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The Sociology of Class, Lifestyle and Power

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1 The Sociology of Class, Lifestyle and Power
PIERRE BOURDIEU The Sociology of Class, Lifestyle and Power

2 Bourdieu’s Key Claims Social class is the elementary social fact
We continue to live in highly stratified, class-based societies Society works to keep the upper classes powerful and the lower classes powerless A lot of this happens unintentionally; not deliberate manipulation by the powerful

3 OUTLINE Bourdieu’s biography Main aims Social action Habitus, capital, field Education field Social reproduction Criticisms

4 Bourdieu’s Biography 1930 – 2002 - Born in the Béarn region of France
- Peasant background - Star pupil; degrees in philosophy and anthropology - Professor of Sociology, College de France (1980) - Political figure; Media personality - “An Outsider’s Sociology”

5 Main Aims To understand why social inequalities:
a) are reproduced over time: Retention of wealth, prestige, power by elites (“reproduction”) b) are generally accepted by the lower classes To liberate social actors from oppressive social and mental conditions - reveals structures actors not fully aware of - shows society could be organised differently

6 Main Aims 3) Reconcile and synthesise separate schools of sociological thought Marxism (class & power) Durkheimian sociology (division of labour; worldviews of different groups) Weberian sociology (focus on social action; attention to empirical details) Phenomenology (how people perceive the world they live in; how social power shapes perceptions)

7 Main Aims 4) Transcend dualisms - “Subjective” OR “Objective”
- Social Structure OR Action/Agency (“Structuration”) Theory OR Empirical sociology Quantitative OR Qualitative Use of multiple research methods: Interviews, questionnaires, documents, etc.

8 Main Aims 5) Connect different social spheres
Sociology of education, sociology of politics, sociology of mass media, etc. See how each sphere connects with, and affects, the others 6) Encourage “reflexivity” Sociology of sociology See how social forces shape the ways in which sociologists see things - Sociologist studies him/herself sociologically

9 Social Action (Weber; Parsons) 1) A person who has resources
2) Person thinks in certain ways has certain goals thinks of ways (means) to achieve them goals and means shaped by culture 3) Has to act in particular social contexts Contexts shape the person’s thinking & acting Contexts shape how successful (or not) the person is in achieving their goals

10 1) A person has particular goals
(these may be thought about fully consciously or only semi-consciously) 2) They try to pursue those goals using certain strategies (also consciously or semi-consciously) 3) They have certain resources at their disposal (some people have more resources than others) 4) They act in certain social contexts Success: 1) having a large amount of the right sort of resources; 2) having appropriate strategies Failure: 1) having the wrong sort of resources; 2) having inappropriate strategies

11 a) A person (“social actor”) (shaped by a “habitus”)
who has resources (“capital”) b) Person thinks in certain ways - thinking is semi-conscious – “practical reason” - both goals and strategies shaped by the habitus c) Person has to act in particular social contexts (“fields”) d) Person has to interact with other people (“social games”) (Actors = “players”) How successful a person is in a particular field depends on how appropriate their habitus and capital is for the game played in that field

12 Sporting analogy: 1) Social life is a series of games 2) You need the right skills to play those games successfully e.g. tennis skills; rugby playing 3) Skills = the capital you possess 4) Your habitus dictates the capital you possess 5) Some people have more capital than others EXAMPLE: the “game” of education Appropriate skills = “cultural capital” Appropriate habitus = middle class habitus

13 Habitus, Capital, Field Habitus (plural: habitus) Components:
- ways of thinking / ways of acting - bodily habits - tastes: likes and dislikes Whole way of life / lifestyle

14 a) Each class has its own habitus
Working class habitus Middle class habitus Lower working class (least capital) Upper working class (some capital) Lower middle class (more capital) Upper middle class (most capital) b) Each individual’s habitus is the habitus of their class e.g. working class person, working class habitus

15 c) Socialised into particular ways of thinking and acting
Primary socialisation Secondary socialisation d) Experience the habitus as “natural”: - the condition of “doxa” Could have been socialised very differently

16 e) Each habitus has its own set of tastes
Likes / dislikes Beautiful / disgusting Moral / immoral, etc. f) Tastes are socially stratified Upper middle class taste – highest Lower middle class taste – middling Working class taste – lowest

17 BOURDIEU - RECAP 1. Society still very much class-based
2. Reproduction of privilege Elites pass advantages onto their children Non-elites pass disadvantages onto their children 3. Social life is a series of games, occurring in “fields” Success: appropriate habitus & capital

18 Habitus - continued f) Tastes are socially stratified
Upper middle class taste – highest Lower middle class taste – middling Working class taste – lowest

