Applying Bourdieu’s field theory: the case of social capital and education
At 2007 AERA Annual Meeting and Exhibition.
08 - 13 Apr 2007.
Full text not available from this repository.
Bourdieu’s work has provoked a number of opposing responses from educational researchers since it first came to academic public attention in the 1970s. For some, Bourdieu simply offers an extra set of concepts which can be employed to elucidate a range of social phenomena. For others, he provides a more extensive theory of practice which needs to be present at every stage of the research process. Some accuse those who use his ideas of falling for Gallic intellectuals, or catching a dose of ‘French flu’; whilst still others now define themselves as working within a ‘Bourdieusian paradigm’. This paper is a contribution to this debate. It takes a Bourdieusian approach to a key concept of social and education community policy in recent years - Social Capital. It examines the concept from different perspectives and explores the implications for both education and educational research of Bourdieu’s theoretical approach to it.
The paper begins by addressing Bourdieu’s own concepts, or ‘thinking tools’ as he described them. Here, I am particularly interested in Bourdieusian language; the language that is used in his theoretical concepts and how it differs from everyday language, as an expression of a particular epistemological stance or methodological practice. In order to illustrate this stance, I contrast Bourdieu’s use of the term ‘social capital’ with the way it has been employed by key thinkers of social and educational policy. My interest is in the implications that Bourdieu’s theory of social capital has when applied to the policy and practice found in ‘Social Capital’ initiatives in education. I draw out the problems of using social capital as a guiding principle in education, and explain how a Boudieusian perspective can both predict and explain why such problems are inevitable. I conclude with some reflections on my own explorations with this theory of practice and reflect on what might be an alternative approach in addressing issues of policy and research practice in an educational context.
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