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Habitus is Bourdieu's major contribution to anthropological theory. On page 408-409 of our reading, he provides some examples of habitus. Can you suggest some other examples? Is this just a fancy way of talking about "social facts?"



Jill Coen


Habitus does not seem to be overglorified “social facts.” At first glance, I thought the two concepts could be used interchangeably because of Bourdieu’s characterization of the habitus as a “secret code” acting below the level of consciousness that creates symbolic meaning through subconscious actions, expressions, and orientations in interactions and social settings (408-409). Where the habitus is distinguished, or taken a step further, from social facts is in the way habitus’ “power of suggestion” and “symbolic power” does not] [only tell a person what he/she must do, but also “tells him what he is, and thus leads him to become durably what he has to be” (409). My understanding of this dense reading might be off the mark, but it seems that habitus moves beyond the social decorum governed by the intangible law and public scrutiny of social facts. Habitus derives meaning from those interactions and contains symbolic identity and the cultural distinctions contained therein. To revisit my example of social fact from a few weeks earlier—the act of giving gratuities—our culture’s habitus not only compels people to tip when receiving a service, it derives meaning from the tipping/service interaction in terms of gender, class, race, and economics.


Alexandra Gagne

I agree with both Sophie and Jill. When I was reading about habitus, I was not only reminded of social facts, but also Bateson's idea of ethos, and the linguistic idea of frames. These are all related in their examination of social rules, but I think that social fact is the most unrelated of these four ideas. Social fact is something that people are generally unconscious of, except when they are trying to identify them. I know that I live my life, rarely thinking about why it is that I wear clothes. On the other hand, habitus is something learnt by trial and error. One learns from experience how to act, and what to feel in certain situations. This is related to frames and ethos because these are learnt sets of behaviors for certain situations.


Perhaps a current example of habitus is elevator etiquette. You learn from experience that you do not stand facing the wall, or that you do not dance around and sing when someone is in there with you, even if there is music playing. It is not a social fact because it's something that you can easily disobey as child without thinking it's abnormal. After experience, you realize what the correct behavior is.



Chelsey Megli

I agree with all the posts above. Habitus seems to me to be much more individualized than social facts. Habitus differs from individual to individual and, in my own example, from family to family. My first thought when reading about Habitus was when I used to go to my friends' houses as a child for dinner. A lot of the practices would be very different from what I was used to; not just the food, but how people were addressed at the dinner table, how long it was appropriate to stay seated, etc. I think that there is a whole class of social behavior that is learned, but does not impact the collective mindset to the point that it would qualify as culture. This class is Habitus.


Tyson Johnson

I agree with Jill that social facts and habitus are not the same concept. The way in which they are acquired is very similar. In both situations people are not conscience that they are being taught to act and think in a certain way by their environment. However, there are a number of differences between habitus and social facts. Habitus seems to occur on a much more personal level than social facts. Social facts govern large portions of the population, where as habitus can be specific to one small group or even an individual. Habitus is also more fluid than social facts. If a person becomes conscience of his or her habitus it can be changed. However, it would be near impossible for a single person to change a social fact.



Habitus as Class based Social Facts

Heddy Waters


This is my interpretation:


In this essay, Bourdieu is trying to argue against the “interactionist approach” to language; that every human has equal ability to require the legitimate competence of language usage and that language is only limited by its own diffusion. He argues that language is in fact subject to power dimensions through the designation of an “official language,” and through the power dynamics and relations that are forced upon others that speak variations of that language. Not everyone has equal access to education, and cannot develop equal language competencies (as measured by the “official,” government-imposed language).


This is where habitus fits in. Habitus means the social facts that are attributed to the group, class, sect, whatever, that one identifies with. The concept of ‘habitus’ is frequently used in discussions of class, and thus I attributed it in this case, to the forms of language one practically uses, as per one’s identification. Power-dynamics come into play here, because users of the “official language” are prescribed power over those using other forms of language. One’s “language habitus,” or the forms of language one habitually uses, comes under scrutiny, is a form of identification, and is deemed worth more or less than other forms. The habitus is not the “reproachful looks” or “tones” as mentioned above, but is rather enforced by them, i.e. using slang in front of a judge might incite disdainful tones or language corrections. Thus, language habitus is in a way one’s language social standing; the usage of a certain form of language reflects belonging to a certain group with certain social/power dynamics.


An example of language habitus in action can be observed with immigrants in many European countries. There exists always the official, dominant language that companies and businesses run by. Immigrants frequently speak an accented or not completely ‘correct’ form of language. When applying for jobs, their language skills are compared to the “official language,” which dictates how they should be speaking. They are judged by a ‘native,’ who ‘correctly’ utilizes the official language, and thus exerts power over the individual, whose language capabilities are ‘sub-par.’ The learned language habitus for the categorization ‘foreigner’ is repeatedly reinforced by job rejections, corrections, and comparisons to the official language.


