Bourdieu's 'Feel for the Game' Explained

Feb 22
Bourdieu's concept of 'feel for the game' refers to an individual's ability to intuitively understand the rules and expectations of a particular social or cultural context, based on their habitus, or embodied cultural dispositions. In other words, it refers to the way in which individuals are able to navigate social situations and participate in social practices by drawing on their accumulated cultural capital and social experiences.

The idea of linking it to a 'game' is based on the fact that sport is competitive, and Bourdieu viewed people's lives in a similar way, as people compete for the accumulation of social, cultural and economic capital. Also, in a game, for example a sport, the players don't have to think consciously about how to play - they know this instinctively from their experience of playing.

An example of 'feel for the game' can be seen in the way in which individuals from different social classes participate in different forms of cultural consumption. Bourdieu argues that individuals from privileged backgrounds are more likely to have a natural 'feel for the game' in highbrow cultural practices such as classical music or opera, because they have been exposed to these forms of culture from an early age and have acquired the cultural capital necessary to appreciate them. In contrast, individuals from working-class backgrounds may have a 'feel for the game' in more popular cultural practices such as sports or popular music, which are more accessible and familiar to them.   

Another example of 'feel for the game' can be seen in the way in which individuals from different regions or cultural groups interact with one another. Bourdieu argues that individuals from different cultural contexts may have different dispositions, or ways of thinking and acting, that are shaped by their social and cultural experiences. These dispositions can affect the way in which they understand and navigate social situations, and can lead to misunderstandings or conflicts. For example, an individual from a collectivist culture may have a different 'feel for the game' in a negotiation or business meeting than an individual from an individualistic culture, because they may place more emphasis on building personal relationships and social obligations rather than on achieving a specific outcome.

Overall, Bourdieu's concept of 'feel for the game' highlights the importance of cultural capital and social experience in shaping individual behaviour and the way in which individuals participate in social practices. It underscores the idea that social and cultural contexts are not neutral, but are shaped by power relations and historical processes that influence the dispositions and habits of individuals within them.
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