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Pierre Bourdieu

 

Disciplines > Sociology > Pierre Bourdieu

Field | Habitus | Symbolic capital | See also

 

Pierre Bourdieu (1930 - 2002), was a French sociologist, philosopher and anthropologist.

He noted that social position had a significant effect on artistic preference, and that use of language style had a significant effect on social mobility. He also preached a reflexive sociology, where sociologists take particular care with regard to effect of their own biases.

Field

Rather than considering societies in terms of classes (as Marx), Bourdieu used the idea of a field, a social arena within which people compete for resources. A field is thus a system of social positions based on structure in power relationships.

Classes have definitions that create clear boundaries. Fields are networks that are more diffuse and can spider in variable ways.

Habitus

Bourdieu extended Elias' habitus to include beliefs and preferences, identifying how objective social structures are incorporated into subjective, mental experience of agents. In this way objective and subjective are combined, thus resolving the dilemma of a person being either or both an object and subject.

Symbolic capital

Bourdieu describes power in terms of 'symbolic capital', which comes with social position and affords prestige and leads to others paying attention to you. Using symbolic power against another implies symbolic violence, and may take such forms as dismissal and judging the person inferior. This power may be dispensed without words, using physical symbols and behaviors (such as 'looking down one's nose').

Symbolic capital engenders a sense of duty and inferiority in others who look up to those who have that power.

In discussions of symbolic capital, the metaphor of economics is often used, thus showing flows and reservoirs. Education is a key method of transferring this power in social reproduction and leads to transfer of specific beliefs and behaviors that assume symbolic capital.

See also

Life histories, Power

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Elias, N. (1978). The History of Manners. The Civilizing Process: Volume I. New York: Pantheon Books

Elias, N. (1982). Power and Civility. The Civilizing Process: Volume II. New York: Pantheon Books

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