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Understanding the Role of Everyday Practices of Privilege in the Perpetuation of Inequalities


Christine Stephens, School of Psychology, Massey University, PB 11 222, Palmerston North, 4442 New Zealand. E-mail:


To explain the interrelated effects of material and psychosocial inequalities, we suggest a move beyond research focused on deprived communities to include their broader social situation. Bourdieu's theory of practice explains how social and material disadvantages are interconnected, and struggles for power are enacted in everyday practice. In this paper, we draw on data from a qualitative study of two neighbourhoods to provide examples of everyday practice as people work to perpetuate or overcome inequalities in one field: education of their children. These examples show that those with more resources are actively working to retain and improve their children's social advantage, which rests on the disadvantage of others. In conclusion, we suggest that many current interventions to improve material and social conditions within disadvantaged communities ignore the damaging effects of social inequalities between social groups. Work towards understanding the nature of power struggles in daily life and the everyday actions of the privileged will help us understand and address the damaging effects of inequalities. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.