19 g) Cultural power Elites have the power to define their tastes and their culture as the best - the most “sophisticated”, “refined”, “tasteful”, etc. Upper middle class habitus - sense of superiority Lower middle class habitus – aspirational Working class habitus – sense of inferiority; defensiveness; mocking of middle class pretentions

20 Capital HOW MUCH capital does a person have?
WHAT TYPE of capital does a person have? Economic capital: - money resources Cultural capital: knowledge of ‘legitimate’ culture / ‘High Culture’ “Linguistic capital” – speaking “properly” Social capital - social networks (knowing influential people)

21 a) AMOUNT & TYPE of capital
=> class membership e.g. LOW AMOUNT of all 3 TYPES = lower working class e.g. HIGH AMOUNT of all 3 TYPES = upper middle class b) Habitus STRONGLY INFLUENCES both the amount & type of capital a person has The more upper middle class the habitus => the more capital the person has

22 Cultural Capital Economic Capital
(Upper WC) (Lower WC)

23 Field a) Level of individuals’ experiences:
- different social contexts e.g. school, work, leisure - contexts where social games are played b) Level of Society: - separate social spheres e.g. education system, economic system, system of leisure and recreation, etc.

24 c) Fields are based around specific types of capital
e.g. education field – educational capital (a particular sort of cultural capital) d) Success in the game played in a field = having a large amount of the right type of capital for that field e) Fields are organised to the advantage of elites Not level playing fields Fields are organised to favour the sorts of capital elites happen to possess

f) Reproduction of inequalities - Successful actors have large amounts of the right sort of capital for the fields they are in - They pass that capital onto their children - (Opposite: unsuccessful actors pass onto their children small amounts of useful capital and large amounts of useless capital) THE WINNERS KEEP WINNING THE LOSERS KEEP LOSING (Most of the time)

26 EDUCATION FIELD Against the conventional view:
Meritocracy: intelligence & diligence Social mobility Educational success = Having the right sort of capital Cultural Capital (CC) High CC => good qualifications Elites use CC to get large amounts of educational capital (good qualifications)

27 Habitus => CC => educational capital
Possessors of high CC: Upper middle class Comes from their habitus (esp. home life) Possessors of intermediate CC: Lower middle classes Possessors of low CC: Working classes (esp. Lower WC) Habitus => CC => educational capital

28 “Hidden curriculum” 1) Unintentional evaluations by teachers Conscious level: - Child’s intelligence and diligence “good work”, “articulate”, “bright”, “attentive”, etc. Unconscious level: Teachers have middle class habitus Teachers respect CC - Evaluations in terms of amount of CC the child has (due to its habitus) “sloppy work”, “inarticulate”, “lazy”, “disruptive”, etc.

29 2) Child feels sense of: - worthiness (if CC is high) - unworthiness (if CC is low) Feelings translate into effort & performance “Naturally” clever / “Naturally” untalented High CC – virtuous circle Low CC – vicious circle OUTCOME: Middle class success and working class failure are reproduced across generations This happens mostly unintentionally

30 Social Reproduction High cultural capital => High educational capital => Access to “good” jobs => High wealth (economic capital) Upper middle class parents advantage their children: 1) Economic capital => access to “good” schools 2) Cultural capital => “good” at school 3) Social capital => useful connections

31 Upward social mobility
It is possible for LMC and WC individuals But only for a relatively small number Capitalist society needs a working class Capitalist society needs to show itself as meritocratic and democratic Everyone goes to school; all have the same chances c) Upper middle classes can “play the game” better Easier access to “good schools” Can cope with “grade inflation”

32 Downward social mobility
The upper middle classes’ greatest fear Children occupy lower social positions than parents Parents pass on capital that is not useful, as society’s fields change over time e.g. high CC => non-vocational Arts degrees BUT if changing economy requires vocational & technical qualifications => CC not much use

33 Middle class defence mechanisms
Transform one sort of capital into another sort 1) Use economic capital to get new sorts of educational capital - home: familiarity with sophisticated technology - school: extra tuition in employable skills 2) Use social capital to get entry into “good” jobs 3) Use economic & cultural capital to create new sorts of jobs: e.g. ‘cultural service sector’ jobs: aromatherapy, interior decoration, style consultancy, etc.

34 Criticisms of Bourdieu
Explains EVERYTHING in terms of habitus, capital & field Circular: assumes what he will find key concepts supposed to be guides to research; but turn into certainties 3. Overemphasises class? - other sources of inequality downplayed? non-class-based habitus? 4. Outdated and context-specific? France in the 1960s/70s Society and culture more complex now? 5. Defence: can use his concepts to understand changing social conditions

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