3-Line Matrix Nick Prior/Bourdieu

Here’s a 3-Line Matrix visualization of a concise summary of Bourdieu’s sociology of art, by Nick Prior:

“We can orient to Bourdieu’s sociology of art by differentiating three interdependent dimensions, forms or locales: 1) the artist and the art works themselves – concrete products produced by cultural workers in particular historical conditions; 2) what might broadly be called ‘social space’, ranging from the local settings in which art works figure – museums, academies, cities – to the overarching sets of relations within which struggles over art occur, Bourdieu’s fields; 3) the audience, possessing sums of cultural and economic capital that activate their attitudes, artistic preferences, bodily habits and cognitive competences – in short, their habituses. Whilst each dimension functions only in relation to each other, Bourdieu feels himself able to differentiate them for the purposes of his cultural analysis.”


Organized in this manner, general, or overarching terms fall onto the right side of the matrix, while their enactments congregate on the left side. The axes provide the themes.

Audiences manifest Capital filtered through Habitus.

Art Works manifest Cultural Workers filtered through  Concrete Products/Historic Conditions.

Local Settings manifest Fields filtered through Social Space.


Prior suggests that “[w]hilst Bourdieu’s arguments still retain a good degree of explanatory value – taken together habitus, capital and field still provide the most comprehensive set of instruments available to understand the fate of modern art fields – we need to find satisfactory ways of updating and warping his ideas to account for inflections in the cultural landscape.”

As the lines of the Matrix warp individually, multiple intersections form and the endpoints smear out at different rates.


Prior names Habitus, Capital and Field as the instruments Bourdieu provided. Emphasis falls on the general side of the Matrix. Since Bourdieu’s focus is a sociology of art reception, the Concrete Products/Historic Conditions axis does not supply an instrument.

Still, in his text, Prior also addresses that museum settings and audiences have shifted significantly, taking into account an increased focus on education by institutions (problematic as it may be), while audiences’ pop culture consumption is pairing with high culture appreciation. What also needs mention are new art production methods, not limited to new technologies, but also including artist’s scopes, goals and intentions. But, those areas are ‘left in the dark’ if Habitus, Capital and Field are privileged. The question then arises if this system can spawn further instruments.


At a minimum, spotlights on the extended missions of arts organizations and with that on arts policy, the extended media that artworks are deployed in and with that on emerging technologies, and the extended scopes artists are using to make art works and with that on arts epistemologies would be extremely helpful in gauging the system’s complexity, today.

Nick Prior. A question of perception: Bourdieu, art and the postmodern. The British Journal of Sociology 2005 Volume 56 Issue 1. Both quotes: p. 125

Artist, professor [Arts Administration and Policy] at SAIC.

Posted in 3Line_Matrix, remarks
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