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3 - Habitus

from PART II - FIELD THEORY – BEYOND SUBJECTIVITY AND OBJECTIVITY

Karl Maton
Affiliation:
University of Sydney
Michael Grenfell
Affiliation:
Trinity College Dublin
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Summary

Introduction

Habitus is an enigmatic concept. It is central to Bourdieu's distinctive sociological approach, “field theory” and philosophy of practice, and it is key to his originality and contribution to social science. It is probably the most widely cited of Bourdieu's concepts, has been used in research into an astonishing variety of practices and contexts, and is becoming part of the lexicon of a range of disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, education, cultural studies and literary criticism. Yet habitus is also one of the most misunderstood, misused and hotly contested of Bourdieu's ideas. It can be both revelatory and mystifying, instantly recognizable and difficult to define, straightforward and slippery. Hence, despite its popularity, “habitus” remains anything but clear. In this chapter, I explore this complex concept. I suggest that this seemingly contradictory character flows from its principal roles in Bourdieu's sociology. In short, habitus does a lot of work in his approach. Habitus is intended to transcend a series of deep-seated dichotomies that shape ways of thinking about the social world. This would by itself make a full account of habitus a rich and multifaceted discussion touching on a wide-ranging series of profoundly significant issues and debates. However, the concept is also intended to provide a means of analysing the workings of the social world through empirical investigations. It is thus central not only to Bourdieu's way of thinking but also to his formidable range of substantive studies.

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Chapter
Information
Pierre Bourdieu
Key Concepts
, pp. 48 - 64
Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2012

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