|Born||1 August 1930
|Died||23 January 2002
|Notable ideas||Cultural capital
Starting from the role of economic capital for social positioning, Bourdieu pioneered investigative frameworks and terminologies such as cultural, social, and symbolic capital, and the concepts of habitus, field or location, and symbolic violence to reveal the dynamics of power relations in social life. His work emphasized the role of practice and embodiment or forms in social dynamics and worldview construction, often in dialogue and opposition to universalized Western philosophical traditions. He built upon the theories of Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Edmund Husserl, Georges Canguilhem, Karl Marx, Gaston Bachelard, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Erwin Panofsky, and Marcel Mauss. A notable influence on Bourdieu was Blaise Pascal, after whom Bourdieu titled his Pascalian Meditations.
Bourdieu rejected the idea of the intellectual "prophet," or the "total intellectual," as embodied by Jean-Paul Sartre. His best known book is Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (1979), in which he argues that judgments of taste are related to social position, or more precisely, are themselves acts of social positioning. His argument is put forward by an original combination of social theory and data from quantitative surveys, photographs and interviews, in an attempt to reconcile difficulties such as how to understand the subject within objective structures. In the process, he tried to reconcile the influences of both external social structures and subjective experience on the individual (see structure and agency).
- 1 Life and career
- 2 Influences
- 3 Bourdieu as public intellectual
- 4 Work
- 5 Bourdieu's theory of class distinction
- 6 Bourdieu’s theory of power and practice
- 7 Legacy
- 8 Selected publications
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References and further reading
- 12 External links
Born Pierre Felix Bourdieu in Denguin (Pyrénées-Atlantiques), in southern France on 1 August 1930, to a postal worker and his wife. The language spoken at home was Béarnese, an Occitan dialect. He married Marie-Claire Brizard in 1962; the couple had three sons, Jérôme, Emmanuel, and Laurent.
Bourdieu was educated at the lycée in Pau before moving to the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. From there, he gained entrance to the École Normale Supérieure (ENS), also in Paris, where he studied philosophy alongside Louis Althusser. After getting his agrégation, Bourdieu worked as a lycée teacher at Moulins for a year before being conscripted into the French Army in 1955. His biographers write that he chose not to enter the Reserve Officer's College like many of his fellow ENS graduates as he wished to stay with people from his own modest social background.4 He was deployed to Algeria in October 1955 during its war of independence from France and served in a unit guarding military installations before being transferred to clerical work.4 After his year long military service, Bourdieu stayed on as lecturer in Algiers.5 During the Algerian War in 1958-1962, Bourdieu undertook ethnographic research into the clash through a study of the Kabyle peoples, of the Berbers laying the groundwork for his anthropological reputation. The result was his first book, Sociologie de L'Algerie (The Sociology of Algeria), which was an immediate success in France and published in America in 1962.
In 1960, Bourdieu returned to the University of Paris before gaining a teaching position at the University of Lille where he remained until 1964. From 1964 onwards, Bourdieu held the position of Director of Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (the future École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales), in the VIe section, and from 1981, the Chair of Sociology at the Collège de France, in the VIe section (held before him by Raymond Aron and Maurice Halbwachs). In 1968, Bourdieu took over the Centre de Sociologie Européenne, founded by Aron, which he directed until his death.
In 1975, with the research group he had formed at the Centre de Sociologie Européenne, he launched the interdisciplinary journal Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, with which he sought to transform the accepted canons of sociological production while buttressing the scientific rigor of sociology. In 1993 he was honored with the "Médaille d'or du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique" (CNRS). In 1996, he received the Goffman Prize from the University of California, Berkeley and in 2001 the Huxley Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.6 Bourdieu died of cancer at the age of 71.5
Bourdieu's work is influenced by much of traditional anthropology and sociology which he undertook to synthesize into his own theory. From Max Weber he retained the importance of domination and symbolic systems in social life, as well as the idea of social orders which would ultimately be transformed by Bourdieu into a theory of fields.
From Marx he gained his understanding of 'society' as the ensemble of social relationships: "what exist in the social world are relations – not interactions between agents or intersubjective ties between individuals, but objective relations which exist 'independently of individual consciousness and will'."7 (grounded in the mode and conditions of economic production), and of the need to dialectically develop social theory from social practice.8
The class-based nature of artistic taste had already been firmly established by Arnold Hauser in The Social History of Art (1951).
From Émile Durkheim, finally, through Marcel Mauss and Claude Lévi-Strauss, Bourdieu inherited a certain structuralist interpretation of the tendency of social structures to reproduce themselves, based on the analysis of symbolic structures and forms of classification. However, Bourdieu critically diverged from Durkheim in emphasizing the role of the social agent in enacting, through the embodiment of social structures, symbolic orders. He furthermore emphasized that the reproduction of social structures does not operate according to a functionalist logic.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty and, through him, the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl played an essential part in the formulation of Bourdieu's focus on the body, action, and practical dispositions (which found their primary manifestation in Bourdieu's theory of habitus).9
Bourdieu was also influenced by Wittgenstein (especially with regard to his work on rule-following) stating that "Wittgenstein is probably the philosopher who has helped me most at moments of difficulty. He's a kind of saviour for times of great intellectual distress".10
Bourdieu's work is built upon an attempt to transcend a series of oppositions which he thought characterized the social sciences (subjectivism/objectivism, micro/macro, freedom/determinism) of his time. His concepts of habitus, capital, and field were conceived with the intention of overcoming such oppositions.
