Notes from Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon

p. 147 What we must make an effort to understand is what and how it is possible for the popular classes to think of the conditions under which they live sometimes as tying them necessarily to the left, sometimes as self-evidently placing them on the right. A number of factors need to be taken into account: the economic situation, both local and global, of course; transformations in the nature of work and the relations between individuals that these transformations create or undo; but also, and I would be tempted to say, above all, the way in which political discourses, discursive categories, play a role in shaping the process of political subjectivication. Political parties play an important role here, even perhaps a fundamental one, because, as we have seen, it is by way of them that people who otherwise have no voie can speak – by way of spokespeople who speak on their behalf, but also in their place. the role of parties is fundamental because organised discourses are what produce categories of perception, ways of thinking of oneself as a political subject, and also define one’s ways of conceiving of one’s own “interests” and of the ways of voting that correspond

p. 160 Learning to be studious, to be scholarly, with all that involves, was a slow and chaotic process for me: the discipline required – both of body and of mind – is not something one is born with. It takes time to acquire if you are not fortunate enough for that acquisition to have been encouraged in you since childhood without you even being aware of it… What was a matter of course for others was something I had to struggle with day after day, month after month, working anew each day to find ways of organizing my time, of using language, of relating to others, that would transform my very person, my habitus. The process would place me in an increasingly awkward position within my family, to which I returned each evening. .. in order not to shut myself out of the educational system – or to be expelled from it — I had to shut out my own family, the universe from which I came. There was really no possibility of holding the two worlds together, of belonging in any easy way to both of them.”

p. 166 “Friendship cannot escape from the laws of historical gravity; two friends are still two incorporated social histories that attempt to co-exist. And so sometimes in the course of a friendship, no matter how close, two classes come into conflict with each other, simply as the effect of the intertia of the habitus involved. .. when you spend time in bourheois circles, or simply with ordinary middle class people, it is often simply assumed that you come from the same background. .. middle class people always address you as if your existential and cultural experiences have been the same as theirs. .. When my father died, one of my close friends to whom I mentkioned that I wasn’t going to be attending my father’s funeral, but that I noneytheless had to go to Reims to see my mother, made the followign observation: “of course. In any case you will have to be there when the lawyer reads the will.”… What will? Good heavens! As if anyone in my family drew up their wills with their lawyers. What, precisely would they be leaving to anyone… All my parents had were some meager savings, painstakingly accumulated over the years, and deposited in an account at a savings bank… as far as my mother was concerned, that money belonged to her, since she and my father ‘put it away’ tgether, setting aside a portion of their earnings that really would have come in handy for other basic thinsg in life. The idea that this money, their money, would have to be passed on to anyone other than her, even if it was to her children, seemed inconceivable and unbearable to her.”

p. 173 “people from less advantaged classes end up believing that they are gaining access to what has previously been denied to them, whereas in reality, once they have that access, it turns out to mean very little, because the system has evolved and the important and valuable place to be has now shifted somewhere else. … This is what Bourdieu calls the ‘displacement [translation] of the structure.’What has been labelled a ‘democratization’ is really a displacement in which, despite all appearances, the structure perpetuates itself, maintains itself with almost the same rigidity as in the past.”

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