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MITRA, JAMES L.

BSCE 2-2

WHAT IS SOCIOLOGY?
Sociology is the study of human social relationships and institutions. Sociologys subject matter is
diverse, ranging from crime to religion, from the family to the state, from the divisions of race and social class to
the shared beliefs of a common culture, and from social stability to radical change in whole societies. Unifying
the study of these diverse subjects of study is sociologys purpose of understanding how human action and
consciousness both shape and are shaped by surrounding cultural and social structures.
Contribution of PIERRE BOURDIEU in Sociology

Bourdieu routinely sought to connect his theoretical ideas with empirical research,
grounded in everyday life, and his work can be seen as cultural sociology or as a theory of
practice. His contributions to sociology were both empirical and theoretical. His key terms
were habitus, field, and symbolic violence. He extended the idea of capital to categories such
as social capital, cultural capital, and symbolic capital. For Bourdieu each individual occupies a
position in a multidimensional social space; he or she is not defined by social
class membership, but by the amounts of each kind of capital he or she possesses.
Bourdieu felt uncomfortable in the role of the ivory tower social scientist and intellectual.
Although he had no partisan affiliation, he was known for being politically engaged and active.
He supported workers against the influences of political elites and neoliberal capitalism.
Because of his independence, he was even considered an enemy of the French Left; the
French Socialist party used to talk disparagingly of "la gauche bourdieusienne" (Bourdieu's
Left).
Some examples of his empirical results include:
showing that despite the apparent freedom of choice in the arts, people's artistic preferences
(e.g. classical music, rock, traditional music) strongly correlate with their social position
showing that subtleties of language such as accent, grammar, spelling and style all part of
cultural capital are a major factor in social mobility (e.g. getting a higher paid,
higher status job).
Pierre Bourdieu's work emphasized how social classes, especially the ruling and intellectual
classes, preserve their social privileges across generations despite the myth that contemporary
postindustrialsociety boasts equality of opportunity and high social mobility, achieved through
education.
Bourdieu was an extraordinarily prolific author, producing hundreds of articles and three dozen
books, nearly all of which are now available in English. His style is dense in English translation,
but he was considered an elegant and incisive writer in French-speaking Europe.