Essay on C2 Skeggs Bourdieu Intro

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Introducing Pierre Bourdieu’s Analysis of Class, Gender and Sexuality
Beverley Skeggs

(from L.Adkins & B.Skeggs (2005) Feminism After Bourdieu. Oxford. Blackwell. Pierre Bourdieu died in January 2002, leaving a huge legacy of work, across a range of topics and disciplines. Although institutionally established as professor of sociology at the prestigious College de France his first substantive research was anthropological – on the Kabliya in Algeria (The Algerians 1958)1. From this he developed his ‘theories of practice’ in Outline of a Theory of Practice (1977) and The Logic of Practice (1980) moving to education: The Inheritors (1970), Reproduction in Education, Culture and Society (1977), Homo Academicus (1984), and The State Nobility (1989). His concerns then led to culture more generally: Distinction (1986) a critique of the judgement of taste, Photography: A Middle brow Art (1964) on art and its institutions, The Love of Art (1966), On Television (1996) and quantitative analysis of museums and The Rules of Art (1992) on literature. Interested throughout in the institutional structures and methods of knowledge: The Craft of Sociology (1968) and Pascalian Meditations (1997) develop his theory of ‘bodily knowledge’ on dispositions and recognition. Masculine Domination (2001) is a study of the power of masculinity. His more polemical and political writings, include searing critiques of neo-liberal globalisation: Acts of Resistance (1998) and Firing Back (2002). The Weight of the World (1998) is a jointly produced empirical study that documents the economic and moral poverty in contemporary France. Bourdieu was also a dedicated teacher as well as a public intellectual, organising ‘Reasons to Act’ as a political grouping and a radical publishing house. He has not always been loved as (Mottier 2001) points out: Jeannine Verdes-Leroux published a volume on Bourdieu with the subtitle ‘Essay on the Sociological terrorism of Pierre Bourdieu’, and Roger Debray described his work on TV as ‘banal’.

But what is striking in all this output is its lack of attention to feminist theory, even though Bourdieu does explore gender relations in his work: in Outline of a Theory of Practice and in the Logic of Practice, where he focuses on how a structured sexual division of labour generate a sexually differentiated perspective on the world. In Distinctions he examines the gendering of taste and Masculine Domination is devoted to exploring sexual difference. Why then has Bourdieu ignored so much feminist work, making us ask how appropriate is Bourdieu for feminist analysis? For Leslie (McCall 1992) Bourdieu is useful because of the parallels between feminist approaches to epistemology and methodology, in which theoretical frameworks and political programmes are always embedded in social relations. In this chapter I will begin the answer to this question, examining the parallels and challenges from and to feminism.

Bourdieu has been particularly useful for enabling feminists to put the issue of class back onto the feminist agenda. His analysis of capitals provide a route to be mapped between the two major strands of class theory that proved mostly infertile for feminist analysis. Firstly, that of ‘political arithmetic’ class analysis, which involves fitting people into pre-ordained classifications, in which the debates focused on the accuracy of the classifications or the accuracy of the fit, so that some feminists showed that measuring people through their father’s occupations with no account of mother’s labour was inadequate to say the least (see: (Crompton 1993; Stanworth 1984) and Lovell (Chapter ??). Secondly, the traditional and then less traditional Marxist analysis of class, in which class is conceptualised as a relationship of exploitation, primarily based on the division of labour. Feminists argued long and hard for the inclusion of women’s labour into the analysis, culminating in the long and heated ‘domestic labour…