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Sociology Pierre Bourdieu
by
Etienne Ollion

Introduction

Pierre Bourdieu was born on 1 August 1930 in a rural area of southwestern France. The only child of a peasant sharecropper turned postman, he left his region on the recommendation of a high school teacher to pursue an elite academic curriculum in Paris. He graduated from the prestigious École Normale Supérieure, then at the apex of French academic life. There he studied philosophy. He concentrated on epistemology and on the history of science, which set him against the then dominant current, existentialism, personified by Jean-Paul Sartre. Bourdieu’s vocation in philosophy shifted abruptly to the social sciences after he was drafted into the French army and sent to Algeria at the height of its Liberation War (1956–1962). There he turned to empirical inquiry, carrying out both ethnographic and statistical studies of colonial transformation, as well as absorbing the structuralism of Claude Lévi-Strauss. Upon his return to France, Bourdieu completed his conversion to sociology: he became Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris (1964); he founded a research center (1968), launched a journal (Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 1975), and assembled a research team focusing on symbolic power, and social inequality in their broadest manifestations. After the 1970s, Bourdieu tackled an increasingly diverse set of empirical topics (spanning art, ritual, kinship, religion, science, intellectuals, language, social classes, and political institutions, inter alia) while developing his own paradigm, seeking a pathway out of the opposition between structuralist objectivism and constructivist subjectivism—first proposed in Outline of a Theory of Practice. He then honed his distinctive conceptual triad of habitus, capital, and field in Distinction (1984) before he was elected to the Collège de France in 1982, where his research expanded to encompass the state, gender domination, the social foundations of the economy, and the experience of social suffering in contemporary society. Bourdieu addressed salient social issues, as in The Weight of the World (1999), and deepened his rethinking of the distinctive logic of practice and the epistemological dilemmas of social inquiry in Pascalian Meditations (2000). He became a leading public figure in the global mobilization against neoliberalism, while his work gained international influence across the social sciences and the humanities. At the time of his sudden death in 2002, he was working on a “general theory of fields.”

General Overviews

Over the course of his career, Bourdieu published some thirty books and more than three hundred articles on an astounding variety of topics, written in an empirically rich yet theoretically dense style which can deter some readers. Amid the fast-growing literature on Bourdieu, several texts offer routes to approach it. Wacquant 2006 provides a comprehensive and compact overview of the life and work of the French sociologist. Brubaker 1985 is an early article situating Bourdieu within classic social theory. Readers of French can turn to Pinto 2002 for a more detailed presentation. Bourdieu himself was concerned with easing entry into the thicket of his work, and he published collections of essays based on oral presentations (e.g., Bourdieu 1998). For social science scholars, the best entry is Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992, which diagrams Bourdieu’s core concepts, explains the inner logic of his inquiries, and responds to objections. Another collection of public lectures and interviews, Bourdieu 1990, offers a window into the development of his thought and in many respects an abridged but theoretically precise presentation of Bourdieu’s main research. Swartz 1998 is a highly readable introduction to Bourdieu’s sociology of culture.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. In other words: Essays towards a reflexive sociology. Translated by Matthew Adamson. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    A collection of lectures and interviews in which Bourdieu presents the intellectual rationale and main results of his investigations and answers frequent questions about his work, up until the mid-1980s. Originally published in 1987.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. Practical reason: On the theory of action. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    A collection of conference presentations given abroad sketch out Bourdieu’s main findings on class, cultural capital, time, power, and morality. The format and the primary audience of the papers force Bourdieu to strip out some empirical details about France, hence making the ensemble more accessible. Originally published in 1994.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre, and Loïc Wacquant. 1992. An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Invitation is the most comprehensive presentation of Bourdieu’s empirical and theoretical works. The first part offers a thorough delineation of the principles underlying the sociologist’s work. A dense dialogue between the two authors follows, which traces the origins and intentions of Bourdieu’s theory. The third section introduces the reader to the craft of research. While limited to the texts published up to 1992, Invitation remains the clearest and most accurate introduction available.

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  • Brubaker, Rogers. 1985. Rethinking classical theory: The sociological vision of Pierre Bourdieu. Theory and Sociology 14: 745–775.

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    In this early and illuminating article, Brubaker locates Bourdieu within classic social theories. He describes Bourdieu’s sociology in the light of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, respectively, before he tackles his main concepts.

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  • Pinto, L. 2002. Pierre Bourdieu et la théorie du monde social. 2d ed. Paris: Le Seuil.

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    Written by a student and longtime collaborator of Bourdieu, the book is a precise introduction to Bourdieu’s social theory. A philosopher by training, the author also manages to locate Bourdieu’s contribution to classical and contemporary debates in social theory. Originally published in 1998.

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  • Swartz, David. 1998. Culture and power: The sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Highly readable and precise, Swartz’s book is a good introduction to Bourdieu’s theory up to the 1980s, with an emphasis on the culture-power nexus.

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  • Wacquant, Loïc. 2006. Pierre Bourdieu. In Key sociological thinkers. Edited by Rob Stones. 2d ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

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    The chapter provides a general overview of the life and work of the French sociologist, characterized as having developed a science of practice in relation to various strands of classical social theory. Originally published in 1998.

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Resources, Biographies, and Bibliographies

Despite the absence as of 2012 of a serious and well-researched biography of Bourdieu, documents in many forms offer insight on the intellectual and personal life of the researcher. Delsaut and Rivière 2009 is a comprehensive bibliography of some one hundred pages and is a first-rate research tool to study Bourdieu and to track translations of his publications in more than thirty languages. Bourdieu 2007 constitutes the author’s own sociological account of the genesis of his intellectual project. Boltanski 2008 is an account of his years with Bourdieu by Bourdieu’s former close collaborator, who became his first opponent. Carles 2001 is a documentary film on Bourdieu’s academic and political activism.

  • Boltanski, Luc. 2008. Rendre la réalité inacceptable. Paris: Demopolis.

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    Once a close collaborator and frequent coauthor of the French sociologist, Luc Boltanski recalls his années Bourdieu. This lively essay provides a wealth of insights about the sociological field and the broader intellectual atmosphere in 1970s France.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2007. Sketch for a self-analysis. New York: Polity.

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    At the time of his death, Bourdieu was completing this short essay in which he uncovers the links between his social and intellectual trajectory by turning his sociological tools onto himself.

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  • Carles, Pierre. 2001. Sociology is a martial art. DVD. Brooklyn, NY: Icarus Films.

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    Shot in 1998–2000, this film captures Bourdieu’s activities as a researcher and public intellectual. It tracks him at work and in debate in a range of settings, from his office at the Collège de France to radio interviews, academic conferences, and political demonstrations. It spotlights the deep ties between Bourdieu’s personal vision of the world and his scientific work, while attesting to its varied impacts.

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  • Delsaut, Y., and M.-C. Rivière. 2009. Bibliographie des travaux de Pierre Bourdieu. Paris: Le temps des cerises.

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    Compiled by two close collaborators of Bourdieu, this comprehensive bibliography is a tour de force. Clear, constantly updated, and well presented, the text (available for purchase online) also lists the translations of Bourdieu’s texts in all languages.

