Bourdieu’s sociology of education is likely to be the aspect of his work with which most readers are familiar. Rather than simply as a contribution to a specialist area of sociology, this aspect of Bourdieu’s writing and research is best understood as an extension of his theory of practice to construct a general ‘theory of symbolic violence’, on the one hand, and an equally general theory of the social reproduction of advanced industrial societies, on the other. It can also profitably be read as the focused application to a particular field - education - of the theoretical framework outlined in the previous chapter.
In this chapter I will first summarise the basic propositions of Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic violence. This will be followed by a discussion of his best-known studies of the relationship between education and social reproduction. The final section will deal briefly with Bourdieu’s model of the processes whereby the French system of higher education reproduces itself.