Field theory pierre_bourdieu


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Field theory pierre_bourdieu

  1. 1. Pierre Bourdieu FIELD THEORYKEYWORDS The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is one of the keyField Theory thinkers of the 20th Century in relation to ways of working withSociology the understanding of our actions and our positions in culturesStructuralism and in society. In relation to philosophy of science, BourdieuAgent Theory takes a position between structuralism (which has an objectiveInterpretive Methods view on people as agents in society) and a subjectiveSocial rooms approach to his objects of study. That means, that people areCapital free agents, but they are also affected by the structures of theirHabitus social environments. Bourdieus theory aims at research ofDoxa people in their environment by mapping their actions, their preferences and how they look at other people. This mapping can then be interpreted by using theoretical concepts like capital and doxa. In this small article, you will be introduced to the keypoints of Bourdieus field theory. The Field Theory Society is defined by what Bourdieu calls the social room. This social room is divided into several fields, that operates with each of their own set of rules of access. For example, in the field of education, the rules of access are exams; in the field of religion, the rules of access are faith and dogmas; in the field of business, the rule of access is success and proactivity etc. The concept of field theory is an analytical concept, that can be used to map peoples preferences, their actions, and their social practises. Every field is often a limited area of society, which has a certain practise. This practise involves the social actions we use when we are together in these fields and when we communicate to- and from a field. We dont always know why we are performing our actions, but it often just feels right in a given field. There are certain, almost objectively assumed, qualities of our thinking in a given field. For example, the way
  2. 2. we act and make use of the rules in a given field is whatBourdieu calls to strengthen our position in a given field. Inevery field we fight for good positions by making use of therules of the game. These rules are called doxa in Bourdieustheoretical approach. We tend not to question doxa in a field.We respect the rules of the game, be it official rules or moresubtle directions in a given field. But these rules can of coursebe changed by the agents actions in these spaces ofpossibilities. It is very typical, says Bourdieu, that the givenfield has an effect on us. The field can regulate our behaviour.So battles for better positions within a field is regulated by thedoxa of the field. However, there are elements of the agentsown autonomous actions: only the agents of the given field candefine the value of the the fields position. For example, anadult may not care about the playground in the park. But thechildren who get together to play here are trying to establishpositions in terms of who it is to decide what to play, who maybe invited to play etc. Sometimes you dont even have tobelong to the field to be willing to ascribe a high value to thefield: In the field of politics we often dont get a lot to say afterthe elections, but we respect the political-debate field and weaccept its doxa. The positions in the field of political power alsomarks the distinction between us and them: those with a highranking position in the field has this certain value because ofthe difference between the positions in the field and thedifference between those who are inside and those who areoutside. The ruling class often has agents with investedprestige. Now, how can we define the different types ofstrengths in these fields? Lets move on to the concepts ofcapital.Capital and habitusThe specific position, which is occupied by an agent in acertain field, is dependent of the agents capital: Bourdieu isworking with a theoretical framework of different types ofcapital:Social capital are the social network ressources of an agent. ItCan be family, business associates, formal and informalnetworks. You might score all the As at your education, but
  3. 3. without a good network to support you, you might get problemsin your search for a job after your graduation.Economic capital are all the accumulated ressources such asmoney, property etc. This is also related to the certain life stylesof a social room/field.Cultural capital are the cultural knowledge and thecompetencies that are build up and used by the agent. Thisalso includes preferences or taste. In other words: what is forexample fine art and what is not, as defined by a fields doxa.Again, this marks the distinction between members of differentfields. The cultural capital is a set of rules that define how todefine other fields and other capital. Some might not beinterested in a high salery, but experience a lot of symboliccapital by working in an acedemic field: This symbolic capital is the general framework for all the above mentioned types of capital. Symbolic capital is connected to a fields doxa and has to do with prestige and reputation. The symbolic capital and the use of economic-, cultural-, and social capital constitutes a specific field and its doxa. This might lead to supressive actions of power, however, this might not be regarded as such by the implied agents. Often the agents of a given field do not have the full overview of all aspects of the field, but they have a practical sense of operating in the field and tocreate a position. This sense is each agents habitus, and thishabitus is connected to the doxa of the field. The habits, valuesand preferences of the agents are mixed with the doxa of thefield, thus making the field an internal part of the agentshabitus. The agents are adjusting to the field, and then, on theother hand, the field is affected by their habitus. This dualpower of the agent and the system creates a world, a commonknowledge and a system of truth. This is the reality we caninvestigate, says Bourdieu.
  4. 4. The logic conclusion of this theoretical approach is to look atculture and power as being defined and reproduced in fields ofpreferences and doxa. And, more important, we can take alook at the concepts as they are defined by a field.