RE: another view of Panofsky: what is "habitus"?

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Wed Jun 02 2004 - 15:10:34 PDT

So far as I know, "habitus" is a concept of Pierre Bourdieu, and as I
understand it, it goes like this.

People who have been brought up and belong in a given class or (more likely)
class fraction, have a set of habits, tastes (especially) preferences, ways of
doing things, etc., across all the different fields of social practice (i.e.,
eating, listening to music, making conversation, etc.) and it is these tastes
which mark them out as a member of that class, letting everyone know their
likely destiny in life, their expectations etc., their "place."

The *habitus* is the principle which generates those tastes (dispositions)
across all fields (areas of practice), so that (for example) a young worker,
brought up in a working class habitus, knows how to appreciate a style of music
he hasn't heard before ("It's stupid" or "It's like church music") in a way
which is in tune with his class. ...

You can read about it at:


Quoting IRAJ IMAM <>:
> Steve asked: I am struggling with the concept of "habitus."
> I do not know much about it either. But I found this link comparing
> Bourdieu's 'habitus' with Peirce's 'habit.'
> "Peirce defines 'habit' through linking the concepts of 'habit' and
> 'belief'. This is made explicit through Peirce's statement that "belief
> is
> of the nature of a habit" 3. What Peirce means by this is that our
> beliefs
> are based on the "habit[s] of mind" we adopt 4. Peirce points out that
> we do
> not require proof, in any rigorous, philosophical sense, that our
> beliefs
> are true. Instead, we are content to base our beliefs on our habits of
> mind,
> provided these habits yield beliefs which we think are true 5"
> "Bourdieu defines the 'habitus' in terms of structures, such as
> cognitive
> and motivating principles and procedures to follow 6, which are
> internalised
> by the subject 7 and which then come to generate and organise social
> practices and representations 8. The subject's habitual patterns of
> thought
> are determined by the 'habitus'. As on Peirce's model, these habitual
> patterns of thought cannot claim the status of 'objective truths'. The
> habitus is constituted through the past experiences, both individual and
> collective, of subjects within the world. Therefore, the habitual modes
> of
> thought licensed by the habitus are based upon experiences of social
> practices and not upon an inquiry into what is true. Yet, it is these
> modes
> of thought which give rise to belief."
> "Peirce's model entails that habits of thought are based on some sort of
> consensual reality and not upon truth in an objective sense. Similarly,
> there is no fixed point or ground in Bourdieu's model. Habits of thought
> and
> action are determined by the habitus. However, the habitus is formed
> through
> nothing other than structures arising out of "the arbitrariness of a
> culture" 15. The habitus resembles an infinite series of contexts which
> are
> embedded in one another but are not anchored to any fixed point or
> absolute.
> In this way, the 'habitus' is similar to Foucault's model of discursive
> structures and disciplinary knowledges. Yet, although both Peirce and
> Bourdieu's models are ungrounded, neither entirely abandons reference to
> an
> external reality. Peirce defends the notion that there is "some external
> permanency - something upon which our thinking has no effect" 16 and
> Bourdieu's concept of 'the field' entails that human beings interact
> with
> objective structures in the external world."
> iraj imam
> The Center for Applied Local Research

Andy Blunden

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