23 SES 11 B, Radical Social Theory for Radical Times: Putting Theory to Work in Educational Research I
Symposium, Part 1
Bourdieu used field, along with habitus and capital, to uncover the workings of power and inequality in particular social spaces. However, as various analyses of his work have shown (Grenfell and James, 1998; Harker, Mahar and Wilkes, 1990; Martin, 2003; Warde, 2004), Bourdieu refined and adapted his theoretical tools over time, in order to understand changing social conditions. In relation to higher education (HE), he moved from emphasising the autonomy of the HE field, to a consideration of the power struggles involved as a result of the growing heteronomy of the field (Deer, 2003; Maton, 2005). Critical accounts of Bourdieu’s work suggest that his tools can be further refined and adapted to help develop understandings of current conditions (Mills, 2008; Naidoo, 2004). This paper considers how field as a concept may be useful at a time of challenge and change to HE on a global scale. A specific example of the application of ‘field’ to a study of diversification of HE is offered. The paper concludes by considering the strengths and limitations of using Bourdieu’s tools for understanding the impact of austerity measures on opportunities to participate in HE.
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