The Bachelors' BallThe Crisis of Peasant Society in Béarn
The Bachelors' Ball
The Crisis of Peasant Society in Béarn
Translated by Richard Nice

The enforced bachelorhood of eldest sons in traditional French rural society was a subject to which Pierre Bourdieu devoted three major articles, written at widely spaced moments in his career as a sociologist and ethnographer. He brings them together in this book, with an introduction in which he presents them as stages in ‘a kind of intellectual Bildungsroman’ through which one can follow the development of his theory of practice: from phenomenological observation and analysis of structures, through the notion of strategy (as opposed to rule), to the mature conceptual apparatus which subtly analyses the interrelations of field, symbolic capital and habitus in a unified matrimonial market which condemns the peasantry to irreversible decline. The opening scene, which is observed – with the astute eye of a novelist – at a country dance and which gives the book its title, can ultimately be seen as a paradigm of the collapse of traditional French rural society.

This book gives the reader sociological and anthropological insight into the interaction of occupation, social class and marriage and how these factors affect smaller communities, and provides a penetrating analysis of the disintegration of rural communities and the nature of social change.

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  • May 2008
  • 216 pages
  • 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
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Table of Contents


Part One –Bachelorhood and the peasant condition

1. The system of matrimonial exchanges in traditional peasant society

2. Internal contradictions and anomy

3. The opposition between the bourg and the hameaux

4. The peasant and his body


Appendix I: Bibliographical notes

Appendix II: Changes in population, 1836-1954

Appendix III: Dialogue between a villager and a peasant

Appendix IV: Another dialogue between a villager and a bachelor

Appendix V: The exemplary tale of a younger son from a modest family; Another younger son

Appendix VI: Excessive maternal authority and celibacy

Appendix VII: An attempt to generalize: bachelorhood in sixteen rural cantons in Brittany

Part Two – Matrimonial strategies in the system of reproduction strategies

Bibliographical notes


Part Three – Reproduction forbidden: The symbolic dimension of economic domination

1. Addenda and corrigenda

2. ‘From the closed world to the infinite universe’

3. The unification of the matrimonial market

4. ‘Sound opinions of the people’


Postscript – A class as object

Index of concepts

Index of names

About the Author
Pierre Bourdieu was Professor of Sociology at the Collège de France and Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales
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