If I were to ask Pierre Bourdieu: "What is class to you?", what would he answer?

I've read some research on Bourdieu's work, but I have yet to encounter a clear answer on his interpretation of class.

I have some options in mind which might be valid answers:

A) There are an infinite amount of classes. There are as many classes as there are fields. E.g. social classes, symbolic classes, economic classes, status classes, cultural classes, bread-making, etc..

B) There are a limited amount of classes, and these classes are defined by your acquired social, cultural and economical capitals. Capitals which are cumulative, temporal and require recognition by others.

C) Class is an economical construct, specifically "an occupational division of labor". This view approaches Erik Wright and Max Weber's constructions of class, EXCEPT for Bourdieu's addition that classes are intrinsically interwoven with other fields like social life, status, cultural capital, running a bakery (as an example of a specific field), ..

But I cannot tell if his view is one of these or something else.

Thank you

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    I like the content of the question, but its form ("multiple choice") is not ideal for this site. Maybe you could rephrase it? – DBK Aug 8 '14 at 18:36
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    i haven't read much of his; but would suggest that asking how someone in particular defines a term isn't the best question. perhaps better to ask: how is he using the term here - in some quote or other – user6917 Aug 9 '14 at 4:16
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    I think it's overall a good question, so I've edited lightly to make it look less like "answer a multiple-choice question" and more like "these are my thoughts". Hamburger, feel free to edit differently if you don't like the change. – Rex Kerr Aug 9 '14 at 19:10
  • Thank your for the rephrasing Rex Kerr. I've sent the question to my sociology professor as well - will let you know when I get an answer. – hamburger Aug 10 '14 at 11:56

My Sociology professor, Stijn Oosterlynck (Antwerp University, Belgium) , has answered me in Dutch.

This is the original answer:

Bourdieu gebruikt een combinatie van cultureel en economisch kapitaal om sociale klasse te definiëren. Essentieel is dat een sociale klasse niet kan gedefinieerd worden op basis van socio-economische posities, maar tot stand komt in de culturele (consumptie) praktijk van mensen.

And this is how Google Translate renders it:

Bourdieu uses a combination of cultural and economic capital to define Social class It is essential that a social class can not be defined on the basis of socio-economic positions, but is created in the cultural (consumption) practice of people.

So what have I learned: Bourdieu didn't shy away from using the word class.

Additionally: Bourdieu noted that classes were fractured because people carry different individual capitals => class is fractured because of the different capital-compositions. E.g. businessmen focus on economic capital and violinists focus on cultural capital, but both might be part of the same class.


It was probably Gramsci that first began to inflect the purely economic classes of Marx to incorporate cultural & social capital. Bourdeiu has carried on this tradition.

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