More commonly going by the original French title, La Misère du Monde (1993), this work is best read as a collection of short stories from a team of researchers under the direction and theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdieu, that country’s foremost sociologist.
The accounts offer a space for state officials and politicians, routinely fettered to the sway of public opinion and made passive by official bureaucracy and government frameworks, to make themselves heard. Specifically, these interviews are narratorial analyses of the new determinants of social suffering acting and shaping contemporary societies, particularly the endless challenges faced by those unable to obtain a socially dignified livelihood or unable to manage the constant change in their existence.
From the Algerian family living in the banlieue of Paris subjected to vitriolic acts of racism, to social workers, policemen, teachers, white-collar workers, mobsters, retailers, farmers, creatives, and the steel worker who finds himself struggling to support his family following his shock redundancy after 20 years in the job, the book registers contemporaneous conversations about inequality, political red herrings and civic solidarity in a markedly progressive social commentary.
As one reviewer puts it, The Weight of the World ‘offers not only a distinctive method for analyzing social life, but another way of practicing politics’. Social suffering in contemporary society and its immediate relation to health has rarely been so compellingly written.
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