f d isru ptin g
the system o f o p p osition s b etw een the gen erations (su ch as rejuvenation rites,
which are th e exact in version o f th e rites of p assage). Social representations
of the different ages o f life, and o f th e properties attached by definition to
them , exp ress, in their ow n lo g ic, th e pow er relations b etw een th eag e-cla sses,
helping to reproduce at on ce th e u nion and th e d ivision o f th ose classes by
means o f tem poral d iv isio n s ten d in g to produce both co n tin u ity and rupture.
T h ey thereby rank am on g the in stitu tion alized in stru m en ts for m aintenance
of the sym b olic order, and h en ce am ong the m ech an ism s of the reproduction
of the social order w h o se very fu n ctio n in g serves the interests o f those
occupying a d om in an t p osition in th e social stru cture, th e m en o f m ature a g e .10
W e see yet again howr erron eou s it w ou ld b e to con sid er on ly the cogn itive
or, as D u rk h eim p ut it, " sp e cu la tiv e” , fu n ction s of m yth ico-ritu al represen
tations: th ese m ental stru ctures, a transfigured reproduction o f the structures
con stitutin g a m ode of p rod uction and a m ode o f biological and social
reproduction, con trib ute at least as efficaciously as th e provisions o f cu stom
towards d efining and m aintaining th e d elim itation o f p ow ers b etw een the sexes
and gen erations, through the ethical d isp o sitio n s th e y p rod uce, su ch as the
sense of honour or respect for elders and an cestors. T h e theory o f know ledge
a d im en sion o f political theory b ecau se the sp ecifically sy m b o lic pow er to
■nipose the p rin cip les o f the con stru ction o f reality - in particular, social
reality - is a major d im en sion o f political p ow er.
In a determ in ate social form ation, the stabler the ob jective structures and
the m ore fully they reproduce th em selves in the a g e n ts’ d isp osition s, the
i66 Structures , habitus , p o w e r

greater the ex ten t of the field of d oxa, o f that w hich is taken for granted.
W h en , ow in g to the q uasi-p erfect fit b etw een th e ob jective stru ctures and the
in tern alized structures w hich results from the logic o f sim p le reproduction,
th e estab lish ed cosm ological and political order is perceived not as arbitrary,
i.e . as on e p ossib le order am on g o thers, but as a self-ev id en t and natural order
w h ich g o es w ith ou t sayin g and therefore goes u n q u estio n ed , the agents 5
aspirations have the sam e lim its as the ob jective co n d itio n s o f w hich th e y are
th e product.

It is not easy to evoke the subjective experience associated with this world o f the
realized ought-to-be, in which things that could scarcely be otherwise nonetheless are
w hat they are only because they are what they ought to be, in w hich an agent can
have at one and the same tim e the feeling that there is nothing to do except what he
is doing and also that he is only doing what he o u g h t.11 And so it is in all seriousness
that I juxtapose two particularly striking evocations of this experience, one by an old
K abyle w om an, underlining the fact that to be ill and dying was a social status, with
its attendant rights and duties, and the other by Marcel Proust, describing the
subjective effects of the ritualization of practices:
" In the old days, folk d id n ’t know what illness was. T h ey w ent to bed and they
died. It’s only nowadays that w e’re learning words like liver, lung [albumun; Fr. le
poum on\t intestines, stomach [listuma; Fr. Vestomac], and I d on ’t know what! People
only used to know [pain in] the belly [th'abut]; that’s what everyone w ho died died
o f, unless it was fever [thatcla] . . . In the old days sick people used to call for death,
but it w ouldn’t com e. When som eone was ill, the new s soon spread everyw here, not
just in the village, but all over the *arch. Besides, a sick m an’s house is never empty:
in the daytim e all his relatives, m en and w om en, com e for n e w s .. .A t nightfall, all
th e women relatives, even the youngest, would be taken to his bedside. And once a
week there was 'the sick m an’s m arket’ umutin]: they would send som eone to
buy him meat or fruit. All that’s forgotten nowadays; it’s true, there aren’t any sick
people now , not as there used to be. N ow everyone’s sick, everyone’s complaining
o f som ething. T hose w ho were dying used to suffer a lot; death came slow ly, it could
take a night and a day or two nights and a day. D eath 'always struck them through
their sp eech ’: first they became dum b. Everyone had time to see them one last time;
the relatives were given tim e to assem ble and to prepare the burial. T h ey w ould give
alm s to make the dying easier: they would give the com m unity a tree, generally a fig-tree
planted beside the road. Its fruit would not be picked, but left for passing travellers
and the poor [chajra usufagh, the tree of the outgoing; chajra n ’esadhaqa, the alms
tr e e ]. . .W h o’s ill nowadays? W ho’s well? Everyone com plains but no one stays in b ed ;
they all run to the doctor. Everyone knows w hat’s wrong w ith him now.*’12
"From the position of the bed, m y side recalled the place where the crucifix used
to be, the breath of the recess in the bedroom in my grandparents’ house, in the days
w hen there were still bedroom s and parents, a tim e for each thing, when you loved
your parents not because you found them intelligent but because they were your
parents, w hen you w ent to bed not because you w anted to but because it was time,
and when you marked the desire, the acceptance and the whole cerem ony of sleeping
by going up two steps to the big bed, where you closed the blue rep curtains with
their raised-velvet bands, and w here, w hen you were ill, the old rem edies kept you
for several days on end, with a nightlight on the Siena marble m antelpiece, w ithout
any of the immoral m edicines that allow you to get up and imagine you can lead the
D o x a , orthodoxy , heterodoxy 167

life of a healthy man when you are ill, sweating under the blankets thanks to perfectly
harmless infusions, which for two thousand years have contained the flowers of the
meadows and the w isdom of old w om en .”13

M oreover, w hen the con d ition s of existen ce of w h ich the m em bers o f a


group are the product are very little d ifferentiated, th e d isp o sitio n s w h ich each
of them exercises in his p ractice are confirm ed and h en ce reinforced b oth by
the practice of the other m em bers of th e group (on e fu n ctio n o f sym b olic
exchanges su ch as feasts and cerem on ies b ein g to favour the circular rein
forcem ent w hich is th e foundation of collective belief) an d also by in stitu
tions w hich con stitu te collectiv e th ou gh t as m uch as they express it, su ch as
language, m yth , and art. T h e self-evid en ce of the w orld is reduplicated by
the in stitu ted d iscou rses about the w orld in w hich the w h o le g ro u p ’s adherence
to that self-evid en ce is affirm ed. T h e sp ecific p oten cy of th e exp licit statem ent
that brings su bjective exp erien ces in to the reassuring u n an im ity of a socially
approved and collectively attested sen se im p oses itself w ith the authority and
necessity of a collective p osition adopted on data in trin sically am enable to m any
other structurations.
" N a tu r e” as scien ce und erstan ds it - a cultural fact w h ich is th e historical
product of a long labour o f " d ise n c h a n tm e n t” (E ntzauberung) - is never
encountered in su ch a u niverse. B etw een the ch ild and th e w orld the w hole
group in terven es, not just w ith the w arnings that in cu lcate a fear o f su pern a
tural d an gers ,14 b u t w ith a w hole u niverse of ritual practices and also of
discourses, sayings, proverbs, all structured in con cordan ce w ith the prin ci
ples of the corresp ond ing habitus. Furtherm ore, through th e acts and sy m b o ls
that are in tend ed to con trib ute to the reproduction o f nature and o f the group
by the analogical reproduction o f natural p rocesses, m im etic representation
helps to produce in the agents tem porary reactions (such as, for exam p le, the
collective ex citem en t associated w ith lakhrif) or even lasting dispositions (such
as the generative sch em es incorporated in the b ody sch em a) attuned to the
objective processes exp ected from th e ritual action - h elp s, in other w ord s,
to make the w orld conform to the m yth .
Because the su b jective n ecessity and self-evid en ce of the com m on sen se
world are validated by th e ob jective con sen su s on th e se n se of th e w orld, what
is essential goes w ithou t saying because it comes w ithou t saying: the tradition is
silent, n ot least about itself as a tradition; custom ary law is con ten t to
enum erate sp ecific ap plications of principles w hich rem ain im plicit and u n
form ulated, b ecause u n q u estion ed ; the play o f th e m yth ico-ritu al h om ologies
con stitutes a p erfectly closed w orld , each asp ect of w h ich is, as it w ere, a
reflection o f all the others, a w orld w h ich has no place for opinion as liberal
G eo lo g y u nd erstan ds it, i.e . as on e of th e different and eq u ally legitim ate
answers w h ich can be given to an exp licit question about the established
i6 8 Structures , habitus , p o w e r

political order; and n oth in g is further from th e correlative n otion of the


m ajority than th e unanim ity of doxa, the aggregate o f the " c h o ic e s” whose
su bject is everyon e and n o on e b ecause th e q u estio n s they answ er cannot be
ex p licitly asked. T h e adherence expressed in the doxic relation to the social
w orld is the absolute form o f recogn ition o f legitim acy through m isrecognition
of arbitrariness, sin ce it is unaw are of the very q u estion of legitim acy, which
arises from com p etition for legitim acy, and h en ce from conflict between
groups cla im in g to p ossess it.

universe of the undiscussed

(o r a r g u m e n t)

