Monday, August 5, 2019
Pierre Bourdieu: Taste and Class
Pierre Bourdieu: Taste and Class Ã¢â¬ËTaste, a class culture turned into nature, that is, embodied, helps to shape the class body. It follows that the body is the most indisputable materialization of class tasteÃ¢â¬â¢ (Bourdieu, 1984: 190). Do you agree with Bourdieus statement about the importance of social class to embodiment? (2064/2000) Introduction Not only do I disagree with BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s statement as presented above, it is my contention that this does not accurately represent the intention and focus of Bourdieu. For not only do I disagree that class is central to embodiment, rather believing that all forms of social differentiation Ã¢â¬â class, ethnicity, age and gender are embodied, but that Bourdieu himself believed that it is gender that provides the models for the other, therefore secondary, forms of social differentiation. To support my argument, I first provide a brief outline of BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s theory of social practice, discussing the relationship between class and embodiment within it. Next I examine Chris SchillingsÃ¢â¬â¢ interpretation of Bourdieu, demonstrating that, in common with other theorists, Schilling interpreted Bourdieu as being ultimately concerned with class as an axis of social differentiation, thereby ignoring the role of gender in his theory: that even as Schilling seeks to extend Bourdie uÃ¢â¬â¢s theory to include gender, ethnicity and age his interpretation is fundamentally flawed. In the final section I contest this class-focussed interpretation of Bourdieu by arguing that, following Beate Krais, by examining both his later work and his early ethnography it is evident that gender is a primary concern in his work: that Bourdieu believes that gender provides the model for all other forms of social differentiation. However, whereas Bourdieu seems pessimistic regarding the individualÃ¢â¬â¢s ability to resist their class or gender differentiation, the women interviewed by Beverley Skeggs (1997) actively resisted their class position, even as they were shaped by it. In the conclusion I summarise my argument that not only are other social differentiations of central importance to embodiment Ã¢â¬â namely gender, age, and ethnicity Ã¢â¬â gender was of central importance to Bourdieu, providing the model for other forms of differentiation, before concluding that work still needs to be done before age and ethnicity can be adequately incorporated into BourdieuÃ¢â¬ â¢s schema. Embodiment and Social Class in the Work of Bourdieu In this section I first briefly outline BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s theory of social practice, and then discuss the relationship between class and embodiment within it, before then examining Chris SchillingsÃ¢â¬â¢ (1994) account of Bourdieu. I argue that Schilling focuses on BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s class analysis, in common with many other theorists, and therefore misses the way in which Bourdieu is ultimately concerned with gender as a form of social differentiation. Pierre Bourdieu developed his theory of cultural capital and social practice with Jean-Claude Passeron in France in the 1970s, as part of an effort to explain class-based differences in educational achievement. In his theory the forms of capital cultural, social and economic interact to mask the way in which social hierarchies are reproduced. Cultural capital is, for Bourdieu, divided into three subcategories; Ã¢â¬ËembodiedÃ¢â¬â¢, Ã¢â¬ËobjectifiedÃ¢â¬â¢ and Ã¢â¬ËinstitutionalisedÃ¢â¬â¢. Embodied capital is imbued dur ing the period of socialisation, is linked to the body, and represents Ã¢â¬Ëexternal wealth converted into an integral part of the personÃ¢â¬â¢ (Bourdieu, 1986: 244-5): whether an individualsÃ¢â¬â¢ accent, their taste for opera, or their preference for rugby over football this form of capital Ã¢â¬Ëcannot be accumulated beyond the appropriating capacity of an individual agent [and] remains marked by its earliest conditions of acquisitionÃ¢â¬â¢ (Bourdieu, 1986: 245). Objectified capital refers to goods such as paintings, antiques and fine wines; objectified capital thus entails both the material wealth needed to own such items and the embodied capital needed to Ã¢â¬ËconsumeÃ¢â¬â¢ them. Institutionalised capital is those academic qualifications which enable an individual to exchange between cultural and economic capital, while social capital are those friendships and networks which enable an individual to Ã¢â¬Ëproduce and reproduce lasting, useful relationships that can secure material or symbolic profitsÃ¢â¬â¢ (Bourdieu, 1986: 249. The three forms of capital combine to produce a persons habitus, or set of preferences and predispositions. Class is thus central to BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s theory of embodiment; within his schema the financial, educational, social and cultural resources of an individual shape not only their Ã¢â¬ËtasteÃ¢â¬â¢ but also their life chances: Taste, a class culture turned into nature, that is, embodied, helps to shape the body. It is an incorporated principle of classification which governs all forms of incorporation, choosing and modifying everything that the body ingests and digests and assimilates, physiologically and psychologicallyÃ¢â¬â¢ (Bourdieu, 1999: 190, my emphasis added). Finally, embodiment is central to his theory; for it is via the process of socialization that the dynamics of power are written onto the very bodies of the individual (Bourdieu, 1999: 190). Schilling argues that Bourdieu does not engage with the body as simultaneously social and biological, but rather concentrates on its Ã¢â¬ËunfinishednessÃ¢â¬â¢ at birth (Schilling, 1994: 128): that Ã¢â¬Ëacts of labour are required to turn bodies into social entities and that these acts influence how people develop and hold the physical shape of their bodiesÃ¢â¬â¢ (Schilling, 1994: 128). Schilling stresses the way in which Bourdieu argues that social class imprints on the body of an individual by focussing on the way peopleÃ¢â¬â¢s taste for food both marks their class position and affects their bodies: Bodies develop through the interrelation between an individualÃ¢â¬â¢s social location [their class-based material circumstances], habitus and taste. These factors serve to naturalize and perpetuate the different relationships that social groups have towards their bodies (Schilling, 1994: 130). Similar readings have resulted in BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s theory being criticized for being essentialist; John Frow argues that Bourdieu simply Ã¢â¬Ëreads offÃ¢â¬â¢ an individuals culture from their class position (Frow, 1995: 63). Or that his theory is therefore deterministic; in that it minimizes the ability of the individual to shape their own destiny. Finally, such a reading of Bourdieu leads one to conclude that he prioritized the role of class in society, thus minimizing the effects of other forms of differentiation, such as gender, ethnicity and age: the conflict between classes is of greatest importance to BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s work, and attempts by the dominant classes to define lower class body implicating activities as Ã¢â¬ËcrudeÃ¢â¬â¢, or attempts on the part of the working classes to define upper class practices as Ã¢â¬ËpretentiousÃ¢â¬â¢, occupy a prominent place in his book on French life, Distinction (1984) (Schilling, 1994: 141). Yet I would contend that Schilling has misinterpreted BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s theory; that whilst it is true that in his middle years Ã¢â¬â of which Distinction forms a part he did focus on the dynamics of class in society and as it is written on the body of the individual, however in BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s early ethnography his focus was instead on the primary differentiation of gender, and it was to this concern that he returned in his later years. Gender as the Primary Form of Social Differentiation for Bourdieu In this section I argue, in agreement with Beate Krais (2006), that gender is a primary concern in the work of Bourdieu: that he believes it is gender that provides the model for all other forms of social differentiation. However, whereas Bourdieu seems unduly pessimistic regarding the individualÃ¢â¬â¢s ability to resist their class social differentiation, the women interview by Skeggs (1997) actively resisted their class positioning even as they were shaped by it. However, she provides little evidence of these womenÃ¢â¬â¢s attempts to resist their gender. Beate Krais argues that gender is Ã¢â¬Ëone of the most powerful classificationsÃ¢â¬â¢ for Bourdieu (Krais, 2006: 120) and that he chooses his early ethnography in Algeria for inclusion in his 2001 Masculine Domination, as among the Kabylia at this time there existed Ã¢â¬Ëpractically no other form of social differentiationÃ¢â¬â¢ (Krais, 2006: 120). She demonstrates that, for Bourdieu, it is the social construction of femininity and masculinity that first Ã¢â¬Ëshapes the body, defines how [it] is perceived [Ã¢â¬ ¦] and thus determines an individuals identityÃ¢â¬â¢ (Krais, 2006: 121). This interpretation is borne out by my reading of Bourdieu when he discusses the Kabylia: Ã¢â¬Ëthe opposition between male and female is realized in posture, in the gestures and movements of the bodyÃ¢â¬â¢ (Bourdieu, 1999a: 70). He continues: Ã¢â¬Ëclassificatory schemes through which the body is practically apprehended are always grounded twofold, both in the social division of labour an d in the sexual division of labourÃ¢â¬â¢ (Bourdieu: 1999a: 72). Thus Bourdieu argues