Bourdieu and Data Analysis

Methodological Principles and Practice

by Michael Grenfell (Volume editor) Frédéric Lebaron (Volume editor)
©2014 Edited Collection X, 333 Pages


Uniquely amongst the numerous publications to appear on the work of the French social theorist Pierre Bourdieu, this book deals with data analysis, examining a range of techniques and instruments. After an introductory chapter outlining the key principles of Bourdieu’s theory, the book presents detailed examples of data being collected and analysed in a Bourdieusian way across various social science contexts. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are addressed, including analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each method, as are common data collection procedures such as interview, observation and questionnaire. Examples of Multiple Correspondence Analysis are an important feature of the book, since this was an approach particularly favoured by Bourdieu. In each case study, the pros and cons of different approaches are highlighted and the qualitative/quantitative debate is thoroughly explored. Overall, the book offers readers a blueprint to develop their own methodological plans for using Bourdieu in research practice.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Part I Bourdieu and Data Analysis
  • Bourdieu and Data Analysis
  • Introduction
  • Structural Relations
  • Language and Concepts
  • The Symbolic and the Actual
  • Bourdieu in the Field – The Study of Social Grouping
  • Bourdieu and Social Class – ‘Classifying’ Society
  • A Three-Stage Methodology
  • 1) The Construction of the Research Object
  • 2) Three-Level Field Analysis
  • Data Collection and Analysis: Ethnography or Multiple Correspondence Analysis?
  • 3) Participant Objectivation
  • Conclusion
  • Part II Qualitative
  • Introduction to Part II
  • The Interaction Between Identity, Power and Inclusive Practice in a Minority Language School
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Data Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Theory Elaboration
  • Results
  • Identity
  • Power: The Wielding of Capital
  • Inclusive Practice
  • Discussion
  • Mapping an Illegitimate Field: Power Relations in International Education
  • Introduction
  • Australian Universities and Internationalization
  • Context – The Research Sites
  • Methodology
  • Mapping the Fields
  • Level Two: The Map of Relations Between the Agents in the Field
  • Key Stakeholders in Project One – Laos
  • Key Stakeholders in Project Two – Japan
  • Discussion
  • Struggle over Resources in the Field: Forms of Capital and Exchange Rates
  • Struggles over Cultural Capital in Project 2
  • Conclusion: Bourdieu and the Story of the IELHEP Field
  • Re-presenting the Social World: Bourdieu and Graphic Illustrations of Field
  • Introduction
  • Graphic and Visual Forms
  • Graphic Representation of Key Oppositions of Fields/Social Space
  • Representing Relationships Between Social Space and Fields
  • Representing Generational Change in Social Space
  • The Art Field – St Ives, a Case Study
  • Construction of the Research Object
  • Data Collection
  • Field Analysis
  • Presentation of Results
  • Discussion of Outcomes
  • Participant Objectivation
  • An Internal Reading
  • An External Reading
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Widening Participation in Higher Education: Capital that Counts
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Analysis of the Field
  • The UK Field of Higher Education
  • Mackellar University: A Player and a Sub-Field in UK Higher Education
  • The Research Site as Micro-Field
  • Empirical Data Analysis
  • Capital That Counts
  • Academic Capital
  • Linguistic Capital
  • Social Capital
  • Professionally-oriented Capital
  • Capital in Action: Positioning and Trajectories in the Field
