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

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Fri Jun 04 2004 - 02:56:21 PDT

Thanks so much for this discussion of habitus, great posts and references,
all very helpful. The definition below from does not include the aspect of class
that Andy emphasizes nor some of the other points made, but it offers other
interesting angles to think about. (Maria, your discussion of Aquinas was
especially helpful, much appreciated).

Phil's term "embodied subjectivities" is a very interesting term to bring
up. It seems like it captures important aspects of the terms Dan discussed
of Jacob von Uexull's, Umwelt (for all animals) and Lebenswelt (for
people), referring to the world-as-lived of the individual, which, as Dan
explained, for a person, includes their "cultural constructions." I
wonder - could the term "habitus" be substituted for "cultural
constructions" in that previous sentence? What meaning is changed if we
say instead Lebenswelt refers to the world-as-lived of an individual, which
includes their "habitus" (instead of "cultural constructions")?

Another question: how do the terms "cultural practice" and "cultural
repertoire" (Gutierrez, Rogoff) compare with the concept of "habitus" - to
what extent can one have more than one "habitus" at their disposal?

- Steve

[The following is from the Wikepedia Encyclopedia:]
In post-structuralist thought, habitus, a concept defined by
<>Pierre Bourdieu, refers
to the total <>ideational
environment of a person. This includes the person's
<>beliefs and dispositions, and
prefigures everything that that person may choose to do. The concept of
habitus challenges the concept of
<>free will, in that within a
certain habitus at any one time, choices are not limitless­here are limited
dispositions, or readinesses for action. A person is not an
<>automaton, for there exists
flexibility in a habitus, but neither is there complete free will.

A large part of the concept of habitus is that it brings attention to the
fact that there are limitless options for action that a person would never
think of, and therefore those options don't really exist as possibilities.
In normal social situations, a person relies upon a large store of scripts
and a large store of knowledge, which present that person with a certain
picture of the world and how she or he thinks to behave within it.

A person's habitus cannot be fully known to the person, as it exists
largely within the realm of the
<>unconscious and includes
things as visceral as body movements and postures, and it also includes the
most basic aspects of thought and knowledge about the world, including
about the habitus itself.

[This Wikepedia entry includes a "discussion" tab with this comment:]
This particular nuance of the usage for the term may be recent, but the
term is common in <>Thomas
Aquinas and may, for all I know about the history of philosophy, be all
over the place much earlier. I am fairly sure that Aquinas's usage is a
Latin translation (all the word literally means is "habit") from an
Aristotelian term from the ethical works. --Michael Tinkler


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