CSULB - My College Experience

Habitus

I am absolutely fascinated with my Modern Sociological Theory class at Cal State Long Beach. Specifically I am fascinated with what we’ve been reading from Pierre Bourdieu in his writing The Logic of Practice.

I had a completely different post already started which I intended to finish up and publish today, but then today happened.

Two weeks ago we started to read Bourdieu in my Modern Sociological Theory class and our Professor told us this would be one of the, if not the most difficult reading we would encounter in our academic career. He wasn’t kidding. When I first attempted to read Bourdieu’s ideas on Structures, Habitus, Practices I kept thinking “what the f?!” Seriously, this is not English and why can’t these theorists just speak in every day words, why must everything be this puzzle that you need to figure out. And what the f does he mean by “habitus”?

Bare with me for just one moment and check out this sentence from Page 2 about “habitus”:

The conditionings associated with a particular class of conditions of existence produce habitus, systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures that predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles which generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary in order to attain them.

Our class spent 40 minutes on this one sentence above, breaking down each word to come up with the definition of habitus. The most basic definition for Bourdieu’s idea of habitus is “an embodied set of tendencies that guide our perception of the social world and the choices we make.” Habitus is essentially our history, our past, the things from our parents, and our parents’ parents and so forth. Essentially a big part of why we do what we do has to do with our history, our habitus. The choices we make, the way we talk, walk, our gestures, characteristics and ideas are connected to our past, which is our habitus, and how the choices we make and our past experiences affect how we act in the future. For example, when you think of the “path to success” how we view that and achieve that is related to how we see the world, define success, experience the world, and the choices that we make…and all this is connected to our habitus, and our habitus will push us into certain directions.

I think this is so fascinating.

We were breaking down more of Bourdieu’s ideas today, mainly still concentrating on habitus on an individual level and as I sat there and listened I thought to myself, although I had already heard similar ideas like this, to actually put a name to it, something to call it, that was somewhat of an a-ha! moment for me.  As our Professor said, often times we don’t put much thought into the things that guide our choices or actions or even more minute details like the tone of our voice, the hand gestures that we make, the way we walk, and so on, and yet if we stop and really reflect on these different aspects of our person we will find how our past, our habitus, has shaped us into the person we are and the choices we make and the direction that we go in life.

As I mentioned earlier, right now we’ve been concentrating on habitus on an individual level and I can’t wait to get to the next section which will be connecting habitus to larger social institutions.

I talked with my Professor after class today to go over more of Bourdieu’s ideas and the thoughts I was having and I left campus with such a sense of having discovered something hidden within me and realizing that I truly am where I am meant to be and that my educational journey has plenty more to grow and flourish.

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