  • George: A ‘Fish in Water’
  • Tracey: Excluded by the Field
  • Conclusion
  • Conclusion to Part II
  • Part III Quantitative
  • Introduction to Part III
  • Classification, Social Classes and Cultural Practices: A GDA Approach Through Bourdieu’s Sociology of Culture
  • Introduction
  • Bourdieu’s Conception of Social Classes and the ‘Class-Culture’ Debates
  • The Data
  • The Construction of the Space
  • Results of Specific MCA
  • a) Number of Axes to Interpret
  • b) Interpretation of Axes
  • Euclidean Clustering
  • Conclusion
  • Playing Styles: The Differentiation of Practices in Online Video Games
  • Introduction
  • Where Are the Players?
  • The Social Space of Play Styles
  • Studying the Diversity of Play Styles
  • Endnotes
  • Trawling for Students: How Do Educational Institutions Compete for Students?
  • Background
  • Competition Between Educational Institutions
  • Competition and the Field of Education
  • Social Educator Training
  • The Current Study
  • Data and Methodology
  • Field and Capital
  • Geometric Data Analysis of the Social Educator Student Population
  • Operationalization
  • Axis One – Indirect Trajectory Types
  • Axis 2: Direct/Indirect Trajectories
  • The Third Axis: Trajectory Complexity
  • Trajectories in Terms of Capital
  • NISE in the Space of Trajectories
  • Classifying the Social Educator Students
  • Five Classes of Social Educator Students
  • Classifying the NISE Population
  • Conclusion
  • Methodological Perspectives
  • Endnotes
  • In Which Social Context Will Working-Class Students Obtain an Academic Qualification?
  • Introduction
  • Data and Methods
  • From the Predictions of Social Reproduction to a Specific Hypothesis about Working-Class Students
  • A Comparison Between Two Sites of the UPJV: Amiens and Beauvais
  • The Social Space of the UPJV Cohort of 2004
  • Conclusions
  • Annex 1: Specific MCA, Cohort 2004, UPJV
  • Annex 2: Specific MCA, Sciences, Cohort 2004
  • Endnotes
  • Education, Social Class and Politics: The Political Space of Swedish Youth in Uppsala
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Correspondence Analysis
  • The Political Space of Upper Secondary Students in Uppsala
  • Discussion
  • Appendix
  • Endnotes
  • Positions and Position-Takings Among Political Producers:The Field of Political Consultants
  • Introduction
  • Context
  • Data and Descriptive Statistics
  • Analysis: Constructing a Representation of the Field of Political Consultants
  • Findings 1: Key Oppositions Among Political Consultants
  • Findings 2: Structuring Factors
  • Findings 3: Opinions About Politics
  • Discussion and Conclusion
  • Endnotes
  • Structure and Vocabulary Flow in Chronological Corpora: Contributions of Correspondence Analysis and Labelled Hierarchy
  • Introduction
  • The Inaugural Speeches of the Spanish Prime Ministers (1979–2011)
  • Main Characteristics of the Speeches
  • Frequent Vocabulary
  • Methodology
  • Correspondence Analysis and Pattern of Vocabulary Changes
  • Chronological Clustering
  • Labelled Hierarchy
  • Characteristic Words
  • Chronological Elements
  • Labelling the Nodes
  • Application to the Inaugural Speeches of the Spanish Parliament
  • Correspondence Analysis
  • Shape of the Corpus on the First Plane
  • Vocabulary Changes Not Included in the Temporal Trend
  • Organization of the Argumentation as Reflected Into the Labelled Hierarchy
  • Synthesis of the Results
  • The Transition’s Leaders [Su-1979–Gz-1989]
  • Suárez 1979 – González 1982
  • González 1986 – González 1989
  • A New Generation of Leaders [Gz-1933–Ry-2011]
  • González 1993 – Aznar 2000
  • Rodríguez Zapatero 2004 (PSOE)
  • Rodríguez Zapatero 2008 – Rajoy 2011
  • Conclusions
  • Software Note
  • Acknowledgement
  • Conclusion to Part III
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

