Pierre Bourdieu: structure and agency

Genetic structuralism Reflexive Sociology (method) Cultural Capital

[Linguistic] Structuralism (revisiting lecture 1)

 

Concerned with the underlying structure of meaning in language (and human thought) Ferdinand de Saussure (1924) 'Course in General Linguistics' "language is above all a system of signs and therefore we must have recourse to the science of signs if we are to define it properly'? Semiology (Gr. Semeion - signs) - the science of systems of signs ’Signs’ includes noises, gestures, conventions, practices, belief systems, images, 'symbolic rituals, etiquette, military signals' etc.

Structuralism (2)     the meanings of 'signs' is not natural nor do they have an intrinsic meaning.g. The 'arbitrariness' of signs differs according to their role/status as sytems of communication . .i. and signs are assigned meaning This leads one to think about the functional rules and conventions which govern the assignment of meaning to signs e. seeing as meaning is arbitrary). why gestures are given their meaning. traffic lights vs literary texts and advertisements.e. Rather they are 'arbitrary'. Each sign constitutes a 'signifier' and signified'. Semiology concerned with the causal link between them (what causes them to be linked.

class status (Bourdieu). Trying to make explicit the implicit knowledge that enables people to communicate. Application of the construction of meaning in relation to power and ideology (Roland Barthes . cultural signification. Application of the construction of meaning in relation to social practice.Structuralism (3) Application to social sciences Claude Levi-Strauss (anthropologist) 1961.Myth Today). interpret and understand one another's behaviour. status and hierarchy in capitalist society?    . How do signs become status symbols? What do these meanings and processes say about the organisation of class.

Harvard University Press. Influence of Structuralism on Bourdieu’s idea of ‘genetic structuralism. 3. P.Three aspects of Bourdieu’s work 1. See Bourdieu. (1990) The Logic of Practice and Bourdieu.habitus. (1977/1972) Outline of a Theory of Practice. P.theory must grow out of empirical research . Routledge.participant observation . power and culture . field and capital (economic. P. P (1974{1979}) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. The symbolic capital of lifestyles in the field of cultural production .class. social and cultural capital) See Bourdieu.reflexive sociology See Bourdieu. commodities. Mass Reflexive Sociology (method) . (1993) Language and Symbolic Power. Power relations are embedded in the tissue of everyday life. London . 2.

Key concepts  Field  Habitus  Cultural  Practice  Distinctions capital and class .

Breaking down the traditional sociological dualisms Argued for complexity of people's activities as simultaneously shaping and being shaped by the social world. links the objective with the subjective social spheres. control and influence social life. . understand.Reflexive Sociology (method)       'Outline of a Theory of Practice' (1977{1972}) Bourdieu’s hermeneutic (relating to the whole) understanding of the way people read. limit. interpret and live their everyday lives an objective analysis of the structures which frame.

influences or forces.Objectivism and subjectivism – the problems – – – – – ‘Objectivism‘(reproduction of the world via structures) erroneously searched for grand explanations Critical of structural theories of the left (Althusserian Marxism) and right (Parsons) ‘Objectivism erroneously adopts a mechanistic view of human conduct. . ignoring the extent to which social life is a practical achievement by skilful actors’ (Bourdieu. 1977: 22-23) Subjectivism: (reproduction of the world by individuals) Critical of phenomenology and SI For assuming that social relations and values emerged automatically from social situations but were untouched by social structures.

Agency …  individuals exercised agency but within existing social conventions. conventions. rules etc. . values and sanctions  Individuals do not create the world anew  Behaviour is socially constrained  our social interactions are already influenced by social predispositions.

Therefore. . but as an outcome of power relations.…and Structure     Structure (the field) social relations were not reproduced in a vacuum. he viewed the relations between practice (what we do in our immediate environment) and the field (the larger parameters of power relations) as being intrinsically linked that sociological methods had to observe both of these dynamics together. The 'field' of social relations refers to the areas of social life where strategies are used in the struggle for resources.

and the most receptive way to observe these was by closely observing social practices Takes account of the way people skilfully improvise their social roles or practices .Sociological method   B adopted two sociological methods and rules which would be attentive to the complex interactions between social groups and social structures. Participant observation in which the researcher – – should be concerned with the different power relations shaping social life.