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Selected Major Works

One of the most distinctive features about Bourdieu’s work is the variety of empirical topics he examined, each one providing a site for crafting and honing his conceptual tools. Virtually all the empirical monographs he wrote had a transformative effect on the subfield they contributed to (education, art, class, kinship, intellectuals, etc.), yet some deserve special mention because they served as a crucible for the development of theories. Bourdieu and Passeron 1979 is a powerful early presentation of his theory of social reproduction via the sanctification of “cultural capital” in the school system, revamped and further developed in Bourdieu 1996a to focus on the ties between elite schools and the field of power. Bourdieu 1990 is the most compact synthesis of his evolving treatments of the philosophy and anthropology of practice. Bourdieu 1984 brings together these reflections along with an extensive empirical examination of the links among class, cultural practices, and consumption to propose his radical rethinking of taste and group formation. Based on an in-depth study of French writers and painters at the close of the 19th century, Bourdieu 1996b is the most refined exposition of the concept of field, developed through a study of the historical genesis of the artistic world. Bourdieu, et al. 1999 is the result of a collective research on the changing forms of social disparity and suffering in contemporary societies affected by class fragmentation, social polarization, and state retrenchment. The sole book lacking an empirical study in this list, Bourdieu 2000, clarifies the author’s epistemological and theoretical project as well as proposes a bracing program for founding a “socioanalysis” capable of guiding both social transformation and self-appropriation. Based on Bourdieu’s lecture courses at the Collège de France, it also offers a rare look at sociological propaedeutics in action.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Based on a mass of survey, interview, and ethnographic data gathered over two decades, Distinction is Bourdieu’s most famous book worldwide. It takes on aesthetics’ central question—taste—to take a sociological approach to it by demonstrating the complex social determinants of culture. It sets forth the famous representation of social space, in which Bourdieu distances his theory from strictly class-based approaches to culture. Originally published in 1979.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. The logic of practice. Translated by Richard Nice. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    A complete revamping and rewriting of Outline of a Theory of Practice (1977, originally 1972), this is Bourdieu’s most thorough exposition of his theory of practice, developed through a dual critique of anthropological structuralism and phenomenological individualism, rich in illustrations drawing on his ethnographic observations in Kabylia, Algeria. Originally published in 1980.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1996a. The state nobility: Elite schools in the field of power. Translated by Laurette C. Clough. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    This book dissects the linkages between elite schools and strategies of reproduction among the various segments of the French ruling class. The book sets forth the concept of “field of power,” an arena that encompasses the various institutional sites where the holders of the different “species of capital” vie to establish their relative value and ranking. It also opens the path to Bourdieu’s historical sociology of the state. Originally published in 1989.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1996b. The rules of art: Genesis and structure of the literary field. Translated by Susan Emanuel. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    On the heels of Sartre’s classic study, Bourdieu tracks the career of Flaubert. He shows his role in structuring the emerging world of literature to develop a model of the invention of the “artistic field” and an historical aesthetics that resolves the traditional aporias of humanistic approaches. Bourdieu provides the building blocks of a social “science of works of art” that effectively revokes the opposition between social and literary approaches. Originally published in 1992.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2000. Pascalian meditations. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    Bourdieu lays bare his philosophical anthropology and the conceptions of knowledge, time, power, and being that inform his scientific work. This tome offers one of the most sophisticated and ambitious treatments of the distinctive dilemmas and mission of social science, including elaborations of the “scholastic fallacy,” the historical foundations of reason, and habitus as “knowledge by body.” It is Bourdieu’s most consequential work of theory. Originally published in 1997.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre, and J.-C. Passeron. 1979. The inheritors: French students and their relation to culture. Translated by Richard Nice. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Written in the heyday of “school massification” in western Europe, this book refutes the then-dominant view that equates increased school attendance with democratization. It dissects the role of higher education in the reproduction and in the legitimation of social inequalities, particularly of class and gender. Originally published in 1964.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre, et al., ed. 1999. The weight of the world: Social suffering in contemporary sociology. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    This collective work, carried out by a team of twenty-two researchers, stands out in Bourdieu’s bibliography. Over a thousand pages, we are guided through a “socioanalysis” of the experiences of social beings suffering from “poverty of condition” and “poverty of position” in contemporary France. This empirical fresco serves as a vehicle to develop an original approach to sociological understanding as well as a powerful intervention into political debate. Originally published in 1993.

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Interviews and Lectures

Along with his books, Bourdieu gave countless interviews (to both academic and lay publications) and oral presentations, some of which were brought together into collective volumes. The main two volumes are Bourdieu 1990 (cited under General Overviews) and Bourdieu 1993. Although not exactly in the form of lectures, Bourdieu 1998 (cited under General Overviews) is made up of texts that were oral presentations at first, making each chapter quite accessible to a non-specialist audience. Bourdieu 1990 reproduces Bourdieu’s inaugural lecture at the Collège de France, a pivotal text summing up two decades of work and setting the agenda of the next two. Bourdieu 2011 is based on the lecture course on the state he gave from 1989 to 1992 (several further volumes of courses are slated for publication).

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. A lecture on the lecture. In In other words. By Pierre Bourdieu, 177–197. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    Bourdieu’s inaugural lecture at the Collège de France, the text reflects on the pitfalls and potentialities of a science of society caught in the very classification struggles it seeks to analyze.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1993. Sociology in question. Translated by Richard Nice. London: SAGE.

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    This volume of interviews, lectures, and presentations clarifies Bourdieu’s theories on class, culture, intellectuals, politics (including his oft-cited “Public opinion does not exist”), and the role of language, interest, and motive in society and social analysis. Originally published in 1984.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2011. Sur l’état. Paris: Le Seuil.

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    Carried out in the wake of his work on the state nobility (Bourdieu 1996a, cited under Selected Major Works), Bourdieu’s investigation of states had, until recently, not led to any major publication. This volume makes up for this lack. It collects Bourdieu’s lecture courses on the history, makeup, and contradictions of the state at the Collège de France over a three-year period (1989–1992).

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Central Concepts

Although Bourdieu’s empirical work runs the gamut from Algerian peasants to elite French civil servants, academic institutions, and intellectuals, these varied empirical objects were not solely a sign of his undeniable appetite for empirical research. At the same time, they were sites on which the sociologist developed an encompassing theory punctuated by key notions such as habitus, capitals, field, symbolic power, and reflexivity. These notions form the conceptual backbone of Bourdieu’s general economy of practice, an attempt to bring together power, practice, and knowledge.

Habitus

Referring to a set of acquired yet lasting and transferable ways of thinking, feeling, and acting (dispositions), the concept of habitus is key to Bourdieu’s theory, for it is what accounts for practice, in both its predictable and its creative aspects. Bourdieu’s habitus-based theory of action suggests that the overall stability of the world we live in is a consequence of the permanent and dialectical relationship between “social structures” and our “mental structures.” The idea of habitus as “incorporated, durable, transposable dispositions” is clearly set forth in the first chapters of Bourdieu 2000, cited under Selected Major Works (especially chapters 3 and 4). First laid out in the complex work Bourdieu 1977 and often restated since then (see Bourdieu 1990 for a concise presentation), Bourdieu’s theory is a criticism of both structuralism and the various “philosophies of the subject.” Readers interested in the structuralist origins of Bourdieu’s thought will find Lentacker 2010 illuminating. Many authors since Bourdieu have deployed and discussed the concept of habitus. Wacquant wrote numerous articles illustrating and extending the research program set out by Bourdieu; in particular, Wacquant 2004’s “carnal sociology” of prizefighting as bodily craft in the African American ghetto of Chicago anatomizes the making of the “pugilistic habitus” both empirically and methodologically. With a more critical perspective, Lahire 2011 questions what he sees as blind spots and limitations of the concept, before he suggests avenues to pursue a disposition-oriented sociology. In the United States, the contemporary debates on habitus are often located at the intersection of sociology and psychology, as shown in Lizardo 2003. The topic has also been taken up empirically by Desmond 2007.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a theory of practice. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Outline is Bourdieu’s first major exposition of his theory of practice. Intricate and dense, it lays the ground for most of Bourdieu’s future analyses. It also features classic and path-breaking studies of “kinship strategies,” the “sense of honor,” and “the Kabyle House, or the World Reversed,” which marks Bourdieu’s theoretical break with structuralism. Originally published in 1972.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. Fieldwork in Philosophy. In In other words: Essays towards a reflexive sociology. By Pierre Bourdieu, 3–33. Translated by Matthew Adamson. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    Bourdieu describes the French philosophical field from the 1950s along with his own trajectory from philosopher to social scientist. He argues for the usefulness of habitus to overcome the opposition between “objectivism” and “subjectivism” and sketches the agenda of a genuinely “genetic structuralism.” Originally published in 1987.