T h e truth of doxa is only ever fu lly revealed w hen negatively constituted


b y the co n stitu tion of a field o f opinion, th e locu s of the confrontation of
co m p etin g d iscou rses - w h ose political truth m ay be overtly declared or may
rem ain h id d en , even from th e eyes of th ose en gaged in it, under the guise
o f religious or philosoph ical op p osition s. It is by reference to the universe
of op inion that the com p lem en tary class is d efined, the class o f that w hich
is taken for granted, doxa, the su m total o f th e th eses tacitly p osited on the
hither sid e of all in qu iry, w h ich appear as su ch only retrosp ectively, w hen
they com e to be su sp en d ed practically. T h e practical q u estio n in g o f the theses
im plied in a particular w ay o f livin g that is brought about b y "culture
contact ” or by th e political and econ om ic crises correlative writh class division
is not the p urely in tellectual operation w hich p hen om en ology design ates by
the term epoche, the deliberate, m ethod ical su sp en sion of naive adherence to
the w o rld .15 T h e critiq ue w'hich brings the u n d iscu ssed in to d iscu ssion , the
unform ulated in to form ulation, has as the con d itio n of its p ossib ility objective
crisis, w h ich , in breaking the im m ediate fit b etw een the su bjective structures
D o x a , orthodoxy , heterodoxy 169

and the objective structures, d estroys self-evid en ce practically. It is w hen the


social w orld loses its character as a natural p henom en on that the q u estion of
the natural or con ven tional character (phusei or nomo) of social facts can be
raised.16 It follow s that th e w ou ld -b e m ost radical critiq ue alw ays has the lim its
that are assigned to it by th e ob jective con d ition s. C risis is a necessary
condition for a q u estio n in g of doxa b ut is not in itself a sufficient con d ition
for the p rod uction o f a critical d iscou rse. In class societies, in w hich the
definition of th e social w orld is at stake in overt or latent class stru ggle, the
drawing o f the lin e b etw een the field o f o p in io n , o f that w hich is exp licitly
q uestioned, and the field o f doxa , of that w hich is b eyon d question and w hich
each agent tacitly accords b y th e m ere fact of actin g in accord writh social
con ven tion, is itself a fundam ental ob jective at stake in that form o f class
struggle w h ich is the struggle for the im p osition o f the d om in ant sy stem s of
classification. T h e d om inated classes have an interest in p u sh in g back the
lim its of doxa and ex p osin g the arbitrariness o f th e taken for g ra n ted ; the
dom inant classes have an interest in d efen d in g the integrity o f d oxa or, short
of this, of esta b lish in g in its p lace th e necessarily im perfect su b stitu te,
orthodoxy.
It is on ly w hen the d om in ated have th e m aterial and sym b olic m eans of
rejecting th e d efinition of the real that is im posed on them through logical
structures reprodu cing the social structures (i.e . the state o f the power
relations) and to lift the (in stitu tion alized or internalized) censorsh ip s w hich
it im p lies, i.e . w hen social classifications b ecom e th e object and in strum ent
of class stru ggle, that the arbitrary p rin cip les of the prevailing classification
can appear as su ch and it therefore b ecom es necessary to undertake the wrork
of co n sciou s system atization and express rationalization w hich marks the
passage from doxa to orth odoxy.
O rth odoxy, straight, or rather straightened, o p in ion , w h ich aim s, w ithou t
ever en tirely su cceed in g , at restoring the prim al state of in n o cen ce of d oxa,
exists on ly in th e ob jective relation ship w h ich o p p oses it to h eterod oxy, that
is, b y reference to th e ch oice - hairesis, heresy - m ade p ossib le by the
existence o f competing possibles and to the exp licit critiq ue of the su m total of
the alternatives not chosen that the estab lish ed order im p lies. It is defined
as a sy stem o f eu p h em ism s, o f acceptable w ays o f th in k in g and sp eak ing the
natural and social w orld , w hich rejects heretical rem arks as b la sp h em ies .17
But the m anifest cen sorsh ip im p osed b y orth odox d iscou rse, the official way
of speaking and th in k in g the w orld, con ceals another, m ore radical c e n so r sh ip :
the overt op p osition b etw een " r ig h t” op inion and " le f t ” or " w r o n g ” o p in ion ,
w hich d elim its the universe o f possible discourse, be it legitim ate or illegitim ate,
eu p h em istic or b lasph em ou s, m asks in its turn the fundam ental op p osition
b etw een the universe o f th in gs that can be stated, and hence th ou gh t, and
170 Structures , habitus , p o w e r

the universe of that w hich is taken for granted. T h e universe of discourse


in th e classic d efinition giv en b y A . de M organ in his Form al L o g ic, "a range
o f ideas w h ich is either exp ressed or understood as con taining the w hole matter
under d isc u ssio n ”,18 is practically defined in relation to th e necessarily
u nn oticed com p lem en tary class that is con stituted by the universe of that
w h ich is u n d iscu ssed , u nn am ed, adm itted w ith ou t argum ent or scrutiny
T h u s in class societies, ev ery th in g takes place as if the struggle for the power
to im pose th e legitim ate m od e o f th ou ght and exp ression that is unceasingly
w aged in th e field of the p rod uction o f sym b olic go o d s tended to conceal, not
least from th e eyes of those involved in it, the con trib ution it m akes to the
d elim itation o f the u niverse o f d iscou rse, that is to say, the universe of the
thinkable, and h en ce to the d elim itation of the u niverse o f the unthinkable;
as if eu p h em ism and b lasp h em y, through w h ich the exp ressly censored
u nn am eable n on eth eless finds its w ay into th e universe o f d iscou rse, conspired
in their very antagonism to occu lt the " aphasia ” o f th ose w ho are d en ied access
to th e in stru m en ts of the stru ggle for th e d efinition o f reality. If on e accepts
th e eq u ation m ade by Marx in T he G erm an Ideology, that "language is real,
practical c o n sc io u sn e ss” , it can be seen that the boundary betw een the
universe o f (orthod ox or h eterodox) discou rse and the universe of doxa,
in the tw o fo ld sense o f w hat goes w ithou t saying and w hat cannot be said
for lack o f an available d iscou rse, represents the d ivid in g-lin e betw een the
m ost radical form of m isrecogn ition and the aw akening of political con
scio u sn ess.
T h e relation ship b etw een language and exp erience never appears more
clearly than in crisis situ ation s in w hich the everyday order (Alltaglichkeit)
is ch a llen g ed , and w ith it the language o f order, situ ation s w hich call for an
extraordinary discou rse (the Ausseralltaglichkeit w hich W eber p resen ts as the
decisive characteristic o f charism a) capable of g iv in g system atic expression
to the g am u t o f extra-ordinary exp erien ces that th is, so to speak, objective
epoche has provoked or m ade p o s s ib le ." Private ” exp eriences u ndergo nothing
less than a change o f state w hen they recogn ize th em selv es in the public
objectivity o f an already con stitu ted d iscou rse, th e objective sig n o f recognition
of their right to be spoken and to be spoken p u b licly: "W ords w reck havoc ”,
says Sartre, " w h en they find a nam e for w hat had up to then b een lived
n am elessly. ”19 B ecause any language that can com m and attention is an
"authorized la n g u a g e”, in vested w ith the authority o f a grou p , the things it
d esign ates are not sim p ly exp ressed b ut also authorized and legitim ated . T h is
is true not o n ly o f estab lish m en t language b ut also of the heretical discourses
w h ich draw their legitim acy and authority from th e very groups over w hich
they exert their pow er and w h ich they literally produce b y ex p ressin g them :
they d erive their p ow er from their capacity to objectify unform ulated ex
Sym bolic capital

periences, to m ake th em p u b lic - a step on the road to officialization and


legitimation - and, w hen th e occasion arises, to m anifest and rein force their
concordance. H eretical p ow er, the strength of the sorcerer w h o wrields a
liberating p otency - that o f all logotherap ies - in offering the m ean s o f ex
pressing exp eriences usually repressed, the strength o f th e p rop het or
political leader w h o m ob ilizes the group b y an n ou n cin g to th em w hat they
want to hear, rests on the dialectical relation ship b etw een au th orized ,
authorizing language and the grou p w hich au th orizes it and acts on its
authority.

