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Pierre Bourdieu


Best Known For:

  • Contributions in the areas of general sociological theory and the link between education and culture
  • Pioneering terminologies such as habitus and symbolic violence
  • His work Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste


Pierre Bourdieu was born August 1, 1930.


He died of cancer on January 23, 2002.

Early Life And Education:

Bourdieu was born in southern France in a tiny village where the native tongue was still occitan. After excelling in his studies at the public high school in the nearby town of Pau, he moved to the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris, from which he was accepted into the Ecole Normale Supérieure. There he studied philosophy.

Career and Later Life:

Upon graduation, Bourdieu taught philosophy at the high school of Moulins, a small town in mid-central France, then in 1958 took a post as lecturer in Algiers. During the Algerian War (1958-1962), Bourdieu undertook ethnographic research through a study of the Kabyle peoples, resulting in his first book, Sociologie de L'Algerie (The Algerians). It was an immediate success in France and was published in America in 1962.

In 1960 Bourdieu began teaching at the University of Paris before gaining a teaching position at the University of Lille where he remained until 1964. It was at this time that Bourdieu became Director of Studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and founded the Center for European Sociology.

In 1975, with the research group he had formed at the Center for European Sociology, he launched the interdisciplinary journal Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales, which he shepherded until his death. Through this journal, Bourdieu sought to denationalize social science, to break down the preconceived notions of ordinary and scholarly commonsense, and to break out of established forms of scientific communication by commingling analysis, raw data, field documents, and pictorial illustrations. Indeed, the motto for this journal was "to display and to demonstrate."

In 1993 Bourdieu was honored with the "Médaille d'or du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique" while in 1996, he received the Goffman Prize from the University of California, Berkeley and in 2001 the Huxley Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Major Publications

  • The School as a Conservative Force (1966)
  • Outline of a Theory of Practice (1977)
  • Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture (1977)
  • Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (1984)


Wacquant, L. (2002). The Sociological Life of Pierre Bourdieu. International Sociology. Vol 17(4): 549–556.

Johnson, A. (1995). The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers.

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