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  • Desmond, Matthew. 2007. On the fireline: Living and dying with wildland firefighters. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Based on first-hand participant observation, Desmond’s ethnographic study of wildland firefighting is a vivid dissection of the making of the habitus of firefighters.

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  • Lahire, Bernard. 2011. The plural actor. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    In the first book in a series of works critically building on Bourdieu, Lahire questions what he sees as blind spots and limitations of the concept of habitus. Instead, he calls for a “psychological sociology” alert to individual processes of socialization and to the moments when dispositions (which constitute habitus) are activated (switched on or off). Originally published in 1997.

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  • Lentacker, Antoine. 2010. La science des institutions impures: Bourdieu, critique de Lévi-Strauss. Ivry-sur-Seine, France: Raisons d’agir.

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    A very precise exploration of Bourdieu’s debts and distances to structuralism, Lentacker’s essay is both dense and illuminating on Bourdieu’s relations to (anthropological) structuralism.

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  • Lizardo, Omar. 2003. The cognitive origins of Bourdieu’s habitus. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 34: 375–401.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-5914.2004.00255.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lizardo offers a genealogy of the psychological origins of Bourdieu’s concept of habitus. Locating Bourdieu in US sociology, he suggests ways to advance a habitus-based approach to sociology.

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  • Wacquant, Loïc. 2004. Body and soul: Notebooks of an apprentice boxer. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    The book anatomizes the making of the “pugilistic habitus” in the social, sensual, and moral forge of the gym. It also advances Bourdieu’s dispositional theory of action and knowledge by deploying habitus as a method of inquiry. Wacquant’s “carnal ethnography” is a vivid study of prizefighting as bodily trade and life project.

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Capital(s)

While Bourdieu retains several key aspects of Marx’s sociology (chief among them his sensuous materialism and an agonistic conception of the social world), his specific use of a concept such as capital fully demonstrates the distance between the two theories. Claiming to go beyond a purely economicist analysis of the social world, Bourdieu suggests that “capitals” are plural. Resources valued only in a specific space (more specifically, each “field,” since each has its own capital; see Fields), capitals confer power on those who are most endowed with it. Building on Bourdieu and Passeron 1979 (cited under Selected Major Works), Bourdieu and Passeron 1977 shows the effects of differential endowment in cultural capital on class mobility and hierarchy, and thence social reproduction. While they come in different species and forms, capitals can be converted one into another. Bourdieu 1986 details this variety, specifies their main forms in contemporary societies, and discusses the question of the “exchange rate” between them. The position of an individual (or of a group) in a given space is determined by his volume of specific capital and by his overall endowment in capital, as famously stated in Bourdieu 1984 (cited under Selected Major Works). The role of cultural capital and its main fount, the school system, is summarized in Bourdieu 1998. DiMaggio 1982 introduced Bourdieu’s theory of social capital in US sociology of education, while Lamont and Lareau 1988 analyzes the reception and criticizes the uses of Bourdieu’s concept a few years later.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre, and J.-C. Passeron. 1977. Reproduction in education, society and culture. Translated by Richard Nice. London: SAGE.

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    Bourdieu and Passeron show how the school system favors students from a certain social background owing to the implicit valuation of certain cultural elements (“cultural capital”) more likely to be found in and transmitted by upper-class families. Discriminating on the basis of class while claiming to reward individual talent, the school system is described as a central but hidden mechanism of social reproduction. Originally published in 1970.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1986. The forms of capital. In Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. Edited by John G. Richardson, 241–258. New York: Greenwood.

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    This synthetic article presents Bourdieu’s notion of capital, along with a quick description of its main species (economic, social, and cultural) and of their different forms.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. The new capital. In Practical reason: On the theory of action. By Pierre Bourdieu, 19–30. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    In this short lecture, Bourdieu explains the importance of an analysis that integrates cultural capital, given the growing influence of school systems in contemporary societies. Originally published in 1994.

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  • DiMaggio, Paul. 1982. Cultural capital and school success: The impact of status culture participation on the grades of the U.S. high school students. American Sociological Review 47: 189–201.

    DOI: 10.2307/2094962Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article, which was central to the introduction of Bourdieu in US sociology, DiMaggio illuminates the debate on school success in fin-de-siècle America by drawing upon Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital and Weber’s notion of status.

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  • Lamont, Michèle, and Annette Lareau. 1988. Cultural capital: Allusions, gaps and glissandos in recent theoretical developments. Sociological Theory 6.2: 153–168.

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    Starting with a literature review of Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital in the United States (up to the mid-1980s), the paper offers a critical assessment of the concept and some avenues for future research.

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Fields

Denoting spaces in which individuals or institutions vie to impose their views and to gain recognition, the notion of field is meant to provide a relational, agonistic, and hierarchical view of certain social activities. Along with habitus and capital, it constitutes the third pillar of Bourdieu’s tripod theory of action. It works hand in hand with capital—a specific value has currency only in a given field—and with habitus, in that bodies immersed long enough in a field will experience the transformative effect thereof. Bourdieu 1991 is one of the founding texts on the topic, Bourdieu 1994 applies the concept to the state and suggests thinking in terms of bureaucratic field instead. Bourdieu 1996 is the most compact illustration of the concept as well as a historically rich description of the French artistic field. Martin 2003 is a large and useful overview of the concept of field that extends beyond Bourdieusian analysis. Ferguson 1998 makes use of the notion to investigate the “culinary” field, a subsegment of this broader cultural field; and Benson and Neveu 2005 shows how to apply the Bourdieusian tool to media studies. Lebaron 2009 clearly shows some connections between Bourdieu’s concept and the statistical method of Multiple Correspondence Analysis.

  • Benson, Rodney Dean, and Erik Neveu, eds. 2005. Bourdieu and the journalistic field. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    The essays in this volume apply the concept of field to contemporary mass media. The introductory essay reviews current works and sets an agenda for future research. Altogether, the various texts form a critical assessment of the strengths and blind spots of the notion in regard to journalism and its products.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Genesis and structure of the religious field. Comparative Social Research 13: 1–44.

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    Based on a rereading of Weber’s classic case on religion, this article is one of Bourdieu’s first extensive presentations of the concept. While illuminating on the (mostly Weberian) origins of the concept, the density of the text makes it unsuitable for those not immersed in Bourdieusian rhetoric. Originally published in 1971.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1994. Rethinking the state: Genesis and structure of the political field. Sociological Theory 12: 1–18.

