October 04, 2005


In post-structuralist thought, habitus, a concept defined by Pierre Bourdieu, is the total ideational (or, better yet, existential) environment of a person. This includes the person's beliefs and dispositions, and prefigures everything that that person may choose to do.
The concept of habitus challenges the concept of free will, in that within a certain habitus at any one time, choices are not limitless—here are limited dispositions, or readinesses for action. A person is not an automaton, for there exists flexibility in a habitus, but neither is there complete free will. A large part of the concept of habitus is that it brings attention to the fact that there are limitless options for action that a person would never think of, and therefore those options don't really exist as possibilities. In normal social situations, a person relies upon a large store of scripts and a large store of knowledge, which present that person with a certain picture of the world and how she or he thinks to behave within it. A person's habitus cannot be fully known to the person, as it exists largely within the realm of the unconscious and includes things as visceral as body movements and postures, and it also includes the most basic aspects of thought and knowledge about the world, including about the habitus itself. Retrieved from wikipedia

Habitus can be defined as a system of durably acquired schemes of perception, thought and action, engendered by objective conditions but tending to persist even after an alteration of those conditions. He sees Habitus as the key to reproduction because it is what actually generates the regular practices that make up social life. It is the product of social conditioning and so links actual behavior to class structure. Bourdieu insists on the importance of a reflexive sociology in which sociologists must at all times conduct their research with conscious attention to the effects of their own position, and in particular their own set of internalized structures. Bourdieu's sociology in general can be characterized as an investigation of the pre-reflexive conditions that generate certain beliefs and practices that are generated in capitalist systems.

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