Hysteresis and the sociological perspective in a time of crisis



Graham H (2020) Hysteresis and the sociological perspective in a time of crisis. Acta Sociologica, 63 (4), pp. 450-452.

Hysteresis is a versatile concept for volatile times. Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological use recognises hysteresis in times of dislocation and disruption between field and habitus, ‘in particular, when a field undergoes a major crisis and its regularities (even its rules) are profoundly changed’ (Bourdieu, 2000: 160). In considering the issues and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, hysteresis renders visible ‘multi-level, multi-temporal dynamics’ (Strand and Lizardo, 2016: 169). It is attendant to the temporality of work and how workers, workplaces, workforces and fields of work are affected. The COVID-19 crisis may give rise to sudden changes such as no work (e.g. redundancies, mass unemployment), reduced work (e.g. reduced hours, underemployment), suspended work (e.g. going on furlough), or absence from work (e.g. leave and workforce absence rates). The transition to working from home and online, en masse, raises considerations of habitus and taking practice online, with many experiencing rapid digital transformation and remote working. The COVID-19 pandemic raises significant sociological issues of intersectionality and inequality, as precarity, risk and harms are experienced unevenly. There are age and gendered differences, including where working from home is in conflict with concurrent caring and home schooling responsibilities. These issues and changes, their meaning and collateral consequences, urgently warrant sociological analysis.

Hysteresis; habitus; field; Pierre Bourdieu; sociology of work; COVID-19; pandemic; Labour market; crisis

Acta Sociologica: Volume 63, Issue 4

Publication date01/11/2020
Publication date online08/10/2020
Date accepted by journal28/08/2020

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Dr Hannah Graham
Dr Hannah Graham

Senior Lecturer, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology