The relevance of Pierre Bourdieu
within guidance
Professor Gudbjörg Vilhjálmsdóttir, PhD
University of Iceland
[email protected]
Why is this theory relevant?
• Assisting people in making choices is at
the heart of career counseling
• Decsions are a core feature of Bourdieu’s
theory – based on a criticism of rational
choice theory
• This theory has a sound basis for
explaining both social and psychological
aspects of decision making
Pierre Bourdieu (1930 – 2002):
Philosophy  anthropology  sociology
• His theory and research
interests reflect his
personal trajectory
• Low class background
made him an outsider in
the dominant culture
• Bourdieu was a winner in
a social system that he
criticised fiercely 
a divided habitus
Bourdieu’s theory at a glance:
Society as a hall of games
• Social space: social cosmos: A hall
• Fields: micro-cosmos: card tables: games played for a
price by written and unwritten rules – games with
different logics. Artistic field, religious field, economic
field, academia etc.
• Illusio: Being caught up in the game; believing that the
game is worth playing
• At each card table people bring their capital (Greek)
• Habitus: knowing the rules and recognizing values in a
field
The Habitus Concept
Habitus is defined as a social subjectivity
i.e. a meaning-making structure that
originates in one‘s social environment.
Habitus thus influences our value system,
choices and everyday practices as well as
bodily postures and ways of being.
Habitus and decision making
• To have a feel for the game
– be like fish in water
• Sensible decisions are taken without much
thinking
– Bourdieu is opposed to contrasting thinking
and action.
Habitus distuinguishes between people
• Positions in a field are
construed in relation to
other groups: distinction
• A decision about a book
to read, a picture to hang
on the drawing room wall
or of an occupation is
shaped by one‘s habitus
(Bourdieu, 1984)
• Habitus groups can be
measured on the basis of
these distinctions in taste
Influences on habitus  choice
• Symbolic violence “is
Symbolic
violence
the violence which is exercised
upon a social agent with his or her
complicity“. (Bourdieu & Wacquant,
Structure
1992, p. 167-8)
• Practical sense: Actions
Practical
sense
Habitus
make sense because of our
socially categorised thinking
• Reproduction:
Maintenance of a system of
power by means of the
transmission of a culture 
schools reproduce power
Agency
Illusio
Reproduction
Arts
Academia
Pop
Conceptual tools
Business
Structuring
Practical sense
Habitus
Taste / Choice
Structure
Research: Habitus differences in
preferred career choice
Measures of habitus
• Habitus is measured by examining cultural
consumption
• Habitus is made visible by measuring
oppositions  Correspondence analysis
• A relationship has been found between
habitus and occupational thinking in
previous research with adolescents
Research questions
• Do habitus groups form readily
• with 19 to 22 year olds in their final year of upper secondary education?
• How do the habitus groups relate to other social
variables: gender, social class and place of living?
• Are there habitus differences in occupational
perceptions?
• Are there habitus differences in choice of educational
programme?
• Are preferred future occupations different according to
habitus?
Research on habitus: Method
• Sample:
• N=534 (253 men and 281 women) in the last year of upper
secondary education (aged 19-22; mean age: 21)
• Place of living: Urban 287 and rural 244
• 25 schools (6 educational programmes
• Data collection in 2006
•
•
•
•
•
Variables: leisure activities and future occupation
Homogeneity analysis - Homals
Correspondence analysis
Factor analysis
Cluster analysis
Measures of habitus
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Music items
Music instrument items
Reading items
Television items
Film items
Sport items
Sport activity items
Computers and internet
Total
44
2
19
24
38
13
3
2
145
Clusters: Habitus at the age of 19 to 22
1. Sports
2. Music
 Listens to heavy rock, watches sports
programs on TV, practices football and
basketball. Avoids feminine activities and
literature.
 All kinds of music with some emphasis on
indie and alternative music.
3. Light pop and fashion
 Reads fashion magazines, listens to “girly”
music and listens to pop radio. Listens to
Robbie Williams, Britney Spears and Pink.
Aerobics and watches movies.
4. Literature
 Reads books with some emphasis on
Icelandic traditional literature. Plays an
instrument.
Results: Factor and cluster analysis
Consumption
I
COMPONENTS
III
II
0.64 0.18 0.11
0.63 0.08 -0.16
0.58 0.01 -0.08
0.56 0.14 0.00
0.56 -0.06 0.05
0.56 -0.04 0.03
0.55 0.10 0.40
0.52 0.13 0.26
0.51 0.30 -0.11
…
-0.21 0.65 0.04
CocoRosie
-0.06 0.63 0.08
Björk
SufjanStevens -0.09 0.60 -0.06
Joanna Newson -0.13 0.59 0.01
0.01 0.59 0.08
Orig. Melody
-0.01 0.59 -0.10
Miles Davis
0.17 0.57 -0.10
Jakobínarína
Dead Kennedies 0.13 0.56 -0.13
0.01 0.56 0.01
Hermigervill
…
Foo Fighters
Metallica
Engl. football
Guns N Roses
Weekend sports
Sport magazine
U2
Bubbi
Moby
IV
0.03
0.08
0.12
0.01
-0.02
0.04
0.02
0.09
-0.12
-0.05
-0.28
-0.12
-0.07
-0.05
-0.20
-0.07
-0.06
-0.11
Fashion magaz. -0.18 0.07 0.60
0.14 0.17 0.56
Mary J. Blige
0.31 0.10 0.55
Rob. Williams
0.10 0.08 0.54
Pink
0.39 0.07 0.54
Sálin
0.00 -0.10 0.54
FM957 (radio)
Ragnh. Gröndal 0.01 0.28 0.51
0.21 0.05 0.48
The OC
0.21 0.18 -0.46
Monty Python
…
Foreign novels -0.15 0.09 0.01
Advent. stories 0.07 0.02 -0.08
0.19 -0.05 -0.20
Nonfiction
-0.12 0.18 0.05
Poetry
Science fiction 0.18 0.04 -0.11
-0.13 0.04 0.15
Icel. novels
0.01 0.32 -0.17
Mozart
-0.14 0.30 0.09
Orig. Melody
Gaming groups -0.14 0.06 -0.14
…
-0.18
0.00
0.00
0.07
0.06
0.24
-0.18
0.09
-0.26
-0.61
-0.59
-0.59
-0.57
-0.56
-0.56
-0.55
-0.53
-0.52
Homals: Habitus groups vs social variables
Preferred future occupation and habitus
business administration
0.2
architect
Light pop/fashion
psychology
Sports
arts
law
engineering
education
0.0
Music
-0.2
medical sciences
natural sciences
social sciences
-0.4
computer science
-0.6
Literature
-0.8
literature
-0.2
0.0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
Conclusion
• Habitus groups form readily from leisure
and cultural activities
– Similar to habitus groups in a younger age group.
• Habitus measures are validated in
structural relations to other social
variables.
• The habitus groups in both samples relate
to occupational preferences.
– As well as occupational thinking and choice of
educational programme
Discussion
• The relationship between choice of life style
(habitus) and the powerful social system (fields)
is in focus in this theory
• Habitus is a concept of great interest in
explaining career phenomena, esp. the social
aspects of career choice, occupational thinking
and educational choice.
• Gives new theoretical perspectives on career
choice research and practice
Danke schön
[email protected]
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Fields - IAEVG Conference 2012