chapter  6
21 Pages

Media Policy Under the Islamic Republic: Rights, Institutional Interests, and Control

In thinking about state it is of course always possible to overstate the state as a ‘body’ that claims the monopoly of legitimate use of physical violence. The state, of course, does rely on the bayonet, but as the saying goes cannot sit on it. The main strategy to avoid the latter option is to ‘claim the monopoly of the legitimate use of symbolic violence’. According to Bourdieu we need to rethink state as the

. . . culmination of a process of concentration of different species of capital: capital of physical force or instruments of coercion (army, police), economic capital, cultural or (better) informational capital, and symbolic capital. It is this concentration as such which constitutes the state as the holder of a sort of meta-capital granting power over other species of capital and over their holders. (1999:57)

The concentration of a symbolic capital of recognition, or legitimacy, goes hand in hand with the concentration of armed forces and fi nancial resources. Parallel to a unifi ed army and unifi ed taxation, Bourdieu argues, there has to be a unifi ed ‘culture’. It is in this process of promoting a ‘particular’ culture or language to the status of ‘universal’ that all others fall into particularity. In this respect anything outside of this ‘unifi ed culture’ will be perceived as irrelevant, foreign, and in many cases against national character and therefore any criticism labeled as ‘treason’. Any serious discussion of ‘dominant’ culture therefore needs to avoid ahistorical analysis of certain ‘characters’ and realize the importance of the state

in constructing that sense of ‘national character’. It is usually the case that when the advocates of ‘authentic culture’ refer to the notion of collective identity, they fail to address exactly whose identity is being defi ned and by whom. ‘National characters’ are constantly constituted and reconstituted by selective reading of ‘tradition’ and images of social memory. The existence of criticisms inside Iran, as I have already pointed out, indicates the failure of the state to impose its monopoly over legitimate use of symbolic violence and its continuing struggle to manufacture consent to its rule.