Honourable mobility or shameless entitlement? Habitus and graduate employment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This article explores the contrasting predispositions of a group of working-class and middle-class undergraduates to using nepotism to gain advantage in the labour market. Drawing upon a Bourdieusian framework, it is argued that the middle-class students, whose habitus was aligned to the field, were more likely to express a willingness to utilise whatever networks they could to secure a ‘foot in the door’. Meanwhile, the working-class students, who were more insecure about the legitimacy of their participation within a middle-class field, expressed a commitment to a form of honour which ruled out using contacts on the grounds that it was morally unacceptable. They discussed a desire to ‘prove themselves’ which is arguably symptomatic of a deeply ingrained reliance on meritocracy. I explore how this may arise due to their habitus having developed within a dominated position in society where respectability is crucial to generating feelings of self-worth and value.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-640
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Early online date6 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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