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    A synthesis of different texts published over time in France, the article states Bourdieu’s central insights on the state. He suggests in particular doing away with the latter as a concept, and elaborates instead a model of bureaucratic field.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1996. The rules of art: Genesis and structure of the literary field. Translated by Susan Emanuel. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    Bourdieu’s most accomplished illustration of the concept of field, this book traces the birth of the artistic field back to the 19th century, after its progressive liberation from patronage and more generally from the field of power. It also offers a lengthy description of the writer’s illusio (“belief in the game”). Originally published in 1992.

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  • Ferguson, Priscilla Parkhurst. 1998. A cultural field in the making: Gastronomy in 19th-century France. American Journal of Sociology 104: 597–641.

    DOI: 10.1086/210082Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ferguson’s in-depth study of the making of a “gastronomic field” details the social transformations that allowed for the creation of an autonomous space, with its specialized agents (critics), its institutions (prizes and awards), and the numerous and complex relations among them.

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  • Lebaron, Frédéric. 2009. How Bourdieu ‘quantified’ Bourdieu: The geometric modelling of data. In Quantifying theory: Pierre Bourdieu. Edited by Karen Robson and Chris Sanders, 11–30. New York: Springer.

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    One of the strengths of Bourdieu’s concept of field lies in the existence of a statistical method perfectly tailored to relationally analyze and visually represent fields. Multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) helped him do so, and Lebaron’s paper provides a highly readable overview of Bourdieu’s use of the method. See also Methods.

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  • Martin, John Levi. 2003. What is field theory? American Journal of Sociology 109: 1–49.

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    Erudite and innovative, Martin’s presentation of field theory goes beyond Bourdieu’s own formulation of the concept. The comparison between Bourdieu’s version and others (institutionalist in particular) proves illuminating.

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Symbolic Violence

The key to Bourdieu’s sociology of power—often called a “sociology of domination”—is the notion of symbolic violence. It describes forms of domination that take place with the silent complicity of the subordinates, insofar as their habitus (including the cognitive categories they apply to the world) is molded by the world they live in. Rather than emphasizing force as an explanation for social obedience, Bourdieu directs our attention to the patterns of cognition that lead agents to see the world as natural and to take it for granted. With its roots in early analyses of language (Bourdieu 1999a), the concept is applied to various areas of social life, from kinship, religion, and the political field to taste, work, and gender relations. Bourdieu 2001 applies this framework to the case of masculine domination, and Bourdieu 1999b to the political field. Bourdieu 2001 discusses symbolic power in light of the theory of habitus, and Bourdieu 2012 develops a distinctive theory of the state as the monopolizer of “legitimate symbolic violence.” Thompson 1999 offers a clear introduction to Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic power.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1999a. Language and symbolic power. Translated by Gino Raymond. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    Located at the intersection of sociological pragmatics and political sociology, the essays in this volume offer a thorough critique of both linguistic structuralism and pragmatics to develop a systematic theory of language as vector of symbolic power. The book comprises a pivotal conference paper, which positions Bourdieu’s concept in the larger theoretical literature on power and communication, and several key essays on politics. Originally published in 1992.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1999b. Symbolic violence and political struggles. In Pascalian meditations. By Pierre Bourdieu, 164–191. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    This chapter offers Bourdieu’s clearest exposition of the concept of symbolic violence. Meshed with a discussion of habitus and embodiment, it develops the idea of tacit acceptance or “doxic adherence” to the social order. The concept is illustrated via two case studies (“The Twofold Truth of the Gift,” “The Twofold Truth of Labor”) which integrate the subjective feeling of freedom with the objective description of the relations of domination. Originally published in 1997.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2001. Masculine domination. Translated by Richard Nice. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    The book dissects masculine domination, described as “gentle violence, invisible even to its victims, exerted for the most part through the purely symbolic channels of cognition and of communication” (pp. 1–2). As such, it is a paradigmatic instance of symbolic violence, and accounts for the “paradoxical submission” to social order, even in the face of the most intolerable conditions of existence, which are perceived as acceptable, and even natural. Originally published in 1998.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2012. Sur l’état. Paris: Le Seuil.

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    First mentioned in Bourdieu 1998 (cited under General Overview), the idea of the state as a monopolizer and fount of symbolic power is developed in Bourdieu’s recently published lectures.

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  • Thompson, John B. 1999. Introduction. In Language and symbolic power. By Pierre Bourdieu, 1–31. Translated by Gino Raymond. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    Thompson’s foreword to Bourdieu’s book is a detailed and highly readable introduction to Bourdieu’s theory of language. It features insightful remarks on and clarifications of the notion of symbolic capital. Originally published in 1992.

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Reflexivity

Reflexivity is at the same time a methodological principle and a key concept for Bourdieu’s analyses of the social world. Because sociology takes as its object everyday knowledge and categories that are both products, stakes, and instruments in social struggles, it is always at risk of surreptitiously importing extrascientific assumptions and notions into its arguments. Because the sociologist necessary retires from the social world to study it, he is wont to project his “contemplative” relationship to action and his hermeneutic interest into the minds of the people he studies. Practitioners of social science must therefore exert special vigilance to track their own potential bias, including the “scholastic bias,” at every step in the research process. Bourdieu, et al. 1991 is an introduction to Bourdieu’s epistemology. In Bourdieu 1990b, his introductory lecture at the Collège de France, the author invites sociologists to turn their own tools on themselves, a call he put into practice in Bourdieu 1990a. Wacquant 1992 clarifies Bourdieu’s use of the term in the light of other theories of reflexivity. Bourdieu 2004 is the most complete presentation of Bourdieu’s theory of scientific knowledge.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990a. Homo academicus. Translated by Peter Collier. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    This study of the French academic “field” circa 1968 is an empirical sociology in action of the “sociological gaze” turned onto its own universe of production. The foreword to Homo academicus, an analysis of the French academic field in the 1960s, reflects on the specific pitfalls of these objects just as it suggests some ways to avoid them. Originally published in 1984.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990b. A lecture on the lecture. In In Other Words. By Pierre Bourdieu, 177–197. Translated by Matthew Adamson. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    In this introductory lecture at the Collège de France, Bourdieu reflected on the scientific possibility and on the political as well as civic potential of sociology. True reflexivity should take the form of a constant sociology of sociology. The latter is not just another chapter in the large book of the discipline, but rather a permanent and necessary condition to ensure its scientific rigor.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2004. Science of science and reflexivity. Translated by Richard Nice. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Bourdieu’s last series of lectures at the Collège de France, the book summarizes and details Bourdieu’s reflections on the sociology of science. It lays out some conditions for the possibility of sociology as a science and the crucial role of reflexivity in sociological practice.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre, J.-C. Passeron, and J. C. Chamboredon. 1991. The craft of sociology. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter.

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    Bourdieu and his colleagues set forth the guiding principles of what should be a proper epistemology of social sciences. Drawing extensively on Gaston Bachelard’s discontinuist and rationalist philosophy of knowledge, they stress the need for an “epistemological break” (rupture épistémologique) between social science and common sense and focus on the “construction of the sociological object.”

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  • Wacquant, Loïc. 1992. Epistemic reflexivity. In Invitation to reflexive sociology. Edited by Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc Wacquant, 36–46. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Wacquant details Bourdieu’s “obsessive insistence on reflexivity”; distinguishes between three types of biases calling for reflexive control (social, intellectual, and scholastic); and compares Bourdieu’s call for “epistemic reflexivity” to other forms (“egological” and “textual”) of reflexivity.

