Bourdieu | Sociology | Social Sciences

Pierre Bourdieu on Structure Agency Structuralism

Geographical Approaches Prof. H. Ernste Academic Year: 2006/2007 Radboud University of Nijmegen 19th of December 2006

Davide Pignone 0644986 Roel Winkels 0624527

...........................9 §1........Content Preface.......4 Methodology by Bourdieu.......3 Bourdieu’s structuralism: Structuralism Constructivist……....6 §1...................7 §1......1 General introduction on Bourdieu ........5 Theory of distinction (Praxis) ..........6 Bourdieu’s importance to human geography ...........10 ................7 Conclusions ..............................2 Bourdieu in context to other sociologists .....................4 §1...............................................................4 §1...................5 §1...........................................................................................3 §1................................................

In paragraph 5 the focus is on the theory itself: the theory on habitus. The second paragraph will outline Bourdieu in context to the other sociologists: people who have influenced him. In the last paragraph some conclusions will be made on Bourdieu’s way of working and his vision on structure. . In paragraph 6 the importance of Bourdieu and his work in the human geography will be stressed. agency and structuralism. It is useful to see how Bourdieu categorises himself in the sociologist’s framework and also how the build-up of his theory is done. agency and structuralism. field and capital dealing with structure and agency. In the third paragraph structuralism is adopted in a new tradition of Bourdieu. Bourdieu’s structuralism: Structuralist Constructivism. The first paragraph contains a general introduction on Bourdieu.Preface This term paper presents our work about Pierre Bourdieu and his vision on structure. The methodology used by Bourdieu to know how he works and thinks will be discussed in paragraph 4.

Bourdieu tried to transcend this problem with a middle ground theory. and 2) Theories on a level of acting individuals (agency). Pierre Bourdieu died in 2002 on the illness of 3 www. Weber and Durkheim have had a great influence on Bourdieu. 1992 en. It tries to overcome the “absurd opposition between individual (=subjectivism) and society (=objectivism)” ¹.wikipedia. §1.1 General introduction on Bourdieu Pierre Bourdieu was a famous French sociologist born in 1930 in Denguin. To do so. a village in the rural Bearn region in the south of France.2 Bourdieu in context to other sociologists In the sixties and seventies of the 20th century sociological theory was in a crisis. It is named by the International Sociological Association as one of the 20th century's 10 most important works of sociology 3 .5). In 1964 Bourdieu becomes Director of Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. he used the terms habitus and field. The triggering elements to which Bourdieu reacted on this crisis were two influential French sociologists and movements: Sartre and existentialism and Levi-Strauss and structuralism. This period in which he did a lot of ethnographic research on the Berber people marks the start of his career as an originally philosopher moving to a social scientist. The ideas of life-style and status. Marx.kirjasto. Also the three founding fathers of sociology. the extension of market models into fields of analysis other than the economic and the social space explained in specific “fields” were taken from Weber. field and capital.htm .§1. Until that time sociological theorists thought in two separate ways: 1) Theories on a societal level and the relationships within (structure). In the early 1950s he studied philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Marx wrote about structure and agency: “Society doesn’t consist in agents: it is a network of links and relationships in witch agents are inserted”. Durkheim can be seen as the source of the social classification. an elite teacher training institute.sci. 1 2 Key Sociologists Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu is appointed in 1981 to the Chair of Sociology at the College de France 1 . In 1956 he had to fulfil his duty in the French army in Algeria. From Marx he derives his interest in practice. Pierre Bourdieu’s most famous work La Distinction handles the theory on habitus. Bourdieu is known for his combination of elaborated empirical research with theory 2 . The works of Bourdieu contain wide-ranging disciplines: starting from a philosophic point of view to anthropology and the social Richard Jenkins. the core elements of his theory (it will be discussed in paragraph 1.

