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Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). Basic Facts…. Born August 1, 1930 in Denguin, Pyr é n é es-Atlantiques, France Grandfather was a sharecropper, and father was a postman, later postmaster Married Marie-Claire Brizard in 1962 Had three sons French sociologist

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basic facts
Basic Facts…
  • Born August 1, 1930 in Denguin, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France
  • Grandfather was a sharecropper, and father was a postman, later postmaster
  • Married Marie-Claire Brizard in 1962
  • Had three sons
  • French sociologist
  • Died January 23, 2002 in Paris, France
academic career
Academic Career
  • Studied philosophy in Paris at the École Normale Supérieure
  • He worked as a teacher for a year
  • Established sociological reputation with ethnographic research while in French Army during Algerian War of Independence (1958-62)
  • 1964+ Director of Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études
  • 1968 until death, headed Centre de Sociologie Européenne, a research center founded by Aron
  • 1975 edited sociological journal, “Actes de la recherche en sciences sociale,” with Luc Boltanski
  • 1981 until retirement, Chair of Sociology at Collége de France (position formerly held by Raymond Aron et al.)
  • 1993 received “Medaille d’or du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)”
  • 1996 received Goffman prize from UC Berkeley
  • 2002 received Huxley Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Gaston Bachelard

Georges Canguilhem

Emile Durkheim

Norbert Elias

Edmund Husserl

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Claude Lévi-Strauss

Blaise Pascal

Ferdinand De Sassure

Karl Marx

Max Weber

Thornstein Veblen

Marcel Mauss

Ludwig Wittgenstein

influences cont d
Influences Cont’d…
  • From Weber, importance of domination and symbolic systems in social life; social orders, which he would transform into a theory of fields
  • From Marx, concept of capital with respect to social activity, not just economics
  • From Durkheim, deterministic style
  • From Mauss and Lévi-Strauss, structuralist style and the tendency of social structures to reproduce themselves
  • From Merleau-Ponty and Husserl, focus on the body, action, and practical dispositions (manifested in his theory of habitus)
major works
Major Works
  • Outline of a Theory of Practice, 1977
  • Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, 1984
  • Homo Academicus, 1988
  • The Logic of Practice, 1990
  • Language and Symbolic Power, 1991
  • Free Exchange, 1995
  • The State Nobility, 1996
  • The Rules of Art, 1996
  • Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action, 1998
  • Firing Back: Against the Tyranny of the Market, 2003
  • Main interests: power, symbolic violence, academia, the relationship between historical structures and subjective agents (development of methodologies), and language and how it connects to power.
  • Other key ideas: cultural capital, field, habitus, illusio, reflexivity, social capital, and symbolic capital
overview of bourdieu s work
Overview of Bourdieu’s Work
  • work amounts to cultural sociology or theory of practice
  • Focused on empirical investigation
  • “theorist” label is too confining
  • “habitus,” “field,” and “Cultural capital” commonplace in major sociological journals
  • Shares intellectual roots with poststructuralist or postmodernist, Foucault, Lacan, and Derrida
  • More of a social theorist, language is used by particular actors for particular ends
  • Connection between structure and action
  • Uses conceptual tools to explain process of social life in concrete settings
  • Trained as an anthropologist, and within structuralist tradition
bourdieu s work cont d
Bourdieu’s Work Cont’d…
  • Politically engaged and had no affiliation; supported work against influence of political elites and neoliberal capitalism, but also considered an enemy of French left
  • First published studies- fieldwork in Algeria
  • Accepted by English-language sociologists by end of 1970s
  • Criticized “theoretical theory,” work more concerned with developing ideas or concepts rather than using them to understand the world
  • Remained active in research projects and was subject of documentary, La sociologie est un sport de combat (“Sociology is a Combat Sport”)
cont d
  • Work emphasized how social classes (esp. ruling and intellectual classes) preserve social privileges across generations despite the false idea of equality of opportunity and high social mobility, achieved through education
  • For him sociology was about exposing the latent structures that influence actions and combating symbolic violence
  • Produced hundreds of articles and three dozen books, translated into two dozen languages
  • Impacted several disciplines other than sociology; works were considered classics in not only sociology, but anthropology, education, and cultural studies
  • Not seen as an “ivory tower academic,” but a passionate activist for those he thought to be subordinated by society
  • Influenced sociologists, such as Loïc Wacquant, who applied Bourdieu’s theory (participant objectivization) to boxing, and Michel de Certeau
  • Most quoted living sociologist, including 7,000 web pages

