UCL Research Domains


UCL Sociology Network Annual Lecture & Early Career Researcher Seminar 2023

Annual Lecture
6pm-7pm, Wednesday, 21 June 2023 
The Roots of All Capitals, or, the Human Condition and Social Division
Professor Will Atkinson, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol, UK

From Professor Will Atkinson (University of Bristol)
In this lecture I will probe the relationship between fundamental features of the human condition and modes of social division and domination. I set out several premises about what it means to be human and, from that, establish misrecognition as the key to understanding division and domination. I briefly make the case that Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of capital and fields gives this baseline best sociological form, but then immediately raise several puzzles and limitations of his work. The first relates to the prominence of the forms of capital focussed on by Bourdieu: economic and cultural capital. Why are they so important, and what are their ultimate roots? I will also clarify a form of capital mentioned only in passing by Bourdieu but of profound historical and contemporary significance: physical capital, or the perceived capacity to subjugate others physically.

The second puzzle or limitation relates to other forms of misrecognition, and capital, irreducible to economic and cultural capital that Bourdieu overlooked but which others – including myself – have broached, which also seem to have roots in fundamental features of the human condition and which extend his framework to incorporate feminist, critical race and post-colonial concerns. These are the capitals related to love, sex and perceived ‘origins’. I thus establish six prime modes of domination underpinning symbolic violence and struggle as well as modes of alienation. Domination and division are not inevitable, however, nor must any conception of the human condition be essentialist or anthropocentric. How to avoid that – the third puzzle – will be touched on at the end of the lecture.

Welcome and introduction
Professor Paul Higgs, member of the USN Coordinating Group, Professor of Sociology of Ageing, Division of Psychiatry, Brain Sciences, UCL

Concluding thoughts
Dr. Katherine Twamley, Chair, USN Coordinating Group, Associate Professor of Sociology, Social Research Institute, IOE, UCL

Early Career Researcher Seminar
10am to 12pm, Thursday, 22 June 2023 

Concepts and Assumptions in Sociological Research
Professor Will Atkinson

Room B15, Basement, Darwin Building, University College London, Darwin Walk (off Malet Street), London, WC1E 6BT  NB: You cannot enter the Darwin Building via Gower Street; this door is locked.  Please use the Darwin Walk entrance

A succeeding ECR seminar will take the form of an interactive workshop in which participants are invited to discuss, in dialogue with Professor Atkinson, their own research projects or works in progress. Among other topics, the workshop is likely to explore:

  • If and how projects might use concepts of capital or fields
  • How to understand the interplay of inequalities and desires at stake
  • The fundamental assumptions about the human condition that may be implicated in research 
  • Whether and how research projects might benefit from dialogue across disciplines
    Please note
  • This seminar is only open to UCL PhD students and post-doctoral researchers
  • REGISTER for the seminar

About Professor Will Atkinson
Will Atkinson is Professor of Sociology at the University of Bristol, UK. He specialises in social class – what it is, how it works, and how it interrelates with other forms of division and domination – and has undertaken multiple research projects, using qualitative and quantitative methods, to investigate its impact on life courses, lifestyles, politics, identities, family and everyday life across numerous nations. He works closely with the social theory of Pierre Bourdieu but is determined to deepen and develop it in dialogue with empirical research and other theoretical traditions. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and eight books, including Class (Polity, 2nd ed 2024), The Class Structure of Capitalist Societies (Routledge, 2 vols, 2020-22), Beyond Bourdieu (Polity, 2016) and Bourdieu and After (Routledge, 2020).