Healthcare choice: Bourdieu’s capital, habitus and field

Fran M. Collyer, Karen F. Willis, Marika Franklin, Kirsten Harley, Stephanie D. Short

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


The promotion of choice is a common theme in both policy discourses and commercial marketing claims about healthcare. However, within the multiple potential pathways of the healthcare ‘maze’, how do healthcare ‘consumers’ or patients understand and experience choice? What is meant by ‘choice’ in the policy context, and, importantly from a sociological perspective, how are such choices socially produced and structured? In this theoretical article, the authors consider the interplay of Bourdieu’s three key, interlinked concepts – capital, habitus and field – in the structuring of healthcare choice. These are offered as an alternative to rational choice theory, where ‘choice’ is regarded uncritically as a fundamental ‘good’ and able to provide a solution to the problems of the healthcare system. The authors argue that sociological analyses of healthcare choice must take greater account of the ‘field’ in which choices are made in order to better explain the structuring of choice
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685–699
Number of pages15
JournalCurrent Sociology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Bourdieu
  • choice
  • healthcare services
  • rational choice theory


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