Sociology of Identity Essay Example

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This paper seeks to discuss Bourdieu’s idea of cultivation and performance of identity by examining tastes and consumption patterns within different social classes. The next stage accounts for similarity between Marxist and Bourdieu’s approach to class and identity. Logically, Identity is defined as the state of being oneself. Identity further highlights the importance of an individual, the group, and interaction between the two parties. In the social context, identity is understood by examining variety of roles that a person occupies and ratify at a specific stage in life.

Bourdieu’s Idea of the Habitus and Identity

In an argument by Bourdieu, various forms of capital have generated new structures of inequality. Apart from access to economic capital, people may accumulate cultural capital. The cultural capital comprises of such things as educational achievements, art, literature, and music (Smith, 2001). They act as sources of social difference and distinction which eventual gives some people edge over others (Felicity, 2011, p. 26). Transmission of cultural capital is easily done via educational system, families and is ultimately translated into wealth. In some work environment, knowledge of classical furniture is fundamental thus, a person who does not have this skill will fall under a lower class. Uneven distribution of cultural capital in a society has lead to emergence of upper and lower class and eventual divergence in educational attainment.

Aside from high educational attainment among the upper class, social capital imparts the negligible signs of social status, which suggest and cultivate success. These signs include posture, demeanour, accent, clothing, and manners. Bourdieu termed these specifics as habitus, which is closely linked with personal tastes e. g music, art, and literature. It is hence clear that tastes acts as a perfect approach to express something about oneself in the contemporary society. Through social capital, class can be linked to personal identity. .

According to Bourdieu (1984, p.372), habitus is a virtue that is made of necessity and is better explained by the case of working social class. Necessity, in relation to the working class, is a term that means an unavoidable denial of necessary goods. Bourdieu clearly elaborates that necessity brings about a taste for necessity, which then results to adaptation and subsequent acceptance of the necessary. Habitus is therefore a process of conditioning whereby individuals are exposed to working class conditions with a view of building perceptions and appreciation of that class. In short, habitus is a means through which people develop a system of likes and dislikes.

Bourdieu (1984) explains how specific efficacy of the habitus is evident where same income is linked with different patterns of consumption. The assumption here is that other selection criteria intervenes when making decisions. An example given by Bourdieu (p.376) is a supervisor who earns greater income, 34,581 francs, as compared with a skilled worker, 25,716, but allocates similar expenditure on food consumption. This means that they share the same value of eating well. The conclusion made by Bourdieu is that members of a class have the capacity to make dispositions and interests that are the same. In the end, they can participate in similar practices while also adopting the same stance.

Choices made by persons are based on the taste of necessity in addition to the information deficiency and lack of cultural capital. From the discussion, a taste are socially conditioned and is a social weapon that separates high from low earners, sacred from the profane and the legitimate from the illegitimate in subjects such as foods, drinks, leisure, and other functions of the consumptions.

Bourdieu’s idea exemplifies the fact that individuals and groups attempts to disrupt or maintain distribution of social capital. In the field of consumption, the ball of contention is in the definition of legitimate, middlebrow, and popular culture. From this perspective, those who are in control of large economic and cultural capital dominates and seeks to establish and impose hierarchy of tastes and preferences on those with less capital. Briefly, social classes allow a person to explain and predict the action of the persons it classifies.

Marxist approach to Class and Identity

Marxist emphasizes the power of class location in the formation of identity. Marx identifies two major social classes as critical elements in the formation of identity. These two classes comprise of the “bourgeois” class, who owned production within the society and the “working” class, who had the labour to sell (Woodward, 2000). In this perspective, the working class was disadvantaged given that they were exploited by the “proletarian” class. Marxist basis is similar to Bourdieu’s in the sense that identity is obtained from social classification based on economic status. Similar to Bourdieu’s argument, Marxist maintained that class is the driving force in the process of determining identity.

In essence, sociologists are capable of distinguishing between class types e. g working, middle, and upper class by referring to economic indicators such as education, occupation, and incomes. Marx assumes that individuals within a specific class location will have an identity equivalent to that social class. This sends a message that a person within a working class will be assigned an identity typical of the working class. The identity of this working class is clearly demonstrated by few educational aspirations and backwardness in cultural learning (Felicity, 2011, p.9). Moreover, individuals at the upper class occupations will display advanced identity including formal dressing, sending children to elite private schools and taking up the western culture.


According to Bourdieu, the concept of identity is generated not only by economic capital but also by cultural capital. This literature gave a vivid account of how habitus, which is closely linked with personal tastes, acts as a perfect approach to express something about oneself in the contemporary society. Bourdieu explains that tastes decisions are practiced in all social classes and personal domains across all social cultures and are essential in expression of ones identity. Marx proposed that unequal division of wealth under capitalism eventually lead to emergence of class divisions. These unequal social divisions in due course shape life opportunities and further form distinctive identities in the context of relationship to work.

Reference List

Bourdieu, P., 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. London; Melbourne: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Felicity, G. Woodward. I., 2011. SGY230 Sociology of Identity. Queensland: Griffith University.

Smith, P., 2001. Cultural Theory: An Introduction, UK: Blackwell.

Woodward, K., 2000. Questioning Identity. London: Routledge.