Habits of the heart: a sketch of a Bourdieusian theory of study selection using the example of German economics students

Winzler, Tim (2019) Habits of the heart: a sketch of a Bourdieusian theory of study selection using the example of German economics students. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3368934


The project aims to explore the relationship between social origin, habitus and study selection of successful German Economics students in order to better understand the disciplinary reproduction of academic Economics as well as its current state.
It uses Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory, as applied to the areas of education and science, to develop a sketch of a theory of study selection that mirrors the relational, structural and analogical character of this particular viewpoint. In this, the work differs from the rather substantialist and subjectivist literature on the topic to be found in contemporary British and German Social Science. It questions common sense assumptions about study choice such as the concepts of an ‘intrinsic’ or ‘extrinsic’ motivation, as well as an easily distinguishable ‘reflexivity’ of structures on the part of agents. Indeed, it questions the very concept of study ‘choice’ in favour of a more relational approach.

Combining in-depth interviews with successful and interested (‘recognised’) German Economics students about their educational trajectory and study selections with socio-demographic descriptive statistics, the project attempts in essence to suggest a theoretical sociological interpretation concerning the ‘subjective’ viewpoint of the specific groups that make up this rather extraordinary group. To this end, it formulates three ideal-typical models that each link social origin, habitus and study selection differently. The Inheritors, coming from a ‘cadre’ origin, tend to favour technical-mathematical thinking while at the same time rejecting more ‘literal’ approaches, both of which attract them to Economics and its orthodox thinking. The Fallen Nobles, who come from more bourgeois backgrounds which have however lost parts of their capital, are geared towards symbolic ostentation and partial revolution, which in academic Economics tends to be bound up, at least at the moment, with ultraliberal positions. Finally, the Parvenus, coming from more petit-bourgeois backgrounds, tend to have a very faithful, that is, indulgent and docile relationship to their chosen ethical-academic framework which varies considerably even within Economics. They end up with rather technical specialisations.

In summary, it is suggested that the study selection of a group of students who are all ‘intrinsically’ motivated can in fact be attributed to quite different sociological processes and relations. This opens up new ways and fresh empirical questions to view and assess study selection.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Sociology of Knowledge, sociology of education, sociology of science, study choice, Bourdieu.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Funder's Name: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Andrew
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Mr Tim Winzler
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-74356
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2019 08:40
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2022 08:27
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.74356
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/74356

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