Sym bolic capital

T he theoretical con stru ction w hich retrosp ectively projects the cou n ter-gift
into the project of th e gift has th e effect o f transform ing in to m echanical
sequences o f ob ligatory acts the at on ce risky and necessary im provisation of
the everyday strategies w hich ow e their infinite com p lex ity to th e fact that
the g iv er’s undeclared calculation m ust reckon w ith the receiver’s undeclared
calculation, and hence satisfy his exp ectation s w ith ou t appearing to know^w'hat
they are. In the sam e operation, it rem oves the co n d itio n s m aking p ossib le
the institutionally organ ized and guaranteed misrecognition20 w hich is th e basis
of gift exchange and, perhaps, o f all the sym b olic labour in ten d ed to trans
m ute, b y the sincere fiction of a d isin terested exchan ge, the in evitab le, and
inevitably interested relations im posed by k inship, n eigh b ou rh ood , or work,
into elective relations of reciprocity: in the wrork o f reproducing estab lish ed
relations - through feasts, cerem on ies, exchan ges of g ifts, visits or courtesies,
and, above all, m arriages - w hich is no less vital to the ex isten ce o f the group
than th e reproduction o f the eco n o m ic bases of its existen ce, the labour
required to conceal the fun ction o f the exchan ges is as im portant an elem en t
as the labour need ed to carry ou t the fu n ctio n .21 If it is true th a t th e lapse
of tim e in terp osed is w hat en ab les the gift or cou n ter-gift to b e seen and
experienced as an inaugural act o f g en erosity, w ith ou t any past or future, i.e.
w ithout calculation, th en it is clear that in redu cing the p o ly th etic to the
nionothetic, ob jectivism destroys the sp ecificity o f all practices w h ich , like
gift exch an ge, tend or pretend to p ut the law o f self-in terest in to abeyance.
A rational contract w ould telescop e in to an instant a transaction w h ich gift
exchange d isg u ises b y stretch in g it ou t in tim e; and because o f th is, gift
exchange is, if not the only m ode of com m od ity circulation p ractised, at least
the only m ode to be fu lly recogn ized , in societies wrh ich , b ecau se they deny
the true soil o f their lif e ”, as Lukacs puts it, have an ec on om y in itself and
not for itself. E verything takes place as if the essen ce of th e " arch aic”
econom y lay in the fact that econ om ic activity cannot exp licitly acknow ledge
the eco n o m ic en d s in relation to w hich it is objectively orien ted: th e "idolatry
1 7 2 Structures , habitus , po w er

of n a tu re” w hich m akes it im p ossib le to think o f nature as a raw material


or, co n seq u en tly, to see hum an activity as labour, i.e . as m a n s struggle
against nature, ten d s, together w ith the system atic em p hasis on th e sym bolic
asp ect of the activities and relations of p rod u ction , to prevent the econom y
from b ein g grasped as an eco n o m y , i.e . as a system governed by the law s of
interested calcu lation, com p etitio n , or exp loitation .
In redu cing the econ om y to its objective reality, econ om ism an nih ilates the
sp ecificity located precisely in the socially m aintained d iscrep ancy between
the m isrecogn ized or, on e m igh t say, socially repressed, o b jective truth of
econ om ic activity, and the social representation o f p rod uction and exchange.
It is no accid en t that the vocabulary of the archaic eco n o m y sh ou ld be
entirely com p osed of d ou b le-sid ed n otion s that are con d em n ed to disintegrate
in the course o f the history of the eco n o m y , sin ce, ow in g to their duality,
the social relations they design ate represent u nstable structures w hich are
con d em n ed to sp lit in tw o as soon as there is any w eakening o f the social
m echan ism s aim ed at m aintain in g th em . T h u s , to take an extrem e exam ple,
rahnia, a contract by w'hich the borrow er grants the lender the u sufru ct of
som e of his land for the duration of the loan, and w hich is regarded a s the
w orst form of u sury w hen it leads to d isp o ssessio n , differs o n ly in the nature
of the social relation b etw een the tw o parties, and thu s in th e detailed term s
of th e agreem ent, from the aid granted to a relative in difficulties so as to save
him from having to sell a piece o f land, w h ich , even w hen it con tin u es to
be used b y its ow ner, con stitu tes a sort o f secu rity on the lo a n .22 " It was
precisely th e R om ans and G r ee k s” , w rites M au ss, " w h o, p ossib ly follow ing
the N orthern and W estern S em ites, d rew the d istinction b etw een personal
rights and real rights, separated purchases from gifts and exchan ges, d isso
ciated moral ob ligations from contracts, and, above all, co n ceiv ed of the
difference b etw een ritual, rights and in terests. By a g en u in e, great and
venerable revolu tion they passed b eyon d the excessiv ely hazardous, co stly and
elaborate gift eco n o m y , w hich w as en cu m bered writh personal con sid erations,
in com patib le w ith the d evelop m en t o f the m arket, trade and p rod uction , and,
in a w ord, u n e co n o m ic .”23 T h e historical situ ation s in w hich th e u nstable,
artificially m aintained structures o f th e good -faith econ om y break u p and make
w ay for the clear, economic (i.e . economical) co n cep ts of the und isgu ised
self-in terest econ om y reveal the cost o f op eratin g an eco n o m y w h ich , b y its
refusal to ack n ow led ge and co n fess itself as su ch , is forced to d evote as m uch
tim e to con cealin g the reality o f econ om ic acts as it ex p en d s in carrying them
o u t: the generalization o f m onetary ex ch a n g e, w h ich exp o ses the objective
w ork in gs of th e econ o m y , also brings to light the in stitu tional m ech an ism s,
proper to the archaic eco n o m y , w h ich have the fun ction of lim itin g and
d isg u isin g the play of eco n o m ic interest and calculation (eco n o m ic in the
Sym bolic capital *73

narrow sen se of the w o r d ). For exam p le, a w ell-know n m a so n , w h o had learnt


his trade in F ran ce, caused a scandal, around 1955, by g o in g h om e w hen his
work was finished w ith o u t eatin g th e m eal traditionally g iv en in th e m a so n ’s
honour w h en a house is b u ilt, and then d em an d in g, in addition to th e price
of his d ay’s work (on e thou sand old fran cs), an allow ance of tw o hundred
francs in lieu o f the m e a l: his dem and for the cash eq u ivalen t o f the meal
was a sacrilegious reversal o f th e form ula used by sy m b o lic alchem y to
transm ute the price o f labour into an u n solicited g ift, and it th u s exp osed the
device m o st com m on ly em p loyed to keep up appearances by m eans of a
collectively concerted m ake-b elieve. A s an act of exchan ge se ttin g the seal on
alliances (" I set the w heatcake and the salt b etw een u s ”), th e final m eal at
the tim e o f th e th iw izi o f harvest or h o u se-b u ild in g naturally becam e a closing
rite in ten d ed to transm ute an interested transaction retrosp ectively in to a
generous exchan ge (like the g ifts w hich mark the su ccessfu l con clu sion o f a
deal ).24W hereas th e greatest in d u lgen ce was accorded to th e su b terfu g es used
by som e to m in im ize the cost o f the m eals at th e end of th e th iw izi (e .g .
inviting only the " n o ta b le s” of each grou p , or on e m an from each fam ily)
- a departure from prin cip les w hich at least paid lip -service to their legitim acy
- t h e reaction cou ld on ly be scandal and shock w h en a m an took it upon
him self to declare that the m eal had a cash eq u ivalen t, th u s betraying the
best-kept and w orst-kept secret (on e that everyon e m ust k eep ), and breaking
the law of silen ce w hich guarantees the com p licity of co llectiv e bad faith in
the good -faith eco n o m y.
T he good-faith economy calls forth the strange incarnation of homo economicus known
as the bu niya (or bab niya), the man of good faith (niya or thi'ugganth, from a'ggun,
the child still unable to speak, contrasted with thahraymith, calculating, technical
intelligence). T h e man of good faith would not think of selling certain fresh food
products - milk, butter, cheese, vegetables, fruit - to another peasant, but always
distributes them am ong friends or neighbours. He practises no exchanges involving
money and all his relations are based on total confidence; unlike the shady dealer,
he has recourse to none of the guarantees (w itnesses, written docum ents, etc.) with
which comm ercial transactions are surrounded. T he general law o f exchanges means
that the closer the individuals or groups are in the genealogy, the easier it is to make
agreements, the more frequent they are, and the more com pletely they are entrusted
to good faith. Conversely, as the relationship becom es more im personal, i.e. as one
moves out from the relationship betw een brothers to that betw een virtual strangers
(people from tw o different villages) or even com plete strangers, so a transaction is
less likely to occur at all, but it can becom e and increasingly does becom e purely
econom ic ” in character, i.e. closer to its econom ic reality, and the interested calcula
tion w hich is never absent even from the most generous exchange (in which both
parties account - i.e . count - them selves satisfied) can be more and more openly
revealed. T h is explains w hy recourse to formal guarantees becom es more and more
exceptional as the social distance betw een the parties decreases, and also as the
solem nity of the guarantees increases, because the authorities responsible for authen
ticating and enforcing them are more remote and/or more venerated. (First there is
>74 Structures , habitus , p o w e r

