Review of Pierre Bourdieu’s “Habitus”

In this video lecture for my course on The Working Life at Johnson & Wales University, I review core concepts and terms explored by sociologist Pierre Bourdieu in his 1979 work, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. I assigned my students an article by David Swartz, which summarizes Bourdieu’s theory of habitus, action, and habit; however, the article does not supply the background of Bourdieu’s research in this particular text, his argument, or his motivation for writing. I situate Bourdieu’s thesis among his contemporaries and in relation to previous philosophy on taste, culture, and preference. I also review Swartz’s interpretation of Bourdieu’s habitus. Our reading on habitus is part of a brief unit of theory in the course, which includes Michel Foucault’s “Panopticism” from Discipline and Punish and Karl Marx’s essay “Estranged Labor.” Habitus addresses the relationship between work identity and the influence of social origin; it also suggests profession a set of practices and work as a structuring structure of its own.

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