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Bourdieu's Habitus - Research Starters Sociology

By: Howson, Alexandra;

2009 / EBSCO


The history of sociology shows it to be a discipline that focuses on both macro and micro issues. Theorists and practitioners of sociology tend to focus either social structures (such as capitalism) or social action (such as symbolic interaction) in their work. However, some sociologists have made it their mission to finds ways of bridging structure and action. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is one of these, and in his book, "Outline of the Theory of Practice" (1977), he revived the concept of habitus to the sociological lexicon. Habitus refers to the apparently durable patterns of thought, behavior (or practice) and taste that people acquire and that link social structures (like class position) to action (like choices people make). While habitus is seen as a somewhat elusive concept to define, sociologists of culture and of the body have used it, nonetheless, to explore how social location (not only class, but also gender and ethnicity) is linked to cultural patterns and choices. In recent years, the concept of habitus has been applied to studies of how people in different social positions live out their routine, bodily experiences and how these in turn, reinforce social position. These studies draw not only on the work of Bourdieu, but also of the anthropologist Mary Douglas, who also uses the concept of habitus, or rather, bodily practice, to explore links between people's everyday routine practices and the cosmologies they inhabit.