Practice continued – reflexive sociology Reflexive sociology – – – B concerned with the different power relations between researcher and the researched Rejected researcher/researched divide Researcher is part of the social world and must adopt a critical attitude to own practice .

e. automatic way people read and understand the social world in which they operate. The social world into which we are born and in which we operate in everyday life is already structured Each area of social life has its own social order We need unpack the nature of social rules.people know how to act in daily activities People draw from doxa (doxic experience) . practices and strategies and the intuitive.Practice      Is neither unconscious or conscious .i. . their 'taken for granted world beyond reflection' (1977).

good and bad moves.. I.Practice (2)     we engage in the social world using a combination of our 'practical sense' and 'doxa' agency involves individuals strategically engaging in and manipulating the rules of the social situations playing a game going to university and studying for a degree can be seen as a game with very definite rules Students students develop a 'feel for the game'. They develop skills to play the game intuitively .e what are inappropriate.

gestures. Like Blumer and Giddens.This is an example of ‘habitus’ at work     the second-nature. is crucial to understanding social life. a set of dispositions resulting in particular practices. bodily attitude. which provide the 'feeling for the game'. strategic action and class power. Habitus. improvisations. understanding of what is happening. . B refers to it as habitus. but Bourdieu has a deeper analysis of the meaning of cultural sings and meaning. etc.

. B extends the analysis to everyday cultural reproduction and to a notion of cultural power as a key sphere for reproducing class domination.the accumulation of profit widens the division between those who own and control the means of production. family situation. Access to higher education is a good example The cultural ‘goods’ with which students play the game of University life University life overlaps with other social fields and other areas of social privilege (private education or a good state school. 'ability' and government policy). access to funding.Cultural capital      Classical Marxism . social aspirations. and those who rely on waged labour.

Cultural capital (2)      Getting a place at your chosen University is based on strategic struggle to attain different forms of capital (the struggle to get to University starts years before you sit your matriculations). Possessors of symbolic capital are not only able to justify their possession of other forms of capital but are able to change the structure and rules by which the field operates. Educational awards (degrees) are a form of cultural capital which are ‘traded’ for money.good jobs. social prestige. Thus higher education can be seen as a valued commodity which reproduces the three different elements of capital (economic. cultural and social) . Symbolic capital is one of the most significant forms of capital.

Routledge. People asked to specify their personal tastes in music. social pastimes. home decor. Survey between 1963-8. 1217 subjects. He did not find the answer primarily in economic classes or the state. . P (1974{1979)) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. but in culture and ideology. literature etc. London The relations between ‘taste’ and class in French society. And how social classes are reproduced through symbolic domination and the education system Bourdieu.Class and the social sieve Distinction       Pierre Bourdieu's attempts to understand social inequality and why it is that people acquiesce to power and being dominated without resisting. art. theatre.

complaints about the 'illiteracy' of younger generations and the establishment of 'Mickey-Mouse degrees‘? . class power and social inequality are reproduced at athe cultural and social level. Is class elitism evident in recent controversies about the BBC ‘dumbing down’. This occurred apparently without resistance or social conflict. ‘Good taste’ is dependent on a separation from the necessities of daily labour.Distinctions (2)       B held that there still was a dominant valuation in favour of 'highculture' which is still used to express social distinction. This distance is produced by the status of the bourgeois classes as being separate from manual productive labour.

Bourdieu’s contribution     Linked the construction of ‘taste’ and cultural practice to class distinctions It advances Marxist sociology. Through this. Develops the concept of economic. educational and social capital within a unified framework. a better understanding of the reproduction of class and status Furthermore. cultural. it also advances Bourdieu's general theory of society and social agency .

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful

Master Your Semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master Your Semester with a Special Offer from Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.