the word of w itnesses, which is enhanced if they are distant and influential; then there
is a sim ple paper drawn up by som eone not specialized in th e production of lega]
docum ents; then the contract signed before a taleb, providing a religious but not a
legal guarantee, w hich is less solem n w hen drawn up by the village taleb than bv a
w ell-known taleb; then the Cadi’s written docum ent; and finally the contract signed
in front of a law yer.) It w ould be insulting to presum e to authenticate a transaction
based on trust betw een trustworthy people, and still more so betw een relatives, before
a lawyer, a adi, or even w itnesses. Sim ilarly, the share of th e loss w hich partners
agree to accept w hen there is an accident to an animal m ay be entirely different
depending on th e assessm ent of their responsibilities w hich th ey com e to in accordance
w ith the relationship between them : a man w ho has lent an animal to a close relative
feels he m ust m inim ize his partner’s responsibility. By contrast, a regular contract,
signed before th e Cadi or before w itnesses, governed the arrangement by which the
K abyles handed over their oxen to the southern X om ads to be looked after for one,
tw o, or three w orking years (from autum n to autum n) in exchange for twenty-two
double decalitres of barley per ox per year, with costs to be shared in the case of loss
and profits shared in the case o f sale. Private arrangements betw een kin and affines
are to market transactions what ritual war is to total war. T h e "goods or beasts of
the fellah” are traditionally contrasted w ith the ‘’goods or beasts of the m arket”: old
inform ants will talk endlessly o f the tricks and frauds w hich are com m on practice in
the 'big m arkets”, that is to say, in exchanges betw een strangers. T here are countless
tales of m ules w h ich run off as soon as the purchaser has got them hom e, oxen made
to look fatter b y rubbing them with a plant w hich makes them sw ell (adhris), and
purchasers who band together to force prices dow n. T h e incarnation of econom ic war
is the shady dealer, the man w ho fears neither G od nor m an. Men avoid buying
animals from h im , just as they avoid buying from any com plete stranger: as one
informant said, for straightforward goods such as land, it is the choice o f the thing to
be purchased w h ich determ ines the buyer’s decision; for problem atic good s, such as
beasts of burden, especially m ules, it is the choice of seller w hich decides, and at least
an effort is m ade to substitute a personalized relationship ( “ on behalf o f . . . ”) for a
com pletely im personal, anonym ous one. Every intermediate stage can be found, from
transactions based on com plete distrust, such as that betw een th e peasant and the shady
dealer, who cannot dem and or obtain guarantees because he cannot guarantee the
quality of his product or find guarantors, to the exchange of honour which can
dispense w ith conditions and depend entirely on the good faith of the " contracting
p arties”. But in m ost transactions the notions o f buyer and seller tend to be dissolved
in the network of m iddlem en and guarantors designed to transform the purely
econom ic relationship betw een supply and dem and into a genealogically based and
genealogically guaranteed relationship. Marriage itself is no exception: quite apart
from parallel-cousin marriage, it alm ost always occurs b etw een fam ilies already linked
by a whole network of previous exchanges, underwriting th e specific new agree
m ent. It is significant that in the first phase of the highly com plex negotiations
leading up to the marriage agreem ent, the fam ilies bring in prestigious kinsmen
or affines as "guarantors”, the sym bolic capital thus displayed serving both to
strengthen their hand in the negotiations and to guarantee the deal once it has been
concluded.
S im ilarly, th e in dignan t co m m en ts provoked by the heretical b eh aviour of
peasants w h o have d eparted from traditional w ays draw a tten tio n to the
m echan ism s w h ich form erly in clin ed the peasant to m aintain a m agical
relationship w ith the land and m ade it im p ossib le for him to see h is toil as
S ym bolic capital *75

labour: " I t ’s sacrilege, th ey have profaned the la n d ; th ey have d o n e away w ith


fear [elhiba]. N o th in g in tim id ates th em or stop s th e m ; th ey turn ev eryth in g
upside d o w n , I ’m sure th e y ’ll en d up p lo u g h in g in la k h r ifii they are in a hurry
and if th ey m ean to sp en d lahlal [th e licit period for p lo u g h in g ] d o in g so m e
thing e lse, or in rbi' [spring] if th ey Ve b een too lazy in lahlal. It’s all th e sam e
to th e m .” E veryth in g in th e p easan t’s practice actu alizes, in a different m o d e,
the o b jectiv e in ten tio n revealed b y ritual. T h e land is n ever treated as a raw
material to be ex p lo ited , but alw ays as th e ob ject o f respect m ixed w ith fear
(elhiba): it w ill " settle its sc o r e s”, th ey say, and take reven ge for th e bad
treatm ent it receives from a clu m sy or over-hasty farm er. T h e a ccom plished
peasant " p resen ts h im s e lf” to h is land w ith the stan ce appropriate w hen one
man m ee ts an oth er ( i.e . face to face), and w ith the attitu de of tru sting
fam iliarity he w ou ld sh o w a resp ected kinsm an. D u r in g the p lo u g h in g , he
would n ot think o f d eleg a tin g th e task of leadin g th e team , and the o n ly task
he leaves for h is " c lie n ts ” ( ichikran) is that o f breaking up the so il b eh ind
the p lo u g h . " T h e old m en used to say that to p lo u g h p rop erly, you had to
be the m aster o f th e land. T h e y o u n g m en w ere left o u t of it: it w ould have
been an in su lt to th e land t o ' p r e s e n t’ it [qabel] w ith m en one w ou ld not dare
to p resent to oth er m e n .” " It is the m an w h o con fron ts [receives] other m en ”,
says a p roverb , " w h o m u st con fron t th e la n d .” T o take u p H e sio d ’s o p p o sitio n
betw een ponos and ergon, the peasant d oes not w o r k , he takes pains. " G iv e
to the earth and the earth w ill g ive to y ou ”, says a p roverb . T h is can be taken
to m ean th at in o b ed ien ce to th e logic o f gift ex c h a n g e, nature b esto w s its
bounty o n ly on th ose w h o b rin g it their care as a trib u te. A nd the heretical
behaviour o f th ose w h o leave to th e y o u n g the task o f " o p en in g th e earth and
ploughing in to it th e w ealth of the n ew y ea r” p rovok es th e old er peasants to
express th e p rin cip le o f the relation ship b etw een m en and the land, w hich
could rem ain u nform ulated as lo n g as it w as taken for gran ted : " T h e earth
no lon ger g ives b ecau se w e give it n oth in g . W e op en ly m ock th e earth and
it is o n ly right that it sh ou ld pay us back w ith lie s .” T h e self-resp ectin g man
should alw ays b e b usy d o in g so m eth in g ; if he can n o t find an yth ing to do,
at least h e can carve h is s p o o n ”. A ctivity is as m u ch a d uty of com m un al
life as an eco n o m ic n ece ssity . WThat is valu ed is activity for its ow n sake,
regardless of its strictly econ om ic fu n ctio n , in asm u ch as it is regarded as
appropriate to th e fu n ctio n o f th e p erson d o in g it .25 O n ly the application of
categories alien to peasant exp erien ce (th o se im p o sed b y eco n o m ic d om in ation
and the g en eralization of m onetary exch an ges) b rin g s up the d istin ction
betw een th e tech n ical aspect and the ritual or sy m b o lic aspect o f agricultural
activity. T h e d istin ctio n b etw een p rod u ctive and u np rod u ctive w ork or
b etw een profitable and u n p rofitable w ork is u n k n o w n : the ancient econ om y
know s o n ly th e op p ositio n b etw een the idler w h o fails in h is social d u ty and
176 Structures , habitus , p o w e r

the w orker w h o perform s h is socially defined proper fu n ctio n , w hatever the


product of h is effort.
E verything con sp ires to con ceal the relation ship b etw een wrork and its
p rod uct. T h u s th e d istin ction w h ich M arx m akes b etw een the w orking period
proper - the tim e d ev o ted to p lo u g h in g and harvest - and the production
p erio d - th e n in e m on th s or so b etw een so w in g and h arvestin g, d uring which
tim e there is hardly any p rod u ctive w ork to be d on e - is d isgu ised in practice
b y th e apparent co n tin u ity conferred on agricultural activity by the countless
m inor tasks in ten d ed to assist nature in its labour. N o on e w ou ld have
th o u g h t of assessin g th e tech n ical efficiency or eco n o m ic u sefu ln ess o f these
in d issolu b ly techn ical an d ritual acts, the peasan t’s v ersion , as it wrere, of art
for art’s sake, su ch as fen cin g the fields, p ru n in g the trees, p rotectin g the
n ew sh o o ts from th e anim als, or " v is itin g ” ( asafqadh) and look in g after
th e fields, not to m en tion p ractices gen erally regarded as rites, such as
action s in ten d ed to exp el or transfer evil (asifedh) or celebrate the com ing
o f sp rin g. S im ilarly, no one wro u ld dream of try in g to evaluate the profitability
o f all the activities w hich th e application o f alien categories w ou ld lead one
to regard as u n p rod u ctive, su ch as th e fu n ctio n s carried ou t b y th e head of
the fam ily as leader and representative o f the grou p - co-ord in atin g the
w ork, sp eak ing in th e m en ’s a ssem b ly, b argaining in th e m arket, and
reading in the m o sq u e. " I f th e peasant c o u n te d ”, runs a p roverb, " h e would
n ot s o w .” P erhaps w e sh ou ld say that th e relation ship b etw een w ork and
its product is in reality not u n k n o w n , b u t socially repressed; that the pro
d u ctiv ity o f labour is so low that the peasant m u st refrain from co u n tin g his
tim e, in order to preserve th e m ean in gfu ln ess o f h is w ork; o r - a n d this
is o n ly an apparent con trad iction - that in a w orld in w h ich tim e is so
p len tifu l and g o o d s are so scarce, h is b est and in d eed on ly course is to
sp en d his tim e w ith ou t cou n tin g it, to sq uan der the on e th in g w h ich exists
in ab u n d an ce .28
In sh ort, the reality of p rod u ction is no less repressed than th e reality of
circulation , and th e peasan t’s " p a in s” are to labour w hat the g ift is to
com m erce (an a ctivity for w h ich , as E m ile B en ven iste p o in ts o u t, the Indo-
E uropean languages had no n a m e). T h e d iscovery o f labour p resu p p oses the
con stitu tio n of th e com m on grou n d o f p rod u ction , i.e . th e d isen ch antm en t
o f a natural w orld henceforw ard reduced to its eco n o m ic d im en sio n alone;
ceasin g to b e th e tribute paid to a necessary order, activity can be directed
tow ards an ex clu siv ely eco n o m ic en d , the en d wrh ich m o n ey , h e n c e f o r w a r d
th e m easure of all th in g s, starkly d esign ates. T h is m eans the en d of th e primal
u n d ifferen tiated n ess w hich m ade p ossib le the play o f in dividu al and collective
m isr e c o g n itio n : m easured b y th e yardstick of m onetary profit, the m ost sacred
a ctivities find th em selv es co n stitu ted n eg a tiv ely , as sym bolic, i.e ., in a sense
Sym bolic capital 17 7

