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Maverick Adams
Maverick Adams

Culture And Power: The Sociology Of Pierre Bour... [Extra Quality]

Bourdieu routinely sought to connect his theoretical ideas with empirical research and his work can be seen as sociology of culture or, as he described it, a "Theory of Practice". His contributions to sociology were both evidential and theoretical (i.e., calculated through both systems). His key terms would be habitus, capital, and field.

Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bour...

Retired from full-time teaching, David L. Swartz is currently Visiting Researcher in the Department of Sociology and occasional lecturer in the Core Curriculum at Boston University. He is a Senior Editor and Book Review Editor for Theory and Society. He was among the founders and previous co-chair of the Political Sociology Standing Group of the European Consortium for Political Research. He was also Chair of the History of Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Boston University and a licence and maitrise in sociology from the University of Paris V-René Descartes and a BA from Goshen College. His most recent book, Symbolic Power, Politics, and Intellectuals: The Political Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu (University of Chicago Press, 2013) was co-winner of the American Sociological Association History of Sociology Section Best Book Award in 2014. Two earlier books on the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu (University of Chicago, 1997) and After Bourdieu: Influence, Critique, Elaboration (co-edited with Vera L. Zolberg) (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2004) are widely cited in the social sciences. His general research interests include political sociology, elites and stratification, education, culture, religion, and social theory. He has published numerous scholarly papers on these topics. He is currently researching divisions in American conservatism with particular focus on the attitudes of conservative professors toward the Trump presidency.

In a more recent statement, Bourdieu (1987b:92) describes his work as offering a genetic theory of groups. Such a theory would explain how groups, especially families, create and maintain unity and thereby perpetuate or improve their position in the social order. He charges the sociologist to ask the question with which all sociology ought to begin, that of the existence and the mode of existence of collectives (1985e:741). Bourdieu focuses on the role culture plays in social reproduction. How groups pursue strategies to produce and reproduce the conditions of their collective existence and how culture is constitutive of this reproductive process is for him a unifying problem in both sociology and anthropology and a substantive theme throughout his work (see Bourdieu 1985e:741).

Another general area of concern is the relationship between individual action and social structure. What motivates human action? Do individuals act in response to external causes as much mainstream academic sociology tends to assume? Is individual action determined by culture, social structure, or mode of production? Or do actors act for their own identifiable reasons as the phenomenological, interpretative, and rational-actor schools in the social sciences maintain? Relatedly, what in fact is to be the epistemological status of actor conceptions in social scientific accounts of their behavior? Are they, as in the Durkheimian tradition, to be dismissed as epistemologically unreliable? Or are they to become the essential building blocks of scientific accounts, as the hermeneutical tradition would have it? These questions point to what Giddens (1979) identifies as one of the central problems in contemporary social theory, namely, the relation of agency and structure.

Bourdieu is among the first of the post-World War II generation of sociologists to make the agency/structure issue central to his sociology. He proposes connecting agency and structure in a dialectical relationship. He argues against conceptualizing human action as a direct, unmediated response to external factors, whether they be identified as micro-structures of interactions or macro-level cultural, social, or economic factors. Nor does Bourdieu see action as the simple outgrowth from internal factors, such as conscious intentions and calculation, as posited by voluntarist and rational-actor models of human action. For Bourdieu, explanations that highlight either the macro or the micro dimension to the exclusion of the other simply perpetuate the classic subjective/objective antinomy. Bourdieu wants to transcend this dichotomy by conceptualizing action so that micro and macro, voluntarist and determinist dimensions of human activity are integrated into a single conceptual movement rather than isolated as mutually exclusive forms of explanation. He thus proposes a structural theory of practice that connects action to culture, structure, and power. This theory undergirds his key concept, habitus, which, along with cultural capital, has become one of his conceptual trademarks. We examine this theoretical concern and his concept of habitus in chapter 5.

The most significant French sociologist since Durkheim, Pierre Bourdieu's influence on intellectual life shows no sign of abating. He was a prolific and consequential scholar whose impact can be measured by the Social Science Citation Index and international surveys of academics. Conceptualizations, such as habitus and field, his heuristic treatment of cultural, economic, political, social and symbolic capital to analyze the uses of power, and his insistence upon melding the usually separated micro and macro levels of societal theorizing are now embedded in the basic vocabulary of sociology and anthropology. Whether or not in accord with his outlook, serious scholars are obliged to test themselves against his challenges. Bourdieu also played a considerable role as a public intellectual, taking positions on questions vital to France and to the world more generally. Many of his contributions stem from his important research projects: colonialism, educational inequality, the social foundations of taste in the arts and life styles, social reproduction of status relationships, and more recently, the impact of unchecked globalism on the disadvantaged. The articles in this book represent a sampling of the most recent and durable of the ongoing conversations, debates, and research orientations that Bourdieu launched. This collection offers insight into central features of Bourdieu's sociology as well as examples of original research inspired by Bourdieu's work. It will be of great relevance to students of social theory, French culture and theory, political sociology, sociology of culture and education. This volume is based in large part on a special issue of the journal Theory and Society [The sociology of Symbolic Power: A Special Issue in Memory of Pierre Bourdieu] edited by David L. Swartz, with the editorial collaboration of Vera L. Zolberg Vol. 332/5-6 (December 2003) Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Erin McNamara Horvat is an Assistant Professor of Urban Education at Temple University in Philadelphia PA. She is also Director of the Temple Young Scholars Program, a four-year college preparatory program that provides academic enrichment in math, science and technology as well as programming aimed at creating a college going culture among North Philadelphia high school students. Professor Horvat's research agenda has focused on issues of access and equity in education. Her main fields of interest are urban education, sociology of education, and higher education. Her work has explored empirically how race and class shape access throughout the educational pipeline. She has used the work of Pierre Bourdieu extensively as a theoretical frame for her work and is interested in applying and extending Bourdieu's theoretical concepts. Recent work with YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School as well as with YouthBuild USA has explored how to move students who have left school prematurely back into the educational pipeline.

This essay examines key features of Pierre Bourdieu's sociology of culture in light of their potential contribution to the sociology of religion. Bourdieu himself has devoted little attention to the study of religion.(1) Yet, significant features of his approach to the study of culture find inspiration in the materialism of Karl Marx and particularly in Max Weber's sociology of religion.

Bourdieu proposes a sociology of symbolic power in which he addresses the important topic of relations between culture, stratification, and power. He contends that the struggle for social recognition is a fundamental dimension of all social life. In that struggle, cultural resources, processes, and institutions hold individuals and groups in competitive and self-perpetuating hierarchies of domination. He advances the bold claim that all cultural symbols and practices, ranging from artistic tastes, style in dress, and eating habits to religion, science, and philosophy--indeed to language itself--embody interests and function to enhance social distinctions. Bourdieu focuses on how these social struggles are refracted through symbolic classifications, how cultural practices place individuals and groups into competitive class and status hierarchies, how relatively autonomous fields of conflict interlock individuals and groups in struggle over valued resources, how actors struggle and pursue strategies to achieve their interests within such fields, and how in doing so actors unwittingly reproduce the social stratification order. Culture, then, is not devoid of political content but rather is an expression of it. 041b061a72




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