The concept of symbolic power was first introduced by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to account for the tacit almost unconscious modes of cultural/social domination occurring within the every-day social habits maintained over conscious subjects. Symbolic power accounts for discipline used against another to confirm that individual’s placement in a social hierarchy.
Also referred to as “soft” power, symbolic power includes actions that have discriminatory or injurious meaning or implications, such as gender dominance and racism. Symbolic power maintains its effect through the mis-recognition of power relations situated in the social matrix of a given field. While symbolic power requires a dominator, it also requires the dominated to accept their position in the exchange of social value that occurs between them.