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Main Topics

As the most widely cited sociologist of the early 21st century around the world, Bourdieu has significantly contributed to the redefinition of many subfields across the disciplines. His influence in sociology is so wide-ranging that it would be pointless to attempt a comprehensive description. A few topical areas can nonetheless be singled out.

Education

Education was Bourdieu’s main area of study upon his return to France in the early 1960s, and it is also the one that made him famous. In France and abroad, within the academic circles and in the public sphere, his theory of reproduction via the school system and his progressive crafting of the concept of cultural capital were widely discussed. Bourdieu and Passeron 1979 (cited under Selected Major Works) presents a first, strong version of reproduction theory, which is elaborated in Bourdieu and Passeron 1977 (cited under Capital[s]) with the introduction of cultural capital. Bourdieu 1984 is a short, vivid case study on professorial categories of judgment, in which the sociologist identifies a homology between the students’ position and the general assumptions made about them. In the United States, Annette Lareau made extensive use of the concept; Lareau 2003 is a remarkable illustration of its application in an American context. More recent works have tried to advance the research programs in different directions. Poupeau and François 2008 analyzes how social and spatial inequalities echo one another and produce unequal access to education. Van Zanten 2005 offers a critical review of Bourdieu’s mark on contemporary sociology of education. Beaud and Convert 2010 looks at the fate of lower-class students in higher education, in a context of increased affirmative action.

  • Beaud, Stéphane, and Bernard Convert, eds. 2010. Special issue: The lower classes in higher education. Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales 183: 1–125.

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    This thematic issue of ARSS investigates the fate of lower-class students in the French higher education system.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. The categories of professorial judgment. In Homo academicus. By Pierre Bourdieu, 194–225. Translated by Peter Collier. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    An investigation of the categories resorted to by professors to describe their students, Bourdieu’s text (first published as a journal article) uncovers a homology between the students’ social origin and the judgment of their abilities. Originally published in 1975.

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  • Lareau, Annette. 2003. Unequal childhoods: Class, race and family life. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Through an in-depth ethnographic comparison of modes of parenting in contemporary America, Lareau demonstrates the role of cultural capital in school achievement. Investigating mostly class and race variations, her study reveals the various ways parents and parenting make a difference.

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  • Poupeau, Franck, and Jean-Christophe François. 2008. Le sens du placement: Ségrégation résidentielle et ségrégation scolaire. Paris: Raisons d’Agir.

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    Building on the numerous studies linking spatial and social inequalities, the authors try to move beyond the idea that space is a pure reflection of social variables. They dissect the processes through which residential arrangements and social variables can reinforce themselves (or, to the contrary, the mismatch) and end up producing unequal access to education.

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  • van Zanten, Agnès. 2005. Bourdieu as education policy analyst and expert: A rich but ambiguous legacy. Journal of Education Policy 20: 671–686.

    DOI: 10.1080/02680930500238887Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article provides a summary of the sociologist’s work in educational research. It also examines the reception of reproduction theory, both academic and public, along with an outline of Bourdieu’s own political trajectory. Written by a specialist in the sociology of education who critically engaged with Bourdieu’s concepts, the article discusses the concepts and their diverse legacy in the subfield.

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Classes and Groups

Despite his longstanding engagement with Marxist theory, and despite common readings of his work, Bourdieu’s sociology is best described as an attempt to analyze social groups rather than as a pure class analysis. Bourdieu 1984 sets forth a multidimensional representation of society, and Bourdieu 1985 is a crystal-clear exposition of the sociologist’s theory of groups. Pereira 2005 discusses the use of Bourdieu’s concepts based on a study of Portugal, and Bennett, et al. 2009 applies Distinction to the United Kingdom. Boltanski 1987 is a perfect illustration of this approach, and Brubaker 2004 furthers this research program by applying it to ethnic groups. Weininger 2005 is a long synthesis on Bourdieu and class analysis.

  • Bennett, Tony, Mike Savage, Elizabeth Silva, et al. 2009. Culture, class, distinction. London: Routledge.

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    Bennett and colleagues applied Bourdieu’s framework to contemporary Britain. They confirm Distinction’s central insights and emphasize the role of cultural capital in the making of group boundaries.

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  • Boltanski, Luc. 1987. The making of a class: Cadres in French society. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Boltanski shows the making and the institutionalization of executives (“cadres”) as a distinct, distinctive, and officially sanctioned social group in post–World War II France. One of the most potent illustrations of Bourdieu’s theories, it details the “classification struggles” over the existence and the boundaries of this category. Originally published in 1982.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Based on an extensive empirical research, Distinction takes on aesthetics’ central question—taste—to show, first, that the most personal choices we make in everyday life (grooming, clothing, furniture, cars, music, mates, morality) are an expression of our class position and trajectory; and second, that ordinary and “highbrow” consumption obey the same logic and ground in “classification struggles” through which groups are made. Originally published in 1979.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1985. The social space and the genesis of groups. Theory and Society 14: 723–744.

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    In this very clear article, Bourdieu discusses Marx’s theory of class and groups before he turns to presenting his own. Originally published in 1984.

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  • Brubaker, Rogers. 2004. Ethnicity without groups. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Based on a combination of historical analysis and fieldwork conducted in the Romanian town of Cluj, a cradle of multiple identities, this study both illustrates and extends Bourdieu’s views on group formation. Wary about what he calls “groupism” (the tendency to reify groups), Brubaker calls attention to the local entrepreneurs of ethnicity and their interest in promoting the label.

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  • Pereira, Virgilio Borges. 2005. Classes e culturas de classe das famílias portuenses: Classes sociais e “modalidades de estilização da vida” na cidade do Porto. Porto, Portugal: Afrontamento.

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    Pereira’s study of Portuguese families draws on Bourdieu’s insights to revisit classic social stratificationist approaches to classes and strata in Portugal.

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  • Weininger, Elliot B. 2005. Foundations of Bourdieu class analysis. In Approaches to class analysis. Edited by Erik Olin Wright, 82–118. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511488900.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A long synthesis of Bourdieu’s theory of social class with respect to other major strands in this subfield.

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Cultural Practices

Beginning in the 1960s, Bourdieu and his collaborators extensively investigated cultural practices. Starting with the most legitimate objects (classical works of art), they demonstrated the social underpinnings of aesthetics. Bourdieu, et al. 1990 is the first major publication in this area. Building on these studies, Bourdieu 1984 goes beyond them by integrating everyday cultural practices into the analysis. In France, just as abroad, Distinction sparked an intense debate about the social determinants of taste formation. Lamont 1992 calls into question the idea of class-based taste, and Coulangeon 2005 tries to assess the validity of Bourdieu’s thesis in contemporary France. Holt 1997 offers a critical survey of these debates.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    Based on extensive empirical research carried out by a team of researchers for almost a decade, Distinction is Bourdieu’s most famous book. It takes on aesthetics’ central question, taste, to advance a sociological approach to it. Often perceived as a strictly class-based approach to culture, Distinction is actually an invitation to elucidate the more complex social determinants of cultural practices. Originally published in 1979.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre, Alain Darbel, and Dominique Schnapper. 1990. The love of art: European museums and their public. Translated by Caroline Beattie and Nick Merriman. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    Based on an extensive study of museum audiences, Bourdieu and his collaborators highlighted the differential attendance at art museums. From that, they uncovered some of the main dispositions favoring the love of art: one’s interest in the “legitimate” works of art. Originally published in 1966.

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  • Coulangeon, Philippe. 2005. The social stratification of musical taste: Questioning the cultural legitimacy model. Revue Française de Sociologie (Suppl.) 46: 123–154.

