The Behavioral Economics of Pierre Bourdieu
This article builds the argument that Bourdieu’s dispositional theory of practice can help integrate the sociological tradition with three prominent strands of behavioral economics: bounded rationality, prospect theory, and time inconsistency. I make the case that the habitus provides an alternative framework to show how social and mental structure constitute one another, where cognitive tendencies toward irrationality can be either curtailed or amplified based on one’s position in the economic field and a person’s corresponding set of dispositions, ranging from more rational doxic dispositions to irrational allodoxic tendencies. Bridging economic sociology and behavioral economics, this work also bears on issues of persistent financial inequality reproduced through self-defeating patterns of economic behavior inculcated into individuals who occupy dominated positions in the social structure. Bourdieu’s thought, and in particular his conception of field+habitus, can usefully be applied to the empirical findings of behavioral economics to understand deviations from rational action as not only cognitive but also socially structured.