Book Review: English and Bolton – Bourdieu for Educators


In this text, Fenwick W. English and Cheryl L. Bolton aim to fill a much-needed gap in the literature; a text that makes Bourdieu’s work accessible to practitioners. Whilst there are a number of introductory texts, the examples often do not resonate with practitioners who may not come from a social science background. It is clear that two authors with a background of practice have developed this text and understand exactly the issues that make Bourdieu’s work a challenge for practitioners to understand. Using real world examples within educational practice from across sectors, age ranges and geographical settings, the text takes Bourdieu’s concepts and embeds them in situations that will hold resonance for practitioners.

Whilst the work of Pierre Bourdieu is a go to source of theoretical concepts for many educational researchers, his work is not always fully engaged with effectively by these researchers, especially those without a background in sociology or social theory. This often means that some of his more complex ideas are not fully engaged with. This volume aims to bring Bourdieu’s ideas to a wider audience and it does this well by contextualizing his ideas in relation to issues that practitioners can closely relate to. It also demystifies some of Bourdieu’s more complex ideas by explaining them in clear English with real world examples from both sides of the Atlantic. As a practitioner, this also added an interesting dimension to the text as not only did it clearly elucidate some of Bourdieu’s concepts but it also gave an insight into educational settings that were not familiar.

The book first introduces the concepts and vocabulary central to Bourdieu’s work before examining their use in study of institutions, curriculum and leadership. The final chapter then examines the impact and relevance of his work on today’s education system. Whilst the book should not be treated as a sole resource on Bourdieu, it offers a useful entry point into his work for those who may initially be overwhelmed by some of the language and vocabulary that Bourdieu uses so that they can better understand the utility of his work as a theoretical framework within Education. As such I would highly recommend it as a text for practitioners entering the world of social research in order to both introduce and signpost the works within Bourdieu’s oeuvre that are most useful to the issues that concern them.

English, F.L. and Bolton, C.L. (2015). Bourdieu for Educators. London: Sage