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    Coulangeon revisits Bourdieu’s theory of dominant culture in the light of a study of contemporary France. He demonstrates that dominant taste is not so much exclusively highbrow as it is eclectic—a trait dominant classes do not share with other groups, which tend to be more exclusive.

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  • Holt, D. B. 1997. Distinction in America? Recovering Bourdieu’s theory of tastes from its critics. Poetics 93–121.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0304-422X(97)00010-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Holt reviews some of the debates triggered by the importation of Distinction into the Anglo-Saxon world. He especially tackles the oft-discussed question of the existence of a taste of class.

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  • Lamont, Michèle. 1992. Money, morals, and manners: The culture of the French and American upper-middle class. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    An analysis of the culture of the French and American upper-middle classes, Lamont’s comparative study discusses Bourdieu’s descriptions in Distinction. Asking four main types of respondents (French vs. American; living in a central vs. peripheral area), she highlights differences between and within countries and argues against the idea of class-based practices.

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Cultural Producers

A central area of research for over three decades for Bourdieu, his sociology of art and literature is less known in the Anglo-American world owing to a peculiar and fragmented importation of the works. A key topic at the empirical level, his sociology of “cultural production” was also the site on which Bourdieu crafted and honed several of his key concepts, especially that of field. Bourdieu 1996 is the most potent presentation of the concept of field. Bourdieu 1990 examines the French academic field and its agents. Boschetti 1988 deploys the concept of “intellectual field” to account for the dominance of Sartre on the French intellectual scene of the 1950s. So does Sapiro 1999 in a path-breaking examination of the relationship between French writers and politics under German occupation during World War II. Charle 1990 investigates the birth of a social category of intellectuals in France at the close of the 19th century, and Matonti 2005 evokes the personal and organizational determinants of intellectual production in the Communist Party.

  • Boschetti, Anna. 1988. The intellectual enterprise: Sartre and Les temps modernes. Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press.

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    Applying Bourdieu’s concepts about cultural production, the author tries to account for the intellectual domination of Sartre in postwar France. For Boschetti, Sartre was the right person (given his personal and institutional credentials and his prophetic style) at the right time (a French intellectual scene polarized by the Cold War). Originally published in 1985.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. Homo academicus. Translated by Peter Collier. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    The book resorts to the concept of field to offer a general characterization of French academia and its agents. It illustrates Bourdieu’s idea of a correlation between position (in a field) and position taking (in this case, academic writing and political stances). Originally published in 1984.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1996. The rules of art: Genesis and structure of the literary field. Translated by Susan Emanuel. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    What can social sciences say about art and creators? On the heels of Sartre, Bourdieu considers Flaubert and his most famous novel, L’Education Sentimentale, to show concretely how a historical and relational approach can contribute to these debates. In this book, Bourdieu lays the foundations for what he called a “science of works of art.” Originally published in 1992.

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  • Charle, Christophe. 1990. Naissance des intellectuels, 1880–1900. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

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    This recapitulation of the birth of the figure of the intellectual around the Dreyfus affair is an opportunity to probe the social organization of French elites at the close of the 19th century.

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  • Matonti, Frédérique. 2005. Intellectuels communistes: Essai sur l’obéissance politique (1967–1980). Paris: La Découverte.

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    Matonti’s book applies Bourdieu’s conceptual framework to investigate the various relations Communist intellectuals entertained with the party in a time of mounting criticism. The analysis of these peculiar cultural producers shows the complex processes underlying their strong political obedience, and its demise in the 1970s.

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  • Sapiro, Gisèle. 1999. La guerre des écrivains. Paris: Fayard.

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    Sapiro offers a sociological account of public support (or the absence thereof) of French writers during the war. Charting them according to their location (and power) in the prewar literary field, she uncovers how the social and economic determinants of their engagement on one or the other side were mediated by the structure of the literary field.

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Economy and Economists

From roots in his early work in Algeria, Bourdieu dissected the intricate relationships between economic and social practices almost from the start of his career. Just as for his own native area of Bearn, he shows that Kabylia’s disorganization is the consequence of a growing chasm between the “dispositions” of the inhabitants and the rapid economic changes experienced by the country after the war (Bourdieu 2008). Following up on this research, Bourdieu later dedicated a book to the analysis of a housing market and of what he called the “social structures of the economy” (Bourdieu 2005). Beyond an interest in the economy, Bourdieu’s use of the economic language also warrants attention. His work is infused with an economic metaphor where terms borrowed from economics are prevalent (e.g., interest, profit, capital, exchange rate). Boyer 2003 anatomizes this use, and Swedberg 2011 provides a critical assessment of it. Bourdieu’s concepts also gave way to numerous studies in economic sociology. Bourdieu, et al. 2003 studies finance, Lebaron 2000 takes on the study of economists, and the notion of “social capital” gave way to many an analysis in economic sociology, surveyed in Portes 1998.

  • Bourdieu, Jérôme, Johan Heilbron, and Bénédicte Reynaud, eds. 2003. Special issue: Les structures sociales de la finance. Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales 146–147: 1–140.

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    The articles collected in this thematic issue of Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales show results of and pathways for a Bourdieusian analysis of finance.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2005. The social structures of the economy. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    Completing an initial study published in the 1990s, this book applies Bourdieu’s general framework to analyze the housing market in France. The second part of the book features a long and illuminating chapter laying the ground for an alternative “economic anthropology.” Originally published in 2000.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2008. Esquisses algériennes. Paris: Seuil.

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    A collection of articles about Algeria, featuring an analysis of the rise of an Algerian subproletariat in the slums of Algiers, born of the displacement and destruction of the peasantry. The article focuses on the dialectic of “temporal structures and economic structures.”

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  • Boyer, Robert. 2003. L’anthropologie économique de Pierre Bourdieu. Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 150.1: 65–78.

    DOI: 10.3406/arss.2003.2772Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Boyer, an economist, discusses Bourdieu’s use of economic terms as concepts or as metaphors. He also shows how Bourdieu’s theory can be read as a contribution to social change analysis.

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  • Lebaron, Frédéric. 2000. La croyance économique: Les économistes entre science et politique. Paris: Seuil.

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    Lebaron’s study of French economists is a structural analysis of the profession at the close of the 20th century. It shows the ambivalent position of economists, torn between the academic field and the field of power.

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  • Portes, Alejandro. 1998. Social capital: Its origins and its applications in modern sociology. Annual Review of Sociology 24: 1–24.

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    Bourdieu’s scattered remarks on social capital have been extensively used in economic sociology. Contrasting Bourdieu’s version of the concept with Coleman’s, Portes surveys the main directions in this trend of research.

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  • Swedberg, Richard. 2011. The economic sociologies of Pierre Bourdieu. Cultural Sociology 5: 1–18.

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    This essay concisely presents Bourdieu’s longstanding interest in economic matters, from his early ethnographic studies in Kabylia to his studies of banking to his investigations of the structures of the housing market. At the same time, Swedberg tries to highlight and assess Bourdieu’s contributions to this subfield.

