Articles | Volume 69, issue 1
Standard article
03 Apr 2014
Standard article |  | 03 Apr 2014

Livelihoods as social practices – re-energising livelihoods research with Bourdieu's theory of practice

P. Sakdapolrak

Abstract. The persisting problem of poverty in the global south, since the 1990s, has been increasingly analysed and tackled from the perspective of the poor themselves. The shift of view point from a structurally oriented perspective to a more actor-oriented view was closely related to the concept of livelihoods, which put strong emphasis on people-centredness, and examined the coping and survival strategies of people at risk. Livelihoods analysis has been widely applied by research scholars as well as development practitioners since the 1990s, but the drawbacks and pitfalls of the approach have become more and more obvious with its continued application. The approach has been criticised for its imbalanced consideration of the structure–agency relation, narrow focus on the household as a unit of analysis, narrow and non-embedded understanding of assets, and negligence of spatial and temporal dynamics. The livelihoods perspective is at a crossroads. Several scholars have drawn on Bourdieu's theory of practice to overcome the identified challenges. This article seeks to bring together these insights and show how a Bourdieusian perspective can inform and contribute to the advancements in livelihoods research.