Bourdieu, Pierre


Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs027

Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) was a French sociologist who had considerable influence in the humanities in general, and the social sciences in particular. His sociological work focused on the analysis of the mechanisms of reproduction of social hierarchies. Bourdieu emphasized the importance of cultural and symbolic factors in this reproduction and criticized the primacy given to economic factors in Marxist conceptions. His theory of practice sought to show that social agents develop strategies based on a small number of provisions acquired through socialization. The two components of his constructivist structuralist perspective are the agent and the structure, between which there is interplay. The social world is made up of the objective structures of culture and language (structuralism), is built (constructed) by agents, and conditions the actions of the agents. The main elements in Bourdieu's theory of practice to explain how this interplay takes place are habitus, capital, and field.

Bourdieu's major works on the theory of practice are Esquisse d'une théorie de la pratique (Outline of a Theory of Practice, 1972) and Le Sens pratique (The Logic of Practice, 1980). His works on cultural practices are an essential part of his sociological perspective, and led to the publication in 1979 of La Distinction: critique sociale du jugement (Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment ...

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