The aristocracy of the will: A critique of Pierre Bourdieu with illustrations from Chile

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While the consumption of cultural products has for long been recognised as a marker of social status, cultural consumption constitutes only one possible type of high status signal. Ethical preferences and religiously inspired behaviour can be important sources of prestige. The present article focuses on the Catholic tradition of the education of the will and the exercise of religious virtues as part of an aristocratic ideal amongst Chile's business elite. The interpretation provided, however, does not equate religious preferences to strategic behaviour. Contrary to Bourdieu's work on distinction and to the analyses produced by sociologists who apply his conceptual apparatus to the study of religion, the author argues that the religiously inspired ideals of self-discipline and ethical action cannot be understood fully if they are seen as guided by interests. The author's analysis takes seriously the idea that individuals may pursue religious aims because they value them in themselves and have true commitments to religious norms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-68
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Compass
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2012


  • Bourdieu
  • Catholicism
  • Chile
  • Distinction
  • Formation of character
  • Social status


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