During the 1990s Bourdieu became more and more involved in political debate, turning himself into one of the most important public faces of intellectuality in France. While a fierce critic of neoliberalism, Bourdieu was also critical of the "total intellectual" role played by Sartre, and he dismissed Sartre's attempts within the political sphere of France as "irresponsible" and "opportunistic."11 Bourdieu saw sociology not as a form of "intellectual entertainment" but as a serious discipline of a scientific nature. The paradox between Bourdieu's earlier writings against using sociology for political activism and his later launch into the role of a public intellectual involved some highly "visible political statements"11 asking whether the role of the academic, in this case the sociologist, is preparation for life as a public intellectual, especially when considering the political implications of Bourdieu's work in the public domain. Although much of his early work stressed the importance of treating sociology as a strict discipline (« La sociologie est un sport de combat » — Sociology is a martial art), his later working life saw him enter the less academic world of political debate in France, raising the issue of whether the sociologist has political responsibilities extending to the public domain.
In 2004 Marxist sociologist Michael Burawoy's presidential address to The American Sociological Association called for a public sociology.12 Burawoy considers the point that sociology has a role to play in the public domain and suggests that the academic sociologist should be more involved in public debate.12 However, whereas Burawoy suggests that there are shared values amongst sociologists, it also limits the discipline.13 Burawoy argued that the early work of sociologists to change and interpret the world changed to a role of conserving it, as evidenced in Bourdieu's life.
Although Bourdieu earlier faulted public intellectuals such as Sartre, he had strong political views which influenced his sociology from the beginning. By the time of his later work his main concern had become the effect of globalisation and those who benefited least from it. His politics then became more overt and his role as public intellectual was born, from an "urgency to speak out against neoliberal discourse that had become so dominant within political debate."11 Bourdieu developed a project to investigate the impact — particularly the harmful impact — of neoliberal reforms in France. The most significant fruit of this project was the 1993 study 'The Weight of the World,' although his views are perhaps more candidly expressed in his articles.14 'The Weight of the World' represented a heavyweight scientific challenge to the dominant trends in French politics. Since it was the work of a team of sociologists, it also shows Bourdieu's collaborative character, indicating that he was still in 1993 reluctant to accept being singled out with the category (he deplored the term 'role'15) of public intellectual. Nevertheless, Bourdieu's activities as a critical sociologist prepared him for the public stage, fulfilling his "constructionist view of social life" as it relied upon the idea of social actors making change through collective struggles. His relationship with the media was improved through his very public action of organizing strikes and rallies that raised huge media interest in him and his many books became more popular through this new notoriety. One of the main differences between the critical sociologist and public intellectual is the ability to have a relationship with popular media resources outside the academic realm.16 It is notable that in his later writings Bourdieu sounded cautionary notes about such individuals, describing them as "like the Trojan Horse17 " for the unwanted elements they may bring to the academic world. Again Bourdieu seems wary of accepting the description 'public intellectual,' worrying that it might be difficult to reconcile with science and scholarship. Research is needed on what conditions transform particular intellectuals into public intellectuals.11
Bourdieu routinely sought to connect his theoretical ideas with empirical research, grounded in everyday life, and his work can be seen as sociology of culture or, as he labelled it, a "Theory of Practice". His contributions to sociology were both evidential and theoretical (that is, calculated through both systems). His key terms were habitus, capital and field.
He extended the idea of capital to categories such as social capital, cultural capital, financial capital, and symbolic capital. For Bourdieu each individual occupies a position in a multidimensional social space; he or she is not defined only by social class membership, but by every single kind of capital he or she can articulate through social relations. That capital includes the value of social networks, which Bourdieu showed could be used to produce or reproduce inequality.
Ultimately, each relatively autonomous field of modern life, such as economy, politics, arts, journalism, bureaucracy, science or education engenders a specific complex of social relations where the agents will engage their everyday practice. Through this practice, they'll develop a certain disposition for social action that is conditioned by their position on the field (dominant/dominated and orthodox/heterodox are only two possible ways of positioning the agents on the field; these basic binary distinctions are always further analysed considering the specificities of each field). This disposition, combined with every other disposition the individual develops through his engagement on a multidimensional (in the sense of multi-field) social world, will eventually tend to become a sense of the game, a partial understanding of the field and of social order in general, a practical sense, a practical reason, a way of di-vision (or classification) of the world, an opinion, a taste, a tone of voice, a group of typical body movements and mannerisms and so on. Through this, the social field may become more complex and autonomous, while the individual develops a certain habitus that is typical of his position in the social space. By doing so, social agents will often acknowledge, legitimate and reproduce the social forms of domination (including prejudices) and the common opinions of each field as self-evident, clouding from conscience and practice even the acknowledgment of other possible means of production (including, of course, symbolic production) and power relations.
Though not deterministic, the inculcation of the subjective structures of the habitus can be observed through statistical data, for example, while its selective affinity with the objective structures of the social world explains the continuity of the social order through time. As the individual habitus is always a mix of multiple engagements in the social world through the person's life, while the social fields are put into practice through the agency of the individuals, no social field or order can be completely stable. In other words, if the relation between individual predisposition and social structure is far stronger than common sense tends to believe, it is not a perfect match.
Some examples of his empirical results include showing that despite the apparent freedom of choice in the arts, people's artistic preferences (such as classical music, rock, traditional music) strongly tie in with their social position; and showing that subtleties of language such as accent, grammar, spelling and style – all part of cultural capital – are a major factor in social mobility (for example, getting a higher-paid, higher-status job).
Pierre Bourdieu's work emphasized how social classes, especially the ruling and intellectual classes, preserve their social privileges across generations despite the myth that contemporary post-industrial society boasts equality of opportunity and high social mobility, achieved through formal education.
