The two stories of the habitus/structure relation and the riddle of reflexivity: A meta-theoretical reappraisal

Christoforos Bouzanis, Stephen Kemp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article argues that two key puzzles arising from the theories of Bourdieu are inter-related. One is the question of how Bourdieu analyses the relationship between structure and habitus, and the other is the place of reflexivity in Bourdieu’s work. We contend that it is only by carefully analysing Bourdieu’s theoretical structure to grasp the relationship between these elements that one can understand whether or not his work offers useful resources for analysing the relation between routine action and self-reflection. This paper argues that there are two narrations of the structure/habitus relation in Bourdieu’s work, and that the concept of self-reflective subjectivity is a residual element of the first narration and does not appear in the second. We then contend that this residual and under-developed concept of self-reflective subjectivity should not be confused with Bourdieu’s analysis of epistemic reflexivity. These moves allow us to contribute to ongoing debates about the relation between routine action and self-reflection by arguing that the concept of the “reflexive habitus” – which some have argued is characteristic of social agents in high/late modernity – is both conceptually confused and is not a logical extension of Bourdieu’s theories. In this way we try to clear the ground for more productive ways of thinking about routine action and self-reflection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-83
Number of pages20
JournalJournal for the Theory of Social Behaviour
Issue number1
Early online date20 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • dialogical self
  • habitus
  • Pierre Bourdieu
  • reflexivity
  • self-reflection


Dive into the research topics of 'The two stories of the habitus/structure relation and the riddle of reflexivity: A meta-theoretical reappraisal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this