According to Bourdieu, how do taste, lifestyle and cultural choice link to class position? In your answer explain his theory of culture and provide examples.


According to Bourdieu, how do taste, lifestyle and cultural choice link to class position? In your answer explain his theory of culture and provide examples.



How Bourdieu Linked Taste, Lifestyle and Culture to Class Position






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Pierre Bourdieu was born in 1930 n a working class family. He was born in small village called Denguin in southern France. His father was farmer but he later changed his career to a postal worker with little education. He motivated Bourdieu to utilize the education opportunity that his country could offer. He accepted his father’s advice and was enrolled in a prestigious university in Paris where he studied philosophy together with other renowned philosophers such as Louis Althusser and Marxist thinker. After completing his studies, he became a teacher in Algeria which was a French colony. During this time, he undertook ethnographic research in the country which he later used to write an outline of the theory of practice which was among the first influence theoretical statements of the time. Over his career, he published many articles and books (Elley, 2013). He became one of the leading intellectual persons in France because he always spoke out and organized protests against what he considered to be exploitative and unfair neoliberal economic policies as well as globalization. Prior to his death, he was known as one of the most influential social theorist in the world and a great scholar. This work will discuss how taste, lifestyle and cultural choices link to class position according to Bourdieu and his theory of culture while at the same time providing examples.

How Bourdieu linked taste with class position

In consideration to taste, Bourdieu argue that individuals preferences to food, music, art, sport, future and clothing a person usually consider a choice which seems discernment to him o her. He believed that each person has his or her own taste. Taste is usually seen to be too randomized peculiarity and person and hence it does not warrant meaningful research. Bourdieu used it to examine the trivial daily decisions of the French people using qualitative and quantitative research. He conducted his research to understand the relationship between class and taste. He also used his research to scrutinize the reason behind the taste based decisions. He lofted educational to give a tinged image of a class that followed the footsteps of Weber (Tsang, 2014). He also demonstrated the concepts of social and cultural capital. In his research he discovered that within the two types of capital there was flavor to consume, accumulate and make profit.  He understood that speaking loosely in regard to the overall capital can be misleading or dangerous because apart from the theoretical nature of the framework, the various kinds of capital have exchange rates subjected to endless fluctuations (Garner & Hancock, 2014).

In his analysis, he gave function of structure a privilege over the agency in determining the taste of the people.  In order to demonstrate the effect of cultural and class choices, he inspected quantitative data in regard to social origin and educational capital. He measures the social origin using the father’s daily work and education capital using the education level attained by a person (Douglas, 2007). He discovered that both of these two factors affected taste. He suggested that people of the same social class usually make choices related with peers of the same educational standard and social origins. He viewed the two groups as overlapping each other but they are still different. He suggested that economic and educational capital might e linked but they cannot be identical (Garner & Hancock, 2014).

Understanding these differences provided vast rich information. It is from this foundation that Bourdieu discovered that some taste decisions were intimately related with educational capital while others were intimately related with social origin. His discovery indicated the educational capital is a significant factor in shaping tastes although not what is simply learned from textbook or classroom. He suggested that the function of schooling structure goes beyond the school curriculum (Garner & Hancock, 2014). The peer expectations and the teacher promote appreciation of high culture and unwarranted knowledge. He claimed that the knowledge of film directors name is related more educational capital rather than going to the cinema (Robson, & Sanders, 2009). Bourdieu taste analysis included qualitative observations such as the degree of repulsion for taste preferences for the rival class in the community.

Similarly, Bourdieu discovered that social origin dominated in influencing the choices which were related to domestic and personal situations such as clothing, furniture and food. His research revealed that working class preferred simple and well prepared meals, clean and tidy homes while the upper class proffered harmonious, exotic, décor and delicate meals. The status derived skills allowed the holder to remain effortlessly elegant in satisfying the social and cultural demands of the situations despite them being familiar to the legitimate cultural realm (Paton, 2014). Therefore, the questions of knowledge can be tuned into the question of preference. According to him, ignorance can be decorated of hidden with appropriate manors, bearing and presence. The taste determining framework that was discovered by Bourdieu was built on an overlapping background such as the family and the school. He noted that both the family and the school are centers of learning where the choices are either rewarded or punished according to the culture of the environment. Both are market environment for cultural goods where the cultural investment may lead into peer acceptance and class distinction (Roberta & Hancock, 2014).

He claimed that taste is a practice operator in the changes of things which have distinct and distinctive signs of continuous and discontinuous opposition. Taste is raised in different states which might be physical or psychological. It usually changes the classified behavior in which the circumstance reveals itself into other practices which is class position expression (Mills, & Gale, 2010). Therefore, given that taste is an operator which may create class and the difference it is usually defined through the difference of empowerment, he reveals that the dominant class in the society as the taste makers. Economic capital imply that there exist an economic distance from economic necessity and the cultural capital which he believed that its accumulation require an extended withdrawal from the necessity. He suggested that such perceptible of freedom does not always leads to agency of decisions which might be made out of a particular taste or navigated reference circumstance (Roberta & Hancock, 2014).

As the distance from the necessity expands lifestyle becomes a dominance of necessity. The lifestyle which is not constrained defines itself against the lifestyle of necessity in order to establish a circumstance of superiority. It is not all the taste that is defined against the lifestyle of necessity. Nonetheless, the taste of necessity is normally welcomed by individuals who are rich according to the cultural capital (Manlow, 2007). The experience is usually enormous as intellectuals with immersive experience may put themselves into a working class circumstance. The intellectual embracement of taste of necessity does always illustrate agency. This is because it not all intellectual in our ability goes to the people and the option for doing that is viable to the people who are close to it (Roberta & Hancock, 2014).

Although Bourdieu considers structure more than agency, interaction of the structure within the generative conditions of practice, lifestyle and habit usually provide separation through which agency opportunities may emerge. His structure which was within the lifestyle gave us a subjective and embedded sense to the structures which would seem to be disembodied (Lull, 2000). He therefore, presented us with a structure which constantly was required to be reproduced. According to him, agency primarily lied to those people who were rich in the cultural capital and the taste makers. This group of individuals was enabled by the distance of their necessity and the ability to appreciate taste in their dominance class. Therefore, outside the dominance class, opportunities for agency still existed for those individuals who were able to exploit and understand the symbolic struggles of the other individuals in the different lifestyle (Roberta & Hancock, 2014).

Bourdieu used his study to claim that the taste of the people is correlated with education and upbringing. He proved that there is a relationship which among the social origin, education capital and cultural practices. Different tastes are usually associated with people from different classes. Class distinctions have different levels of legitimate taste. According to Bourdieu, the value attached to legitimate taste is determined by the education system. People in good education systems find it easier to succeed than people from poor education system. When a person attain a given amount of legitimate taste through education and upbringing it is possible for him or her to cultivate her own (Douglas, 2012).

However, good taste alone does not guarantee a well paying job but it can be of great help in some circumstances. Bourdieu claims that the key function of the education system is to eliminate social function. This therefore involves eliminating individuals of the working class from high levels of education. This is attained by self elimination and making sure that the working class children fails in their examination (Grenfell & Hardy, 2007).


How Bourdieu linked lifestyle with class position

Habitus theory is one of the most influential concepts of Bourdieu. It referred to the physical personification cultural capital to the deeply embedded habits, dispositions and skills which are possessed due to our life experiences. Bourdieu used sport metaphors while talking about this concept and he referred to it as the feel for the game. Therefore each of us has a personified kind of feeling the different social situations that we find ourselves into (Lui, 2013). While in the right situation, our habits usually allow as to pilot the social environment. For instance a person brought up in a violent environment will be scared of the policemen or he might engage himself into violence when he grows up (Grenfell & Hardy, 2007). Lifestyle also extends into our taste for cultural objects such as the clothes, food and art.

Bourdieu links the taste of the French citizens in art to the social class positions arguing that the artistic awareness is shaped by the cultural embedded on our lifestyle. For instance, upper class individuals have a lifestyle for fine art because they have trained and exposed appreciation since they were at a tender age. The working class individuals do not get access to high art and they have not therefore cultivated their lifestyle appreciation to match with the game.  According to Bourdieu, people misunderstood the feeling for the game to be natural rather than culturally creating their own lifestyle (Livadra, 2012). He therefore inclined the social justice that exist in the society with the mistake that people make by believing that some people in the society are naturally blessed to enjoy fine and expensive things while others are not.