the w ord so m etim es receives, as lackin g con crete or m aterial effect, in sh ort,
gratuitous, i.e . d isin terested but also u sele ss.
T h o se w h o ap ply th e categories and m eth o d s o f eco n o m ics to archaic
econom ies w ith o u t taking in to accoun t the o n tological tran sm u tation they
im pose on their object are certainly not alone now ad ays in treating th is type
of eco n o m y "as th e F athers o f th e C hurch treated the religions w hich
preceded C h ristia n ity ” : M arx’s phrase cou ld also b e ap plied to th o se M arxists
w ho tend to lim it research on th e form ations th e y call " p re-ca p ita list” to
scholastic d iscu ssion ab out the ty p o lo g y o f m o d es o f p ro d u ction . T h e com m on
root of this eth n ocen trism is the u n con sciou s acceptance of a restricted definition
of economic interest, w h ich , in its exp licit form , is the historical p rod uct of
capitalism : th e co n stitu tio n o f relatively au ton om ou s areas o f practice is
accom panied by a process through w h ich sy m b o lic in terests (o ften describ ed
as " sp iritu a l” or " c u ltu ra l”) com e to b e set up in o p p o sitio n to strictly
econom ic in terests as defined in the field o f eco n o m ic tran saction s b y the
fundam ental tau tology " b u sin ess is b u s in e s s ” ; strictly " c u ltu ra l” or " aes
th e tic ” in terest, d isin terested in terest, is the paradoxical p rod u ct of the
ideological labour in w h ich w riters and artists, th o se m ost d irectly in terested ,
have played an im portant part and in th e cou rse o f w h ich sym b olic in terests
becom e au ton om ou s b y b ein g op p osed to m aterial in terests, i.e . b y b ein g
sym bolically nullified as in terests. E co n o m ism k now s no other in terest than
that w hich cap italism has p rod uced , through a sort of con crete application
of abstraction, by esta b lish in g a u n iverse o f relation s b etw een m an and m an
based, as M arx says, on "callou s cash p a y m e n t” . T h u s it can find no place
in its analyses, still less in its calcu lation s, for the strictly sy m b o lic interest
w hich is occasion ally recogn ized (w h en too ob v io u sly en terin g in to conflict
with " in te r e st” in the narrow sen se, as in certain form s o f nationalism or
regionalism ) on ly to be redu ced to the irrationality of feelin g or p assion . In
fact, in a u niverse ch aracterized by the m ore or less p erfect in tercon vertib ility
of eco n o m ic capital (in the narrow sen se) and sy m b o lic capital, the economic
calculation d irectin g the a g en ts’ strategies takes in d issociab ly in to accoun t
profits and lo sses w h ich the narrow d efin ition o f eco n o m y u n con sciou sly
rejects as unthinkable and unnameable, i.e . as econ om ically irrational. In sh ort,
contrary to n aively id y llic represen tation s of " p re-ca p ita list” so cieties (or of
the "cultural ” sp here of capitalist so c ie tie s), practice n ever ceases to con form
to econ om ic calcu lation even w h en it g ives every appearance of d isin terested
ness b y d ep artin g from the lo g ic of in terested calculation (in the narrow sense)
and p layin g for stakes that are non-m aterial and not easily quantified.
T h u s the theory o f strictly eco n o m ic practice is sim p ly a particular case
° f a general theory of the ec o n o m ic s o f practice. T h e on ly way to escap e from
the eth n o cen tric n aiveties o f ec o n o m ism , w ith ou t fallin g in to p op u list
1 7 8 Structures , habitus , p o w e r

exaltation of th e g en erou s naivety of earlier form s of society, is to carry out


in fu ll w hat econ om ism d oes on ly partially, and to exten d eco n o m ic calculation
t o a ll the g o od s, m aterial and sym b olic, w ith ou t d istin ction , that present
th e m se lv e s as rare and w orthy of b ein g so u g h t after in a particular social
form ation - w h ich m ay b e "fair w o r d s” or sm iles, handshakes or shrugs,
c o m p lim en ts or attention , ch allenges or in su lts, honour or h onou rs, powers
o r p leasures, gossip or scien tific inform ation, d istin ction or distinctions,
e tc . E con om ic calculation has h ith erto m anaged to appropriate the territory
o b jectively surrendered to th e rem orseless logic o f w hat Marx calls " naked
se lf-in te r e st” only b y se ttin g aside a " sa cre d ” island m iraculously spared by
th e " icy w ater of egoistical ca lcu la tio n ” and left as a sanctuary for the
p riceless or w o rth less th in g s it cannot assess. But an accountancy of sym bolic
ex ch an ges w ou ld itself lead to a d istorted representation o f the archaic
ec o n om y if it w ere forgotten that, as th e p rod uct o f a principle o f differentia
tio n alien to the u niverse to w hich it is ap plied - the d istin ctio n between
e co n o m ic and sym b olic capital - the on ly w ay in w hich su ch accoun tancy can
ap preh en d th e u nd ifferen tiatedn ess of eco n o m ic and sy m b o lic capital is in the
form of their perfect in tercon vertib ility. If the con stitu tion o f art qua art,
a ccom p an yin g the d ev elo p m en t of a relatively au ton om ou s artistic field, leads
o n e to con ceive o f certain p rim itive or popular practices as aesth etic, one
in evitab ly falls in to th e eth n ocen tric errors unavoidable w hen on e forgets that
th o se practices cannot b e con ceived as su ch from w ith in ; sim ilarly, any
partial or total objectification o f the an cient econ om y that d oes not include
a theory of th e theorization effect and o f th e social co n d itio n s of objective
a p p reh en sion , together w ith a th eory of that econ o m y 's relation to its objective
reality (a relation of m isrecogn ition ), su ccu m b s to the su b tlest and m ost
irreproachable form o f eth n ocen trism .
In its fu ll d efin ition , th e patrim ony o f a fam ily or lineage in clu d es not only
th eir land and in stru m en ts o f p rod uction but also th eir kin and their clien tele,
nesba, th e netw ork o f alliances, or, m ore broadly, of relation ship s, to be kept
u p and regularly m aintain ed , represen tin g a heritage o f co m m itm en ts and
d eb ts of h on ou r, a capital o f rights and d u ties built up in the cou rse of
su ccessiv e gen erations and p rovid in g an additional source of strength w hich
can b e called upon w h en extra-ordinary situ ation s break in upon the daily
rou tin e. For all its pow er to regulate th e rou tine o f the ordinary cou rse of
ev e n ts through ritual stereo ty p in g , and to overcom e crises by p rod u cin g them
sy m b olically or ritualizing th em as soon as th e y appear, the archaic econom y
is n on eth eless fam iliar w ith th e op p o sitio n b etw een ordinary and extraordinary
o ccasion s, b etw een the regular n eed s w h ich th e h ou seh old can satisfy and
th e excep tion al n eed s for m aterial and sy m b o lic good s and services (in
u nusual circum stances of econ om ic crisis, political con flict, or sim p ly urgent
Sym bolic capital 179

farm work) requ iring th e unpaid assistan ce o f a m ore ex ten d ed grou p . If this
is so, it is b ecause, contrary to w hat M ax W eber su g g ests w h en he draw s a
crude contrast b etw een th e traditionalist typ e and th e charism atic type, the
ancient eco n o m y has its d isco n tin u ities, not o n ly in the p olitical sp here, w ith
conflicts w h ich m ay start w ith a ch an ce in cid en t and escalate in to tribal war
through th e interplay of the " le a g u e s” , b ut also in the ec o n o m ic sp here, w ith
the op p osition b etw een th e labour period, w hich in traditional cereal cu ltivation
is particularly sh ort, and the production p e r io d - an op p o sitio n giv in g rise to
one o f th e basic con trad iction s o f that social form ation an d also, in co n se
quence, to the strategies d esig n ed to overcom e it .27 T h e strategy o f a ccu m u
lating a capital of h onou r and p restige, w h ich p rod uces th e clien ts as m uch
as they produce it, provides the op tim al solu tion to th e p rob lem the group
would face if it had to maintain continuously (th rou gh ou t th e p rod uction period
as w ell) th e w h ole (hum an and anim al) w orkforce it n eed s d u rin g the labour
period: it allow s th e great fam ilies to m ake use of th e m a x im u m w orkforce
during the labour p eriod, and to reproduce con su m p tion to a m in im u m d uring
the u navoidably lon g p rod uction p eriod. Both hum an and anim al
consum ption are cu t, the form er b y th e redu ction of the g ro u p to the m inim al
unit, the fam ily; and th e latter through hire con tracts, su ch as th e charka o f
an ox, b y w hich the ow n er lend s h is anim al in exch an ge for n o th in g m ore
than com p en sation in cash or in kind for " d ep reciation of th e ca p ita l” . T h ese
services, p rovided at precise m om en ts and lim ited of p eriod s o f in tense
activity, su ch as harvest tim e, are repaid eith er in th e fo rm of labour, at other
tim es of the year, or w ith other services su ch as p ro tectio n , th e loan of
animals, etc.
T h u s w e see that sym b o lic capital, w h ich in the form o f the p restige and
renown attached to a fam ily and a nam e is readily co n v ertib le back into
econom ic capital, is perhaps the most valuable form o f accum ulation in a so ciety
in w h ich the severity of the clim ate (th e m ajor w ork - p lo u g h in g and
harvesting - h aving to b e d on e in a very short sp ace o f tim e ) and th e lim ited
technical resources (harvesting is d on e w ith the sickle) d em and collective
labour. S h ou ld on e se e in it a d isgu ised form of purchase o f labour pow er,
or a covert exaction o f corvees? B y all m eans, as lon g as the analysis h olds
together w hat h olds together in practice, the double rea lity of instrinsically
equivocal, ambiguous co n d u ct. T h is is the pitfall aw aiting all th ose w h o m a
naively d u alistic representation of th e relation ship b etw een practice and
ideology, b etw een th e " n a tiv e ” ec on om y and th e " n a tiv e ” representation of
that eco n o m y, leads into self-m y stify in g d em y stific a tio n s :28 th e com p lete
reality of th is appropriation of serv ices lies in the fact that it can only take
Place in the d isgu ise o f the th iw iz i, th e voluntary assistan ce w hich is also a
corvee and is th u s a voluntary corvee and forced assistan ce, and that, to use
i8 o Structures , habitus , p o w e r

