Pierre Bourdieu was one of the most influential and prolific social scientists of the late twentieth century, and his work examined the role that education played in the social hierarchy. He received his doctorate in philosophy in 1954, but his initial studies of Algerian peasants in 1958 led him in the direction of ethnology. Bourdieu later became the director of the Center of European Sociology in 1968.
By this time, Bourdieu had turned his focus from Algeria to the French educational system, working with Jean-Claude Passeron to critique education’s role in the creation of class hierarchy in France in their books The Inheritors (1964) and again in Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture (1970).
Moving on to theoretical ground, Bourdieu developed a theory of social practice in Outline of a Theory of Practice (1972), creating the concept of “habitus” as the internalization of social and cultural structures that guided an individual’s actions. Bourdieu combined this theory and his empirical concerns with culture and education in his most influential sociological study, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (1979), which argued that education and culture became the means of maintaining one’s class position in the social hierarchy by giving people “cultural capital.”
Bourdieu later explored a series of empirical problems broadly connected to his interest in culture and power, including his studies of Language and Symbolic Power (1982) and Masculine Domination (1998). Throughout his life, Bourdieu was also engaged in his own particular form of social activism, presented in his books In Other Words (1987) and Acts of Resistance (1998
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