Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Classification Schemes Classify the Classifier

Pierre Bourdieu enjoys clever turns of phrase that make your head hurt, like the above. The idea, though, when you wrestle with it, is a rich one. We classify others. We fit everyone into some kind of classification scheme. Social stratification amounts to a shared system for classifying others.

At a higher level of abstraction, though, the system that we use to classify others also classifies us. This is true in two senses. The more obvious sense is that if we classify all of society, and we are members of society, too, then we have to be able to fit into our own classification scheme.

The less obvious sense comes from the fact that we tend to use classification schemes that make our class, our kind, look good compared to the other classes. Moreover, other people who are like us tend to do the same thing. When we add up all the classification schemes, similar people will tend to classify similarly. Thus, the classification scheme that we choose among all possible classification schemes tells a great deal about what class we are in ourselves.

One of the things that people in successful marriages tend to share is a classification scheme for classifying all of society.

Classification schemes classify the marriage.

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