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Geopolitics and Expertise: Knowledge and Authority in European Diplomacy by Merje Kuus

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Chapter Six

Feel for the Game: Symbolic Capital in the European Quarter

Symbolic Capital

Every social field operates in part through customs that are learned by daily practice. In Brussels, where consensus-building, networking, and peer pressure are the driving forces of policy-making, both states’ and individuals’ ability to advance their interests depends in part on their intangible resources of networks, connections, and reputation. To grasp the rules for the production of rules in Brussels, we must analyze how these resources operate: their social bases, rules of conduct, and effects. We need to understand the practices that the social field neither teaches nor explicitly demands, but which “belong to the attributes attached by status to the position it assigns, the qualifications it awards and the social positions to which the latter give access” (Bourdieu 1984, 26).

At one level, the accent here is on social networks, or what Karen Ho (2009, 74) in her study of Wall Street investment banks calls social infrastructure. Ho shows that monetary rewards at Wall Street investment banks are “crucially enabled” by an infrastructure of prestigious schooling, networking, and a culture of “smartness”. Even in a place where people are so focused on money that they “don’t worry a lot about niceties”, hard work must be accompanied by specific symbolic resources (ibid., 108). Charlene Jackson, the first African-American woman to become a managing director at Solomon Smith Barney, puts it ...

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