← VIII | IX → Acknowledgements

The contributors to this volume first came together as part of the International Classification Conference that was held in St Andrews, Scotland in the summer of 2011.

I would like to thank Prof. Fionn Murtagh of the British Classification Society who welcomed the Bourdieu strand into the conference, and indeed was so helpful in the planning stages for both the workshop and papers presentation.

I would also acknowledge with thanks the support of Dr David Wishard, President of the BCS.

In Paris, Brigitte Le Roux (Université Paris Descartes and CEVIPOF/CNRS, Sciences-Po) was tremendously helpful in putting together the programme of speakers, and indeed contributing at the conference.

We could not have done either without the active support of Philippe Bonnet (Laboratoire de Psychologie et Neuropsychologie Cognitives, CNRS, Université Paris Descartes) both at the planning stages and, especially, in conducting the MCA workshop at the conference.

My fellow editor, Frédéric Lebaron (CURAPP/CNRS, Université de Picardie – Jules Verne), was also a constant support in bringing together the conference and the book that arose from it.

I would like to thank Christabel Scaife, commissioning editor at Peter Lang, for the positive manner she engaged with the project from the outset and for the numerous ways she has, with patience, helped and supported at various stages of the way towards the book’s production.

Finally, we could not have done without the commitment and conscientiousness of our copyeditor, Fiona Loxley, who, besides working so hard to achieve such an excellent text, also made numerous changes to make this a better book. Big thanks!

Many of us who have been working with the ideas and work of Pierre Bourdieu for some time believe the next significant advances in ← IX | X → Bourdieusian applications must come through methodological advancement and integration. I need to offer my thanks and gratitude to all of the contributors to this volume for the part they have played in developing methodological uses of Bourdieu.





Interest in the work of the French social theorist, Pierre Bourdieu, has continued to grow since his untimely death in 2002. At this time, Bourdieu had risen from being a relatively obscure French sociologist in the 1960s to an intellectual star of international repute. He had long since been acknowledged in the principal fields of his research – Algeria, Education and Culture. However, since his death, as well as continued extensions and applications of his work in these areas, it is now not uncommon to discover major discussions of his ideas in such diverse disciplines as theology, geography, media and journalism, the arts, language, economics, politics, history, and philosophy. Of course, some of these fields were indeed discussed by Bourdieu himself, sometimes as preliminary remarks, sometimes more extensively. However, many remained undeveloped by him. Subsequent researchers have then been able to develop his initial ideas more comprehensibly. In other areas, bringing a Bourdieusian lens to traditional preoccupations has required a whole new conceptualization from a perspective derived from his theory of practice. Here, we are able to observe the potential of Bourdieu’s approach to elucidate a wide range of themes and topics within the social sciences. Much of the work presented in this book is of this type.

Bourdieu was probably the most ‘empirical’ of the celebrated intellectuals of the late twentieth century. Work across his career is often exemplified with copious analyses collected in field contexts and analysed from various directions. However, Bourdieu was, of course, first a philosopher, since he was trained in that subject discipline, and even taught it at the early stages of his career. The brutal experience of living and working in Algeria at the time of the war of independence there in the 1950s then contributed to his re-orientation to anthropology and then sociology, which he further ← 1 | 2 → developed in studies of education, culture and the local environs of his home community in the Bearn, France. This work shows Bourdieu’s early commitment to ‘make sense’ of real, living, practical contexts. He seems to have adopted sociology as the best means to uncover the generating processes of social situations and to ‘restore to men the meaning of their actions’. But, unsurprisingly given his background, his was a very particular form of sociology; one heavily accented by philosophical considerations. Key themes implied epistemological and ontological questions, which he answered by proposing a new view of the social world. Bourdieu himself termed this viewpoint ‘structural constructivism’ or ‘constructive structuralism’ and, in so doing, highlighted its two-way structured-structuring nature. By ‘structure’ Bourdieu intended the ordering, relational, principled processes – both material and phenomenological – that generated social activities.

He presented this perspective through a series of epistemological ‘breaks’ – from empirical sense experience, from subjective knowledge and objective knowledge, and through the analysis and elucidation of voluminous amounts of data gathered in field studies. This engagement necessitated the development of a particular form of language – articulated through Bourdieu’s key concepts. These concepts were intended as instruments or techniques used to frame data analysis. Terms such as habitus, field, capital have now become synonymous with work approaching the study of any aspect of the social world through a Bourdieusian viewpoint. As well as enhancing many discussions in a range of associated fields en passant, these concepts have themselves given rise to in-depth and detailed debate, and many books have appeared which explore and express the nature of this way of seeing the world, along with its methodological implications. The majority of these works are discursive rather than analytic, however, theoretical rather than practical. The current publication differs on both counts.

What follows in the next three parts of the book is concerned almost entirely with methodological and practical exemplification and application. We take Bourdieu’s philosophy, theory of practice and consequent concepts as axiomatic and concern ourselves with how to carry out research from such a perspective. We begin with laying some methodological foundations ← 2 | 3 → in PART I. Here, we consider the whole relationship between theory and practice, and indeed the role that Bourdieu’s key theoretical concepts have in mediating the two. We explore what this approach means in terms of the various stages of research practice; for example, the whole construction of the research object in the first place, and the key components of a field analysis. Bourdieu often approached his research by conceptualizing social space in terms of ‘fields’, which were then analysed as structural relations – inside of fields, between fields, and of those who occupied positions in them. For Bourdieu, reflexivity was also a chief feature of his work, and he argued that the scientific worth of any research might best be evaluated to the extent that the researcher was able to develop this dimension of their work. Reflexivity, or participant objectivation, is, therefore, also discussed in PART I.

