Bourdieu’s concept of habitus addresses the theme of external influence that individuals experience from certain expectations imposed by society. Many other philosophers and sociologists previously discussed the concept of society’s influence on people and their perceptions and actions in defining different roles for people in society. However, Bourdieu was able to systematize the previous existing wide concept into a framework of cultural settings and capital. Bourdieu defined culture and its capital as one of the essential components of people’s habits and inclinations to particular interests. He questioned the theme of people’s free will and its relations with external influence.
Bourdieu’s concept of habitus views it as an independent system that influences actions and perceptions and guides the human mind in cases of fast or unconscious actions. The theory of habitus implies the underlying structure of society in which people’s behavior is subjected to regulations and limitations without any existing set of rules. Bourdieu viewed the social structure as the product of mutual influence, meaning that society and people interact on the basis of certain expectations from both people and society.
The concept of habitus presents a case of the sociological problem where structure and agency are mixed. Agency is acknowledged as people’s free will or freedom to make their own choices. On the other hand, the structure is a set of rules imposed by society that limits people’s agency. Bourdieu’s concept of habitus explains how people’s behavior could be viewed as both the product of society’s influence and a generator of dispositions within society. Habitus results from subjective experiences that contribute to the creation of an objective set of expectations applicable to other people in society, which overcomes the divide between the concept of agency and structure. For example, the legal system and law lay certain expectations or requirements upon people, and in their turn, legislators make alterations to the law. In a way, Bourdieu’s theory suggests that free will actions contribute to the creation of structure or rules.
Bourdieu’s understanding of the connection between agency and structure approaches the topic as a dialectic. The dialectic connection implies that through the process of externalization, the agency becomes the structure. On the other hand, Bourdieu’s theory suggests that the external component of structure and its influence become internalized through contribution to individuals’ habitus. Similarly, the habitus theory overcomes the divide between objectivism and subjectivism with the cycle of internalization and externalization. An individual’s subjective perceptions contribute to society’s objectivism, which, in turn, performs as the foundation for other people’s subjective opinions.