Changing Power Relations: Elias & Bourdieu

Oonagh Hayes's picture
Subject Fields: 
Childhood and Education, German History / Studies, Research and Methodology, Social Sciences, Sociology
New Release: Historical Social Research (HSR) Special Issue 42.4
Changing Power Relations and the Drag Effects of Habitus. Theoretical and Empirical Approaches in the Twenty-First Century (ed. Stefanie Ernst, Christoph Weischer & Behrouz Alikhani)

In sociology, the range of theories suitable for the explanation of contemporary societal transformation processes and problems is relatively limited. The tendency to over-specialize as well as to re-treat from long-term historical perspectives to contemporary times has also strongly contributed to this kind of limitation. However, the theoretical approaches of Norbert Elias and Pierre Bourdieu are consistent with each other. They offer explanation for the relationship between the macro-structures and individual scopes of action in differently structured societies. Using the concepts of the social habitus, the figuration, and the social field, with the analysis of long-term socio- and psychogenetic developments, and the related shifts between external and internal constraints, they have also created a basis for an empirical and theoretical grasp of the historic-sociological genesis of contemporary problems.
Elias and Bourdieu also belong to those sociologists who try to emancipate themselves from the classical philosophical tradition of sociology by favoring an entanglement of theoretical and empirical approaches. The strengths of both of these research approaches present themselves, compared to other approaches in the sociology, firstly in their ability to point out medium- and long-term transformation processes within their social embedding, ambivalences, as well as unintended consequences. Secondly, they are able to name individual adaption requirements using the concepts of habitus or the drag effect. In particular, the interdependent interplay of the institutions’ and the individuals’ inertia has still not been researched enough. In this HSR Special Issue, based on Elias’s and Bourdieu’s concepts, the authors analyze topics relevant to the present day such as work, globalization, social conflicts, immigration, democratization, as well as education.

Contents and abstracts of this issue of Historical Social Research on the website of the journal.

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All the best,
the HSR team