a geom etrical m etaph or, it im p lies a d oub le half-rotation returning to the


startin g-p oin t, i.e . a con version of m aterial capital in to sy m b o lic capital itself
reconvertible in to m aterial capital.
T h e acq u isition o f a clien tele, even an inherited on e, im p lies considerable
labour d evoted to m aking and m aintaining relations, and also substantial
m aterial and sym b olic investm ents, in the form o f political aid against attack
th eft, offence, and in su lt, or eco n o m ic aid, w h ich can be very co stly , especially
in tim es o f scarcity. A s w ell as m aterial w ealth , time m ust be in vested , f0r
the value o f sym b olic labour cannot be defined w ithou t reference to the time
devoted to it, giving or squandering time b ein g on e o f the m ost precious of
g ifts .29 It is clear that in su ch co n d itio n s sy m b o lic capital can only be
accum ulated at the exp en se of th e accum u lation of econ om ic cap ital. C om bin
in g w ith th e ob jective ob stacles stem m in g from the in efficiency o f the means
of p rod uction , th e action of th e social m echan ism s in clin in g a gen ts to repress
or d isgu ise eco n o m ic interest and ten d in g to m ake th e accum ulation of
sym b olic capital the on ly recogn ized , legitim ate fofrm of accum ulation, was
sufficient to restrain and even p roh ibit the accum u lation o f material capital;
and it w as n o d ou b t rare for the assem b ly to have to step in and order
som eon e " n ot to get any ric h e r ” .30 It is a fact that co llectiv e pressure - with
w hich th e w ealth y m em bers o f th e grou p have to reckon, because they draw
from it not only their au th ority but also, at tim es, political pow er, the
strength of w h ich u ltim ately reflects their capacity to m o b ilize th e group for
or against in dividu als or grou p s - requires th e rich not o n ly to pay the largest
share of th e co st of cerem onial exch an ges ( taw sa ) but also to m ake the biggest
con trib ution s to th e m aintenance o f the poor, the lod gin g of strangers, and
the organization of festivals. A bove all, w ealth im p lies d u ties. " T h e generous
m a n ”, it is said, " is the friend o f G o d .” B elief in im m anent ju stice, which
in spires a n um ber o f practices (such as collectiv e oath-sw earing), no doubt
help s to m ake of gen erosity a sacrifice d esig n ed to w in in return the blessing
o f prosperity: "E at, you w h o are u sed to feed in g o th e r s” ; " L o rd , give unto
m e that I m ay g iv e .” B ut th e tw o form s o f capital are so in extricab ly linked
that the m ere exh ib ition o f th e m aterial and sym b olic strength r e p r e s e n t e d
b y p restigious affines is likely to be in itself a sou rce o f m aterial profit in a
good -faith ec o n o m y in w h ich good repute is th e b est, if not the only,
econ om ic g u aran tee: it is easy to see w h y the great fam ilies n ever m iss a chance
(and this is on e reason for th eir p red ilection for distant m arriages and vast
processions) to organize ex h ib ition s of sy m b o lic capital (in w h ich c o n s p i c u o u s
con su m p tion is on ly the m ost visib le asp ect), w ith p rocession s o f relatives and
friends to so lem n ize the p ilgrim ’s departure or return; th e b rid e’s escort,
assessed in term s o f the n um ber o f " r ifles” and the in ten sity o f the salutes
fired in the c o u p le ’s honour; p restigiou s gifts, in clu d in g sh eep , giv en on the
Sym bolic capital

occasion of the m arriage; w itn esses and guarantors w h o can be m ob ilized at


aDy tim e and place, to attest the good faith o f a m arket transaction or to
strengthen the p osition o f the lineage in m atrim onial negotiation and to
solemnize the contract. O nce on e realizes that sym b olic capital is alw ays credit,
in the w id est sense of th e w ord, i.e . a sort of advance w hich the grou p alone
can grant th ose w h o give it th e best m aterial and sym b olic guarantees, it can
be seen that the exh ib ition of sym b olic capital (w hich is alw ays very exp en sive
in econom ic term s) is on e o f th e m echan ism s w hich (n o d ou b t u niversally)
make capital g o to capital.
It is th u s by d raw ing u p a comprehensive balance-sheet of sym b olic profits,
without forgettin g the u nd ifferen tiatedn ess of the sy m b o lic and m aterial
aspects of the patrim ony, that it b ecom es p ossib le to grasp the econ om ic
rationality o f co n d u ct w h ich econ om ism d ism isses as absurd: the d ecision to
buy a seco n d pair of oxen after the harvest, on the grou n ds that they are needed
for treading ou t the grain - w h ich is a w ay o f m aking it know n the crop has
been p len tifu l - o n ly to have to sell th em again for lack of fodd er, before the
autumn p lo u gh in g , w h en they wrou ld be techn ically necessary, seem s
econom ically aberrant on ly if on e forgets all the material and sym b olic profit
accruing from this (albeit fictitiou s) addition to the fam ily ’s sy m b o lic capital
in the late-su m m er period in w h ich m arriages are n egotiated. T h e perfect
rationality o f this strategy o f bluff lies in the fact that marriage is the occasion
for an (in the w id est sen se) econ om ic circulation w h ich cannot be seen purely
in term s of m aterial go o d s; the profit a grou p can exp ect to draw from the
transaction rises w ith its m aterial and especially its sy m b o lic patrim ony, in
other w ord s, its stand in g in the eyes of other grou p s. T h is stand in g, w hich
depends on the capacity of the g rou p ’s p oin t of honour to guarantee the
invulnerability of its h onour, and con stitu tes an u n d ivid ed w hole in d issolu b ly
uniting th e q uan tity and q uality of its g o o d s and th e q u an tity and q uality of
the m en capable of turnin g th em to good accoun t, is w'hat enables th e grou p ,
m ainly through m arriage, to acquire p ow erful affines (i.e . w ealth in the form
of " rifles” , m easured not only b y the n um ber of m en b u t also by their
quality, i.e . their p oin t o f h on ou r), and defines the g ro u p ’s capacity to
preserve its land and h onour, and in particular th e honour o f its w om en (i.e .
the capital o f m aterial and sym b olic strength w hich can actually be m obilized
for m arket transactions, co n tests o f h on ou r, or work on the la n d ). T h u s the
m terest at stake in the co n d u ct of h onou r is on e for w h ich econ om ism has
no n am e, and wThich has to be called sym b olic, although it is su ch as to inspire
actions w h ich are very d irectly m aterial; just as there are p rofession s, like law
and m ed icin e, in w h ich th ose w h o practise th em m ust be "above s u sp ic io n ”,
80 a fam ily has a vital interest in k eep in g its capital of honour, i.e . its capital
of h onou rab ility, safe from su sp icio n . A nd th e h yp ersen sitivity to th e slightest
18 2 Structures , habitus , p o w er

slu r or in n u en d o (tkasalqu bth ) , and the m u ltip licity o f strategies designed to


