The Sociology of Class, Lifestyle and Power
Bourdieu’s Key Claims
• • Social class is the elementary social fact We continue to live in highly stratified, class-based societies Society works to keep the upper classes powerful and the lower classes powerless A lot of this happens unintentionally; not deliberate manipulation by the powerful
OUTLINE 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Bourdieu’s biography Main aims Social action Habitus, capital, field Education field Social reproduction Criticisms
1930 – 2002 .Peasant background .Professor of Sociology. College de France (1980) .“An Outsider’s Sociology”
. degrees in philosophy and anthropology .Born in the Béarn region of France . Media personality .Star pupil.Political figure.
reveals structures actors not fully aware of . power by elites (“reproduction”) b) are generally accepted by the lower classes To liberate social actors from oppressive social and mental conditions . prestige.shows society could be organised differently
• To understand why social inequalities: a) are reproduced over time: Retention of wealth.
Phenomenology (how people perceive the world they live in.Marxism (class & power) .Durkheimian sociology (division of labour. how social power shapes perceptions)
. attention to empirical details) . worldviews of different groups) .Weberian sociology (focus on social action.Main Aims
3) Reconcile and synthesise separate schools of sociological thought .
4) Transcend dualisms . questionnaires.Theory OR Empirical sociology .Quantitative OR Qualitative Use of multiple research methods: Interviews.
. documents.Social Structure OR Action/Agency (“Structuration”) .“Subjective” OR “Objective” .
sociology of politics.See how social forces shape the ways in which sociologists see things .Sociologist studies him/herself sociologically
. the others 6) Encourage “reflexivity” . etc. sociology of mass media. . and affects.Sociology of education.See how each sphere connects with.Main Aims
5) Connect different social spheres .Sociology of sociology .
(Weber.thinks of ways (means) to achieve them .who has resources 2) Person thinks in certain ways .Contexts shape the person’s thinking & acting . Parsons) 1) A person .goals and means shaped by culture 3) Has to act in particular social contexts .Contexts shape how successful (or not) the person is in achieving their goals
.has certain goals .
2) having inappropriate strategies
.1) A person has particular goals (these may be thought about fully consciously or only semi-consciously) 2) They try to pursue those goals using certain strategies (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.
who has resources (“capital”) b) Person thinks in certain ways .thinking is semi-conscious – “practical reason” .a) A person (“social actor”) (shaped by a “habitus”) .both goals and strategies shaped by the habitus c) Person has to act in particular social contexts (“fields”) 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
Appropriate habitus = middle class habitus
. tennis skills.Sporting analogy: 1) Social life is a series of games 2) You need the right skills to play those games successfully e.g. 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” .
Habitus. Capital.tastes: likes and dislikes Whole way of life / lifestyle
.bodily habits . Field
Habitus (plural: habitus) Components: .ways of thinking / ways of acting .
working class person.Working class 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.a) Each class has its own habitus .g.
the condition of “doxa” Could have been socialised very differently
.c) Socialised into particular ways of thinking and acting Primary socialisation Secondary socialisation d) Experience the habitus as “natural”: .
etc.Beautiful / disgusting .e) Each habitus has its own set of tastes .Moral / immoral. f) Tastes are socially stratified Upper middle class taste – highest Lower middle class taste – middling Working class taste – lowest
.Likes / dislikes .
Social life is a series of games. occurring in “fields” Success: appropriate habitus & capital
.Non-elites pass disadvantages onto their children 3.RECAP
1. Society still very much class-based 2. Reproduction of privilege .Elites pass advantages onto their children .BOURDIEU .
f) Tastes are socially stratified Upper middle class taste – highest Lower middle class taste – middling Working class taste – lowest
mocking of middle class pretentions
.g) Cultural power Elites have the power to define their tastes and their culture as the best . etc. “tasteful”. defensiveness. Upper middle class habitus .sense of superiority Lower middle class habitus – aspirational Working class habitus – sense of inferiority.the most “sophisticated”. “refined”.