that social differentiation according to gender is both universal and historically constant: Ã¢â¬Ëthe same system of classificatory schemes is found, in its essential features, through the centuries and across economic and social differencesÃ¢â¬â¢ (Bourdieu, 2001: 82). However, Krais goes on to criticise him for presenting gender as Ã¢â¬Ëhermetic and indestructibleÃ¢â¬â¢; that by using the example of such a traditional society, rather than that of a modern society such as that of France or Britain, he misses the role of gender as a site of Ã¢â¬Ëopen and political struggleÃ¢â¬â¢ (Krais, 2006: 123). Yet BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s pessimism seems borne out by the work of Beverley Skeggs (1997), in that the women she interviewed, whilst resisting their class position do not appear to resist their gender: Ã¢â¬Ëin the womenÃ¢â¬â¢s claims for a caring/ respectable/ responsible personality class was rarely directly figured but was constantly present. It was the structuring absenceÃ¢â¬â¢ (Skeggs, 1997: 74, my emphasis added); although she argues that Ã¢â¬Ëgender and class are inseparable. The women never see themselves as just women; it is always read through classÃ¢â¬â¢ (Skeggs, 1997: 91), she provides little evidence of the way in which these wom en resist their gender: each seems keen to position themselves as gendered individuals, as women, even as they deny their class. Conclusion In conclusion, not only do I disagree that class is central to embodiment, rather believing that all forms of social differentiation Ã¢â¬â class, ethnicity, age and gender are embodied, but that Bourdieu himself believed that gender provides the models for the other, therefore secondary, forms of social differentiation. Many have accused Bourdieu of economic determinism, taking his theory of the three forms of capital to prioritise the role of class in creating social inequality. However, for Bourdieu Ã¢â¬ËcapitalÃ¢â¬â¢ is both metaphoric and materialistic and should be viewed as similar to power (Ashall, 2004: 24): although Bourdieu believes that all of the forms of capital can be converted into economic capital, for him none are reducible to it (Bourdieu, 1986: 243). Embodiment is central within his theory, for it is in this way that social differentiation becomes incorporated into Ã¢â¬â shapes and delineates the body, as made evident through his focus on food and sport in Distinction. Although much of his writing is concerned with the operation of class throughout society, by examining his early ethnography in Algeria, and his later use of this material in Masculine Domination, we can see that he believed gender to be the model for all other forms of social differentiation, and therefore central to his work. One next must ask how other forms of social differentiation, namely age and ethnicity, can be incorporated into his theory, for though Schilling argues that this can be done by taking his definition of class in its broadest sense (Schilling, 1994: 147) this would appear to damage the sociological understanding and definition of both class and gender. What is needed is a way to conceptualise how the differing forms of social differentiati on interact. Bibliography Ashall, Wendy (2004) Ã¢â¬ËMasculine Domination: Investing in Gender?Ã¢â¬â¢ Studies in Social and Political Thought, Vol. 9, pp. 21-39, available URL at http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Units/SPT/journal/archive/pdf/issue9-2.pdf, date accessed 25/11/06. Bourdieu, Pierre (2001) Masculine Domination, Cambridge: Polity Press. Bourdieu, Pierre (1999) Ã¢â¬ËThe Habitus and the Space of Life-StylesÃ¢â¬â¢, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, London: Routledge, pp. 169-225. Bourdieu, Pierre (1999a) Ã¢â¬ËBelief and the BodyÃ¢â¬â¢, The Logic of Practice, Cambridge: Polity, pp. 66-79. Bourdieu, Pierre and Passeron, Jean-Claude (1998) Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture (2nd Edition), London: Sage. Bourdieu, Pierre (1986) Ã¢â¬ËThe forms of CapitalÃ¢â¬â¢ in Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, London: Greenwood Press, pp. 241-258. Frow, John (1995) Ã¢â¬ËAccounting for Tastes: Some Problems in BourdieuÃ¢â¬â¢s Sociology of CultureÃ¢â¬â¢, Cultural Studies, Vol. 1(No. 1), pp. 59-73. Krais, Beate (2006) Ã¢â¬ËGender, Sociological Theory and Bourdieus Sociology of PracticeÃ¢â¬â¢, Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 23, (No. 6), pp. 119-134. Schilling, Chris (1994) Ã¢â¬ËThe Body and Physical CapitalÃ¢â¬â¢, The Body and Social Theory, London: Sage, pp. 127-149. Skeggs, Beverley (1997) Ã¢â¬Ë(Dis)identifications of Class: On Not Being Working ClassÃ¢â¬â¢, Formations of Gender: Becoming Respectable, London: Sage, pp. 74-97. 1 Footnotes  Bourdieu, Pierre and Passeron, Jean-Claude (1998) Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture (2nd Edition), London: Sage.