SOC483Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 13: Symbolic Capital, Economic Capital, Social Inequality

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9 Nov 2012
Habitus explains difference between theory of practice and 2 other schools (objectivism and
subjectivism) because when we introduce Habitus it is clear practices cannot be reduced
exclusively to intentions of actors because these practice cannot be simply mechanical reaction
to structural conditions… practice has to be conceived as a form of action not entirely
intentional but has some reference to overall existing structure mediating through habitus
and action of practice goes beyond mechanical determination through existing structures
1. This early theory of practice was developed with existing anthropological work
Bourdieu later moved in later work to French contemporary society, class structure
existent in French society- take this example to underline the way the habitus works
(Structured principle and structuring existing distributions of capital)
- In his work on Distinctions there is one core idea that has been enormously influential for
study of social inequality and culture- the idea is that there is social space which is class
structure of French society. The habitus through which this social space is transformed
into set of practices, these are practices of taste and cultural consumption… sometimes
also called lifestyles.
- We see here basic scheme Habitus (mediating principle between SOCIAL SPACE
- Social space
- Habitus
- Practices
- Social space- multi-dimensional distribution of forms of capital, economic capital, social
and cultural capital (3 dimensional)
- Idea that there is a distribution of capital, in that individual actors positioned in a
social space that allocates capital in 3 forms: economic, social and cultural and
therefore produces forms of inequality. (volume of capital available to actor)
- Composition of overall volume of capital
- French society- 3 classes: Upper class, middle class and lower class corresponding to
overall availability of capital
- There are also differences between different elements/groups within these classes as a
function of the form of capital on which there domination is based
- Upper class- economic element crucial CEOs contrasting to world of intellectuals (low
economic, high cultural)
- Social space determined by distribution of capital referring to 3 types of capital
- This social structure is forming the habitus. Through this disposition the habitus
produces a space of symbolic forms which has a high homology to the social space. So
we have forms of cultural consumption fitting to upper class (distinguished taste)
Cultural consumption
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- 1. Distinguished taste- a taste that marks distance to necessity- CEOS and intellectuals-
does not have to be imbedded with economic necessities- we have free play of art,
aesthetic forms which are of concern
- 2.
- 3. Vulgar- corresponds to economic necessity- it is a product of the people that have them
have a habitus formed from position in lower class, low access to economic capital
Habitus as set of dispositions goes deep within skin of actors by becoming incorporated into
their very bodies, forms of movement, movement in social space, presenting self in social
Ex: apartment construction under economic constrains result in different bodily movements
compared to upper class movements
So forms of distinction are incorporated into bodily forms of actors therefore reproducing class
Because forms of cultural consumption enter into the forms of cultural capital precisely through
their function in formal education. So in equal French schools the success of upper class children
guaranteed through the fact that school curricula that school practices are necessary through
cultural consumption. Cultural capital thus takes different forms: 1) institutional forms:
degrees, 2) existence of cultural goods: artworks and finally 3) incorporated into the very forms
of cultural taste
Through the habitus, the taste develops that reproduces form of cultural capital that develops into
availability of cultural capital (Education titles) leading to accumulation of capital.
These forms of capital can be translated into each other in the social space, educational titles can
be translated into economic capital but also social capital (the availability of networks to upper
class and economic dominating class within upper class) can be translated into economic
/cultural / social capital
The overall impression that emerges is a system of extreme stability of rigid system French
Theory of practice is applicable to not only pre-modern societies but also applicable to modern
The micro and macro linked in a way as described by mutual constitution/ co-determination
also structuring existing social structure by reproducing habitus and distribution of capital
characteristic of the overall social space
Doxa- taken for granted ideas that are so much a part of our social world that we rarely even notice
them! Do not question initial beliefs- thought styles because product of thought collectives define
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