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Habitus in the Modern World - Essay Example

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Habitus in the Modern World

"The struggle of social distinction, whatever its symbolic form, is for Bourdieu a fundamental dimension of all social life. The larger issue, then, is one of power relations among individuals, groups and institutions (particularly the educational system). Indeed, for Bourdieu power is not a separate domain of study but stands at the heart of all social life" (6). To discover how power is regulated and dispersed throughout the sociological systems of human existence, Bourdieu strove throughout his life to discover the 'master' science that would unlock the codes of human behaviors regardless of culture or society. While sociological theories are often dedicated most stringently to the various hierarchies and power balances as they are found within the group structures, Bourdieu took his ideas further to explore how the various individuals within the group were typically provided their status and power, concentrating most especially upon how they learned the rules of the game when no rules, written or otherwise, are to be found.
Within his work, Bourdieu struggled always to find a sort of 'master' science that would explain the various detailed elements of ever...
y of the laws whereby structures tend to reproduce themselves by producing agents invested with the system of dispositions which is able to engender practices adapted to these structures and thus contribute to their production" (Bourdieu, 1973 cited in 7). This definition being about as convoluted as a pig's tail, what Bourdieu is essentially indicating is the process of regeneration of social institutions through imperfect repetition. A very simple, and perhaps not fully accurate, analogy to this process would be in the social system of an audience. As a collective group, the audience tends to encourage behaviors such as being silent, remaining attentive to what's happening on stage and clapping at the appropriate moments. This would be the first structure. This structure produces agents, the audience members, who are already predisposed to behave as an audience when the situation demands. As these individuals go into 'audience' mode in a given situation, they encourage others to behave in similar ways, thus contributing to their [the audience structure] production. While this establishes some of the mechanisms in place at the group level, it doesn't go far to explain the interrelationship between the group and the individual. For Bourdieu, the key question centered on discovering how individuals became members of groups, gaining their individual elements of power and status within that group, without any form of written or even informal rules. This was the key element of his research as he developed his conceptions of habitus, field and agency. By understanding the interrelated nature of Bourdieu's ideas concerning habitus, field and agency, it is possible to understand how his theories might be applied to current sociological concerns such as contemporary ...Show more


Pierre Bourdieu was a highly respected French sociologist whose thoughts helped introduce a more holistic approach to the field. His life was spent conducting empirical research into his various theories regarding human behavior, particularly as he saw an interrelated and cohesive structure rather than the sort of compartmentalized approach to group vs…
Author : vgoldner
Habitus in the Modern World
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