Pierre Bourdieu Coins the Term ‘Habitus’ to Explain the Role of the Body in Class Reproductive Dynamics. Summarize His Position

Topics: Sociology, Pierre Bourdieu, Social class Pages: 8 (2043 words) Published: October 17, 2011
Sociology of the Body

Pierre Bourdieu coins the term ‘habitus’ to explain the role of the body in class reproductive dynamics. Summarize his position


Pierre Bourdieu’s account of class reproductive dynamics stems from his belief that your “habitus” dictates how your body engages in the reproductive dynamics of class theory. This notion of “habitus” has become central to the studies on social inequality.

Bourdieu and Structuralism

Bourdieu is a typical example of a structuralist. Structuralism is concerned with macro-theories and the functionalist school of thought along with conflict theories, which were illustrated by Durkheim and Marx, respectively. Structure confines the person to a certain area, and restrains them to a respective position. To break out of this confinement, would require a change in the structure. Individualism is not taken into account, because the structure of the hierarchy is built to suit only those needs. This model of thought is highly theoretical and is a re-construction of the Marxist model. Habitus is central to the whole framework of the structuralist model for Bourdieu, as habitus is the structure, the hierarchy, to which one cannot change, as it is part of you and embodies every movement you make. You cannot break out of this habitus as it is ingrained in your being, your structure. You are wrapped in the confines of the hierarchy. This is what makes Bourdieu a structuralist.

Bourdieu’s school of thought is registered in the synthesis between structures and individual activity. The reproductive theory is an emphasis on reproduction of social patterns and individual, rather than change. Society is reproduced, class oppression, reproduced itself. Your habitus reproduces itself within your children. Your class is embodied in your body which is passed down, consequently reproduced.

How do we define Habitus?

“… scientific observation shows that cultural needs are the product of upbringing and education: surveys establish that all cultural practices (museum visits, concert-going, reading etc.), and preferences in literature, painting or music, are closely linked to educational level (measured by qualifications or length of schooling (and secondarily to social origin” (Bourdieu, 1984, p 1)

“A set of acquired dispositions of thought, behaviour, and taste, which is said by Pierre Bourdieu (Outline of Theory and Practice, 1977) to constitute the link between social* structures and social practice (or social action). The concept offers a possible basis for a cultural approach to structural inequality and permits a focus on the “embodiment” of cultural representations in human habits and routines. Although seen as originating in the work of Bourdieu, the concept was first used by Norbert * Elias in 1939. Anthony Giddens attempts a similar task with his concept of “structure”. The best exposition will be found in Richard Jenkins’s Pierre Bourdieu (1992) (Scott & Marshall, 2005)

Habitus, by definition, means how one’s class is embodied, your body. Your habitus manifests in your behaviour. Your class is illustrated in the way your body operates and it is unconscious in your thoughts, an automatic reaction to your social habitat and the way you have been raised. An example being, if someone spoke in a very sophisticated manner, with sophisticated posture and mannerisms, one would lead to think that the person in question would be of a middle or upper class background. These conditions, which, are socially constructed, give us the tools to identify someone’s class and place them on the respective level of social status. Class conditions of existence.

Habitus comes from the word “Hexis” which was originally a Latin word. It means condition of the body.

Hexis – “It is in bodily hexis that the idiosync-cratic (the personal) combines with the systematic (the social) It is the mediating link between the individuals’ subjective worlds and the cultural world into...

Bibliography: Bourdieu, P (1984) Distinction. London: Routledge (Pp: 466-482)
Butler T, & Robson, G (2003) London Calling. London
Jenkins, R. (1992) Pierre Bourdieu. London: Routledge (Chp 4)
Scott, J & Marshall, G (2005) Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. London
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