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Politics

While Bourdieu’s sociology invites us to look for power beyond institutional politics, the latter is not absent from the sociologist’s work. Bourdieu 1999 contains several articles dissecting the logic of the political field, and Bourdieu 1984 applies Bourdieu’s sociology of taste formation to political preferences. Bourdieu’s legacy in this domain is particularly lively. In France, political sociology was strongly influenced by his work and several research programs grew out of it. Gaxie 1978 investigates the relation between political participation and social position. Building on Bourdieu’s remarks about opinion polls, Champagne 1990 studies their role in contemporary politics. Less directly in line with Bourdieu’s research program, Offerlé 1987 on political parties can still be rightfully regarded as a spinoff from it. In the Anglo-Saxon world, Bourdieu’s remarks on politics gave way to several important studies. Wacquant 2005 features several of them.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Culture and politics. In Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    In this last chapter in Distinction, Bourdieu applies his reflections about cultural practices as well his previous analyses on the political field to set out a theory of political preference formation. Originally published in 1979.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1999. Language and Symbolic Power. Translated by Gino Raymond. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    The book features a conference paper, “On symbolic power,” which positions Bourdieu’s concept in the larger philosophical literature on power and communication. It also features most of Bourdieu’s central texts on the political field (including those on “political representation” and “delegation and political fetishism”). Originally published in 1992.

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  • Champagne, Patrick. 1990. Faire l’opinion: Le nouveau jeu politique. Paris: Éditions de Minuit.

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    Champagne’s book takes on Bourdieu’s insights about the political field and tries to analyze the transformations thereof. Champagne pays special attention to the growing role attributed to opinion polls and furthers Bourdieu’s seminal and oft-mentioned remarks on public opinion.

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  • Gaxie, Daniel. 1978. Le cens caché. Paris: Le Seuil.

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    Gaxie’s work shows the differential access to politics according to one’s position in society. He subsequently dissects the various mechanisms of exclusion at work, which he equates with a hidden cens.

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  • Offerlé, Michel. 1987. Les partis politiques. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

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    Developing some of Bourdieu’s insights on political parties (regarded as “fields of power and fields of force”), this synthesis sets forth a general framework for analyzing political parties and political life.

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  • Wacquant, Loïc, ed. 2005. Pierre Bourdieu and democratic politics: The mystery of the ministry. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    The essays in this volume clarify, evaluate, and apply Bourdieu’s concepts to various empirical cases. Along with that of political field, they discuss notions such as “field of power,” “bureaucratic field,” “public opinion,” and even voting.

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The State, the Law, and the Field of Power

Always present in the background of Bourdieu’s research, the state is investigated more thoroughly in a handful of important studies. Bourdieu 1996 continues the investigation of social reproduction, this time regarding the French ruling elite. As in his published lectures at the Collège de France, Bourdieu 2011 sets forth the concept of “field of power.” Bourdieu 1987 is a programmatic article on the making and the effects of the law. Many authors have used Bourdieu’s insights to investigate state and state power. Among them, Dezalay and Garth 1992 pioneered a field-based approach to internationalization; Bigo and Madsen 2011 applies Bourdieu’s concepts to international relations; and Georgakakis 2012 argues forcefully that European institutions are better understood as a field of power. Wacquant 2009 elaborates on the concept of “bureaucratic field.”

  • Bigo, D. and Mikael R. Madsen, eds. 2011. Special issue: Bourdieu and the international. International Political Sociology 5.3: 219–347.

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    Taking cues from Bourdieu to analyze international and transnational phenomena, the authors in this special issue try to show the use of Bourdieusian tools for international relations. In a long and rich introduction, Bigo sums up the most important aspects of Bourdieu’s sociology for international relations and globalization scholars.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1996. The state nobility: Elite schools in the field of power. Translated by Laurette C. Clough. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    The book takes up the study of social reproduction, this time by focusing on the French ruling elite. It sets forth the concept of “field of power” to describe the competition waged between different groups (various bureaucratic and legal entities commonly subsumed under the label of “state”) for the control of the institutional power. Originally published in 1989.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2011. Sur l’état. Paris: Le Seuil.

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    Carried out in the wake of Bourdieu 1996, Bourdieu’s investigations on states had not, until recently, led to any major publication. This book, a collection of lectures given for three years (1989–1992) at the Collège de France, makes up for this lack. The discussion with many important authors also clarifies Bourdieu’s positions on the genesis, the structures, and the dynamics of modern states.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1987. The force of law: Toward a sociology of the juridical field. Hastings Law Journal 38: 814–853.

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    A long and programmatic article on the making of law, its agents, and its effects. Originally published in 1986.

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  • Dezalay, Yves, and Bryant Garth. 1992. The internationalization of palace wars. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Dezalay and Garth examine the making of an international field of law and its changing role in national and international governance. Through the use of the concept of field, their book attempts to move beyond the usual dichotomy between local and global spheres.

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  • Georgakakis, Didier, ed. 2012. Le champ de l’Eurocratie: Une sociologie politique du personnel de l’Union Européenne. Paris: Economica.

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    Applying Bourdieu’s concept of political field to the European institutions, the authors in this volume dissect the practice of European governance, with a specific interest in its personnel.

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  • Wacquant, Loïc. 2009. Punishing the poor: The neoliberal government of social insecurity. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    In this book, Wacquant ties together the transformations of punishment and that of the state in the United States. To do so, he elaborates on Bourdieu’s concept of “bureaucratic field.”

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Science and Politics

Often identified as an outspoken public intellectual à la française, Bourdieu actually refused to play this role until late in his life. Although he regularly contributed to the public debate, he was also adamant in keeping the two registers apart. Bourdieu 2000 succinctly explains his position regarding science and politics. Bourdieu 1989 discusses the rights and duties of intellectuals. Bourdieu 2008 pulls together some of the most important political interventions. While the political implications of Bourdieu, et al. 1999 are obvious, they remain implicit, especially when compared to Bourdieu, et al.1998, which is a vibrant plea against neoliberalism. Poupeau and Discepolo 2005 sketches different periods of Bourdieu’s political activity during the course of his career.

  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1989. The corporatism of the universal: The role of intellectuals in the modern world. Telos 81: 99–110.

    DOI: 10.3817/0989081099Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Committed scholarship does not necessarily need to be a politicized science. To avoid this pitfall, social scientists have to constantly exercise a “critical reflexivity,” and to turn their own interests into a “corporatism of the universal”.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1998. Acts of resistance: Against the tyranny of the market. New York: New Press.

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    Published in a series specifically designed to accommodate political essays (and not in the one in which he published academic ones), Bourdieu dissects and at the same time denounces several features of contemporary neoliberalism.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2000. For a scholarship with commitment. Profession 42–43: 40–45.

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    Bourdieu’s short essay summarizes his vision of the role of the intellectual in civic life and outlines the conditions under which intellectuals can intervene in the public sphere.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 2008. Political interventions: Social science and political action. Edited by Franck Poupeau and Thierry Discepolo; Translated by David Fernbach. New York: Verso.

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    This volume gathers a selection of key texts related to Bourdieu’s political interventions (speeches, op-eds, articles), from the 1960s to the 1990s.

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre, et al., ed. 1999. The weight of the world: Social suffering in contemporary sociology. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    In many ways, this edited volume stands out in Bourdieu’s bibliography. The sheer size of the book (more than one thousand pages), as well as the number of contributors (more than twenty) and its form (long interviews paired with commentaries), suffices to single out this work. This detailed analysis of the fate of the lower classes in contemporary France had another, more political goal: uncovering the political underpinnings of individual suffering. Originally published in 1993.

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  • Poupeau, Franck, and Thierry Discepolo. 2005. Scholarship with commitment. In Pierre Bourdieu and democratic politics. Edited by Loïc Wacquant, 76–96. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    The authors sketch different periods of Bourdieu’s political activity during the course of his career.

