Many English-speaking commentators seem to assume that Bourdieu’s fundamental work on education is to be found in two major books (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977; 1979) and a number of articles (Bourdieu 1967; 1971; 1973b; 1974: Bourdieu and St Martin 1974).2 But those who think this are mistaken. To the extent that these works constitute the limit of reading they constrain a proper understanding of Bourdieu’s theoretical enterprise, which has blossomed from a continual reworking of his ethnographic material from Algeria (Bourdieu 1962; 1963; 1973; 1977; 1979), and from France itself (Bourdieu 1984). The essential point is that it is inappropriate to extrapolate Bourdieu’s theoretical enterprise solely from the educational writings, since they predate the intensive development of his theory of practice during the 1970s. Hence evaluations of Bourdieu that appear in the educational literature and which do not take into account these later theoretical developments, are inadequate and misleading. This chapter attempts to overcome such difficulties.
- School System
- Cultural Capital
- Dominant Group
- Social Space
- Reproduction Strategy
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This chapter incorporates elements from two papers published previously: Harker, 1984, 1984a.
These dates are misleading and show the date of translation rather than their original publication date in French, the latest of which was 1970. The original sources of some of the ideas found in the books on education are to be found in the pages of Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, and other journals — see, for example, Bourdieu 1967. In Actes the following show his continued interest in education: 1975/02:95–107 (with Luc Boltanski), ‘Le titre et le poste: rapports entre le système de production et le système de reproduction’; 1975/3:68–93 (with Monique de St Martin), ‘Les catégories de l‘entendement professoral’; 1978/24:2–24, ‘Classement, dèclassement, reclassement’; 1981/39, ‘Epreuve scolaire et consècration sociale. Les classes preparatoires aux Grandes ècoles’; 1984/52–53:95–100, Le hit—parade des intellectuels francais ou qui sera juge de la lègitimitè des juges?’ A full issue was devoted to the issue of education and philosophy (47/48, Juin 1983), and educational matters are covered by Bourdieu and his colleagues in most issues. For other special issues devoted to education, see 1979/30 ‘L’Institution scolaire’; 1981/39 ‘Grandes et petites ècoles’; 1982/42 ‘Classements scolaires et classement social’; 1987/69 ‘Pouvoirs dècole, I’; and 1987/70 ‘Pouvoirs dèecole, II’. A well-known report written by Bourdieu for the Collège de France was issued to President Mitterrand in March 1985 (Bourdieu, 1985a). Further, Bourdieu and Monique de St Martin recently completed a report on transitions in the educational system, ‘Structures objectives et reprèsentations subjectives du champ des institutions d’enseignement supèrieur’, Juin 1986, Écoles des hautes ètudes en sciences sociales. A large study of higher education, of which this report is a small part, has now been published (Bourdieu, Fr. ed. 1989).
This argument provides a parallel to that of Gramsci, who suggests that before even entering the classroom, a child from a traditionally intellectual family ... has numerous advantages over his comrades, and is already in possession of attitudes learnt from
In addition to education, this proposition is explored in relation to language and linguistic exchanges (1977b); art and other aesthetic products (symbolic goods) (1968, 1971, 1980, 1980a, 1983); sport (1978); and to French society (1984).
This is borne out by research conducted in a New Zealand comprehensive high school into the subject option choices made by 298 Third Form pupils (Harker 1975). The pupils were assigned to one of four categories, depending on their father’s occupation, and had the choice of four subject ‘streams’ — Latin, French, Bookkeeping or Modern (woodwork — metalwork for boys, typing/home science for girls). The results are shown in Table 1 for the group as a whole, and in Table 2 for all those pupils whose IQ scores fell between 95 and 105 — an average group. The striking retention of the pattern of option choice when controlling for academic aptitude fairly clearly indicates a different pattern of expectations on the part of the pupils and their families.
This same argument is explored in relation to unemployment in the context of Aleeria (Bourdieu 1979:61–31.
Murphy’s analysis of power (1982) is useful here, as he distinguishes between three types of power: power to command; power to constrain; and power to profit from. He argues that different social classes have varying amounts of power to profit from education systems, which may be totally unrelated to the powers to command or constrain the school system. Such a conception, Murphy argues, ‘reveals the secret of the “misrecognition” of the underlying power relations upon which schooling is based, the secret of the misrecognition of scholastic hierarchies as hierarchies of innate ability, and therefore the secret of the school system’s success as a mechanism for legitimating the transmission of inequalities’ (Murphy 1982:193). The specification of these three types of power also allows a better understanding of the apparent contradiction between the autonomy of the school and its role in the ‘reproduction and legitimation of the existing social class structure of society’ (ibid.:194).
While deriving perhaps from his study of Panofsky there are some echoes of Gramsci who declined to idealise working-class culture or find in it material to form the basis of a curriculum (Gramsci 1971:33–40). For Gramsci, the inequality lay in the lack of access the ‘subaltern’ classes had to the traditional humanistic knowledge of the higher schools. Gramsci goes on to say that each social group has its own ‘type’ of school which perpetuates traditional functions (of super or subordination). Bourdieu expresses it in terms of differentiated schooling creating differentiated ‘intellectual clans’ (e.g. ‘science’ vs ‘arts’). Common schooling, he goes on to argue, would have a unifying effect, thus helping to break down the pattern (1967:349). Similarly Gramsci sees the solution as:
Further, these ideas are not new with Bourdieu. Durkheim also writes that ‘education ... exercises an irresistible influence on individuals’ (1956:65). The schools, he claims, put their stamp on people which makes them of their age.
This may also account for Bourdieu’s being seen as a Weberian or in a Weberian context by so many English speaking educationalists - Swartz (1977), Sham (1980). Di Maggio (1982).
In an interview Bourdieu states that:
For example, Bidet (1979:204) writes: ‘It’s precisely the displacement between habitus and situation, the irreducible novelty of the latter in relation to the successive conditions forged by habitus which, it would seem, establishes the dynamic principle of the model proposed.’ Another anthropologist, M. Schiltz, interprets Bourdieu in the same way (1982:729): ‘Practice, therefore, must be explained by habitus (its generative principle) on the one hand, and by irreducible novelty of historical situations on the other. So whether we are dealing with phenomena described as migration, revolution, or peasantisation, the practices associated with these phenomena are the product of the dialectical relationship between situations and habitus.’
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© 1990 Richard Harker, Cheleen Mahar and Chris Wilkes
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Harker, R. (1990). Bourdieu - Education and Reproduction. In: Harker, R., Mahar, C., Wilkes, C. (eds) An Introduction to the Work of Pierre Bourdieu. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-21134-0_4
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