The Intimate Life of Power

Convenor: Pietro Saitta (University of Messina)

A particular asymmetry is active within the social sciences: one that derives from favoring even the microscopic knowledge of subaltern experiences and, to a lesser degree, that of the middle classes, while neglecting to steer this “will to know” with same intensity and frequency in the direction of the upper classes. This is certainly an effect of the secretive nature of power, which speaks predominantly through its acts, rituals and “controlled” representations (those, for example, today offered on social networks for the benefit of the poor’s “voyeurism”), and hides itself when viewed too closely by outsiders. However, despite some significant exceptions, the social sciences did not generally apply towards the powerful the same methodological imagination utilized to observe poor and deviants. The effects violated the aura of untouchability and danger of this latter group, but confirmed the implicit nature of the order governing social relations, including those linking researchers to their human objects/subjects.

Thus, what about the intimate life of power? And what about the modes of production and reproduction of a class ideology that passes through the socialization or attendance of homogeneous and exclusive circles (from school to work, and mundane events)? Yet, what about the common sense – if this ever existed – emerging from a daily life characterized not only by ease, but also by the possible coexistence of different senses of responsibility? Also, what are the specific cultural elements of the powerful classes that compose those economic and political decision-making processes capable of generating dramatic effects for the lower sphere of the workers or the populations subject to these decisions? How are the forms of distinction that typically separate the upper segments of society from the rest of the social body reproduced, extended or virtually annulled? And how do the plurality of class identities (inadequacy, natural reluctance, or the frantic need to exhibit new status) coexist – especially in the case of parvenu and latecomers – accompanying the lives of those who have come late to power or to wealth?

The present call for papers solicits either ethnographic or qualitative contributions that deal with the theme of the intimate life of power, highlighting aspects related to everyday life as well as the ideology of the upper classes (e.g., managers, political bankers, entrepreneurs, heirs, new rich and influencers) caught in the system of relations within their group as well as in the “interplay” that opposes, resembles and overlaps other classes for varied purposes – linked to domination or “existential” needs. Methodological contributions, based both on primary research accounts and secondary data, that reflect on the problems of access to social spheres characterized by asymmetries working against researchers, are also encouraged.



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