The Concept of Habit and the Regularities of Social Structure

Nick Crossley


In this paper I discuss the concept of habit from a sociological point of view. My aim, in part, is to consider the ways in which sociologists and social philosophers could use and have used ‘habit’ in their analyses and explanations. In particular the concept of habit can contribute to our understanding and explanation of the behavioural regularities involved in social structure. In addition, however, I am interested in the limitations of the concept of habit, within a sociological context, when compared against other concepts which are used to do similar work. In particular I contrast the concept of habit with the concepts of ‘rule’ and ‘convention’, drawing out the strengths that it has relative to those competing concepts but also identifying important aspects of behavioural regularity which they bring to light and which habit ignores. In the conclusion to the paper I consider ways in which these various concepts might overlap and might be used in conjuction with one another.


convention; rule; social practices; habitus; Mauss; Bourdieu; Winch

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