b elie or avert th em , can be exp lain ed by th e fact that sy m b o lic capital is jess
easily m easured and cou n ted than land or livestock and that the group
u ltim ately th e on ly sou rce o f cred it for it, w ill readily w ithd raw that credit
and d irect its su sp icio n s at the stron gest m em bers, as if in m atters of honour
as in land, o n e m an ’s greater w ealth m ade the others that m u ch poorer.
W e m ust analyse in term s o f the sam e logic th e m echan ism s w h ich som e
tim es endowr a p iece of land w ith a value not alw ays corresp ond ing to its
strictly techn ical and (in the narrow sen se) eco n o m ic q u alities. D o u b tless the
nearest fields, th o se best m aintained and best farm ed, and h en ce the most
" p r o d u c tiv e ”, th ose m ost a ccessib le to the w om en (b y private paths, thik-
h uradjiyin), are p red isp osed to be m ore h igh ly valued by a n y purchaser;
- h ow ever, a p iece of land w ill so m etim es take on a sy m b o lic value dispro
p ortionate to its econ om ic valu e, as a fu n ction of th e socially accepted
definition o f th e sym b olic p atrim on y. T h u s the first p lo ts to be relinquished
w ill be the land least integrated in to the estate, least associated w ith the name
o f its present ow n ers, the land w h ich w as b o u g h t (esp ecia lly by a recent
purchase) rather than in h erited , the land b ou gh t from strangers rather than
that bough t from k insm en. W h en a field en d ow ed w ith all th e properties
wrh ich d efine a stron g in tegration in to th e patrim onial estate is ow ned by
strangers, b u y in g it back b eco m es a q u estion o f honour, an alogous to avenging
an in su lt, and it m ay rise to exorbitan t p rices. T h e y are purely theoretical
prices m ost of th e tim e, sin ce, w ith in this lo g ic , the sy m b o lic p rofits o f making
the ch allen ge are greater than th e m aterial profits that w ou ld accrue from
cynical (h en ce repreh en sib le) ex p lo itin g o f the situ ation . S o , th e point of
honou r the p ossessors set on k eep in g the land, esp ecially if their appropriation
is su fficien tly recent to retain its value as a ch allen ge to the alien group, is
equal to th e other sid e ’s d eterm in ation to b u y it back and to a v en g e the injury
d on e to the hurma o f their lan d. It m ay h app en that a third grou p w ill step
in w ith a h igher b id , th ereb y ch allen gin g not th e seller, w ho o n ly profits from
th e co m p etitio n , b u t the " le g itim a te ” o w n e rs .31
O n ly an in con sisten t - becau se reduced an d redu ctive - m aterialism can fail
to see that strategies w h ose ob ject is to con serve or increase th e honour of
th e grou p , in the forefront o f w h ich stand b lood ven gean ce and m arriage, are
dictated b y interests no less vital than are in heritan ce or fertility strategies *
T h e interest leadin g an agent to d efen d h is sy m b o lic capital is inseparable
from the tacit ad heren ce, in cu lcated in th e earliest years of life and reinforced
by all su b seq u en t ex p erien ce, to th e axiom atics ob jectively in scrib ed in the
regularities o f the (in the broad sen se) eco n o m ic order w h ich co n stitu tes a
d eterm in ate ty p e of sy m b o lic capital as w orth y o f b ein g pursued and pre*
served. T h e ob jective harm ony b etw een the a gen ts 5d isp o sitio n s (h ere, their
M odes o f domination

propensity and capacity to play the gam e of h onou r) and th e ob jective


regularities o f w h ich their dispositions are the p rod u ct, m ean s that m em b er
ship in this eco n o m ic co sm o s im p lies u n con d ition al recogn ition of the stakes
which, by its very ex isten ce, it p resen ts as taken fo r granted, that is, m isrecog-
flition o f the arbitrariness o f the value it con fers on th em . T h is value is such
to in d u ce in vestm en ts and o v er-in vestm en ts (in b oth the eco n o m ic and the
psychoanalytic sen ses) w h ich ten d , through th e en su in g co m p etitio n and
rarity, to rein force the w ell-grou n d ed illu sion that th e value o f sy m b o lic g o o d s
is inscribed in the nature of th in gs, just as in terest in th ese good s is in scrib ed
in the nature of m en .
T h u s, the h o m o lo g ies estab lish ed b etw een the circulation of land sold and
bought, the circulation o f " th ro a ts” " le n t ” and " retu r n e d ” (m u rd er and
vengeance), and th e circulation o f w om en g iv en and received , that is, b etw een
the different form s of capital and the corresp on d in g m od es of circu lation ,
oblige u s to abandon the d ich o to m y of the eco n o m ic and the n o n -eco n o m ic
which stand s in the w ay o f seein g the scien ce of eco n o m ic p ractices as a
particular case of a general science o f the economy o f practices, capable of
treating all practices, in clu d in g th o se p urportin g to b e d isin terested or gratu i
tous, and h en ce n o n -eco n o m ic, as eco n o m ic p ractices d irected tow ards the
m axim izing o f m aterial or sy m b o lic profit. T h e capital accum u lated by grou p s,
the energy o f social d y n a m ics - in this case their capital o f p hysical strength
(related to their m o b ilizin g cap acity, and h en ce to the n um ber o f m en and
their readiness to fig h t), their eco n o m ic capital (land and livestock ) and their
sym bolic capital, alw ays ad dition ally associated w ith p o ssessio n o f the other
kinds o f capital, b u t su scep tib le of increase or d ecrease d ep en d in g on h ow
they are u sed - can exist in different form s w h ich , althou gh su b ject to strict
laws of eq u ivalen ce and h en ce m utally con vertib le, produce sp ecific effec ts .33
Sym bolic capital, a transform ed and th ereb y disguised form of p hysical " e co
n o m ic” capital, p rod uces its proper effect in asm uch, and on ly in asm u ch , as
it con ceals the fact that it originates in " m aterial ” form s o f capital w h ich are
also, in th e last analysis, the source o f its effects.

M odes o f dom ination

In so cieties w h ich have n o " self-regu latin g m arket ” (in K arl P olyan i’s se n se ),
no ed u cational sy stem , n o juridical apparatus, and n o S tate, relation s o f
dom ination can be set up and m aintained o n ly at th e cost o f strategies w h ich
m ust be en d lessly ren ew ed , becau se the co n d ition s required for a m ediated,
losttng appropriation of other agents* labour, services, or h om age h ave not b een
brought togeth er. By con trast, d om in ation n o lo n ger n eed s to b e exerted in
a direct, personal w ay w h en it is en tailed in p ossession of th e m ean s (eco n o m ic
184 Structures , habitus , po w er

or cultural capital) o f appropriating th e m echan ism s o f the field of production


and the field of cultural p rod uction , w h ich ten d to assure their owrn reproduc
tion b y their very fu n ctio n in g , in d ep en d en tly o f any deliberate intervention
by the agents. S o , it is in the d egree o f objectification of the accum ulated social
capital that on e finds th e b asis of all th e p ertin en t differences betw een the
m odes of d om in ation : that is, very schem atically, b etw een , on the one hand
social universes in w h ich relation s o f d om in ation are m ade, u nm ade, and
rem ade in and b y the in teractions b etw een persons, and on the other hand,
social form ations in w h ich , m ediated by ob jective, in stitu tionalized m echan
ism s, su ch as th ose p rod ucing and guaranteeing the d istrib u tion o f " titles”
(titles of n o b ility, d eed s o f p ossession , academ ic d egrees, e tc .), relations of
d om in ation have the op acity and perm anence o f th in gs and escape the grasp
o f individual co n sciou sn ess and pow er. O bjectification guarantees the
perm anence and cu m u lativity o f m aterial and sym b olic acq u isition s which
can then su b sist w ithou t the agen ts having to recreate them co n tin u ou sly and
in th eir en tirety b y d eliberate action; but, because th e profits of these in
stitu tion s are th e ob ject o f differential appropriation, objectification also and
inseparably en su res the reproduction of the structure o f the distribution of
th e capital wrh ich , in its various form s, is th e precond ition for su ch appropria
tio n , and in so d o in g, reproduces the structure o f the relations of dom ination
and d ep en d en ce.
P aradoxically, it is p recisely because there exist relatively autonom ous
fields, fu n ction in g in accordance w ith rigorous m echan ism s capable o f im
p osin g their n ecessity on the agen ts, that th ose wrh o are in a position to
com m and th ese m echan ism s and to appropriate the m aterial an d /or sym bolic
profits accruing from their fu n ction in g are able to dispense w ith strategies
aim ed expressly (w h ich d oes not m ean m anifestly) and directly (i.e . w ithout
b ein g m ed iated by th e m echan ism s) at the d om in ation o f individuals, a
dom in ation w hich in th is case is the con d ition o f the appropriation of the
m aterial and sym b o lic profits o f their labour. T h e savin g is a real one,
b ecau se strategies d esign ed to establish or m aintain lastin g relations of depen
d en ce are generally very exp en sive in term s o f m aterial g o o d s (as in the
p otlatch or in charitable acts), services, or sim p ly tim e; wrhich is wrh y, b y a
paradox con stitu tiv e of this m ode o f d om in ation , the m eans eat up the end,
and the actions necessary to en su re the con tinu ation o f pow er th em selv es help
to w eaken it .34
E conom ic powrer lies not in w ealth b ut in th e relationship b etw een wealth
and a field of econ om ic relations, th e con stitu tion o f w hich is inseparable from
the d evelop m en t of a body o f specialized agents, w ith specific in terests; it is
in this relationship that w ealth is con stitu ted , in th e form o f capital, that is,
as the in stru m ent for appropriating the in stitu tional eq u ip m en t and the
M odes o f domination

m echanism s in dispensab le to th e fu n ction in g o f the field, and th ereb y also


appropriating the profits from it. T h u s M oses F in ley con vin cin gly sh o w s that
the an cient econ om y lacked not resources b ut the m eans " to overcom e the
limits of individual re so u rces’*. " T h ere w ere no proper credit in stru m en ts -
no negotiable paper, no book clearance, no credit p a y m e n t s .. .T h e r e w as
m oneylending in p len ty b u t it was concentrated on sm all u surious loans to
peasants or con su m ers, and in large borrow in gs to enable m en to m eet the
political or other con ven tion al exp en d itu res o f the upper c la s s e s . . . Sim ilarly
in the field o f b u sin ess organization: there w ere no lon g-term partnerships
or corporations, no brokers or agen ts, n o gu ild s - again w ith the occasional
and unim portant ex cep tio n . In short, both the organizational and the opera
tional d ev ices w ere lacking for the m obilization of private capital
resources .”35 T h is analysis is even m ore relevant to an cient K abylia, w hich
lacked even the m ost elem entary in stru m ents o f an econ o m ic in stitu tion . Land
was in fact m ore or less totally exclu d ed from circulation (th o u g h , occasion ally
serving as secu rity , it w as liable to pass from one group to an oth er). V illage
and tribal m arkets rem ained isolated and there w as n o way in w h ich th ey cou ld
be linked up in a sin gle m echan ism . T h e op p osition m ade by traditional
m orality, incarnated by the bu n iya , b etw een the "sacrilegious c u n n in g ”
custom ary in m arket transactions and the good faith appropriate to exchan ges
among kinsm en and friends 36 - w hich w as m arked by th e spatial d istin ction
betw een th e place o f resid en ce, the village, and the place of transactions, the
market - m ust not be allow ed to mask the op p osition b etw een the sm all local
market, still "em b ed d ed in social re la tio n sh ip s”, as P olyani p uts it, and the
market w hen it has b ecom e th e "d om inan t transactional m o d e ”.37

