Bourdieu on supply: Utilizing the ‘theory of practice’ to understand complexity and culpability in heroin and crack cocaine user-dealing

Leah Moyle, Ross Coomber

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The act of user-dealing has largely been explored within criminology in conjunction with the ‘drug–crime’ link or with a focus on ethnography and subculture. Whereas it is known that many users of drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine engage in small-scale supply as a way of generating revenue, less is known about the particular interplay of social context and choice that leads them to pick this income-generating activity over other potential options. Contributing to a burgeoning literature, this article explores the constrained choices of user-dealers with reference to Bourdieu’s ‘theory of practice’ (1977). Through locating stories of failure in user-dealer narratives, we utilize this novel approach in criminology, illuminating the importance of working with all of the interrelated concepts of habitus, field and capital in appreciating user-dealing as ‘practice’. It is argued that application of this framework affords the previously unharnessed opportunity to use Bourdieusian theory to understand notions of culpability when sentencing this group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-328
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of Criminology
Issue number3
Early online date2 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

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