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A sociologist in the field of social work: Pierre Bourdieu’s theory and its relevance for social work practice

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  • 1 Trinity College Dublin, , Ireland
  • | 2 Queen’s University Belfast, , UK
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The literature considering Bourdieu’s social theory and its relevance for social work is multifaceted and growing. An evaluation of this body of work is now pressing. This critical literature review explores 34 published works on this subject. Six themes emerged from a thematic analysis of the corpus: (1) the intersection between class and poverty; (2) power and symbolic domination; (3) neoliberalism and the state; (4) reflexivity; (5) relations between social workers and other professionals; and (6) the critique of Bourdieu’s thinking and its relevance for social work. The findings show that Bourdieu’s social theory can augment critical and radical social work, especially when the concepts of habitus, capital, field and reflexivity are embraced. Significantly, though, it was discovered that the ‘symbolic’ part of Bourdieu’s theory had been incompletely covered and required much more attention, as it is integral to the understanding of oppression in society.

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  • 1 Trinity College Dublin, , Ireland
  • | 2 Queen’s University Belfast, , UK

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