Social Space and

Symbolic Space

  • Based on theoretical model in Distinction
  • Emphasizes need for empirical data and its inseparability from the theoretical
  • Focus on practical examples and case studies to show how theoretical applies to real world
  • Use range of “observation and measurement” methods—”quantitative and qualitative, statistical and ethnographic, macrosociological and microsociological,” which are “meaningless oppositions,” or indistinct in their usefulness—all are necessary and linked to each other
methodology cont d
Methodology cont’d
  • Models of societies must be based on structures and habitus rather than particularities and manifest differences between two societies
  • Habitus = loose guidelines/framework/tastes which influence social agents within a social position (to be covered in more detail later)
  • Though basing model on structures of one society may appear ethnocentric, this technique will produce models more accurate and universally applicable than looking at differences between unique aspects of culture, which tends to such evils as racism and chauvinism
  • Ex.: urged Japanese to apply his model of 1970s French society to contemporary Japanese society rather than focusing on peculiar customs or roles in each society
methodology cont d16
Methodology cont’d
  • Habitus and structure apply across time and culture, but positions and practices do not; therefore, focusing on the latter causes errors and dated research, but the former generates a universal model
  • Warns against looking at practices in isolation from their influences (structure and habitus) and attempting to compare between systems
  • Ex.: Golf in France and Japan seem to be the same game, but may serve different roles and be practiced by different social positions/classes. At the same time, two other practices which may seem different may actually serve similar roles.
social space18
Social Space
  • Positions and practices arrayed on graph (and in social space) on one hand (y-axis) according to capital volume, the total accumulation of social capital
  • On the other hand, positions and practices arrayed by “relative weight” of two types of social capital—economic and cultural
  • At left extreme of x-axis, positions possess relatively more cultural capital than economic, and vice versa at right extreme
  • Economic capital = money and material
  • Cultural capital = education
  • X-axis and its distinction between two capital types better determines political leanings than y-axis; those with relatively higher cultural capital tend to vote with leftist parties; those with relatively higher economic capital tend to vote right
symbolic space
Symbolic Space
  • Position-taking = agents’ choices that signal their position; ex.: country club membership signals wealth
  • These choices, the differences between a certain position and another, constitute a symbolic set defining that position
  • This symoblic set is like the set of phonemes or sounds that comprise a language
the logic of classes
The Logic of Classes
  • Construction of social space (set of positions) allows creation of theoretical classes
  • Theoretical classes exist “only on paper”; Bourdieu warns against pretending they exist as distinctive groups in reality
  • Bourdieu’s theoretical classes made of positions close to each other in social space—those proximate on his graph—who are most likely to interact and co-exist well
the logic of classes cont d
The Logic of Classes cont’d
  • Bourdieu says his theoretical classes are more likely to become real, Marxist classes (those “mobilized for common purposes”) than ones based on gender or racial distinctions, for ex.
  • But theoretical classes do not become real ones necessarily; socially close positions and groups are simply probable to unite; criticized Marx for making the leap from theoretical to real
  • Says political parties could not survive uniting those distant in social space, but certain circumstances, such as crisis or nationalism, may temporarily, superficially bring them together
  • Said “[s]ocial classes do not exist”; rather, “[w]hat exists is a social space, a space of differences” which one cannot deny and which persist when one expects to find homogeneity; these are what are recognized as classes, but it is difficult to categorize real people into classes
discussion questions
Discussion Questions
  • Do you agree with Bourdieu’s focus on structure and habitus rather than cultural particularities in forming social models? If so, what are some potential problems with focusing on cultural particularities instead?
  • Do you think Bourdieu’s distinction between economic and cultural capital and his arrangement of positions in social space are valid across societies? Is Bourdieu’s model sufficient?
structures habitus practices 1974 1980
Structures, Habitus, Practices (1974, 1980)
  • Bourdieu’s attempt at defining how structures affect action, actions affect structure, and so on- part of his theory of practice
  • Believed it was “possible to step down from the sovereign viewpoint from which objectivist materialism orders the world . . .but without having to abandon to it the “active aspect” of apprehension of the world by reducing knowledge to a mere recording.”
Claimed people’s actions can be explained by not only the structures that they are living in as objective reality enforcing its inescapable will, but by their habitus