“Linguistic capital” – speaking “properly” • Social capital .Capital
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’ .social networks (knowing influential people)
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
.a) AMOUNT & TYPE of capital => class membership e. LOW AMOUNT of all 3 TYPES = lower working class e.g.g.
Cultural bourgeoisie e.g. academics Business bourgeoisie e. nurses Working class (Upper WC) Skilled Unskilled (Lower WC) High Intermediate Intermediate to high
Intermediate High Intermediate to high
Intermediate to low
Intermediate to low
Low to intermediate Low
Low to intermediate Low
. primary school teachers. company directors Upper professionals e. lawyers. artists.g. higher civil servants Lower middle class e.g.g.
a) Level of individuals’ experiences: .
. etc.g.separate social spheres e. school. leisure . system of leisure and recreation. education system.different social contexts e. work.contexts where social games are played b) Level of Society: .
g.Not level playing fields .Fields are organised to favour the sorts of capital elites happen to possess
.c) Fields are based around specific types of capital e. 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 .
(Opposite: unsuccessful actors pass onto their children small amounts of useful capital and large amounts of useless capital) THE WINNERS KEEP WINNING THE LOSERS KEEP LOSING (Most of the time)
.Successful actors have large amounts of the right sort of capital for the fields they are in .f) Reproduction of inequalities .They pass that capital onto their children .
Against the conventional view: .Social mobility Educational success = .Elites use CC to get large amounts of educational capital (good qualifications)
.High CC => good qualifications .Meritocracy: intelligence & diligence .Having the right sort of capital .Cultural Capital (CC) .
Lower middle classes Possessors of low CC: .Comes from their habitus (esp.Working classes (esp. home life) Possessors of intermediate CC: .Upper middle class .Possessors of high CC: . Lower WC) Habitus => CC => educational capital
Child’s intelligence and diligence “good work”. “articulate”.
. “disruptive”. “bright”. etc.Teachers respect CC .Teachers have middle class habitus . “attentive”. “inarticulate”. Unconscious level: .Evaluations in terms of amount of CC the child has (due to its habitus) “sloppy work”.“Hidden curriculum” 1) Unintentional evaluations by teachers Conscious level: . etc. “lazy”.
2) Child feels sense of: .unworthiness (if CC is low) Feelings translate into effort & performance “Naturally” clever / “Naturally” untalented High CC – virtuous circle Low CC – vicious circle OUTCOME: .This happens mostly unintentionally
.worthiness (if CC is high) .Middle class success and working class failure are reproduced across generations .
Social Reproduction High cultural capital => High educational capital => Access to “good” jobs => High wealth (economic capital) Upper middle class parents advantage their children: 1) Economic capital => access to “good” schools 2) Cultural capital => “good” at school 3) Social capital => useful connections
Easier access to “good schools” .Can cope with “grade inflation”
. all have the same chances c) Upper middle classes can “play the game” better .Upward social mobility It is possible for LMC and WC individuals But only for a relatively small number
Capitalist society needs a working class Capitalist society needs to show itself as meritocratic and democratic .Everyone goes to school.
Downward social mobility .Parents pass on capital that is not useful. high CC => non-vocational Arts degrees BUT if changing economy requires vocational & technical qualifications => CC not much use
.The upper middle classes’ greatest fear . as society’s fields change over time e.g.Children occupy lower social positions than parents .
.g. etc. style consultancy.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. ‘cultural service sector’ jobs: aromatherapy. interior decoration.home: familiarity with sophisticated technology .Middle class defence mechanisms Transform one sort of capital into another sort 1) Use economic capital to get new sorts of educational capital .
Criticisms of Bourdieu
• Explains EVERYTHING in terms of habitus. Outdated and context-specific? France in the 1960s/70s Society and culture more complex now? 5. but turn into certainties 3. Overemphasises class? . Defence: can use his concepts to understand changing social conditions
.key concepts supposed to be guides to research.other sources of inequality downplayed? .non-class-based habitus? 4. capital & field • Circular: assumes what he will find .