Bourdieu, habitus, power, reflexivity, social work, symbolic violence


During the mid- to late-twentieth century, Pierre Bourdieu crated a conceptual framework that describes how underclass status becomes embodied in individuals, and the ways that personal, professional, and political fields perpetuate this oppression. Bourdieu’s theories also outline the role of the “critical intellectual” in undermining oppression and fighting for social justice. Using key terms from Bourdieu’s explanatory framework, this article examines the power relations and symbolic violence built into the interactions between social workers and clients, and offers suggestions as to how reflexive and relational social work can help workers reduce this impact. This paper also explores the role of social workers in addressing social inequalities by examining Bourdieu’s writings in terms of macro approaches to disparity.

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