Confronting the limits of success in education: The case for a Bourdieuian research methodology

Year: 2004

Author: Mills, Carmen, Gale, Trevor

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The injustices of 'allowing certain people to succeed, based not upon merit but upon the cultural experiences, the social ties and the economic resources they have access to, often remains unacknowledged in the broader society' (Wacquant, 1998, p. 216). Cognisant of this, we argue that education requires researchers' renewed examination and explanation of its involvement in the construction of social and economic differences. Specifically, we make the case for researchers to consider the theoretical work of Pierre Bourdieu, outlining what we understand by a Bourdieuian methodology, which is informed by socially critical and post-structural understandings of the world. From our perspective, such methodology attempts to dig beneath surface appearances, asking how social systems really work, and how ideology or history conceals the processes that oppress and control people, in order to reveal the nature of oppressive mechanisms (Harvey, 1990). By asking 'whose interests are being served and how' (Tripp, 1998, p. 37) in the social arrangements we find, Bourdieu can help us to 'work towards a more just social order' (Lenzo, 1995, p. 17) in which the subordinated may become 'empowered to take control of their lives and change the conditions which have caused their oppression' (Beder, 1991, p. 4).