Habitus refers to the values lifestyle, expectation and disposition of a specific social group. A particular lifestyle is established through experience. People do learn in the best way through what they see and what they expect in life. Since different people have different life experience, the life style of each group is actually different. People do control their values but they cannot manage to be in total control of the whole lifestyle (Lindhardt, 2012). The people are free to do what they wish but they will always be necessitated to make choices in regard to their behavior. Bourdieu claim that individuals will be necessitated to react in certain circumstances but they tend to react according to the behavior they had previously regarded to be reasonable and making sense (Grenfell & Hardy, 2007). This therefore means lifestyle is the infinitive ability to generate products. This comprise the perception, idea of thought, expression and the actions whose boundary are established by socially and historically situated condition of the taste, education, products and education.

According to Bourdieu, lifestyle is created through social process rather than individual process hence leading into patterns that are transferrable and enduring from once situation to another. He claimed that the changes occur according to particular circumstance and over time. Lifestyle is neither permanent nor fixed and it can shift in unexpected situation or in a long period of time. Habit is not a result of a free will and it is never determined by structures but it is established between the interaction of the will and the structures over some times. The two are shaped by both the past structures and events. He suggests that the current structures and practices shape our perception. This indicated that habitus is established and reproduced automatically without any deliberation of coherence. He identified perception as a product of habitus and taste as a product of class (Lavelle, 2012). In support of his ideas Bourdieu rejected the theory of taste as being something personal and hence making it something hard to learn. This creates a room for agency of individual freedom to navigate a variety of works and practices which aligns into incorrect and correct system. However in bringing lifestyle and taste in the stratified social groups, he created an obstacle in determining the ingredient for taste based on structure, projection of capital and volume (Grenfell & Hardy, 2007). Nevertheless, individual evaluation of practices begins to be seen as less powerful and begins to appear as a market with fluctuating currencies but with no price list. In such a circumstance, the value of something is based on the opposition while opposition is articulated through taste.

The social class is usually defined in regard to the means of production but this does not inform us how these classes are established. It does not also tell us the hierarchy’s status of capitalist in the society which are internalized and articulated by people or how the status subordination is integrated within the domination of class system (Lui, 2013). Bourdieu showed how the knowledge used his work to illustrate how cultural artifacts and taste are used by people to develop a culture which is constituted and the transformation that comes with it in relation with the dominant class and the moderating struggles between the fractions of power in the society. His ideas contributed in understanding how the relationship of subordination such as gender and age combines with cultural and economic factors of subordination to become sublimated forms which shed light on how different kinds of subordination are connected to one another (Lui, 2013).

According to Bourdieu, the concept of economic capital usually takes different forms. What is then required is to differentiate between economic capital and non economic capital. He extends his concept of capital by investigating how convertibility of capital may determine the normal sense of an economy. Capital is usually a resource which enables us to exercise our opinion or resist dominance from the social relations or maintain our position in the society’s hierarchy. The composition of capital is therefore made up of both economic and cultural capital which creates a dominance that increases monotony towards upwards (Giroux, 2001). According to him, capital is something which is capable of ordering the relationship of people between two different societies. The principle therefore does not necessarily produce a complete order of the society (Lui, 2013). The concept of capital can therefore spread across different social situation rather than only in his society which represent a certain degree of command which offer the rights of the dominant groups in the society to the less privileged groups in the society. Bourdieu accepted economic capital as a dominating principle in a capitalistic society but believed that the effectiveness of it is always challenged by a fraction of the dominating class in our society whore are the relatively poor people. Hence, the struggles which occur in the dominant class in our society also exist in the class position (Giroux, 2001).

