In this article the cultural sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, one of the most eminent contemporary French sociologists, is reviewed and discussed. Originally a structuralist anthropologist, Bourdieu has developed a critical sociology of cultural forms. His methodological point of view is at one and the same time anti-functionalist, anti-empiricist and anti-subjectivist. The cultural forms of the practices of everyday life cannot be reduced to ‘needs’ of the individual any more than to the functional imperatives of the collectivity. They take the form of irreducibles symbolic expressions, the meaning of which are not directly apparent to the subjects. Yet the subjects are not determined by the collective institutions in their practices. The central concept, ‘habitus’, aims at combining the subjective and the culturally determined collective elements in these practices. The substantial problematic of Bourdieu’s sociology is to show how the cultural forms are expressions of the structure of domination in society. The most flamboyant realization of this problematic is his recent work La Distinction, which makes visible the system of class domination in modern France. It is a systematic study of the cultural forms in which this domination is revealed in the way of life of different classes and class fractions. This article aims to locate both Bourdieu’s methodology and his interpretation of the cultural forms in modern France in the French intellectual scene as well as in the context of the sociology of culture in general.
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