Two examples of the use of Habitus to understand processes of marginalisation: suggestive lessons for policy and theory

Mia Arp Fallov, Jo E. Armstrong

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This paper offers an evaluation of the concept of habitus from a policy oriented perspective, drawing
on empirical material from two research projects; one on urban regeneration, and one on women’s
working lives. Addressing different substantive areas, these projects found common strengths and
weaknesses in applying habitus to understand processes of continuity and change in institutions and
individuals’ lives. The concept provides a temporal and spatial framework that is valuable in
explaining the embodiment and reproduction of inequality. Using habitus points to the importance of
social relations and trajectories over the long term, suggesting lessons for social policy which
frequently tends towards individualized and ‘quick fixes’ to embedded social problems. These insights
include the complexity of interaction between forms of capitals, and between the institutional and
individual domains; the tension between aspirations to change and resistance to transformation; and
the importance of considering values in combating marginalization. However, in showing the
complexity of processes of inequality it becomes difficult to derive lessons that are easily translatable
into policy actions. Nevertheless, applying at least some minimal insights from using the concept may
offer substantial gains in terms of developing effective policies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2009
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventBeyond Bourdieu - Habitus, Capital & Social Stratification - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 1 Dec 20092 Dec 2009


ConferenceBeyond Bourdieu - Habitus, Capital & Social Stratification


  • habitus
  • Bourdieu
  • marginalisation
  • neighbourhood regeneration
  • employment
  • women and work
  • gender


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