Social space, social class and Bourdieu: Health inequalities in British Columbia, Canada

Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Health & Place (Impact Factor: 2.81). 04/2007; 13(1):14-31. DOI: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2005.09.011
Source: PubMed


This article adopts Pierre Bourdieu's cultural-structuralist approach to conceptualizing and identifying social classes in social space and seeks to identify health effects of class in one Canadian province. Utilizing data from an original questionnaire survey of randomly selected adults from 25 communities in British Columbia, social (class) groupings defined by cultural tastes and dispositions, lifestyle practices, social background, educational capital, economic capital, social capital and occupational categories are presented in visual mappings of social space constructed by use of exploratory multiple correspondence analysis techniques. Indicators of physical and mental health are then situated within this social space, enabling speculations pertaining to health effects of social class in British Columbia.

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Available from: Gerry Veenstra, Sep 29, 2015
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    • "Some such studies have brought a better understanding of the cultural underpinnings of choicerelated behaviours, and the manner in which social inequalities in health are perpetuated (e.g. Abel and Frohlich, 2012; Cockerham, 2005; Veenstra, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: The promotion of choice is a common theme in both policy discourses and commercial marketing claims about healthcare. However, within the multiple potential pathways of the healthcare ‘maze’, how do healthcare ‘consumers’ or patients understand and experience choice? What is meant by ‘choice’ in the policy context, and, importantly from a sociological perspective, how are such choices socially produced and structured? In this theoretical article, the authors consider the interplay of Bourdieu’s three key, interlinked concepts – capital, habitus and field – in the structuring of healthcare choice. These are offered as an alternative to rational choice theory, where ‘choice’ is regarded uncritically as a fundamental ‘good’ and able to provide a solution to the problems of the healthcare system. The authors argue that sociological analyses of healthcare choice must take greater account of the ‘field’ in which choices are made in order to better explain the structuring of choice.
    Current Sociology 09/2015; 63(5):685-99. DOI:10.1177/0011392115590082 · 0.90 Impact Factor
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    • "The Neo-Marxist approach, elaborated below, can be summarized by a focus on relations of economic production, through processes of ownership and labour, domination and exploitation. Other theories of class have also gained interest in population health research; for example, Bourdieu's framework, in which groupings of individuals in a multidimensional social space, with various forms of capital – social, economic, cultural, and symbolic – share circumstances and interests and can manifest classes (Bourdieu, 1987; Veenstra, 2007). Although these three approaches have been subject to several empirical comparisons in sociology (Marshall et al, 2005) and population health (Wolfarth, 1997; Muntaner et al, 2003), the theoretical and empirical status of the Neo-Marxist approach has yet to be examined. "
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    ABSTRACT: Most population health researchers conceptualize social class as a set of attributes and material conditions of life of individuals. The empiricist tradition of 'class as an individual attribute' equates class to an 'observation', precluding the investigation of unobservable social mechanisms. Another consequence of this view of social class is that it cannot be conceptualized, measured, or intervened upon at the meso- or macro levels, being reduced to a personal attribute. Thus, population health disciplines marginalize rich traditions in Marxist theory whereby 'class' is understood as a 'hidden' social mechanism such as exploitation. Yet Neo-Marxist social class has been used over the last two decades in population health research as a way of understanding how health inequalities are produced. The Neo-Marxist approach views social class in terms of class relations that give persons control over productive assets and the labour power of others (property and managerial relations). We critically appraise the contribution of the Neo-Marxist approach during the last two decades and suggest realist amendments to understand class effects on the social determinants of health and health outcomes. We argue that when social class is viewed as a social causal mechanism it can inform social change to reduce health inequalities.
    Social Theory & Health 08/2015; 13(3-4). DOI:10.1057/sth.2015.17 · 0.47 Impact Factor
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    • "Examples are: knowledge of medical topics and vocabulary, instrumental attitude towards the body, self-discipline and orientation towards the future (Shim 2010). This form of cultural capital becomes directly relevant to health through the adoption of healthy lifestyles, such as engaging in preventive care (Abel 2008, Abel and Frohlich 2012, Phelan et al. 2004, Shim, 2010, Veenstra 2007). Cultural health capital theory stresses that behavioural options and preferences are structurally constrained and unequally distributed between social groups (Abel 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: While there are abundant descriptions of socioeconomic inequalities in preventive health care, knowledge about the true mechanisms is still lacking. Recently, the role of cultural health capital in preventive health-care inequalities has been discussed theoretically. Given substantial analogies, we explore how our understanding of cultural health capital and preventive health-care inequalities can be advanced by applying the theoretical principles and methodology of the life-course perspective. By means of event history analysis and retrospective data from the Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement, we examine the role of cultural capital and cultural health capital during childhood on the timely initiation of mammography screening in Belgium (N = 1348). In line with cumulative disadvantage theory, the results show that childhood cultural conditions are independently associated with mammography screening, even after childhood and adulthood socioeconomic position and health are controlled for. Lingering effects from childhood are suggested by the accumulation of cultural health capital that starts early in life. Inequalities in the take-up of screening are manifested as a lower probability of ever having a mammogram, rather than in the late initiation of screening. © 2014 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness © 2014 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness/John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
    Sociology of Health & Illness 11/2014; 36(8):1259-75. DOI:10.1111/1467-9566.12169 · 1.88 Impact Factor
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