Habitus and the Labor of Representation Among Elite Professionals

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    This paper reports findings from an 8-year study of the embodiment, acquisition, and consequences of habitus in the wealth management profession. The study contributes in three ways to the ongoing effort to apply Bourdieu’s theories to contemporary professional service work. First, it sheds light on the agency of individual practitioners in manifesting habitus, including the avoidance of certain behaviors in interactions with clients and peers. Second, it looks in greater depth at the process of acquiring habitus through work experiences, particularly among those who come to the profession without a suitable primary habitus; the findings suggest that having a fragmented habitus can constitute a strategic advantage for some practitioners. Third, the study sheds light on ways habitus affects client service; contrary to the trend in other professions, wealth managers’ ability to enhance clients’ cultural capital is often more highly valued than increasing their economic capital. These novel contributions are offered through analysis of a broadly global dataset, incorporating original interview data with 65 practitioners in 18 countries. This forms the basis for new insights on ‘global habitus’ in trans-national professional work—a topic of current scholarly debate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberjox002
    JournalJournal of Professions and Organization
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)282–301
    Number of pages20
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


    • Elites
    • Habitus
    • Wealth

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