The link between culture and class position

Cultural capital is the ability to interact with the cultural games by knowing how to approve and disapprove, how to internalize appropriate manners and taste, and how to avoid necessity to appropriate ensure that the ends meet. Bourdieu believes that possession of certain type of cultural capital will generally be predicted using the social origin (Giroux, 2001). According to him, education system usually offers a way of acquiring certificate of prove and culture. His research showed that scholastic culture cannot at one time suppress the depth and the ease of the cultural capital which is usually acquired through a person’s exposure to the environment (Hall, 2001). Given that the education system is open to wider circumstances and sectors, its struggles goes ahead to redefine the qualifications and to restore the social order. Therefore, every human being has a judgment of classification which assists him or her to classify the actions (Giroux, 2001). He claimed that there is no difference which is so much important as that of the society and that a person has all the rights of refusal in which something which might be valued by a person might not be valued by another. Thus, the major struggle within the dominance class is in between those who lack the economic capital and those in possession of the economic capital. Professionals of different kids usually promote their status by trying to change their dominant principle towards a cultural means and also differentiating themselves from the uncultured wealth which emphasize their taste (Giroux, 2001). For those people lacking the economic capital, their professional skills are usually acquired from the public education system through hard work in the dominant class of lower ranks. In the same way, appreciation of culture is usually reduced by people by acquiring and expressing taste which express their affectation that is recognized in a given class fraction according to the needs of distinction.

Despite the fact that economic and cultural capital comprises the principles of subordination within a capitalism society, Bourdieu related it to other kinds of capital in his argument of linking culture to class position. He claimed that social connections required making use of one’s cultural capital. Body capital which is acquired or inherited through socially approved exercise and diet comprise of a resource which gives an individual power in social struggles. Linguistic capital is normally a subset of cultural capital which contain an appropriate means if the command language (Swartz, 2012). Although different forms of capital correlate with the conditions of production of both social and economic capital, there is great time which is given for their special consideration. At the end of the cultural distinction, everything appears to solely appreciate the purpose of establishing a maker of one social status which might be unconsciously.

Taste in our life respond to two different kinds of stimulation of pleasure which is interconnected with the basic human needs and our association with other forms of cultures in the universe that is conversational. This usually creates a gap between the material world and social world structures which might either are cruel, heavy or light (Zeuner, 2003). The differences might undergo a transformation in dominant fractions and the use similar contrast in indicating the differences in cultural and economic class. Bourdieu also used his basic principles of culture and class to show hoe age and gender are destroyed while reinforcing the differences of the cultural dominance. He revealed that the contest that exist between the mature and the immature, the young and the elderly. He suggested that these distinctions have a crucial role in expressing and penetrating the language of the cultural subordination (Swartz, 2012).

Hence, although the dominant class appreciation to art is indicated through different social transformation it activates the need for a feeling of differentiation from the actual necessity of life for the dominating class in the society (Epstein, 2007). Through different interactions, culture usually reveals itself as an independent domain despite the fact that taste for work is ultimately placed upon the pleasures of domination. Therefore, we have a window in which we can be able to understand the class struggles as it is played on the domain of culture. Bourdieu believes that taste is at the epicenter of symbolic struggles which go at all times between the fractions of the dominating class and which are absolutely less based on the key belief which bid each agent to the individual’s lifestyle (Zeuner, 2003). Materialistic preferences to the social and economic conditions of production and the social function is the most interesting practice which doubtfully reveal itself in the human life either culturally or in psychological forms (Dahms, & Hazelrigg, 2010). The conflict between the arts of living is staked in the imposition of the dominant principle for the dominant class or in securing the best conversion rate for the type of capital which is provided by each group through their ultimate values and in their inner interests.

Bourdieu understood the world as a social world divided into different distinct fields of practice such as law, education, art and religion. He views each field as having unique sets of knowledge’s, rules and forms of capital (Zeuner, 2003). He understood that this field had the possibility of overlapping each other and that each field was relatively free from the other. He believed that each field had sets of practices and positions. He viewed each field as having the energy for struggles for position as people brought together their capital to claim for positions in a particular social arena (Chopra, 2008). According to him, each generation of artists had the power to throw away the established position for the educationalist that came prior to them. Just like in a game, social fields are arenas where people usually struggle for power, position and victory in their life (Chopra, 2008).

