Study Guide

Pierre Bourdieu - Major Arguments

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Major Arguments

I would hate for you to miss anything, so I'll just hit a few highlights here to make sure you get the full picture of the impact I have had on sociology and the critique of social structure.

People have called me a structuralist—and even a post-structuralist—both of which are pretty off the mark, given that I don't buy into either of those systems. Structralism and Post-Structuralism both present the individual as this entity formed strictly by outside structures, as though the individual had no will of his or her own. At the same time,I don't think that people have as much control as our neoliberal society likes to tell them they do. I'm not on either side of the infamous French critical divide.

We didn't talk much about habitus here, so I'd like to reiterate that yes, society does make all sorts of impositions on people, but then people just surrender to it all and become part of the machine by wearing the right thing and eating the right food and reading the right newspapers. They then display and flaunt and enact these lifestyle "choices."

People need all of these props to enact their lifestyles—or "cultural capital," as I call it. Through these choices, dispositions, tastes, and discernments, people form a habitus, the qualities of which emerge through their habits, tastes, skills, and behaviors, allowing them to show their place in the pecking order.

Society takes these signifiers for granted through doxa, which is the invisible order of power—all of the unquestioned truths that lie behind the class system. Here's how I explain it: "This is, in other words, the process through which socially and culturally constituted ways of perceiving, evaluating and behaving become accepted as unquestioned, self-evident and taken for granted – i.e. 'natural'" (source).

I have more faith in science than post-structuralists and deconstructionists (like Derrida), who say everything is slippery, subjective, and relative. I also get ticked off by academics whose work has nothing to do with life as it is lived by most people. Academics are a privileged bunch who like to detach their work from everyday reality. Check out my book Pascalian Meditations for more.

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