symbolic. Sociology's goal is to clarify the meaning of actions of people to people. cultural. This thought is always present in Bourdieu’s sociological research 4 . In the perspective of Structuralism Constructivist there is an interplay between the agent and the structure: The social world is made of structures ((1) structuralism). This chapter contributes to the explanation of the theory of Bourdieu (mentioned in paragraph 1. the risk to reinforce this structure (considering that it is an autonomous reality). In other words: 1) In the "first level objectivity" formed by material -structural . on one side. These sociologists exemplify a sociologist movement.en systeemtheorie van de structuratietheorie van Anthony Giddens en de praxeologie van Pierre Bourdieu. Structuralist models reduce the vision of the world in a small and limited vision: assuming that society has his own structure. The strength of this point of view is the hypothesis of “world transformation”.com/fr2en/Pierre_Bourdieu . objective structures of culture and language. Its weakness is. Dirk Jacobs. statistics tools. the agent and the structure. 4 De synthese van handelings. etc. From Wittgenstein the role of language in the constitution of the social world was important and lived experience and the interactionism of Goffman was important on Bourdieu’s thinking on strategising and games-playing ¹. 5 http://wikipedia. ethnographic description. It doesn’t consider that any society is also composed by human will.qwika. social. built by agents ((2) constructivist) and when these structures are there (build) it conditions the actions of the agents 5 . Universiteit Gent. Two components can be derived from this thought. of feelings. licentiaatthesis.3 Bourdieu’s structuralism: Structuralism Constructivist In the preceding paragraph Bourdieu was seen in context to influential sociologists. on the other side it denies subjective agents by seeing them as passive holders of forces that form structures. linguistic. of social individual judgements.resource distribution: All kinds of capital: economic. of thoughts. 2) In the “second level objectivity”: mental and bodily schemes that work like a symbolic matrix of practical activities. Bourdieu created his own: Structuralism Constructivist. (Structuralism).The last two writers we mention are: Wittgenstein and Goffman. §1.5). artistic. (Constructivist). 1993. The first is the structuralist level that represents the outside (structure metaphor) in which social researchers can describe the social world in its objectivity and its modification with formal models.

religion. meanings attributed to the lived world of individuals. the theses of structuralism. To understand the workings of the social world according to Bourdieu a bifocal analysis is needed. because the social world is not explained by the sum of individual strategies. in certain measures. 2001. analysis of the symbolism and the material. Science de la science et réflexivité.The second is the subjectivist level. theory and empirical research. Bourdieu’s thinking is very complex and sometimes multi-interpretable and that is why Bourdieu is often misunderstood. but such construction always happens inside an unavoidable structure. because the social world is constantly constructed by agents with their own practices in the normal daily life. science) and for the overcoming of the oppositions that are always there in social science: objective knowledge and subjective knowledge. This complexity originates from the fact that the human mind thinks in oppositions. his heterogeneous method of research fields (literature. This can be seen as 6 P.4 Methodology by Bourdieu The sociology of Bourdieu is characterized for the interdisciplinary of his theoretical models (between sociology. he has to rebuild the reality in his constitutive doubleness. for example: an object observed by a human being (meaning given by the social world) and the human being with a subjective thought about that object. He refuses the partition between theory and methodology. He wanted to be precise as possible in describing social phenomena. overcoming the structure-agency paradigm. law. instruction. No theory is possible without extensive research 6 . The language of Bourdieu is very extensive. However in Bourdieu’s Structuralism Constructivist individuals are able to build and adapt social phenomena through their thinking and their actions. Raisons d’agir. A sociologist is not in the position to choose. His criticism against structuralism doesn't lead Bourdieu to the opposite side that of voluntarism: he recognizes the conditioning (not totally conclusive) strength of social facts. Bourdieu is a critical structuralist. a “duplex look” on the objective life (structure) and to the subjective life (individuals). His sociology tries to see both sides.195-97 . To summarise. judgement. economy. culture. In describing social phenomena he made no distinction in different disciplines (mentioned above). constructivist. pp. §1. philosophy and anthropology). Then it gives the relationship a sense or a context (see example above) in which we have to see it.Bourdieu. according to which there are independent structures in the social world from the individual conscience and from its will which delimit in a specific way the behaviour of the social actor. This is the “social phenomenology” that considers society as the product of human actions: choice. He shares. So in the end he leads his own position away from the path of structuralism. Paris. This approach alone limits itself. Otherwise it would simplify the reality. art.