Side note: Social facts are any and all cultural facts that dictate our behavior. Habitus is comprised of social facts, but the habitus refers to the patterns of behavior related to a group or identification. Social facts comprise the identification, but habitus is more a cluster of social facts linked to a social standing/power-dynamic.


re:Habitus as Class based Social Facts

Lauren Deal

My understanding of Habitus varies, I think, from that which Heddy presents. Habitus parallels the ideas of parole and performance in Saussure's and Chomsky's theories of language but deals with all forms of social participation. What I mean by this is that habitus is culture in practice. In the same way that speakers of a language are guided by the rules of the language, so are participants in culture guided by its rules. However, in the same way that there is no ideal speaker, there is no ideal practioner. These underlying systems are guidelines for human behavior not computer programs from which we can not deviate. Thus an inidivual is capable of developing certain predispositions for how they use the system or how they function with in it that may not be exactly what is perscribed. Essentially, habitus allows for our concept of free-will to be reconicled with culture. I think, then, that habitus is an individual's domain rather than that of a class or subculture and thus not a social fact. For example, a person may be inclined to say "yous guys" although it is neither gramatically correct nor a feature of a specific regional dialect or linguistic tendency. It is simply an individual tendency that has been picked up or developed over time. However, it is subject to change based on its reception in use. That is to say if this person has a particularly hard-nosed grammar teacher in middle school, it may very well be stamped out. This is where habitus differs from social fact. A social fact would be a feature of a group of people and thus given a home in a community. It is much harder to stamp out ebonics by simply putting a child in class with a strict standard english grammarian because ebonics is not an individual feature but the language of a community.


re re:Habitus as Class based Social Facts

Heddy Waters


I do not think habitus is in anyway the same as langue; I think he is using language habitus to show precisely that not everyone has the same language competence or same langue. Thus, differences in linguistic habitus, practical uses of language, create power-plays among individuals, which I took to be the point of the article. To me, habitus = linguistic competence and thus, practical linguistic behaviors. Where class, groups, identification, etc. come into play, is that one’s practical linguistic behavior is influenced by one’s identification, class, group, etc., which influences level of education (if one can obtain the correct “competence”), dialects used, and slang.




As for the scenario mentioned, two different habitus are coming into contact with one another. The grammar teacher holds a powerful position over the child in school, as granted by the “official language.” The child’s usage of “you guys” gets stamped out due to the ‘superiority’ vested in the teacher (as in the teacher is assumed to know what is ‘right’), and thus through these corrections and disdainful glances the child’s habitus is formed. The child is a member of an educated group, class, whatever, and its habitus, or behavior, is in accordance. In the future, the child might even correct others, and thus he has a higher language competence (as measured by the “official language” and as obtained through his education) and can exercise power upon those that do not have the same competence.


Habitus as a Biologically Derived Phenomenon?

Sara Coburn

Habitus is Bourdieu's major contribution to anthropological theory. On page 408-409 of our reading, he provides some examples of habitus. Can you suggest some other examples? Is this just a fancy way of talking about "social facts?"




I do not think that habitus can be interchanged with the term “social fact.” Bourdieu so fervently presses on the notion that habitus is unconscious that it seems to me almost Freudian but with a cultural twist. Obviously habitus is culturally-derived, but the subliminal appearance of habitus gives us the idea that it is something much more deeply engrained than just social fact. From aspects of culture as minute (or seemingly minute) as the way you pronounce your “r’s,” habitus is at work and is something that we all are subjected to. For women, Bourdieu claims, speaking properly ultimately leads to a good marriage and social advancement. This is not a social fact because social facts are conscious things such as etiquette, dressing appropriately, or even refraining from gossip.




Some habitus examples that I can think of off the top of my head are my gait when I walk and playing with my hair during class. Thinking about this, as I am trying really hard to bring them into my consciousness, I feel that the gait of my walk is something natural while also instinctly different from the gait of men. I probably take more steps than men to move my hips more than a man would. This subconsciously is me speaking of my femininity and letting the public know that I am a healthy, fertile female. Also, the playing of my hair in class similarly points to the healthy female notion. While this is a bit biologically oriented, I still think that these are examples of habitus that are instinctive within us that help us move throughout society and use culture to our benefit.


Re: Alexandra Gagne (By Sara Coburn)

I agree with Alexandra, that perhaps habitus is something more psychologically based rather than biological. I thought the examples she provided were interesting, that we do not face the wall, something that seems so obvious but that is actually something we learned but we do not think about it. Also, I think that habitus is something that perhaps effects our social existence more strongly even than social facts. If we did face the wall and did other strange things that did not become habitus, we would probably be outcasts of society.




Shayna H Cass

Habitus is the unconscious cultural material that lives to some extent within our bodies. Habitus is habitual behavior like a handshake or a nod. I think facial expressions are a good example of habitus. I have been told on occasion, that I am very “animated.” I tend to express myself in an overly exaggerated manner. I don’t realize I’m doing this until someone points it out to me, usually by laughing because apparently it’s pretty hilarious. When I think of habitus, this is the kind of thing I think of because it’s just a natural aspect of my personality that I’m not aware of unless someone else points it out to me.


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