Bourdieu was an extraordinarily prolific author, producing hundreds of articles and three dozen books, nearly all of which are now available in English.
Pierre Bourdieu developed theories of social stratification based on aesthetic taste in his 1979 work Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (in French, La Distinction) published by Harvard University Press. Bourdieu claims that how one chooses to present one’s social space to the world — one’s aesthetic dispositions — depicts one’s status and distances oneself from lower groups. Specifically, Bourdieu hypothesizes that these dispositions are internalized at an early age and guide the young towards their appropriate social positions, towards the behaviors that are suitable for them, and an aversion towards other behaviors.
Bourdieu theorizes that class fractions teach aesthetic preferences to their young. Class fractions are determined by a combination of the varying degrees of social, economic, and cultural capital. Society incorporates “symbolic goods, especially those regarded as the attributes of excellence, [...as] the ideal weapon in strategies of distinction.”18 Those attributes deemed excellent are shaped by the interests of the dominating class. He emphasizes the dominance of cultural capital early on by stating that “differences in cultural capital mark the differences between the classes.”19
The development of aesthetic dispositions are very largely determined by social origin rather than accumulated capital and experience over time. The acquisition of cultural capital depends heavily on “total, early, imperceptible learning, performed within the family from the earliest days of life.”18 Bourdieu argues that, in the main, people inherit their cultural attitudes, the accepted “definitions that their elders offer them.”20
He asserts the primacy of social origin and cultural capital by claiming that social capital and economic capital, though acquired cumulatively over time, depend upon it. Bourdieu claims that “one has to take account of all the characteristics of social condition which are (statistically) associated from earliest childhood with possession of high or low income and which tend to shape tastes adjusted to these conditions.”21
According to Bourdieu, tastes in food, culture and presentation are indicators of class because trends in their consumption seemingly correlate with an individual’s fit in society.22 Each fraction of the dominant class develops its own aesthetic criteria. A multitude of consumer interests based on differing social positions necessitates that each fraction “has its own artists and philosophers, newspapers and critics, just as it has its hairdresser, interior decorator, or tailor.”23
However, Bourdieu does not disregard the importance of social capital and economic capital in the formation of cultural capital. For example, the production of art and the ability to play an instrument “presuppose not only dispositions associated with long establishment in the world of art and culture but also economic means...and spare time.”24 However, regardless of one’s ability to act upon one’s preferences, Bourdieu specifies that “respondents are only required to express a status-induced familiarity with legitimate...culture.”25
“[Taste] functions as a sort of social orientation, a ‘sense of one’s place,’ guiding the occupants of a given...social space towards the social positions adjusted to their properties, and towards the practices or goods which befit the occupants of that position.”26 Thus, different modes of acquisition yield differences in the nature of preferences.27
These “cognitive structures...are internalized, ‘embodied’ social structures,” becoming a natural entity to the individual (Bourdieu 468). Different tastes are thus seen as unnatural and rejected, resulting in “disgust provoked by horror or visceral intolerance (‘feeling sick’) of the tastes of others.”28
Bourdieu himself believes class distinction and preferences are “most marked in the ordinary choices of everyday existence, such as furniture, clothing, or cooking, which are particularly revealing of deep-rooted and long-standing dispositions because, lying outside the scope of the educational system, they have to be confronted, as it were, by naked taste.”29 Indeed, Bourdieu believes that “the strongest and most indelible mark of infant learning” would probably be in the tastes of food.30 Bourdieu thinks that meals served on special occasions are “an interesting indicator of the mode of self-presentation adopted in ‘showing off’ a life-style (in which furniture also plays a part).”30 The idea is that their likes and dislikes should mirror those of their associated class fractions.
Children from the lower end of the social hierarchy are predicted to choose “heavy, fatty fattening foods, which are also cheap” in their dinner layouts, opting for “plentiful and good” meals as opposed to foods that are “original and exotic.”31 These potential outcomes would reinforce Bourdieu’s “ethic of sobriety for the sake of slimness, which is most recognized at the highest levels of the social hierarchy,” that contrasts the “convivial indulgence” characteristic of the lower classes.32 Demonstrations of the tastes of luxury (or freedom) and the tastes of necessity reveal a distinction among the social classes.
The degree to which social origin affects these preferences surpasses both educational and economic capital. Demonstrably, at equivalent levels of educational capital, social origin remains an influential factor in determining these dispositions.25 How one describes one’s social environment relates closely to social origin because the instinctive narrative springs from early stages of development.33 Also, across the divisions of labor, “economic constraints tend to relax without any fundamental change in the pattern of spending.”34 This observation reinforces the idea that social origin, more than economic capital, produces aesthetic preferences because regardless of economic capability, consumption patterns remain stable.
At the center of Bourdieu's sociological work is a logic of practice that emphasizes the importance of the body and practices within the social world. Against the intellectualist tradition, Bourdieu stressed that mechanisms of social domination and reproduction were primarily focused on bodily know-how and competent practices in the social world. Bourdieu fiercely opposed Rational Choice Theory as grounded in a misunderstanding of how social agents operate. Social agents do not, according to Bourdieu, continuously calculate according to explicit rational and economic criteria. Rather, social agents operate according to an implicit practical logic—a practical sense—and bodily dispositions. Social agents act according to their "feel for the game" (the "feel" being, roughly, habitus, and the "game" being the field).