In this perspective habitus. §1. There are more elements which have a place in this theory. to misunderstanding and it is hard to accept 7 8 . It is a set of durable. What is new is that he wanted to construct a theoretic model in which agents’ life were not taken for granted. but seen in wider patterns of the social world. Volume II. So the habitus is influenced. unconscious schemes which form the foundation of someone’s thinking. Derek Robbins 9 http://highered. but is also an objective translation from the objective structure (structured structure) in an agent. “It refers to something historical. can be defined as a system of dispositions incorporated by agents. On a primary level the habitus is influenced by family. The term field has different meanings / phenomena.5 Theory of practice The central issue in Bourdieu’s theory of of the most fundamental contributions of Bourdieu to sociology. parents. as opposed to an essentialist mode of thought” ¹. etc. but the 3 mentioned are the basic elements and we emphasize our work on these basic elements. Volume I. 7 8 Pierre Bourdieu. On a secondary level the habitus is influenced by education. friends. Or in other words: fields are social spaces in which agents or structures move around ¹ 4. A field is a structured system of social positions occupied by agents or structures and the nature of social positions determinates the situation for them. In this theory elements as habitus. as mentioned above.html .com/sites/007234962x/ student_view0/ chapter7/ chapter_overview. This ambiguity however leads again. jobs. A field is not only a definition for a certain object/space. The social world is made up by all kind of fields. but also a place where agents struggle for power and where agents meet each other. Field In relationship of habitus stands field as an objective compliment. and that it belongs to a genetic mode of thought. Backgrounds play a major role in it. Derek Robbins Pierre Bourdieu. A theory of practice in itself is not novel.mcgraw-hill. field and capital play a central role. but is also a structure itself. as mentioned in §1. an agent develops later on a habitus given in by its past (deterministic) and so an agent creates his own lifestyle 4. field and capital play an important role. etc. It gives not only direction to concrete actions (praxis). think of the word ‘habit’.3 Bourdieu’s structuralism: Structuralism Constructivist. The habitus structures not only. perceiving and acting. linked to the individual history. Habitus The habitus. concerns the social construction of the objective structures and the construction of the agents’ own social world by understanding and living within and according to these objective structures 9 .

In other words we can say that members of different classes and fractions of classes. bars. There are all kinds of capital: economic. (This scheme was taken from a website with educational purposes)¹º §1.uio. Capital Economic. cultural. Principles of action and classification. symbolic. social agents appropriate the city and make a different “social use” of the various physical objects. The relative importance of the form of capital depends from the field. Forces (relations between positions). All places. So he makes the difference between social capital (education and knowledge) and economical capital (revenues and assets). All the social characteristics of inhabitants of the different residential areas are linked with perception models of those 10 www. As we have seen in the text above Bourdieu makes a distinction between different kinds of capital. In this way these physical objects are turned into “social objects” full of connotations and meanings. The 3 elements attached to each other The actions of people are constituted by and constitute their dispositions (habitus). Field-specific forms. Field Positions. the capital they possess and the fields within which they operate 10 .ppt . Capital is used to make the position of the agent clear in its Struktureringsteori. Bourdieu has given a great contribution to the praxis and theory of social and physical spaces. all public and private places. restaurants.Capital In the fields agents use capital. pubs. etc.6 Bourdieu’s importance to human geography In this paragraph we will try to make clear the contribution of Bourdieu to human geography. social. houses and residential areas are all marked. There is an interaction between habitus and field and capital is the intermediate element 4. Social space represents in the works of Bourdieu the social differentiation in a society based on the provision of the social resources. The agents are able by using the capital well to exercise more power and influence in a certain field. linguistic. In a scheme it would look like this: (Habitus * Capital) + Field = Practice Habitus Dispositions. cultural. such as shops. political.

