Pierre Felix Bourdieu (August 1, 1930 - January 23, 2002) was one of the best known French sociologists. He was born in Denguin (Pyrénées-Atlantiques). From 1962 to 1983 he was married to Marie-Claire Brizard.
Bourdieu studied philosophy in Paris at the École Normale Supérieure. He worked as a teacher. Afterwards (1958-1960) he did research in Algeria, laying the groundwork for his sociological reputation. Since 1981, Bourdieu held a chair at the Collège de France. In 1993 he was honored with the "Médaille d'or du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique" (CNRS).
His work was empirical, grounded in the everyday life and can be seen as cultural sociology or as a theory of practice.
His key terms were habitus and field. He extended the idea of capital to categories such as social capital, and cultural capital. For Bourdieu the position an individual is located at in the social space is defined not by class, but by the amount of capital across all kinds of capital, and by the relative amounts social, economic and cultural capital account for.
He was also known as a politically interested and active leftist intellectual, supporting work against the influences of political elites and neoliberal capitalism.
Some examples of his empirical results include:
showing that despite the apparent freedom of choice in the arts in France, people's artistic preferences (e.g. classical music, rock, traditional music) strongly correlate with the position in the social space
showing that subtleties of language such as accent, grammar, spelling and style -- all part of cultural capital -- are a major factor in social mobility (e.g. getting a higher paid, higher status job).
Pierre Bourdieu's work emphasized how social classes, especially the ruling and intellectual classes, reproduce themselves even under the pretense that society fosters social mobility.
La distinction (1979)
Homo Academicus (1984)
La Noblesse d'État (1989)
La Misère du monde (1993)