‘Bourdieu’, medical elites and ‘social class’: a qualitative study of ‘desert island’ doctors

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Abstract

Sociologists of professions draw on Weberian theories of closure. However they have tended to ignore Bourdieu's work, which rejects Weberian notions of class and status groups as distinct ideal types and sees these concepts as inextricably linked. Bourdieu emphasises the importance of a class-based habitus which generates orientations, inclinations and dispositions that organise practices and the perception of practice. For Bourdieu, because individuals perceive one another primarily through the status that attaches to their practices (through a symbolic veil of honour) they fail to perceive the real basis of these practices: the forms of capital that underlie the different habitus and enable their realisation. This article draws on interviews with 17 elite doctors appearing on a national (UK) radio show during which they choose eight discs to take to a desert island. According to Bourdieu, ‘nothing more clearly affirms one's “class”, nothing more infallibly classifies, than one's taste in music’. An analysis of the doctors' musical tastes and their mode of acquisition (largely, for these elites, via their family and education at independent schools), as well as other insights into their cultural capital reveals the importance of linking class and status when exploring professional status and prestige.

A video abstract of this article can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y__qy5bmu58&feature=youtu.be

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