Monthly Archives: December 2013

Fondation Pierre Bourdieu


The Fondation Pierre Bourdieu has published a piece on the study group’s recent event: Measuring Social Class in the UK: Bourdieusian approaches.

The “Fondation Pierre Bourdieu – For a European Research Space in Social Sciences” was founded in Geneva in March 2005. It is dedicated to carrying on the tradition of critical social theory and research associated with the man after whom it is named and coordinating an international network of congenial researchers. The BSA Bourdieu study group has plans to work with them in the future.


Booking Now Open: Bourdieu in Migration and ‘Race’/Ethnicity Studies

BSA Bourdieu Study Group Event:

Bourdieu in Migration and ‘Race’/Ethnicity Studies

Tuesday 25th February 2014



Key Note Speakers:

Prof. Karen O’Reilly (Loughborough University) and Dr. Nirmal Puwar (Goldsmiths)

Bourdieu’s Algerian fieldwork in the late 1950s and his personal position on colonial France informed many of his subsequent intellectual developments, while his later work was marked by the impact of migration and displacement. Yet, his failure to consider class, colonialism/postcolonialism and racism together often left him open to accusations of being a Eurocentric thinker. Bourdieu wrote in a time when immigration from former colonies was still relatively recent against the backdrop of an intellectual and political context that was nationally bounded and opposed the theoretical or political significance of ethnicity, particularly in France. In fact, survey questions that focused on ethnic identification were illegal in France; hence, the depiction of France as ethnically undifferentiated in Distinction (Bennett, et al, 2009).

However, his early work on Algeria reveals that he was interested in the relations between ethnicity and colonialism. As did his expansion of the concept of cultural capital in his later work, which showed his concern over the cultural capital holdings that migrants had in a new era of globalisation and transnational movements of people. Puwar (2008) argues that the perception of Bourdieu in the UK as primarily a class theorist with little recognition of racism in France, may well be a consequence of the lack of translations of a considerable number of texts written by him on the subject in French. This is itself a significant insight into the prevalence of class in British sociology.  Recently, scholars have gradually started to apply a Bourdieusian approach to an increased extent when investigating class and migration.  Oliver and O’Reilly (2010), for instance, apply a Bourdieusian approach in their case study of expatriates living in the Costa del Sol, Spain. In this study, Bourdieu’s methodological approach as well as his sociological concepts are drawn upon to help understand the cultural processes and the reproduction of the economic positions of the emigrants.  As these scholars argue, Bourdieu’s attempts to overcome dualism and see the interrelation between structure and action prove useful in their analyses of this migration case study.


9.15-9.45           Registration and Refreshments         Introduction

10.00-11.15       Key Note: Prof. Karen O’Reilly (Loughborough University)

11.15-11.30       Comfort Break

11.30-13.00       Presentations (3 papers)

  • Derron Wallace (University of Cambridge)  Between ‘Bad’ Blacks & ‘Better’ Blacks?: Exploring the Role of Black Cultural Capital in the Educational Experiences of Afro-Caribbean Youth in London and New York (Derron Wallace Abstract)

13.00-14.00       Lunch

14.00-15.15       Key Note: Dr. Nirmal Puwar (Goldsmiths)

15.15-15.45       Refreshment Break

15.45-16.45       Workshop Discussions

16.45-17.00       Closing Remarks

Recommended Reading for the Event

Oliver, C and O’Reilly (2010) A Bourdieusian Analysis of Class and Migration: habitus and the individualising process. Sociology, 44(1) (with C. Oliver) Available here
Special Issue: Special issue: Post-colonial Bourdieu, Guest editors: Les Back, Azzedine Haddour and Nirmal Puwar:
Puwar, Nirmal. 2004. Space Invaders: race, gender and bodies out of place. Berg. [Chapter 6 of Book]

This event costs £30 for BSA members and £40 for non-members and includes refreshments and lunch.

Registration will be open shortly.  Early booking is recommended as we anticipate this to be a popular event. There will be 35 places available.

You can book at:

The event will take place at the BSA meeting room in Imperial Wharf London

For academic queries please contact: Jenny Thatcher:

Event: Measuring Social Class: Bourdieusian Approaches


On Friday 15th November 2013 the BSA Bourdieu Study Group in conjunction with the Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy (CASP) held an event at the University of Bath centring around measures of social class using a Bourdieusian approach.


