A concept that Bourdieu starts out with is habitus, in the book it states that habitus is, “ a mental filter that structures an individual’s perceptions, experiences, and practices such that the world takes on a taken-for-granted appearance.” (Bourdieu, 654).
We have an individual and a individual enters into society and society consist a number of spaces, which later are put into what he calls “fields”. We could have any types spaces, such as where you work, your school, and your also it can be social groups. Every individual has a habitus. Bourdieu talks about capital, economic, social capital or cultural capital, which is important according to Bourdieu. This is important on how things work in the field. All of these enter into Symbolic capital is important because this is when a person actually enters into a field; each field has it own rules.
Bourdieu’s work and theory of Habitus helped me to come to a specific point of view. Bourdieu’s theory of Habitus is the site of “production of customs, strategies, interpretive skills, practical knowledge, and structured dispositions, behind which lurk the “objective” social structures of the economy, politics, and kinship. (McCaughan 1993).
Bourdieu’s theory is “a theory of conditional freedom, the freedom to acquire practical knowledge or skills, to strategize, to interpret, to manipulates one’s habitus, to improvise, all within the parameters of fluid but nonetheless structural boundaries” (McCaughan 1993). After reading the literature I believe conditional freedom sums up my view on the structure and agency debate.
Understand what social capital is
At the heart of his theory is the notion that the individual and society form an interdependent duality that he terms duality of structure. Gideon means that social structure are both the “medium and outcome” of the practices they organize, to understand what he means this is simply saying, “every time an individual communicates with someone, that person relies on language to convey the information she wishes to impart.” (Giddens, 718). Giddens defines structure as rules and resources drawn on by individuals “in the production and reproduction of social action.” (Giddens 718).
Application of theory: As I grew up I never perceived any barrier as a woman. I never felt the minority status associated with my gender, that the “structure” I was living in accurately established. The moment I became aware of it was when I decided to take part in an extra credit activity “Women, Politics and Institutions.” Basically it was about how and why women struggled to be part of a predominantly “male activity,” how important would have been to have more women involved in politics and how to change that pattern. Till that point I never knew I could not be part of that world, I did not even know that was mainly a “man thing.” I guess that was the very first “reality check” that I experienced. In the agency/structure debate I stand right next to those who conceive the social structure as entity that determines almost every aspect of the social life. Agency is then confined within the borders of the social structure. Individuals are capable of “free” choice but those choices are determined by the structure itself, that would act through culture, in fact I would identify culture as a mere externality of the social structure, if positive or negative one it depends on how individuals perceive it. The social structure influences every aspect of the individuals’ life.
Critique: This is my own perspective, I am not stating that this is how society is for everybody, and I am stating what my eyes see. Mainly I guess because I do not see much room for action, for agency to change a society that maintains rigidly strata based on obsolete categorizations, which we think, are gone, but in reality they are still going strong and influence everybody’s lives unconsciously. White individuals still get to sit in the front, while the rest, minorities come second. This is an unconscious process, it is not as manifest as it was during the past, but right because it is not perceptible we need to be careful in underestimating the social structure and the dynamics to which we are subjected
Two research questions
- In which way is the education system biased against working class people?
- What do you think Bourdieu has to say about cultural capital and its impact on college students?
Appelrouth, Scott and Laura Desfor Edles. 2012. Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory.2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Race, Ethnicity, Nation, and Class within Theories Of Structure and Agency Edward J. McCaughan Social Justice, Vol. 20, No. 1/2 (51-52), Rethinking Race (Spring-Summer 1993), pp. 82-103