Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

The Cultural Power of Tacit Knowledge: Inarticulacy and Bourdieu's Habitus  


Tacit knowledge is knowledge of practices or a logic of action whose inarticulacy allows it both to be taken for granted and to escape discursive constraints. Since Pierre Bourdieu treats the habitus as a taken for granted set of predispositions and logics of practice, we can understand it better by learning more about tacit knowledge. To that end, I will describe Polanyi's concept of tacit knowledge, and employ Deleuze on repetition and "figured world theory" on imagination in learning to expand our understanding of tacit knowledge and its inarticulacy. I will illustrate how tacit knowledge works with a close reading of a 17th-century book for stonemasons which teaches a new practice of construction for realizing classically-inspired architecture as it became fashionable. Using pictures rather than words, the book presents a way to imagine stones and arches as plastic and flexible, illustrating the strong connection between tacit knowledge to cultural imaginaries. Applying this understanding of tacit knowledge to the habitus reveals this inarticulate cultural domain to be not simply amechanical tool of social reproduction, but a malleable formation of collective imagination, a trickster that can shape logics of practice outside discursive common sense.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View