Bourdieu’s anthropological work was dominated by an analysis of the mechanisms of reproduction of social hierarchies. In opposition to Marxist analyses, Bourdieu criticized the primacy given to the economic factors, and stressed that the capacity of social actors to actively impose and engage their cultural productions and symbolic systems plays an essential role in the reproduction of social structures of domination. What Bourdieu called symbolic violence is the self-interested capacity to ensure that the arbitrariness of the social order is either ignored, or posited as natural, thereby justifying the legitimacy of existing social structures. This concept plays an essential part in his sociological analysis.
For Bourdieu, the modern social world is divided into what he calls fields. For him, the differentiation of social activities led to the constitution of various, relatively autonomous, social spaces in which competition centers around particular species of capital. These fields are treated on a hierarchical basis wherein the dynamics of fields arises out of the struggle of social actors trying to occupy the dominant positions within the field. Although Bourdieu embraces prime elements of conflict theory like Marx, he diverges from analyses that situate social struggle only within the fundamental economic antagonisms between social classes. The conflicts which take place in each social field have specific characteristics arising from those fields and that involve many social relationships which are not economic.8
Pierre Bourdieu developed a theory of the action, around the concept of habitus, which exerted a considerable influence in the social sciences. This theory seeks to show that social agents develop strategies which are adapted to the needs of the social worlds that they inhabit. These strategies are unconscious and act on the level of a bodily logic.
Bourdieu’s most significant work on cultural production is available in two books: The Field of Cultural Production (1993) and The Rules of Art (1996).
David Hesmondhalgh writes that “by ‘Cultural production’ Bourdieu intends a very broad understanding of culture, in line with the tradition of classical sociology, including science (which in turn includes social science), law and religion, as well as expressive-aesthetic activities such as art, literature and music. However, his work on cultural production focuses overwhelmingly on two types of field or sub-field of cultural production (...): literature and art.”35
According to Pierre Bourdieu “the principal obstacle to a rigorous science of the production of the value of cultural goods” is the “charismatic ideology of ‘creation’ “ which can be easily found in studies of art, literature and other cultural fields. In Bourdieu’s opinion charismatic ideology ‘directs the gaze towards the apparent producer and prevents us from asking who has created this “creator” and the magic power of transubstantiation with which the “creator” is endowed’.36
Bourdieu was not a proponent of revolutionary transformations in culture. According to him such moments are always dependent on the possibilities present in the positions inscribed in the field.
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Bourdieu shared Weber's view that society cannot be analyzed simply in terms of economic classes and ideologies. Much of his work concerns the role of educational and cultural factors. Instead of analyzing societies solely in terms of classes, Bourdieu uses the concept of field: a structured social space with its own rules, schemes of domination, legitimate opinions and so on. Fields are relatively autonomous from the wider social structure (or space, in his terminology), in which people relate and struggle through a complex of connected social relations (both direct and indirect). Among the main fields in modern societies, Bourdieu cited the arts, education, politics, law and economy. Other societies, like the Kabyle people, have not developed such autonomous fields, concentrating the social relations, rules, accumulation of capital and production of habitus to the larger social field.
Bourdieu's concept of habitus was inspired by Marcel Mauss' notion of body technique and hexis. The word itself can be found in the works of Norbert Elias, Max Weber, Edmund Husserl and Erwin Panofsky as re-workings of the concept as it emerged in Aristotle's notion of Hexis.37 For Bourdieu, habitus was essential in resolving a prominent antinomy of the human sciences: objectivism and subjectivism. Habitus can be defined as a system of dispositions (lasting, acquired schemes of perception, thought and action).
The individual agent develops these dispositions in response to the objective conditions it encounters. In this way Bourdieu theorizes the inculcation of objective social structures into the subjective, mental experience of agents. For the objective social field places requirements on its participants for membership, so to speak, within the field. Having thereby absorbed objective social structure into a personal set of cognitive and somatic dispositions, and the subjective structures of action of the agent then being commensurate with the objective structures and extant exigencies of the social field, a doxic relationship emerges.
Habitus is somewhat reminiscent of preexisting sociological concepts such as socialization, but habitus also differs from the more classic concepts in several important ways. Firstly, a central aspect of the habitus is its embodiment: Habitus does not only, or even primarily, function at the level of explicit, discursive consciousness. The internal structures become embodied and work in a deeper, practical and often pre-reflexive way. In this sense, the concept has something in common with Anthony Giddens' concept of practical consciousness.
Doxa refers to the learned, fundamental, deep-founded, unconscious beliefs, and values, taken as self-evident universals, that inform an agent's actions and thoughts within a particular field. Doxa tends to favor the particular social arrangement of the field, thus privileging the dominant and taking their position of dominance as self-evident and universally favorable. Therefore, the categories of understanding and perception that constitute a habitus, being congruous with the objective organization of the field, tend to reproduce the very structures of the field. A doxic situation may be thought of as a situation characterized by a harmony between the objective, external structures and the 'subjective', internal structures of the habitus. In the doxic state, the social world is perceived as natural, taken-for-granted and even commonsensical.
Bourdieu thus sees habitus as an important factor contributing to social reproduction because it is central to generating and regulating the practices that make up social life. Individuals learn to want what conditions make possible for them, and not to aspire to what is not available to them. The conditions in which the individual lives generate dispositions compatible with these conditions (including tastes in art, literature, food, and music), and in a sense pre-adapted to their demands. The most improbable practices are therefore excluded, as unthinkable, by a kind of immediate submission to order that inclines agents to make a virtue of necessity, that is, to refuse what is categorically denied and to will the inevitable.38
As mentioned above, Bourdieu used the methodological and theoretical concepts of habitus and field in order to make an epistemological break with the prominent objective-subjective antinomy of the social sciences. He wanted to effectively unite social phenomenology and structuralism. Habitus and field are proposed to do so.
