PIERRE BOURDIEU (PowerPoint) by nyut545e2

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    The Sociology of
Class, Lifestyle and Power
        Bourdieu’s Key Claims
1. Social class is the elementary social fact

2. We continue to live in highly stratified,
   class-based societies

3. Society works to keep the upper classes
   powerful and the lower classes powerless

4. A lot of this happens unintentionally; not
   deliberate manipulation by the powerful
1.   Bourdieu’s biography
2.   Main aims
3.   Social action
4.   Habitus, capital, field
5.   Education field
6.   Social reproduction
7.   Criticisms
       Bourdieu’s Biography
              1930 – 2002
- Born in the Béarn region of France
- Peasant background

- Star pupil; degrees in philosophy
and anthropology
- Professor of Sociology, College de
    France (1980)
- Political figure; Media personality
- “An Outsider’s Sociology”
                Main Aims
1) To understand why social inequalities:
a) are reproduced over time:
    Retention of wealth, prestige, power by elites
b) are generally accepted by the lower classes

2) To liberate social actors from oppressive
    social and mental conditions
- reveals structures actors not fully aware of
- shows society could be organised differently
              Main Aims
3) Reconcile and synthesise separate
  schools of sociological thought
- Marxism (class & power)
- Durkheimian sociology (division of
  labour; worldviews of different groups)
- Weberian sociology (focus on social
  action; attention to empirical details)
- Phenomenology
  (how people perceive the world they live
  in; how social power shapes perceptions)
               Main Aims
4) Transcend dualisms

- “Subjective” OR “Objective”
- Social Structure OR Action/Agency
- Theory OR Empirical sociology
- Quantitative OR Qualitative
Use of multiple research methods:
Interviews, questionnaires, documents, etc.
                   Main Aims
5) Connect different social spheres

- Sociology of education, sociology of politics,
  sociology of mass media, etc.

- See how each sphere connects with, and affects,
  the others

6) Encourage “reflexivity”
- Sociology of sociology
- See how social forces shape the ways in which
  sociologists see things
- Sociologist studies him/herself sociologically
              Social Action
                (Weber; Parsons)
1) A person
- who has resources

2) Person thinks in certain ways
- has certain goals
- thinks of ways (means) to achieve them
- goals and means shaped by culture

3) Has to act in particular social contexts
- Contexts shape the person‟s thinking & acting
- Contexts shape how successful (or not) the
  person is in achieving their goals
1) A person has particular goals
(these may be thought about fully consciously or only

2) They try to pursue those goals using certain
(also consciously or semi-consciously)

3) They have certain resources at their disposal
(some people have more resources than others)

4) They act in certain social contexts
Success: 1) having a large amount of the right sort of
  resources; 2) having appropriate strategies
Failure: 1) having the wrong sort of resources;
  2) having inappropriate strategies
a) A person (“social actor”) (shaped by a “habitus”)
- who has resources (“capital”)

b) Person thinks in certain ways
- thinking is semi-conscious – “practical reason”
- both goals and strategies shaped by the habitus

c) Person has to act in particular social contexts

d) Person has to interact with other people
  (“social games”) (Actors = “players”)

How successful a person is in a particular field
 depends on how appropriate their habitus and
 capital is for the game played in that field
               Sporting analogy:

1) Social life is a series of games
2) You need the right skills to play those games
e.g. tennis skills; rugby playing
3) Skills = the capital you possess
4) Your habitus dictates the capital you possess
5) Some people have more capital than others

EXAMPLE: the “game” of education
- Appropriate skills = “cultural capital”
- Appropriate habitus = middle class habitus
       Habitus, Capital, Field
Habitus (plural: habitus)

- ways of thinking / ways of acting
- bodily habits
- tastes: likes and dislikes

Whole way of life / lifestyle
a) Each class has its own habitus
- Working class habitus
- Middle class habitus

Lower working class (least capital)
Upper working class (some capital)
Lower middle class (more capital)
Upper middle class (most capital)

b) Each individual’s habitus is the
  habitus of their class

e.g. working class person, working class habitus
c) Socialised into particular ways of thinking
  and acting

 Primary socialisation
 Secondary socialisation

d) Experience the habitus as “natural”:
     - the condition of “doxa”

Could have been socialised very differently
e) Each habitus has its own set of tastes
- Likes / dislikes
- Beautiful / disgusting
- Moral / immoral, etc.

f) Tastes are socially stratified
Upper middle class taste – highest

Lower middle class taste – middling

Working class taste – lowest
1. Society still very much class-based

2. Reproduction of privilege
- Elites pass advantages onto their children
- Non-elites pass disadvantages onto their

3. Social life is a series of games, occurring
  in “fields”
  Success: appropriate habitus & capital
       Habitus - continued

f) Tastes are socially stratified

Upper middle class taste – highest

Lower middle class taste – middling

Working class taste – lowest
g) Cultural power

Elites have the power to define their tastes and
   their culture as the best
- the most “sophisticated”, “refined”, “tasteful”, etc.

