Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) was a French philosopher, sociologist and anthropologist, who primarily studied power in society. Bourdieu’s work built upon a long tradition of European thinkers, from Karl Marx to Emile Durkenheim. His landmark 1979 book Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste was ranked the sixth most important work in sociology in the 20th century. In that work, Bourdieu argued that taste is related to social position.
Pierre Bourdieu was born in southern France, the son of a postal worker. He studied at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he studied philosophy. In 1955, he was conscripted into the French army, and deployed to Algeria during that nation’s war of independence from France. From 1958 to 1962, he remained in Algeria undertaking ethnographic research, which led to his first book Sociologie de L’Algerie (The Society of Algeria).
From 1964 to 1981, Bourdieu was the Director of Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, when he became Chair of the Sociology department at the Collège de France. By the 1990s, Bourdieu became an increasingly vocal and prominent public intellectual throughout France. It was then he developed his theory of cultural production, disseminated through two works: The Field of Cultural Production (1993) and The Rules of Art (1996). Bourdieu died in 2002 from cancer.