Bourdieu's ambition to unite these sociological traditions, which had been widely thought to be incompatible, was and remains controversial. The most important concept to grasp is habitus. Crudely put, the habitus is the system of dispositions which individuals have. Sociologists very often look at either social laws (structure) or the individual minds (agency) in which these laws are inscribed. Great sociological arguments have raged between those who argue that the former should be sociology's principal interest (structuralists) and those who argue the same for the latter (phenomenologists). When Bourdieu instead asks us to consider dispositions, he is making a very subtle intervention in sociology. He has found a middle ground where social laws and individual minds meet and is arguing that our proper object of analysis should be this middle ground: dispositions.
Dispositions are also importantly public and hence observable. If I prefer brie to Camembert but keep this fact secret — never showing my preference, scrupulously giving no evidence from which my preference may be observed or deduced — then the preference remains strictly private. It may be aptly called a preference, but it is not a disposition in Bourdieu's sense and arguably not in the everyday sense either. A disposition performs, enacts a preference; however trivial, even when disputing the relative merits of cheeses, a disposition is a public declaration of where one stands, what one's allegiances are.
Amongst any society of individuals, the constant performance of dispositions, trivial and grand, forms an observable range of preferences and allegiances, points and vectors. This spatial metaphor can be analysed by sociologists and realised in diagrammatic form.39 Ultimately, conceptualising social relations this way gives rise to an image of society as a web of interrelated spaces. These are the social fields.
For Bourdieu, habitus and field can only exist in relation to each other. Although a field is constituted by the various social agents participating in it (and thus their habitus), a habitus, in effect, represents the transposition of objective structures of the field into the subjective structures of action and thought of the agent.
The relationship between habitus and field is a two-way relationship. The field exists only insofar as social agents possess the dispositions and set of perceptual schemata that are necessary to constitute that field and imbue it with meaning. Concomitantly, by participating in the field, agents incorporate into their habitus the proper know-how that will allow them to constitute the field. Habitus manifests the structures of the field, and the field mediates between habitus and practice.
Bourdieu attempts to use the concepts of habitus and field to remove the division between the subjective and the objective. Whether or not he successfully does so is open to debate. Bourdieu asserts that any research must be composed of two "minutes." The first an objective stage of research—where one looks at the relations of the social space and the structures of the field. The second stage must be a subjective analysis of social agents' dispositions to act and their categories of perception and understanding that result from their inhabiting the field. Proper research, he says, cannot do without these two togethercitation needed.
Bourdieu extended the notion of capital, defined as sums of money or assets put to productive use. For Bourdieu, these assets could take many forms which had not received much attention when he began writing. Bourdieu habitually refers to several principle forms of capital: economic, symbolic, cultural and social. Loic Waquant describes their status in Bourdieu's work in these terms: "Capital comes in 3 principal species: economic, cultural and social. A fourth species, symbolic capital, designates the effects of any form of capital when people do not perceive them as such."40
Bourdieu sees symbolic capital (e.g., prestige, honor, attention) as a crucial source of power. Symbolic capital is any species of capital that is, in Loïc Wacquant's terms "not perceived as such," but which is instead perceived through socially inculcated classificatory schemes. When a holder of symbolic capital uses the power this confers against an agent who holds less, and seeks thereby to alter their actions, they exercise symbolic violence. We might see this when a daughter brings home a boyfriend considered unsuitable by her parents. She is met with disapproving looks and gestures, symbols which serve to convey the message that she will not be permitted to continue this relationship, but which never make this coercive fact explicit. People come to experience symbolic power and systems of meaning (culture) as legitimate. Hence, the daughter will often feel a duty to obey her parents' unspoken demand, regardless of her suitor's merits.
Symbolic violence is fundamentally the imposition of categories of thought and perception upon dominated social agents who then take the social order to be just. It is the incorporation of unconscious structures that tend to perpetuate the structures of action of the dominant. The dominated then take their position to be "right." Symbolic violence is in some senses much more powerful than physical violence in that it is embedded in the very modes of action and structures of cognition of individuals, and imposes the spectre of legitimacy of the social order.
In his theoretical writings, Bourdieu employs some terminology of economics to analyze the processes of social and cultural reproduction, of how the various forms of capital tend to transfer from one generation to the next. For Bourdieu, formal education represents the key example of this process. Educational success, according to Bourdieu, entails a whole range of cultural behaviour, extending to ostensibly non-academic features like gait, dress, or accent. Privileged children have learned this behaviour, as have their teachers. Children of unprivileged backgrounds have not. The children of privilege therefore fit the pattern of their teachers' expectations with apparent 'ease'; they are 'docile'. The unprivileged are found to be 'difficult', to present 'challenges'. Yet both behave as their upbringing dictates. Bourdieu regards this 'ease', or 'natural' ability—distinction—as in fact the product of a great social labour, largely on the part of the parents. It equips their children with the dispositions of manner as well as thought which ensure they are able to succeed within the educational system and can then reproduce their parents' class position in the wider social system.
Cultural capital refers to assets, e.g., competencies, skills, qualifications, which enable holders to mobilise cultural authority and can also be a source of misrecognition and symbolic violence. For example, working class children can come to see the educational success of their middle-class peers as always legitimate, seeing what is often class-based inequality as instead the result of hard work or even 'natural' ability. A key part of this process is the transformation of people's symbolic or economic inheritance (e.g., accent or property) into cultural capital (e.g., university qualifications).
