23 SES 12 B, Radical Social Theory for Radical Times: Putting Theory to Work in Educational Research II
Symposium, Part 2
The core of Bourdieu’s relational theory-as-method consists of the inseparable concepts of field and habitus. All too often, however, these concepts are used in an isolated, de-radicalised way (Reay, 2004). This paper therefore focuses on Bourdieu’s concept of illusio – our commitment to participating in a field and our investment in its ‘stakes’. Rarely discussed beyond Bourdieu’s own writings, it is central to his thinking, and crucial to understanding the articulation between the bounded agency of habitus and the determinations of the field. The paper applies this theorisation to a qualitative case study of professionals supporting young people’s school-to-work transitions in England. This case has wider implications across Europe, given its setting in a context of austerity measures impacting sharply on educational provision. Government austerity policies shifted the ‘stakes’ of this field from client-centred ethical practice to the meeting of economic targets, shaking the illusio of practitioners within it, eroding the fit between their habitus and the field, and reducing professional capacity as some chose to quit Connexions on ethical grounds. This ethical corrosion has particularly vital implications in times of economic crisis, for educational policy as well as for professional practice, for learners and for educational research itself.
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