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Quantifying Habitus: Future Directions

  • William C. Cockerham
  • Brian P. Hinote

Bourdieu's concept of the habitus is the centerpiece of his explanation of social behavior. He uses the term to represent the cognitive map or set of perceptions that routinely guides and evaluates a person's choices and behavioral options. The habitus consists of enduring dispositions toward action deemed appropriate in particular social situations and settings, including habitual ways of acting when performing routine tasks. The influence of exterior social structures and conditions are incorporated into the habitus, as well as the individual's own inclinations, preferences, and interpretations. As a subjective construct, the concept of the habitus represents a methodological challenge in quantifying as it seems to involve both dispositions toward action (as reflected in observable behavior) and the influence of the wider society (exterior social structures) on the individual.

Bourdieu's approach, as seen in Distinction, was to utilize correspondence analysis to plot how preferences in music, art, cooking, and the like clustered along class lines to constitute distinctive patterns of taste (social spaces). Although similar to cluster analysis, correspondence analysis identifies relationships between variables more efficiently and reduces the potential for instability in the results. However, correspondence analysis cannot be utilized to test hypotheses, so in this chapter we suggest the use of multilevel modeling techniques like hierarchal linear modeling (HLM) to measure the effects of habitus on social behavior. We argue that HLM simultaneously examines the interaction between variables that describe individuals at one level and structural entities at the next and sequentially higher levels, depending on the variable's conceptual location in a structural hierarchy.

Keywords

Correspondence Analysis Hierarchal Linear Modeling Behavioral Disposition Life Chance Routine Task 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Social MedicineUniversity of AlabamaBirmingham
  2. 2.Sociology and AnthropologyMiddle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboroUSA

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