  • Bourdieu warns us to be careful not to fall prey to appealing to context or situation to account for variation ,exceptions and accidents - what he called “situational analysis”- because this type of analysis “remains locked in the framework of rule and exception”
“The theory of practice as insists, contrary to positivist materialism, that the objects of knowledge are constructed, not passively recorded, and, contrary to intellectualist idealism, that the principle of this construction is the system of structured, structuring dispositions, the habitus, which is constituted in practice and is always oriented towards practical functions.”
  • Habitus is defined as “systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principals which generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary in order to attain them”
Habitus is produced by “the conditionings associated with a particular class of conditions of existence”
  • Habitus is regulated and regular, but it does not require people to follow “rules” in order to act in ways that are predictable- “can be collectively orchestrated without being the product of the organizing action of a conductor”
Although habitus is not conscious, the responses of habitus “may be accompanied by a strategic calculation tending to perform in a conscious mode the operation that the habitus performs quite differently, namely an estimation of chances presupposing transformation of the past effect into an expected objective.”
  • However, these “responses are first defined, without any calculation, in relation to objective potentialities, immediately inscribed in the present”
Because habitus is created by past experiences, early experiences have a large affect on a person’s perceptions- such experiences can have more an affect on a person’s perception than “objective” reality
  • “The very conditions of the production of the habitus, a virtue made of necessity, mean that the anticipation it generates tend to ignore the restrictions to which its validity of calculation of probabilities is subordinated.”
Practice is “what people do” meaning the actions people take
  • Practice is produced by the habitus- both individual and collective practices
  • Habitus is produced by history and by structures (which are themselves a product of history and of habitus)
  • This is because “habitus, a product of history”, produces structures which promote practices in accordance with that history- self-propagated
  • “The structures characterizing a determinate class of conditions of existence produce the structures of habitus, which in turn are the basis of the perception and appreciation of all subsequent experiences”
Habitus “ensures active presence of past experiences, which, deposited in each organism in the form of schemes of perception, thought and action, tend to guarantee the ‘correctness’ of practices and their constancy over time, more reliably than all formal rules and explicit norms.”
  • “As an acquired system of generative schemes, the habitus makes possible the free production of all the thoughts, perceptions and actions inherent in the particular conditions of its production- and only those.”
“Being the product of a particular class of objective regularities, the habitus tends to generate all the ‘reasonable’, ‘common-sense’ behaviors (and only these) which are possible and which are going to be positively sanctioned”
  • It excludes all behaviors that would be negatively sanctioned because they are incompatible with objective conditions
  • “Practices cannot be deduced either from the present conditions which may seem to have provoked them or from the past conditions which may have produced the habitus, the durable principal of their production. They can therefore only be accounted for by relating the social conditions in which the habitus that generated them was constituted, to the social conditions in which it is implemented”
The “unconscious” is “never anything but the forgetting of history which history itself produces by realizing the objective structures that it generates in the quasi-nature of habitus”
  • Habitus is the “active presense of the whole past of which it is a product.”
The “real logic of action” bring together two objectifications of history- that in institutions and that in bodies- or two states of capital, objectified and incorporated
  • Habitus is what makes it possible to have institutions- we take advantage of the bodies willingness to regulate to attain “full realization” of the institutions-
  • “Property appropriates its owner, embodying itself in the form of a structure generating practices perfectly conforming with its logic and demands.”
  • “An institution is only complete and fully viable if it is durably objectified not only in things, that is, in the logic, transcending individual agents, but also in bodies, in durable dispositions to recognize and comply with the demands immanent in the field.”- This means we must be convinced of the validity of the bank and banker as objective reality, not socially constructed truths.
discussion questions37
Discussion Questions…
  • In your social position what is your habitus? What influences your actions and choices?
  • Do you agree with Bourdieu’s idea of habitus, or do you believe there is some other concept that better explains what influences/motivates an agent to act?