Upper middle class habitus - sense of superiority
Lower middle class habitus – aspirational
Working class habitus – sense of inferiority;
  defensiveness; mocking of middle class
HOW MUCH capital does a person have?
WHAT TYPE of capital does a person have?

• Economic capital:
- money resources

• Cultural capital:
- knowledge of „legitimate‟ culture / „High Culture‟
- “Linguistic capital” – speaking “properly”

• Social capital
- social networks (knowing influential people)
a) AMOUNT & TYPE of capital
  => class membership

e.g. LOW AMOUNT of all 3 TYPES =
  lower working class
e.g. HIGH AMOUNT of all 3 TYPES = upper
  middle class

b) Habitus STRONGLY INFLUENCES both the
  amount & type of capital a person has

The more upper middle class the habitus
=> the more capital the person has
                               Cultural Capital      Economic Capital

Cultural bourgeoisie         High                   Intermediate
e.g. artists, academics

Business bourgeoisie         Intermediate           High
e.g. company directors

Upper professionals          Intermediate to high   Intermediate to high
e.g. lawyers, higher civil

Lower middle class           Intermediate to low    Intermediate to low
e.g. primary school
teachers, nurses

Working class
Skilled     (Upper WC)       Low to intermediate    Low to intermediate
Unskilled   (Lower WC)       Low                    Low
a) Level of individuals’ experiences:
- different social contexts
e.g. school, work, leisure
- contexts where social games are played

b) Level of Society:
- separate social spheres
e.g. education system, economic system,
    system of leisure and recreation, etc.
c) Fields are based around specific types of capital
e.g. education field – educational capital
(a particular sort of cultural capital)

d) Success in the game played in a field
= having a large amount of the right type of
  capital for that field

e) Fields are organised to the advantage of elites
- Not level playing fields
- Fields are organised to favour the sorts of
  capital elites happen to possess
f) Reproduction of inequalities

- Successful actors have large amounts of the
   right sort of capital for the fields they are in
- They pass that capital onto their children
- (Opposite: unsuccessful actors pass onto their
   children small amounts of useful capital and
   large amounts of useless capital)

               (Most of the time)
Against the conventional view:
- Meritocracy: intelligence & diligence
- Social mobility

Educational success =
- Having the right sort of capital
- Cultural Capital (CC)
- High CC => good qualifications
- Elites use CC to get large amounts of
  educational capital (good qualifications)
Possessors of high CC:
- Upper middle class
- Comes from their habitus (esp. home life)

Possessors of intermediate CC:
- Lower middle classes

Possessors of low CC:
- Working classes (esp. Lower WC)

  Habitus => CC => educational capital
         “Hidden curriculum”
1) Unintentional evaluations by
Conscious level:
- Child‟s intelligence and diligence
“good work”, “articulate”, “bright”,
   “attentive”, etc.
Unconscious level:
- Teachers have middle class habitus
- Teachers respect CC
- Evaluations in terms of amount of
   CC the child has (due to its habitus)
“sloppy work”, “inarticulate”, “lazy”,
   “disruptive”, etc.
2) Child feels sense of:

- worthiness (if CC is high)
- unworthiness (if CC is low)

Feelings translate into effort & performance
“Naturally” clever / “Naturally” untalented

High CC – virtuous circle
Low CC – vicious circle

- Middle class success and working class failure are
  reproduced across generations
- This happens mostly unintentionally
              Social Reproduction
High cultural capital =>
High educational capital =>
Access to “good” jobs =>
High wealth (economic capital)

Upper middle class parents advantage their
1) Economic capital => access to “good”
2) Cultural capital => “good” at school
3) Social capital => useful connections
Upward social mobility

-   It is possible for LMC and WC individuals
-   But only for a relatively small number

a) Capitalist society needs a working class
b) Capitalist society needs to show itself as
    meritocratic and democratic
- Everyone goes to school; all have the same chances
c) Upper middle classes can “play the game” better
- Easier access to “good schools”
- Can cope with “grade inflation”
Downward social mobility

- The upper middle classes‟ greatest fear

- Children occupy lower social positions than

- Parents pass on capital that is not useful, as
  society‟s fields change over time

e.g. high CC => non-vocational Arts degrees
BUT if changing economy requires vocational &
  technical qualifications => CC not much use
        Middle class defence mechanisms
    Transform one sort of capital into another sort

1) Use economic capital to get new sorts of
    educational capital
- home: familiarity with sophisticated technology
- school: extra tuition in employable skills
2) Use social capital to get entry into “good” jobs
3) Use economic & cultural capital to create new
    sorts of jobs:
e.g. „cultural service sector‟ jobs: aromatherapy,
    interior decoration, style consultancy, etc.
       Criticisms of Bourdieu
1. Explains EVERYTHING in terms of habitus,
    capital & field
2. Circular: assumes what he will find
- key concepts supposed to be guides to
    research; but turn into certainties
3. Overemphasises class?
- other sources of inequality downplayed?
- non-class-based habitus?
4. Outdated and context-specific?
    France in the 1960s/70s
    Society and culture more complex now?
5. Defence: can use his concepts to understand
    changing social conditions

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