the habitus, as a system of explanation universal?

An extract a little scathing of an article by Claude Grignon, ” investigations on the consumption and the sociology of taste “, in the economic Review, 1988, n° 1, pp. 15-32.

Claude Grignon from a questioning relative relative to the use of the expression “style of diet or style of life,” lays out a critique of the habitus, conceived by Pierre Bourdieu as a system of explanatory general behaviours and practices of actors. In the excerpt here chosen, Claude Grignon complains that Bourdieu’s excessive reliance on systematic habit

“The definition of taste as a system of provisions developed by P. Bourdieu, is based on the transposition to the study of consumption and ways of life of contemporary patterns of homology used by E. Panofsky about scholasticism and gothic architecture : as a” shaping force of habits ” is at work in the plan of works of theology and in that of the cathedrals, of even a single principle, rule all energy consumption specific to a group ; whether the policy, morality, religion, art, clothing, furniture or food, all the consumer choices that characterize this group are a same ” mental habit “.

Talk of style, power, or style of life, that is, in the present instance to speak of style in the strong sense, or at least in the way scientist of the term, by analogy with the gothic style and, more generally, with the style that gives to all the productions of the same historical period their ” air of family “. This transfer of the concept of the habit-forming force (as P. Bourdieu translated by habitus) allows a more systematic use, but also less controlled, of the analogy. Ask that the consumption of a group maintain among themselves a ” affinity structural “, and that a practice shall book all its meaning if we replace in the ” constellation “, of which it is a part, produces an effect of Gestalt (which contributes to “stylize” the mode of life) and allows you to transcend the arbitrary division of objects of research based on concrete areas

If we admit that the same provisions are the principle of all the choices, it becomes possible to analyze the attitudes towards cooking and food in the same terms and with the same patterns as the attitudes towards the policy or in respect of education. Unfortunately, the habitus is part of these concepts which he is attempting ” to claim to understand everything “. The great virtue of explanation given to the habitus ends up away from the serious study of relationships between the various areas of consumption, and of the relations between the provisions and the conditions of life and level of life ; it is discouraging to spend the time and work necessary to input empirical mediations between the tastes and consumption. Thus the elements of the life styles described by P. Bourdieu end up pulling their whole significance of the direct relationship they have with the habitus around which they revolve. Taken by themselves, or in the relationships they have with each other, they have no more reality than the shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave ; all are interchangeable, and all are present in each of them, because all reflect the same essential principle.

As soon as all the manifestations of the habitus are the same, the selection of traits known to define the “constellation” characteristic of a style of life may be more a function of their picturesque character, and echo that they are likely to awaken in the mind of the reader that on the basis of a real knowledge and interest-based relations that unite the different levels of practices to which they relate. The metaphor-free, and of writing processes that are linked to it, is introduced by means of analogical reasoning : in terms of association and reconciliations everything becomes possible, but nothing is required. Failing to rely on empirical knowledge, the concept of habitus itself ends up by being empty of any content, and by being reduced to a principle of explanation central purely formal ; thus the habitus of P. Bourdieu for the principle foods and popular bodies is confused with a social image as a stereotypical portrayal of the people and ” the masses “, which mixes the common-places of the imagination dominant, the memories, literary (Gargantua, via L’assommoir) and the fantasies that the vitality supposed “manuals” inspiration to the intellectuals. “

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