Annotation: Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of A Theory of Practice

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of A Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Drawing from his field research in the Kabyle society, Bourdieu’s theory of practice presents habitus as a core concept, the system of dispositions that operates within a field.As structured structures, and as “systems of durable, transposable dispositions” (72), the habitus is framed, fashioned, or created, yet malleable. One’s habitus is manifested in a series of actions and dispositions – the way we occupy space, the manner we speak in, our mode of thinking. Dispositions which make up our habitus are inculcated in the earliest years of our life, and are reinforced by the coherence of other inculcated dispositions embodied by others (15). Being cumulative and generative, the habitus carries with it layers of personal, social and collective histories. Sanctioned by laws and policies, itis legitimated, thus penetrating our daily lives. It is durable, therefore not determinant. Habitus is influenced by doxa, the social state which is taken as “self-evident.”Within this doxa operate sets of beliefs that either adhere to, or confront the status quo. In our doxic mode, we unconsciously submit ourselves to conditions that we tend to view as true, essential and normal. We experience ourselves as being limited by “undisputed” societal structures, consequently crippling or muting our desires for social mobility. Unaware of our adherence to these conventions, we, as agents, effectively contribute to the reproduction of modes of domination. Constantly, doxa influences our habitus and shapes our dispositions, favouring the dominant. As Bourdieu writes, these concepts are intertwined with capital, particularly symbolic and cultural capital, as assets that have value beyond economic terms. These forms of capital are resources that agents may utilize as instruments for the production (and possibly, reproduction) of their own power. For instance, in marriage negotiations, the Kabyles of perceived higher status are able to profit from their symbolic capital by having the upper hand in the negotiations. The acquisition of this kind of capital, however, demands extensive effort and labour for it to be maintained continuously. The production and reproduction of this form of capital, being dependent on human interaction, produces a network of relationships and alliances that can, time and again, be used for one’s gain.

Watch Sociology is a Martial Art with Pierre Bourdieu.

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