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Bourdieu and Data Analysis

Methodological Principles and Practice

Edited By Michael Grenfell and Frédéric Lebaron

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.
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Introduction to Part III


Geometric Data Analysis techniques are in direct and strong affinity with Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological theory.

First, they provide a ‘relational’ view of social reality and help to overcome any form of ‘substantialism’ in the description of groups, practices or attitudes. They are consistent with Bourdieu’s ‘cassirerian’ conception of science.

Secondly, they develop a ‘spatial’ representation of reality, which suits particularly well the project of operationalizing the notions of field and social space, notions which become central in Bourdieu’s theoretical construction after 1971. They allow the construction of fields and social spaces as research objects which are defined as reference-spaces for the sociologist.

Thirdly, GDA techniques allow a multidimensional display of variables. They are both synthetic in the sense they permit us to summarize the links between various variables and analytical in the sense that they provide a vision of a set of independent variables (the principal dimensions) which need to be taken into account from the data.

Finally, they put a stress on the visualization of individuals seen as holders of social properties (and the two clouds resulting from MCA directly relate both spaces).

In Part III, the authors all use GDA techniques and, for most of them, relate this use to a theoretical construction which is directly inspired by or connected with Bourdieu’s sociological conception. This conception is illustrated in three domains: cultural practices; education; politics.

One of the first topics is the sociology of...

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