Bourdieu argues that cultural capital has developed in opposition to economic capital. Furthermore, the conflict between those who mostly hold cultural capital and those who mostly hold economic capital finds expression in the opposed social fields of art and business. The field of art and related cultural fields are seen to have striven historically for autonomy, which in different times and places has been more or less achieved. The autonomous field of art is summed up as "an economic world turned upside down,"41 highlighting the opposition between economic and cultural capital.
For Bourdieu, "social capital is the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition."42
Bourdieu insists on the importance of a reflexive sociology in which sociologists must at all times conduct their research with conscious attention to the effects of their own position, their own set of internalized structures, and how these are likely to distort or prejudice their objectivity. The sociologist, according to Bourdieu, must engage in a "sociology of sociology" so as not to unwittingly attribute to the object of observation the characteristics of the subject. She/he ought to conduct their research with one eye continually reflecting back upon their own habitus, their dispositions learned through long social and institutional training.
It is only by maintaining such a continual vigilance that the sociologists can spot themselves in the act of importing their own biases into their work. Reflexivity is, therefore, a kind of additional stage in the scientific epistemology. It is not enough for the scientist to go through the usual stages (research, hypothesis, falsification, experiment, repetition, peer review, etc.); Bourdieu recommends also that the scientist purge their work of the prejudices likely to derive from their social position. In a good illustration of the process, Bourdieu chastises academics (including himself) for judging their students' work against a rigidly scholastic linguistic register, favouring students whose writing appears 'polished', marking down those guilty of 'vulgarity'.43 Without a reflexive analysis of the snobbery being deployed under the cover of those subjective terms, the academic will unconsciously reproduce a degree of class prejudice, promoting the student with high linguistic capital and holding back the student who lacks it — not because of the objective quality of the work but simply because of the register in which it is written. Reflexivity should enable the academic to be conscious of their prejudices, e.g. for apparently sophisticated writing, and impel them to take steps to correct for this bias.
Bourdieu also describes how the "scholastic point of view"44 unconsciously alters how scientists approach their objects of study. Because of the systematicity of their training and their mode of analysis, they tend to exaggerate the systematicity of the things they study. This inclines them to see agents following clear rules where in fact they use less determinate strategies; it makes it hard to theorise the 'fuzzy' logic of the social world, its practical and therefore mutable nature, poorly described by words like 'system', 'structure' and 'logic' which imply mechanisms, rigidity and omnipresence. The scholar can too easily find themselves mistaking "the things of logic for the logic of things" — a phrase of Marx's which Bourdieu is fond of quoting.45 Again, reflexivity is recommended as the key to discovering and correcting for such errors which would otherwise remain unseen, mistakes produced by an over-application of the virtues that produced also the truths within which the errors are embedded.46
Bourdieu contended there is transcendental objectivity, only where there were certain historical conditions necessary for its emergence. Bourdieu's ideal scientific field is one that persistently designates upon its participants an interest or investment in objectivity. Transcendental objectivity, he argued, requires certain historical and social conditions for its production. The scientific field is precisely that field in which objectivity may be acquired. The structure of the scientific field is such that it becomes increasingly autonomous and its "entrance fee" becomes increasingly strict. Further, the scientific field entails rigorous intersubjective scrutinizing of theory and data. This makes it difficult for those within the field to bring in, for example, political influence.
Bourdieu takes language to be not merely a method of communication, but also a mechanism of power. The language one uses is designated by one's relational position in a field or social space. Different uses of language tend to reiterate the respective positions of each participant. Linguistic interactions are manifestations of the participants' respective positions in social space and categories of understanding, and thus tend to reproduce the objective structures of the social field. This determines who has a "right" to be listened to, to interrupt, to ask questions, and to lecture, and to what degree.
The representation of identity in forms of language can be subdivided into language, dialect, and accent. For example, the use of different dialects in an area can represent a varied social status for individuals. A good example of this would be in the case of French. Until the French Revolution, the difference of dialects usage directly reflected ones social status. Peasants and lower class members spoke local dialects, while only nobles and higher class members were fluent with the official French language. Accents can reflect an area's inner conflict with classifications and authority within a population.
The reason language acts as a mechanism of power is through forms of mental representations it is acknowledged and noticed as objective representations: as a sign and/or symbol. These signs and symbols therefore transform language into an agency of power.47
Bourdieu "was, for many, the leading intellectual of present-day France... a thinker in the same rank as Foucault, Barthes and Lacan".5 His works have been translated into two dozen languages and have had an impact on the whole gamut of disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities. Several works of his are considered classics, not only in sociology, but also in anthropology, education, and cultural studies. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (La Distinction) was named as one of the 20th century's ten most important works of sociology by the International Sociological Association.48 The Rules of Art has had great impact on sociology, history, literature and aesthetics.
In France, Bourdieu was seen not as an ivory tower academic or "cloistered don" but as a passionate activist for those he believed to be subordinated by society. In 2001, a documentary film about Bourdieu – Sociology is a Martial Art – "became an unexpected hit in Paris. Its very title stressed how much of a politically engaged intellectual Bourdieu was, taking on the mantle of Émile Zola and Jean-Paul Sartre in French public life and slugging it out with politicians because he thought that was what people like him should do."5
For Bourdieu, sociology was a combative effort, exposing the un-thought structures beneath the physical (somatic) and thought practices of social agents. He saw sociology as a means of confronting symbolic violence and exposing those unseen areas where one could be free.