The physical space is like a mirror of the social space and it is structured according to the different presence of different types of capital and of their amount. “The physical structure of the urban life may viewed as symbolic battlegrounds. but also makes his own history under not self chosen conditions. but also something what is becoming. internally homogeneous and destined to a unique class of agents different from the others. Other social worlds. Bourdieu’s fashion is very complicated (because of some ontology and definition problems). composed by the localized “social objects”. sentences in sentences. He also avoided terms commonly used in sociology. Bourdieu tried to be very specific in his way to describe his work and to lose nothing out of its context. In these social worlds human agents have more a mix of preferences derived 11 12 Bourdieu. even for experienced sociologists.” The sociology of Bourdieu is very French orientated. but also because of the particular use of language. a struggle going on to appropriate space” 11 12 . are hierarchically arranged. where it all is permeated by that particular lifestyle that. Place is something what is there. creative and unorthodox in comparison with other sociologists. An agent bears social relationships. It’s something like a vicious (or maybe a virtuous) circle. 1999 Interview with Bourdieu by Marco D’Eramo . The dual workings of his theory is seen as original. To speak in Bourdieu’s context people who want to read and understand the workings of his theory need to possess a considerate amount of linguistic and cultural capital. meanwhile. It is also divided in areas: those in which you can find people with only a certain type of capital or with more of each capital and those areas in which you can find people without any kind of capital.areas from other people. he tried to overcome social science’s monistic vision on the social world. will influence characteristics and behavior of people who will live there. By seeing social science in a broader perspective with other sciences. territories that are fought over. Bourdieu has given tools of thinking to the human geography rather than a theory of geography. Now it will grow a particular area.7 Conclusions Pierre Bourdieu is praised for his elaborated thinking on sociology using interdisciplinary methods. The different universes. for instance: “The structuring structures and the structured structures. §1. like the American or the Dutch. after all social science is constructed out of other sciences. Besides that he likes to play with words and sentences. His works are very difficult to read: long sentences. Terms like agent and place emphasize this. There is a sort of double influence: first the agent influences the ambient with his way of acting and thinking (given in by the mix of social capitals in the person). do not possess these rigid lines between classes. etc.

Sometimes we can find in his works that the field generates his own specific habitus. This is not possible. The agents in fact can’t move freely through the fields. they are tied to their habitus and. but in a network of fields and their habitus principally becomes from their background. so. In other languages there have been translations and interpretations of other sociologists of Bourdieu’s works and they accuse him of determinism. individual agents. While trying to overcome to structure-agency problem. Institutions distinct from each other through the difference in lifestyles. So these 2 definitions are not well defined. Background is also influenced by the environment in which they grow up. Bourdieu stays rooted in objectivism. 13 . So there is no interplay. Bourdieu made a contribution to social-demographic variables.wikipedia. Habitus is after all a sum of influences by the social world. that is a mix of many fields: it isn’t only a creation of one field. In this immobility lies the most important criticism. because the latter is a property of embodied. When he says that all fields are able to create their particular habitus it’s like to link the fields and their own specific habitus. Meanwhile he wrote also many times that there is an interaction between the field and the habitus: it’s not a one way interaction. with their origin and environment. A critique that states more than one time to Bourdieu is that the relationship between habitus and field is not clear. Agents live not only in one field.from different classes 13 .

1992 De synthese van handelings. Watts After Bourdieu: influence. Volume I.qwika.mcgraw-hill. Richard Jenkins. Raisons d’agir. e/Struktureringsteori. Michael http://hyperbourdieu. Geraldine Dirk Jacobs.wikipedia.en systeemtheorie van de structuratietheorie van Anthony Giddens en de praxeologie van Pierre Bourdieu. www. - - .Bibliography Books: . pp.htm http://wikipedia. Universiteit Gent. Derek http://highered.Bourdieu. Paris. Science de la science et réflexivité.com/sites/007234962x/ student_ view0/ chapter7/chapter_overview.jku. 2001.uio.wikipedia. 2000 Pierre Bourdieu. 1993. Derek Gregory.J. Swartz and Vera L. elaboration.ppt http://nl. 2000 Key Sociologists Pierre Bourdieu.sci. by David L.html www.195-97 - - Websites: .The Dictionary of Human Geography by R. Volume II. Zolberg Pierre Bourdieu. Derek Robbins. P.

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