The Field of Cultural Production

or The Economic World Reversed

the field of cultural production cont the field of cultural production and the field of power
The Field of Cultural Production cont.The Field of Cultural Production and the Field of Power
  • The literary and artistic field is contained within the filed of power, while possessing a relative autonomy with respect to it , especially as regards its economic and political principles of hierarchization.
  • It occupies a dominated position in this field, which is itself situated at the dominant pole of the field of class relations.
the field of cultural production cont the field of cultural production and the field of power41
The Field of Cultural Production cont.The Field of Cultural Production and the Field of Power
  • 1. Field of Class Relations
  • 2. Field of Power
  • 3.Artistic Field

1 +


  • +

- + - +



the field of cultural production cont the field of cultural production and the field of power42
The Field of Cultural Production cont.The Field of Cultural Production and the Field of Power
  • This is the site of a Double Hierarchy
    • Heteronomous
      • Economic gauge of success
      • Success would be measured by, for example, book sales, number of theatrical performances, etc.
    • Autonomous
      • Degree of Specific Consecration
      • The more completely it fulfils its own logic as a field, the more it tends to suspend or reverse the dominant principle of hierarchization
the field of cultural production cont the field of cultural production and the field of power43
The Field of Cultural Production cont.The Field of Cultural Production and the Field of Power
  • Relative Autonomy
    • relative autonomy:  1. ". .  .the more autonomous it is, i.e. the more completely it fulfillsits own logic as a field, the more it tends to suspend or reverse the dominant principle of hierarchization. 2. whatever its degree of independence, it continues to be affected by the laws of the field which encompasses it, those of economic and political profit" 3. The more autonomous the field becomes, the more favorable the symbolic power balance is to the most autonomous producers and the more clear-cut is the division between the field of restricted production . .  .and the field of large-scale production..  . . 
the field of cultural production cont the field of cultural production and the field of power44
The Field of Cultural Production cont.The Field of Cultural Production and the Field of Power

4. systematic inversion of the fundamental principles of all ordinary economies: that of business. . . that of power.. .that of institutionalized cultural authority. 5. specific capital: at a given level of overall autonomy, intellectuals are, other things being equal, proportionately more responsive to the deduction of the powers that be, the less well endowed they are with specific capital. 

the field of cultural production cont the field of cultural production and the field of power45
The Field of Cultural Production cont.The Field of Cultural Production and the Field of Power
  • Notes:
    • Lack of success is not in itself a sign and guarantee of election.
    • Similarly, Box-office successes can also be seen as genuine art.
the field of cultural production cont the struggle for the dominant principle of hierarchization
The Field of Cultural Production Cont.The Struggle for the Dominant Principle of Hierarchization
  • The literary or artistic field is at all times the site of a struggle between the two principles of hierarchization:
    • Heteronomous v. Autonomous
    • “Bourgeois art” v. “art for art’s sake”
the field of cultural production cont the struggle for the dominant principle of hierarchization47
The Field of Cultural Production Cont.The Struggle for the Dominant Principle of Hierarchization
  • The state of the power relations in this struggle depends on the overall degree of autonomy possessed by the field.
  • That is the extent to which it manages to impose its own norms and sanctions on the whole set of producers, including those who are closest to the dominant pole of the field of power and therefore most responsive to external demands.
  • This degree of autonomy varies considerably from one period and one national tradition to another.
the struggle within the dominant pole
The Struggle Within the dominant pole
  • Everything seems to indicate that it depends on the value which the specific capital of writers and artists represents for the dominant factions
    • Struggle to conserve the established order between the factions.
      • Bourgeoisie and aristocracy
      • Old bourgeoisie and new bourgeoisie, etc.
    • Struggle to conserve the established order of production and reproduction of economic capital.
      • The less well-endowed intellectuals are the more responsive they are to the powers that be.
The struggle in the field of cultural reproduction over the imposition of legitimate mode of cultural production is inseparable for the struggle within the dominant class to impose the dominant principle of domination.
    • Human Accomplishment
    • Competitors use their economic success to say they serve interest other than their art.
  • The more heteronomous the producer, the less defense they have against the dominant powers.
In short, the fundamental stake in literary struggles in the monopoly of literary legitimacy.
    • i.e. the monopoly of the power to say with authority who is authorized to call themselves a writer.
  • Therefore the definition of a writer will always be historical.
    • i.e. to say it will only reflect the current state of the struggle at the time of analysis.
The boundary of the field is a stake of struggles.
  • The job of the social scientist is to describe a state of these struggles.
  • The field of cultural production separates itself from other fields because it represents on of the indeterminate sites in the social structure.
the effect of the homologies
The effect of the homologies
  • Creates a sense of solidarity amongst the cultural producers.
  • By obeying the logic of the objective competition between mutually exclusive positions within the field, the various categories of producers tend to supply products adjusted to the expectations of the various positions in the field of power, but without any conscious striving for such adjustment.
positions and dispositions the meeting of two histories
Positions and DispositionsThe meeting of two histories
  • To understand the practices of writers and artists is to understand that they are the result of the meeting of two histories:
    • 1. The history of the positions they occupy
    • 2. The history of their dispositions
  • In other words, there are little to no guarantees.
    • Successive generations with the same disposition will have different outcomes.
    • The progression is not mechanical.
discussion questions54
Discussion Questions…
  • In what ways does Bourdieu’s theory of Cultural Production apply to modern America?
  • Can you think of ways that Bourdieu’s hierarchy is flawed?
    • 1.Field of Class Relations
    • 2. Field of Power
    • 3.Artistic Field