How Bourdieu link culture with class position

The cultural deprivation theory was established by Pierre Bourdieu. The theory meant that higher class cultures are usually better whenever they are compared with the working class cultures. Given the perceived superiority given to higher class cultures, middle and upper class people believe that individuals in working class are supposed to blame themselves for the failure of their children in the education sector. Bourdieu believed that the cultural capital was influenced by Marx. He suggested that individuals should assume that working class is worse than higher or middle class (Caine, 2004). He support the failure of working class children in education sector by claiming that their failure is not as a result of the working class culture but the failure of the education system. He said that the education system determines the success of the working class through exams which does not rely indicate the actual capacity of an individual. The key function of the education system is cultural reproduction according to Bourdieu. The education systems usually ensure that that it reproduces the culture of the dominant class (Bluden, 2004). This is because the high class individuals have the authority to give meaning to culture and ensure that it is part of law. The middle class has the power to define their own culture as something that is worth of being sought and establish the foundation for knowledge in the education system. However, he never shown how these upper class cultures are worse or better that other society’s cultures (Chopra, 2008).

Bourdieu the ownership of the dominant cultures as a cultural capital because the use of the education system it can be transformed into power and wealth. Cultural capital is no longer distributed evenly into the class structure and it therefore account for the class variance in attainment of the education. Individuals who grew in upper class culture have already built an advantage within them because they are always able to socialize with the dominant culture. He suggests that earlier accomplishments in life determine one’s success (Berlin, 2003). The dominant class children usually internalize their knowledge and skill while they are still as compared with the working class children who internalize culture when they have already grown up. The amount of cultural capital that a certain class in the society possesses determines their education attainment. Hence, the higher class children have higher success rate as compare with children from working class. This happens because the upper class subculture is closely related with the dominant culture. In some instances, Bourdieu in not clear when he attempt to explain the knowledge and the skill required to attain education success. His argument is based upon the children’s way of behavior in explain how the dominant culture is more superior in upper class than the working class rather than presenting the actual content of his argument. He claims that the character of the children counts more than the actual educational content of work. He argues that by teachers rewarding grades to the students they are usually influenced by the style of leadership and the people in position of power. Hence, there is a high likelihood for a person to succeed if he is close to the dominant class in the society.  This kind of style discriminates working class children because their way of life is different from that of the middle class. The circumstance ensures that their work is penalized for not being part of the upper or middle class in the society (Ben-Zion, 2009).

Bourdieu theory of culture

Bourdieu theory of culture connects his bother empirical and theoretical ideas of people’s everyday life. The theory of practice extended the idea of capital into cultural, social and symbolic capital. According to Bourdieu, each person occupies a position in the social space. A person is not only defined his social class but by every kind of capital which can be articulated through social relationship. The capital comprises of the social networks values which was believed to reproduce and produce inequality. Hence, each field of the modern life brings about a specific complex social relationship where a person is allowed to engage with the everyday way of life (Appelrouth, & Edles, 2008). Through a particular relationship a person will be able to develop certain temperament for social action which will be controlled by an individual’s position in the field. The combination of temperaments which an individual develop as he or she interact with the multidimensional social world will eventually become the sense of the game in understanding a certain field and the social order in general. As the social fields become autonomous and complex, individuals are always able to establish certain lifestyle that is typical with their position in the social environment (Chopra, 2008). Through this system, the society will accept, legitimate and produce the different forms of dominance and the usual opinions of each field and the power of relation. As the individuals’ lifestyles are a mixture of multiple engagements through a person’s life, the social fields are always put into practice through the individuals’ agency (Alexander, 2005). Hence, there is no social order which can be stable without appropriate social structures. Bourdieu claimed that if a person’s social structures pre-temperament are much stronger that what common sense might believe them it might not be a perfect match of ideas.


Bourdieu theories elaborate how social classes such as upper, middle and working class achieve their privilege across different generations. His main work was divided into three major categories which included: the cultural capital, the peoples’ lifestyle and the field that each person might be positioned in the society. His suggested that there is a link between people’s taste, lifestyle and culture. Therefore, attainment of one of the three will demand achievement of the other. The social field are usually found where people struggle for power and authority.




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