In 1992 the French social theorist Pierre Bourdieu published Les Regles de l'art later translated as The Rules of Art (1996a). It is from this book that we have borrowed the title of our own book – Art Rules. In it, we take Bourdieu's ideas and theories, both derived from studies of art and culture, and from other social topics such as education, economics, philosophy and politics, and apply them to a range of art fields. It is comparatively rare to have topics such as painting, photography and museums discussed almost entirely in terms of the ideas of one person. So why do it?
First, the work of Bourdieu is now attracting considerable attention in a range of disciplines in the social sciences and cultural studies. This interest can be seen as the culmination of more than forty years' work as a researcher since his first publications in the 1950s. His death in 2002 seems to have done nothing to lessen the enthusiasm of researchers and scholars in diverse academic fields to understand and apply his thinking to their own work. There is clearly a sense that approaching various topics and problems from a Bourdieusian perspective offers insights which are not readily available through conventional approaches. Such areas as language, media studies, sport, fashion, poetry, painting and literature, as well as culture and art, have all drawn on Bourdieu's work (directly and indirectly) in developing and elucidating a number of strands hitherto underrepresented by established methods.
The Rules of Art was published rather late in Bourdieu's career, for much of which he was best known internationally as a 'sociologist'. His major topics of study were Algeria, where he undertook military service in the 1950s, and education. Indeed, it is probably still as a sociologist of education that he is most well known, and he was a seminal figure in the renaissance of that discipline from the early 1970s. Works such as Les Héritiers (1964) and La Reproduction (1970) offered an entirely new perspective on the principles and outcomes of contemporary education for those who passed through it. These works culminated with major publications on Bourdieu's own academic world- Homo Academicus (1984) - and the elite training school in France, La Noblesse d'état (1989). It was not by chance that Bourdieu targeted education for his studies. In a climate of post-war renewal, education was seen as a principal means by which the new world would be built, and so it proved in many respects. In these works, Bourdieu offers a kind of social anthropology of the French education system, employing a range of