Symbolic violence and the racial order

John W. Murphy, Luigi Esposito

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this article, we develop an understanding of racism based on a style of social control that recent writers have referred to as "symbolic violence". Symbolic violence is novel in that agents are oppressed through their own complicity as they accept and reproduce a "reality" that is made to appear unavoidable and even beneficial. Although many sociological discussions of racism have contributed to the sort of reification that leads to symbolic violence by understanding racial identities as essential, cultural ideals as ahistorical, and market dynamics as autonomous, we make the point that symbolic violence survives even as oppressed members are understood as active agents. We discuss how symbolic violence differs from other variants of racism and address the sort of theoretical maneuver that needs to be made if a more equitable order is to be fostered. Specifically, only by restoring the praxiology of language can race cease from being an immutable social fact that normalizes racial inequalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationStudies in Symbolic Interaction
PublisherJAI Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)0762308516, 9780762308514
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameStudies in Symbolic Interaction
ISSN (Print)0163-2396

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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