Pierre Bourdieu who died on 23 January 2002 was a French sociologist, anthropologist, philosopher and public intellectual.

Bourdieu’s best known book is Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (1979). The book was judged the sixth most important sociological work of the twentieth century by the International Sociological Association. In it, Bourdieu argues that judgments of taste are related to social position, or more precisely, are themselves acts of social positioning.

Pierre Bourdieu’s work emphasised how social classes, especially the ruling and intellectual classes, preserve their social privileges across generations despite the myth that contemporary post-industrial society boasts equality of opportunity and high social mobility, achieved through formal education.

Whereas traditional Marxist analysis focuses upon the economic system as the determinant of all social outcomes Bourdieu suggested that our social and cultural outcomes can in turn lead to the maintenance of the economic system and in capitalism’s case its inherent inequalities.

For Bourdieu he recognised three signifiers:

Economic capital is the ownership of land, stocks and shares, income and property.

Social capital is the effective functioning of social groups through interpersonal relationships, a shared sense of identity, a shared understanding, shared norms, shared values, trust, cooperation, and reciprocity. According to Bourdieu our education plays a key role in determining outcomes. For example did we go to a prestigious public school or the local comprehensive? Whilst there what did we learn and who did we associate with?

Cultural capital refers to our tastes. Here Bourdieu focuses on the arts, sports, fashion… etc to explain how for example opera is perceived differently to hip hop within a class system and the impact that has holistically for our outcomes.

All of these facets determine our habitus – that is what life experience we inhabit, both objectively and subjectively, within the societal realm.


Bourdieu is a giant of social thought. Understanding our position within a capitalist society has been enhanced significantly by his writings and analysis.

To report this post you need to login first.
Next articleMemes of the Week 24/1/20
Dorset Eye
Dorset Eye is an independent not for profit news website built to empower all people to have a voice. To be sustainable Dorset Eye needs your support. Please help us to deliver independent citizen news... by clicking the link below and contributing. Your support means everything for the future of Dorset Eye. Thank you.