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The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 22, Issue 1/4, 2006

Pia C. Kontos
Pages 69-85
DOI: 10.5840/ajs2006221/43

Habitus
An Incomplete Account of Human Agency

Bourdieu, in his theory of practice, assumes the pragmatic and epistemological primacy of objective structure/culture. This leads Bourdieu to conceptualize the body as a cultural product formed solely by structural conditions, thus denying the physical body any origination. In making this assumption Bourdieu is unable to explain how dispositions are incorporated and sustained within one’s bodily schema. It is my argument that Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of the primordial source of agency is crucial to Bourdieu’s theory of practice. I suggest that Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the primordial body makes possible the embodiment of the dispositions of habitus, and sustains this open system of dispositions.

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