T he strategies of honour are not banished from the market: though a man may
enhance his prestige by tricking a stranger, he may also take pride in having bought
som ething at an exorbitant price, to satisfy his point of honour, just "to show he could
do it ”; or he may boast of having managed to strike a bargain w ithout laying out a
penny in cash, either by m obilizing a number of guarantors, or, better still, by
drawing on the credit and the capital o f trust which com e as much from a reputation
for honour as from a reputation for w ealth. It is said of such a man that "he could
come back with the whole market even if he left home with nothing in his pockets”.
Men whose reputation is known to all are predisposed to play the part of guarantors
- either for the seller, w ho vouches for the quality of his animal in their presence,
°r for the buyer, w ho, if he is not paying in cash, promises that he will repay his debt
prom ptly.38 T h e trust in which they are held, and the connections w hich they can
mobilize, enable them to "go to the market with only their faces, their names, and
their honour for m o n ey ” - in other words, the only things w hich can take the place
of money in this econom y - and even "to wager [to make an offer], whether they have
money on them or not". Strictly personal qualities, "which cannot be borrowed or le n t’*,
count at least as much as wealth or solvency. In reality, even in the market the degree
of mutual information is such as to leave little scope for overpricing, cheating, and
bluff. If, exceptionally, a man "w ho has not been brought up for the m arket” tries

BOT
Structures , habitus , pow er

to ''make a b id ”, he is soon put in his place. " T h e market will ju d g e ”, they sav
m eaning by "m arket” not the laws of the market, w hich in a very different univers
sanction reckless undertakings, but rather the collective judgm ent shaped and mani
fested in the market. Either a man is a "market m a n ” ( argaz nasuq) or he isn’t; a total
judgm ent is passed on the whole man, and like all such judgm ents in every society
it involves the ultim ate values laid dow n in the mythical taxonom ies. A "house mari”
(argaz ukhamis) w ho takes it upon him self to overstep his "natural” lim its is put in
his place with the w ords " Since you're only a fireside m an, remain a fireside man”
(thakwath, the alcove in the wall o f the house w hich is used to hide the sm all, typically
female objects which m ust not be seen in broad daylight - spoons, rags, weaving tools
etc.).
T h e village/m ark et d ich o to m y is no d ou b t a m eans of p reventin g the
im personal exch an ges of th e m arket from ob tru d in g the d isp o sitio n s of
calculation in to th e wrorld of reciprocity relation sh ip s. In fact, wrh ether a small
tribal m arket or a b ig regional m arket, the suq represents a transactional mode
interm ediate b etw een tw o extrem es, n either o f w h ich is ever fu lly actualized:
on the one hand there are th e exch an ges of th e fam iliar wrorld o f acquaintance,
based on the trust and good fa ith that are p o ssib le w h en the purchaser is well
inform ed about the prod ucts exch an ged and the se lle r’s strategies, and when
the relation ship b etw een the parties con cern ed exists before and after the
exchan ge; and on th e other hand there are the rational strategies o f the
self-regu latin g m arket, w h ich are m ade p ossib le b y th e standardization of its
products and th e quasi-m echan ical n ecessity o f its processes. T h e suq does
not p rovid e all the traditional in form ation , but n either does it create the
con d ition s for rational in form ation . T h is is wrhy all the strategies applied
by th e peasants aim to m in im ize the risk im p lied in the u np redictab ility of
the o u tc o m e , b y tran sform ing th e im personal relationships o f com m ercial
transactions, w h ich have n either past nor future, in to lasting relationships of
reciprocity: by callin g u p on guarantors, w itn esses, and m ediators th ey are able
to estab lish , or re-establish, the fu n ction al eq u iv alen t of a traditional network
of relation ship s b etw een th e con tractin g parties.
Just as eco n o m ic wrealth cannot fu n ction as capital u n til it is linked to an
econom ic apparatus, so cultural co m p eten ce in its various fo rm s cannot be
con stitu ted as cultural capital u ntil it is in serted in to the objective relations
betw een th e system o f eco n o m ic p rod uction and the system p rod ucing the
producers (wrhich is itself con stitu ted b y th e relation b etw een the school
system and th e fam ily ). W h en a so ciety lacks b oth the literacy w h ich would
enable it to preserve and accu m u late in ob jectified form th e cultural resources
it has in herited from the p ast, and also the ed u cational system w h ich would
give its agen ts the ap titu des and d isp o sitio n s required for th e symbolic
reappropriation o f those resou rces, it can on ly p reserve them in their incor
porated sta te ." C o n seq u en tly, to en su re the p erpetuation o f cultural resources
w hich wro u ld oth erw ise d isappear alon g w ith th e agen ts w h o bear th em , it has
M odes o f domination 18 7

resort to system atic in cu lcation , a p rocess w h ich , as is sh o w n b y the case


J the b ard s, m ay last as lon g as the p eriod d u rin g w h ich the resou rces are
actually u sed . T h e transform ations m ade p ossib le by an in stru m en t of cultural
com m unication su ch as w ritin g have b een ab un dan tly d e sc r ib e d :40b y d etach
ing cultural resou rces from persons, literacy en ab les a so ciety to m ove b eyon d
im m ediate hum an lim its - in particular th ose of in dividu al m em ory - and
frees it from the con strain ts im plied b y m n em o n ic d ev ices su ch as poetry,
the p reservation tech n iq u e par excellen ce in non-literate so c ie tie s ;41 it enables
a society to accum u late culture h ith erto preserved in em b od ied form , and
correlatively en ab les particular grou p s to practise prim itive accumulation o f
cultural ca pital, th e partial or total m o n o p o lizin g o f the so c ie ty ’s sym b olic
resources in religion, p h ilosop h y, art, and scien ce, by m o n o p o lizin g the
instrum ents for appropriation of th ose resources (w ritin g, reading, and
other d eco d in g tech n iq u es) henceforw ard preserved not in m em ories but
in texts.
But th e ob jectification effects o f literacy are n o th in g in com parison w ith
those p rod u ced b y the educational sy stem . W ith ou t en terin g in to d etailed
analysis, it m u st suffice to point ou t that academ ic q ualifications are to
cultural capital w hat m o n ey is to econ om ic ca p ita l .42 By g iv in g the sam e value
to all holders o f the sam e certificate, so that any on e of th e m can take the
place of an y other, the educational sy stem m in im izes th e ob stacles to the free
circulation o f cultural capital w h ich resu lt from its b ein g incorporated in
individual persons (w ith o u t, how ever, sacrificing th e advantages of th e charis
matic id eology o f th e irreplaceable in d iv id u a l); it m akes it p ossib le to relate
all q ualification-holders (and also, n egatively, all unqualified in dividu als) to
a single standard, th ereb y settin g u p a single m arket for all cultural capacities
and guaran teein g the con vertibility of cultural capital in to m o n ey , at a
determ inate cost in labour and tim e. A ca d em ic q ualifications, like m on ey,
have a co n ven tion al, fixed value w h ich , b ein g guaranteed b y law , is freed from
local lim itation s (in contrast to sch olastically u ncertified cultural capital) and
tem poral flu ctu a tio n s: the cultural capital w h ich th ey in a sen se guarantee on ce
and for all d oes n ot con stantly need to b e p roved . T h e objectification
accom plished b y acad em ic degrees and d ip lom as and, in a m ore general w ay,
by all form s o f cred en tials, is inseparable from the objectification w h ich the
law guarantees by d efin in g perm anent positions w h ich are d istin ct from the
biological in d ivid u als h old in g them , and m ay be o ccu p ied b y agents w h o are
biologically d ifferen t b u t interchangeable in term s of th e qualifications
required. O n ce th is state of affairs is estab lish ed , relation s o f p ow er and
dom ination no lon ger exist directly b etw een in d ivid u als; they are set u p in
Pure o b jectivity b etw een in stitu tion s, i.e . b etw een socially guaranteed
qualifications and socially defined p o sitio n s, and through th em , b etw een the

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1 88 Structures, habitus , po w er

social m echan ism s w h ich p rod uce and g