Debates around ways of measuring social class recently gained momentum through the popularised ‘Great British Class Survey’, a major study of social class patterns in contemporary Britain. This work draws on the many criticisms that have persisted over the last decade or more about the inadequacy of models of class analysis that rely fundamentally on an economic measurement of class position. These criticisms flag up the complexities of social class measurement and suggest that other factors such as social and cultural capital are important in trying to locate someone’s class position. These multiple factors of analysis have become increasingly important as patterns of work and consumption have changed with the loss of industry within the UK and other capitalist societies. The event aimed to generate discussion about the best ways to try to define and measure social class in contemporary Britain. Speakers included Professor Mike Savage (London School of Economics) and Dr. Will Atkinson (University of Bristol), who each offered their own perspective on utilising a multiple capitals approach to ascertaining class positioning.


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Prof. Mike Savage made headlines this year when he presented the results of The Great British Class Survey (GBCS). At the event Savage spoke about how the help of BBC Lab UK gave them respondent questionnaire completion rates that many research projects could only dream of. The survey was launched in January 2011 and by the summer of 2011 161 thousand had completed a unique questionnaire on different dimensions of class. Savage reflected on the sample representativeness as it was skewed towards the middle and upper classes with 26% of respondents having a post-graduate qualification. One of the problems and the ‘Achilles heel’ of the project was that the working class were not representative, even through 13,000 people in that category completed the survey. However, the nature of the skewed sample was a finding in itself and will be built on in the research teams next phase of their work to unpick power and privilege. The centre of Savages et al analysis followed in the strength of Culture, Class and Distinction (Bennett et al, 2009) which drew on leisure, holidays, media use, music for example, as a way to analyse Bourdieu’s three forms of capitals.


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The results of the survey revealed that there was seven classes:

Elite: This is the most privileged class in Great Britain who have high levels of all three capitals. Their high amount of economic capital sets them apart from everyone else.

Established Middle Class: Members of this class have high levels of all three capitals although not as high as the Elite. They are a gregarious and culturally engaged class.

Technical Middle Class: This is a new, small class with high economic capital but seem less culturally engaged. They have relatively few social contacts and so are less socially engaged.

New Affluent Workers: This class has medium levels of economic capital and higher levels of cultural and social capital. They are a young and active group.

Emergent Service Workers: This new class has low economic capital but has high levels of ’emerging’ cultural capital and high social capital. This group are young and often found in urban areas.

Traditional Working Class: This class scores low on all forms of the three capitals although they are not the poorest group. The average age of this class is older than the others.

Precariat: This is the most deprived class of all with low levels of economic, cultural and social capital. The everyday lives of members of this class are precarious.


Savage commented that the results gave them a class benchmark to use in later research. It also reveals how interested the British still are about social class. Since the results were launched on April 3rd 2013 the BBC class calculator has received over 7 million hits. Savage posed the question: ‘What does this reaction itself say about social class in Britain?’




Dr Will Atkinson started off his talk by highlighting the positive aspects of the GBCS as well as the problems with it. Atkinson’s own work re-aggregated codes from large datasets such as the: UK Labour Force Survey, General Household Survey and British Crime Survey, to mention but a few. He was interested in British ‘social space,’ so the indicators used incorporated: economic capital, cultural capital, social space, and field and occupation effects. The variables included: income, savings, parents education, primary earners occupation and employments status, as well as many others. Atkinson spoke about how he’s been looking towards Norwegian scholar’s work on social class and suggested that the alternative method to analysing social class might be the ‘Scandinavian option’.


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Atkinson stated that ‘Anything that challenges the “strangle hold” of the Nuffield theory of class can only be good’. This of course referred to the well-established Goldthorpe class schema which dates back to the early 1960s and has become a standard approach to classify class in Western sociology.


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Both papers led to a lively discussion between Savage, Atkinson and the audience. Discussions interrogated the problems and benefits of using these approaches and considered the best ways in which Bourdieusian theory can forward class analysis. What was clear is that, while for other Western societies social status is all about money and power, for Brits, birth, accent and culture are just as important as economic capital – if not more in many situations, making Bourdieu’s three forms of capital a valuable measure in analysing social class contemporary Britain .