Bourdieu's work continues to be influential. His work is widely cited, and many sociologists and other social scientists work explicitly in a Bourdieusian framework. One example is Loïc Wacquant, who persistently applies the Bourdieusian theoretical and methodological principles to subjects such as boxing, employing what Bourdieu termed participant objectivation (objectivation participante), or what Wacquant calls "carnal sociology."
Bourdieu also played a crucial role in the popularisation of correspondence analysis and particularly multiple correspondence analysis. Bourdieu held that these geometric techniques of data analysis are, like his sociology, inherently relational. "I use Correspondence Analysis very much, because I think that it is essentially a relational procedure whose philosophy fully expresses what in my view constitutes social reality. It is a procedure that 'thinks' in relations, as I try to do it with the concept of field," Bourdieu said, in the preface to The Craft of Sociology.49
- Algeria 1960: The Disenchantment of the World: The Sense of Honour: The Kabyle House or the World Reversed: Essays, Cambridge University Press 1979.
- Les héritiers: les étudiants et la culture (1964), Eng. The Inheritors: French Students and Their Relations to Culture, University of Chicago Press 1979.
- Esquisse d'une théorie de la pratique, précédé de trois études d'ethnologie kabyle, (1972), Eng. Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge University Press 1977.
- Homo Academicus, (French Edition) Les Éditions de Minuit, Paris, 1984. (English Edition) Polity, 1990.
- Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture (Theory, Culture and Society Series), Sage, 1990, with Jean-Claude Passeron (in French: La Reproduction. Éléments pour une théorie du système d'enseignement, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1970).
- with Luc Boltanski e P. Maldidier, La défense du corps, in Social Science Information, Vol. 10, n° 4, pp. 45–86, 1971.
- with Luc Boltanski, Le titre et le poste : rapports entre système de production et système de reproduction, in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, Vol. 1, n° 2, pp. 95 – 107, 1975
- with Luc Boltanski, Le fétichisme de la langue, in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, Vol. 1, n° 4, pp. 2– 32, 1975.
- with Luc Boltanski, La production de l'idéologie dominante, in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, Vol. 2, n° 2-3, 1976, pp. 4–73, 1976-06.
- Forms of Capital (1986) 
- Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice, 1984. Harvard University Press.
- Choses dites, 1987 Eng. In Other Words: Essays toward a Reflective Sociology, Stanford, 1990.
- "The Corporatism of the Universal: The Role of Intellectuals in the Modern World". Telos 81 (Fall 1989). New York: Telos Press
- Language and Symbolic Power, Harvard University Press 1991.
- The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger, Polity, 1991.
- The Love of Art: European Art Museums and Their Public, Stanford University Press, 1991.
- Language & Symbolic Power, Harvard University Press, 1991; paperback edition, Polity, 1992.47
- An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology with Loïc Wacquant, University of Chicago Press and Polity, 1992.
- with Hans Haacke, Free Exchange, Stanford University Press, 1995.
- with Luc Boltanski and Robert Castel, Photography: A Middle-Brow Art, Stanford University Press, 1996, ISBN 9780804726894.
- Les régles de l'art, 1992; Eng. Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field, Stanford University Press, 1996.
- with Monique De Saint Martin, Jean-Claude Passeron, Academic Discourse: Linguistic Misunderstanding and Professorial Power, Polity 1996.
- Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action, Stanford University Press, 1998.
- State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power, Polity, 1998.
- Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society, Polity, 1999.
- On Television, New Press, 1999.
- Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market, New Press, 1999.
- Pascalian Meditations, Polity, 2000.
- La domination masculine, 1998; Eng. Masculine Domination, Polity, 2001.
- Interventions politiques (1960–2000). Textes & contextes d’un mode d’intervention politique spécifique, 2002.
- Contre-Feux, 1998; Eng. Counterfire: Against the Tyranny of the Market, Verso Books 2003.
- Science de la science et réflexivité, 2002; Eng. Science of Science and Reflexivity, Polity 2004.
- The Social Structures of the Economy, Polity 2005.
- Patrick Baert and Filipe Carreira da Silva, Social Theory in the Twentieth Century and Beyond, Polity, 2010, p. 34.
- Bourdieu, P. 'Outline of a Theory of Practice' Cambridge: Cambridge University Press http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521291644
- The Guardian Obituary http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2002/jan/28/guardianobituaries.books
- Jane Goodman, 'Bourdieu in Algeria' (2009) pp. 8-9
- The Guardian obituary, Douglas Johnson 28 January 2002
- The New York Times obituary, Alan Riding 25 January 2002
- Bourdieu, P. and L.J.D. Wacquant. 1992. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago and London: Univ of Chicago Press. p. 97.
- Bourdieu, P. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge Univ Press
- Moran, Dermot, [ http://hdl.handle.net/10197/3848 "Edmund Husserl's Phenomenology of Habituality and Habitus"], Journal Of The British Society For Phenomenology, 42 (1) 2011-01, pp. 53–77.
- "Wittgenstein's Ladder Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary". Wittgenstein's Ladder Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
- Swartz, D., Special Issue on the Sociology of Symbolic power: A Special Issue in Memory of Pierre Bourdieu, Theory and Society, Volume 32, Issue 5/6, 2003.
- Burawoy, M., American Sociological Association Presidential Address: For Public Sociology, The British Journal of Sociology Volume 56, Issue 2, 2005.
- Holmwood, J., Sociology as Public Discourse and Professional Practice: A Critique of Michael Burawoy, Sociological Theory, Volume 25, Issue 1, 2007.
