Indeed, there are students who prefer complex tasks, which are a kind of challenge for them. We talked about this in the previous part of the article. Failure does not frighten them, they do not even think about it, and this is how they differ from other groups.
There are other graduate students who undertake a small solvable task, with which one can start writing a dissertation and which adds a small touch to the work of their supervisor. This is a good strategy. It allows you to really defend your thesis in three years, but nobody will ever remember this thesis, except for the scientific advisor. Or people it will be recalled in connection with the advisor’s work.
The first variant is called the strategy of the rupture: breaking with the authority of predecessors and embarking on some kind of revolutionary scientific activity. And the second one is the inheritance strategy: inheriting a small area of work, doing everything according to the rules, getting a simple position, and staying there till the end of life. The second strategy allows you to hold on to some level with a high probability, but does not allow you to break through and succeed.
Why do children of aristocratic origin choose the first option, and children of a more modest and less privileged origin, for example, those who come from the working class, choose the latter one? Simply because the former never face the need, because they grow up in a situation where they are not afraid to lose.
Firstly, they do not believe that they can lose because they think that the world is created for them. And secondly, they know that if they lose, then the worst will happen, but this will not be the end of everything. For example, they did not succeed with their dissertation though they had written it for three years. Then nothing happened. But they did not become unemployed and did not fall into unskilled workers: they had some basics – a foundation which was a family resource. In the worst case, they could try by themselves again, then again, then again... And if you take a long time to try it, you will eventually find something.
Here is a story about a genius: he searched for himself for a long time and finally opened up. This is a story that we usually read as the one suggesting motivation. The man or woman of the great mind does not stop until he or she succeeds. Although there is motivation, of course, it is based on some kind of social reserve. When you know that you will not die from hunger, it is much easier to engage in self-realization than when you know that a hungry start is a real prospect.
Another example: if you know that you can always buy an essay and save time, it will be easier for you to deal with other things than for those who cannot do it.
Those Who Start Higher
Those who start higher are more likely to have the right motivation. In part, Bourdieu’s work continues the classic and long tradition of studying the culture of poverty. Under different names, the culture of poverty is an ancient line of thought in arguments about social inequality.
A classical work on the culture of poverty is written by Oscar Lewis, who described how life of the poor was organized in the Mexican slums. Lewis was an ethnographer. He spent several years studying only a few families and wrote an absolutely beautiful book about them, in which we can see how he admired those people. It is clear that he was somewhat envious of them: they are completely carefree unlike the tedious middle class who lives a bourgeois Puritan life. They enjoy life and do not think about money, about tomorrow, they do not really think about loyalty to their current partner, so they easily change both partners and work. If they are kicked out of the house, they live with friends for a while.
In general, their way of life is much less subject to stress. They can be envied. But the fact remains that these people never rise above what they have simply because they do not hold on to their work. When they make money, they spend this money drinking or in any other way instead of saving it, investing it in education of children, and trying to climb the career ladder. On the one hand, this is a very attractive subculture. But on the other hand, it is clear that people who grow up there will never rise higher, they will always remain exactly where they are now.
Lewis' book was criticized a lot despite the fact that he clearly admired those carefree people and, like any bourgeois Puritan laborer, was secretly envious of them. It was criticized for the fact he actually said: the poor themselves are to blame, it does not matter whether they are given the opportunity or not, and it is useless to try to eliminate the barriers before them until they look at things in a different way.
Bourdieu says the same thing in some way. He also states that it is useless to provide more opportunities for the poor as long as they have the same habitus. And when the poor get more money, they continue to behave like the poor, only with more intensity.
When a worker gets promoted to a master, they do not start eating as an engineer eats, they do not change the diet, but they simply buy something that is a delicacy for a worker and eat it in a very large quantity. For example, they eat a lot of sweets and begin to suffer from obesity, they do not switch to healthy food, they do not eat more expensive meat, they eat the same one, but in doubled quantities.
This is like a poor performance of a large number of assignments. It seems to you that your productivity has increased, but the lack of quality has absolutely depreciated the number of completed tasks.
When the poor win the lottery, they do not become a part of the upper class, they often get drunk because they start consuming what was previously an element of the holiday for them in large quantities. And in this respect, they really carry the seeds of their destruction. Habitus does not exist independently of the social structure.
The experience of these people prepares them exactly for such a role for many generations. Each of us bears the imprint of the social structure. Bourdieu does not say anything at all about how anything could be changed about this because it turns out that habitus in any formally egalitarian system will still force people to sort themselves and reproduce the conditions that reproduce it. This is a rather hopeless picture of the world, although it seems to allow us to avoid the unpleasant confession that the poor themselves are to blame for everything.