Social space

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The concept of social space was developed by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu . It is used to represent and analyze social structures and individual positions. The distribution structures of total social and individual capital, i. H. Bourdieu traces wealth in a comprehensive sense in a constructed three-dimensional social space. He examines the capital endowment of individuals and groups on the basis of characteristics such as occupation, income and level of education as the most important living conditions, expanded for him by secondary characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity , nationality. The social field forms the level of action, the “playing field”, within the social space. Bourdieu's term is to be distinguished from urban sociology and social space analysis .

Extension of class and stratification theories

Bourdieu extends the usual vertical class and stratification theories by two further dimensions. The social position is determined within the social space developed by the dimensions of capital volume (consisting of the types of capital ), capital structure and social career.

The total volume of economic , cultural and social capital that determines the social position forms the vertical dimension.

The capital structure is presented on the horizontal level and spans between the poles of economic capital on the right and cultural capital on the left. Social capital is not taken into account in the horizontal presentation.

The third dimension depicts the development over time of past and potential social careers. This dimension shows how or whether the social position of an individual or a social group has changed within a certain period in relation to the capital volume and the capital structure.

Bourdieu takes into account the starting point of a curriculum vitae, social origin , the extent of the capital “inherited” in the family, also in the form of incorporated (i.e. internalized) cultural capital, and the dispositions entered into the habitus of the individual .

Constructed classes

For this representation of social space as a force field, Bourdieu “prepared” theoretically constructed, ie not real, classes . A class describes a type of cluster of individuals with a similar position in social space, determined by their origin, capital volume and structure. A class member is defined by the relationship between all relevant characteristics.

Bourdieu speaks of probable classes whose “ class consciousness ” consists only in a diffuse, non-collective sense of the relational position in social space (i.e. in relation to others in social space). Inherited start-up capital enables, depending on the class of the parents, different probable CVs and life chances.

In the social space, conceived as a topology , Bourdieu distinguishes primarily three classes of social actors: the upper, middle and lower class. There are no rigid borders, but rather flowing transitions.

He does not subdivide the lower class any further. Within the middle class, Bourdieu differentiates between the descending, the new and the executive petty bourgeoisie. The upper class is divided into a dominant economic and a dominated cultural faction. These two class fractions lie side by side, are characterized by an opposing structure of distribution of the types of capital and are engaged in permanent battles for supremacy in society.

Dynamics of the social space

The social positions that an individual occupies within the social space are changeable and can lead to a change of location in the horizontal or vertical direction in the schematic representation. Permanent development of investment strategies in one or more types of capital are indispensable for advancement or avoidance of decline within the social structure .

The value of the various types of capital is measured by their overall social scope and their current exchange value as a product of social struggle. The permanent investment strategies of individuals and the constant change in the social valuation of the types of capital as well as the creative leeway of the actors constitute the dynamic element of the social space and enable the individual to rise or fall within the social structure.

Other uses of the term

In terms of urban sociology , the interaction of the socially often developed or accessible environment and the mentality of the city dwellers with concepts of “social space” is examined, for example in the analysis of urbanity .

This is followed by questions of architectural sociology , which also include " landscape architecture " (e.g. landscape parks ).

The sociologist Martina Löw has published a study on the sociology of space in which she deals with various concepts of social space and develops a relational concept of space. She understands space to be a relational order (arrangement) of bodies (that can be living beings, but also objects) that are linked in placement and synthesis processes.

See also


  • Pierre Bourdieu: Leçon sur la leçon. Ed. de Minuit, Paris 1982, ISBN 2-7073-0625-8 .
    • German: social space and "classes". Two lectures. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M. 1985, ISBN 3-518-28100-3
  • Susanne Hauser, Christa Kamleithner, Roland Meyer (eds.): Architecture knowledge . Basic texts from cultural studies. Vol. 1: On the aesthetics of social space , transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2011, ISBN 978-3-8376-1551-7
  • Susanne Hauser, Christa Kamleithner, Roland Meyer (eds.): Architecture knowledge . Basic texts from cultural studies. Vol. 2: On the logistics of social space , transcript-Verlag, Bielefeld 2013, ISBN 978-3-8376-1568-5
  • Maja Suderland, social space (escape social) . In: Gerhard Fröhlich / Boike Rehbein (eds.), Bourdieu Handbook. Life - work - effect , Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2014, ISBN 978-3-476-02560-9 , pp. 219-225.

Individual evidence

  1. cf. z. B .: Ulf Jacob: “It should be good on earth” or The Garden Worlds of Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau as social spatial structures . In: cultural sociology . 1998, Vol. VII, H. 2, pp. 55-79.
  2. See Martina Löw: Raumsoziologie. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-518-29106-8 .