- collected for example in Bourdieu 'Political Interventions,' Verso 2008 or Bourdieu 'Sociology as a Martial Art,' The New Press 2010
- see Bourdieu, 'Thinking About Limits,' Theory, Culture & Society vol. 9 no. 1 pp41-3, SAGE 1992
- Fuller, S., The Intellectual, Ikon Books, Cambridge, 2005.
- see Bourdieu, On Television and Journalism p.59, Pluto 1998
- Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Bourdieu 1979/1984 p 66
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 69
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 477
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 177
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 184
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 pp 231-2
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 75
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 63
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 466
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 65
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 56
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 77
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 79
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 177, 79
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 179
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 78
- Distinction, Bourdieu 1984 p 185
- Hesmondhalgh, David (2006). "Bourdieu, the media and cultural production". Media Culture & Society (SAGE Publications) 28 (2): 211–231. doi:10.1177/0163443706061682. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- Bourdieu Rules of Art, p. 167
- Wacquant, Loïc. "Habitus". HABITUS-INTERNCYECOSOC. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
- Bourdieu, P. (1990) Structures, habitus, practices. In P. Bourdieu, The logic of practice (pp. 52-79). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Bourdieu, 1990, p. 54.
- as when Bourdieu plots "the space of the faculties" in French higher education — Bourdieu, Pierre (1988). Homo Academicus. Cambridge, UK: Polity. p. 50. ISBN 0-7456-0831-0.
- Wacquant, L. 2006 Key Contemporary Thinkers, London and New York: Macmillan, new edition, p. 7 see http://www.umsl.edu/~keelr/3210/resources/PIERREBOURDIEU-KEYTHINK-REV2006.pdf
- Bourdieu, P 1996, The Rules of Art p.81, Polity
- Bourdieu, P. and Loïc J. D. Wacquant. 1992. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. p. 119.
- The Inheritors, Bourdieu & Passeron, 1979, pp.20-4; Academic Discourse, Bourdieu et al, 1994, pp. 8-10; Homo Academicus, Bourdieu, 1988, pp.194-225
- Practical Reason, Bourdieu, 1998, pp. 127-140; Pascalian Meditations, Bourdieu, 2000, pp. 49-84
- e.g. In Other Words, Bourdieu, 1990, p.61
- An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992, e.g. pp. 68-70
- "Language and Symbolic Power — Pierre Bourdieu, John Thompson | Harvard University Press". Hup.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "ISA - Books of the Century. ToP Ten". Isa-sociology.org. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- Bourdieu, Pierre, Jean-Claude Chamboredon and Jean-Claude Passeron (1991) The Craft of Sociology. Berlin, Walter de Guyter.
- Calhoun, C. et al. (1992) "Pierre Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives." University of Chicago Press.
- Grenfell, M (2011) "Bourdieu, Language and Linguistics" London, Continuum.
- Grenfell, M. (ed) (2008) "Pierre Bourdieu: Key concepts" London, Acumen Press.
- Grenfell, M and Hardy, C (2007) "Art Rules: Pierre Bourdieu and the Visual Arts." Berg.
- Grenfell, M (2007) "Pierre Bourdieu: Education and Training". Continuum
- Grenfell, Michael (2004). Pierre Bourdieu: Agent Provocateur. Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-6709-1.
- Lane, J.F. (2000) Pierre Bourdieu. A Critical Introduction. Pluto Press.
- Wacquant, L. (2005) Pierre Bourdieu and Democratic Politics. Polity Press.
- Fowler, Bridget, Pierre Bourdieu and Cultural Theory: Critical Investigations (London, California and New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1997).
- Jean-Philippe Cazier [edit.],Abécédaire de Pierre Bourdieu, Sils Maria Press, 2007.
- Sallaz Jeffrey J. and Jane Zavisca (2007). Bourdieu in American Sociology, 1980–2004. Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 33, pp. 21–41. 
- Steinmetz, George (2011). Bourdieu, Historicity, and Historical Sociology. Cultural Sociology, vol. 11, pp. 45–61 
- Luca Corchia, La prospettiva relazionale di Pierre Bourdieu (2). I concetti fondamentali, in «Il Trimestrale del Laboratorio. The Lab's Quarterly», Pisa, Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali, 4, 2006 ISSN 1724-451X
- Reed-Danahay, Deborah. (2005) Locating Bourdieu. Indiana University press.
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- Obituaries and biographical material
- Guardian obituary
- The New York Times obituary
- Biography at Pegasos
- The Nation remembrance
- La sociologie est un sport de combat French Documentary by Pierre Carles
- A list of obituaries with links
- Counterpunch obituary by Norman Madarasz
- Other resources
- HyperBourdieu@WorldCatalogue - a multilingual bibliography
- Bourdieu and Social Theory - Website with resources and a syllabus for a course at the University of Chicago
- Bourdieu bibliography at Massey University
- Bibliography of works about Pierre Bourdieu
- 'NewLiberalSpeak' in Radical Philosophy
- "Practice and field: Revising Bourdieusian concepts
- "End of the Line" Review of Firing Back: Against the Tyranny of the Market by critic Mark Greif in The American Prospect, (November 1, 2003)
- Bourdieu articles on neoliberalism and globalisation
- Comment on Bourdieu and international crisis
- On Male Domination by Pierre Bourdieu
- Twitter Pierre Bourdieu Twitter Pierre Bourdieu.
- Blog Contemporary Sociology Category Bourdieu Electronic resources for those interested in the Social Sciences (in Spanish)
- Bourdieu has been a member of the Editorial Board of The International Scope Review 
- Article by David Hesmondhalgh "Bourdieu, the media and cultural production"