PART II then deals with qualitative research. Here, we see a range of researchers pursuing studies through the deployment of traditional modes of qualitative data collection and analysis: interviews, questionnaires, observation, focus groups, diaries, and documentary analysis. Topics include school inclusion, language education, the artistic avant-garde, and higher education. These chapters are introduced through a brief consideration of their content and the style of research this approach gives rise to. We take up similar points in the conclusion to PART II in order to emphasize the relationship between the researcher and the researched, and the consequence this has for outcomes.

Qualitative research was, of course, a feature of Bourdieu’s own work throughout his career, and all of the techniques used in PART II were, to a greater or lesser extent, employed by Bourdieu himself. However, and again from his earliest work, we see how he extended his analyses through the use of quantitative methods; most noticeably in a range of statistical analyses in the 1950s and 60s. Increasingly, though, he adopted a form of ‘quantitative’ method that allowed him to graphically demonstrate the form of structural relations evident in any given data sample. Termed Geometric Data Analysis, or Multiple Correspondence Analysis, these procedures allow the researcher to correlate ‘clouds’ of individuals in terms of a range of connecting relational features. The chapters in PART III almost exclusively adopt this approach, and our aim is to show, again, how such ← 3 | 4 → techniques can enhance our understanding of a range of social contexts and synergize with the epistemological perspective offered by Bourdieu. Topics covered here include the education and economics fields, language, politics, and even video games.

We are not presenting any of the chapters as ‘ideal’ in terms of approach or method, and there are questions raised by each of them. Neither are we implying that quantitative is better than qualitative, or vice versa. However, as noted above, discussion of Bourdieu has hitherto been preoccupied with theoretical issues. These chapters show those theories in practice. The researchers here represented form part of a group who are increasingly looking to use Bourdieu in practice; indeed, we might say that the future worth of this approach depends on such applications. For our purposes, and to focus the narrative, we have selected investigations, which tend to adopt either a qualitative or quantitative approach. However, we must stress that Bourdieu’s best studies were perhaps achieved when he adopted both, and we would finally urge any would be researcher to act in a similar way.

As we have observed, Bourdieu’s sociology had the ambition to see the world in a new way. However, we need the instruments to aid us to this end. The theoretical tools to conceptualize research in this way are now well elucidated. This book aims to provide methodological exemplification more on the practical front. Our final conclusion will take up this theme again in considering the salient methodological principles for a Bourdieusian social science and the kind of knowledge it gives rise to.






← 4 | 5 → PART I

Bourdieu and Data Analysis ← 5 | 6 →





X, 333
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (February)
theory analysis research practice
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2014. 333 pp., 33 b/w ill., 35 tables

Biographical notes

Michael Grenfell (Volume editor) Frédéric Lebaron (Volume editor)

Michael Grenfell is Professor of Education at Trinity College Dublin. His background is in French Studies and his research interests lie in education, language teaching and sociology, focusing particularly on the application of Pierre Bourdieu’s work to a range of research topics. He knew and collaborated with Bourdieu for over twenty years and was three times ‘visiting scholar’ at the École des Hautes Études in Paris. He is the author of Bourdieu and Education: Acts of Practical Theory (with David James, 1998), Bourdieu: Agent Provocateur (2004), Bourdieu, Education and Training (2007), Arts Rules: Bourdieu and the Visual Arts (with Cheryl Hardy, 2007), Bourdieu, Language and Linguistics (2007) and Bourdieu: Key Concepts (2012). Frédéric Lebaron has been Professor of Sociology at the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UMR Professions-Institutions-Temporalités) since September 2013, following sixteen years at the University of Picardie-Jules Verne in Amiens, where he directed the Centre Universitaire de Recherches sur l’Action publique et le Politique, Epistémologie et Sciences Sociales. He specializes in social sciences methodology, economic sociology, political sociology and social inequality. His books include Lectures de Pierre Bourdieu (with Gérard Mauger), Les indicateurs sociaux au XXIème siècle, La crise de la croyance économique and Le savant, le politique et la mondialisation.


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