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Social Theory

Although Bourdieu repeatedly opposed the separation between theory and empirical research, his work gave way to many theoretical discussions. Brubaker 1985 (cited under General Overviews) locates Bourdieu within classic social theories. Pinto 2002 (cited under General Overviews) is a clear and dense introduction to Bourdieu’s social theory, as is Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992 (cited under General Overviews). Bauer, et al. 2011 compares Bourdieu’s system to that of the Frankfurt school. The essays in Shusterman 1999 discuss Bourdieu in the light of Anglo-American philosophical traditions, while Susen and Turner 2011 contrasts Bourdieu’s theory with that of several other major authors.

Methods

Opposing what he saw as barren controversies over sociological methods, Bourdieu refused to grant primacy to any particular technique of data collection. Instead, he advocated a methodological polytheism, in order to capture the quintessentially twofold nature of the social world. While quantitative measures are better suited to capture the objective structures (sometimes hidden from the sight of individuals), he saw ethnography, interviews, and archival work as irreplaceable techniques to approach the subjective feelings of the respondents. Wacquant 1992 clarifies Bourdieu’s epistemology in the light of this question of methods, and the call for methodological diversity is best laid out and justified in Bourdieu 1990 (cited under Reflexivity). Bourdieu’s approach nonetheless is seen largely as objectivist (social structural) and allowing little room for an individualist approach. Boltanski 1990 takes issue with this aspect of his former collaborator and lays the ground for an alternative research program. Bourdieu 1999 is the sociologist’s indirect and famous response to these criticisms, and an intervention in the philosophical debates about the status of subjective motivations in empirical social research. Bourdieu is also often linked to the dissemination of a statistical technique, since he largely drew upon and benefited from emerging geometric data analysis (or correspondence analysis), developed in the 1960s by the French mathematician J.-P. Benzecri. Its statistical principles (relationalism, representation of individuals in a multidimensional plane) echoed perfectly the primary intuitions Bourdieu had about fields, just as the technique offered a concrete way to analyze their structures. Le Roux and Rouanet 2004 is a large and precise overview on the topic, with a mathematical perspective. Lebaron 2009 is a very readable exposition of Bourdieu’s use of the topic across his major works.

  • Boltanski, Luc. 1990. Sociologie critique, sociologie de la critique. Politix 10–11: 124–134.

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    A criticism of Bourdieu’s research program, Boltanski’s oft-cited text is a manifesto for an alternative approach to social sciences. Lays the ground for his “pragmatic sociology.”

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  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1999. Understanding. In The weight of the world: Social suffering in contemporary society. Edited by Pierre Bourdieu, et al., 607–626. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    The last chapter of this massive edited volume made up of interviews with lower-middle-class French people, “Understanding” summarizes Bourdieu’s take on the status of individual motivations in social research. Far from discarding them, he wrote that social scientists should consider the analysis of subjective feelings as a necessary but non-sufficient moment of their research.

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  • Lebaron, Frédéric. 2009. How Bourdieu ‘quantified’ Bourdieu: The geometric modelling of data. In Quantifying Theory: Pierre Bourdieu. Edited by Karen Robson and Chris Sanders, 11–30. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-9450-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Mathematically precise but highly readable, this text by a specialist in the technique lists and clarifies some of Bourdieu’s uses of geometric data analysis over the course of his life.

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  • Le Roux, Brigitte, and Henry Rouanet. 2004. Geometric data analysis, from correspondence analysis to structured data analysis. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

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    A large and precise overview of geometric data analysis, the book details the mathematical principles underlying the method and offers numerous examples and advice.

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  • Wacquant, Loïc. 1992. Toward a social praxeology: The structure and logic of Bourdieu’s sociology. In Invitation to reflexive sociology. Part 1. Edited by Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc Wacquant, 1–47. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Wacquant details Bourdieu’s “obsessive insistence on reflexivity”; he distinguishes between three types of biases calling for reflexive control (social, intellectual and scholastic), and compares Bourdieu’s call for “epistemic reflexivity” to other forms (“egological” and “textual”) of reflexivity

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Intellectual Legacies

Spanning the various disciplines of the human and social sciences, Bourdieu’s legacy is immense. This section is far from exhaustive, but a few indicators and directions of research can nonetheless be cited here. Swartz and Zolberg 2004 is a collection of essays trying to assess Bourdieu’s toolbox. Pinto, et al. 2004 offers a rich general overview of the sociologist’s work and legacy; Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales is one site where the latter lives on. Lahire 1999 offers a more critical assessment. Gorski 2012 discusses the relevance of Bourdieu’s sociology for historians, while Krais 2006 shows how his concepts can be fecund for gender theorists. Sallaz and Zavisca 2007 outlines Bourdieu’s influence on contemporary US sociology, as Santoro 2008 does for international sociology.

  • Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales.

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    Founded in 1975, this journal was meant to provide Bourdieu and his colleagues with a place to publish their own work. Innovative in its form (it featured articles, research notes, and field reports, but also pictures and cartoons), it quickly became a flagship journal in the discipline. Still prominent today, the journal echoes most of the important debates in the discipline.

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  • Gorski, Philip S., ed. 2012. Bourdieu and historical analysis. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    In an attempt to dispel some of the usual assumptions (Bourdieu as a theorist, Bourdieu as a sociologist of social reproduction), the essays assembled in this volume try to show the many ways Bourdieu can serve social scientists working with historical data.

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  • Krais, Beate. 2006. Gender, sociological theory and Bourdieu’s sociology of practice. Theory, Culture and Society 23: 119–133.

    DOI: 10.1177/0263276406069778Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Taking on the controversial debate that followed the publication of Masculine domination (Paris: Seuil, 1998), Krais offers a critical assessment of Bourdieu’s contribution to feminist thought and gender theory.

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  • Lahire, Bernard, ed. 1999. Le travail sociologique de Pierre Bourdieu. Paris: La Découverte.

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    A critical analysis of the overall work of Bourdieu, this volume brings together numerous texts dealing with wide-ranging aspects of his sociology.

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  • Pinto, Louis, Gisèle Sapiro, and Patrick Champagne, eds. 2004. Pierre Bourdieu sociologue. Paris: Fayard.

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    This volume assembles essays by former students and close collaborators of Pierre Bourdieu. This very useful synthesis offers both a general overview of the sociologist’s work and precise reflection on specific subfields.

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  • Sallaz, Jeffrey J., and Jane Zavisca. 2007. Bourdieu in American sociology, 1980–2004. Annual Review of Sociology 33.21: 21–41.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.33.040406.131627Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This review article demonstrates the exponential use of Bourdieusian theory in contemporary US sociology. The authors show that references to Bourdieu increased both in number and in depth in the previous thirty years, before they turn to an analysis of four books engaging his theories.

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  • Santoro, Marco. 2008. Putting Bourdieu in the global field. Sociologica 2.

    DOI: 10.2383/27719Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Tracing Bourdieu’s reception across the world, Santoro offers a general overview of the depth and extent of the dissemination of the work of the French sociologist. The article shows the constant rise of citations to Bourdieu in international sociology, before it analyzes the reception of Bourdieu in different countries. Available online by subscription.

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  • Swartz, David, and Vera Zolberg, eds. 2004. After Bourdieu: Influence, critique, elaboration. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.

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    Among the countless publications that followed Bourdieu’s passing, this volume edited by two specialists puts together essays from various authors working in different fields and countries. It features classic articles on Bourdieu’s theory of practice and newly written chapters assessing the strength and limitations of the Bourdieusian toolbox in many subfields (culture, politics, education, religion).

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LAST MODIFIED: 11/21/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756384-0083

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