Discuss the Concept of Cultural Capital

Topics: Social class, Sociology, Working class Pages: 6 (1860 words) Published: July 31, 2008
Discuss the concept of cultural capital

Pierre Bourdieu developed the concept of cultural capital in order to attempt to explain the differences in educational outcomes in France during the 1960’s. Cultural capital is theorised as the forms of knowledge, skill, education; any advantages a person has which, give them a higher status in society, including high expectations (Nick Stevenson, 1995.pp.46-48). This differentiates economic and social status from the class agenda which, is rigidly sustained through an exclusive cycle. Cultural capital itself can be used in analysis of the class system, and how the dominant aesthetic and ideology is sustained from generation to generation.

There are three defined subtypes of cultural capital which, identify the sources and development of each. The embodied state is that where the cultural capital is embodied in the individual, it is an inherited gift of tradition, cultured experience and knowledge passed on through the family in socialisation. Socialisation involves learned knowledge and behaviours and is strongly linked to one’s habitus in terms of an individual’s character and method of processing information. Embodied state of cultural capital can be clearly depicted in linguistic capital, defined as the mastery of and relation to language (Nicholas Abercrombie (eds) 2000, pp.152-183). The development of speech, conversation and collective thoughts. The objectified state relates to things that are physically owned in terms of artefacts e.g. works of art and scientific apparatus. These cultural goods can be transmitted/ sold in physical terms for gain of economic capital. One may own objectified items in a physical sense but it is in understanding its qualities and meanings through embodied capital that its value is realised. The institutionalised state is in recognition of academic achievement and learning through credentials or qualifications. This is generally understood in terms of the labour market and the definition placed on importance of achievement. This allows a conversion of cultural capital to economic capital through the management of monetary values placed upon educational achievements in the workforce. The three subtypes of cultural capital are intrinsically linked to Bourdieu’s concept of habitus. Habitus is concentrated on the strength of an individual’s character and ways of thinking. This is an important factor in the ability to accept and internalise learned behaviours.

Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital deigned to depict the differences between educational attainment, achievement and availability by relating academic success i.e., the specific profits which children from the different class fractions can obtain in the academic market (Inglis. 2004. pp. 118-126). Education is the primary field for analysis of Bourdieu’s concept, it emphasises the importance of cultural capital as a commodity. Cultural capital is rife in the new maketized field of education (Reay, 2004. pp.73-86). Parents have been encouraged to take an active role as consumers in the processes of education, to act in partnership with educational producers (teachers). This involvement has resulted in a key identity of inequality in the education system rooted in the bias of cultural capital. The amount of choice available to parents in terms of educational establishments is related to where they live, their class position and their cultural capital. (Gewirtz et al,1995.pp.69) ‘I am conscious that a number of parents, who don’t choose us, don’t choose Parsons School for social reasons. We are more of a working class comprehensive’ (head teacher, Parsons School) (quoted in Gewirtz et al.1995, pp.72,73). Gewirtz, Ball and Bowe developed a research study to evaluate the influences of parents in choosing a secondary school for their children, the research team distinguished between three categories of parents based on cultural capital. Privileged and skilled choosers tend to...

References: • Stevenson,N. (2002) Understanding Media Cultures.2nd ed. London:Sage Publications Ltd.
• Inglis,F.(2004) Key Concepts;Culture.1st ed. Cambridge:Polity Press Ltd.
• Abercrombie,N., Warde, A., et al.(2000). Contemporary British Society.3rd ed. Cambridge:Polity Press Ltd.
• Marsh,I. et al.(2000).Sociology Making Sense of Society. 2nd ed. Essex: Pearson Education Ltd.
• Reay,D.(2004) “Education and Cultural Capital: The Implications of Changing Trends in Education Policies”, Cultural Trends, 13(2), pp.73-86.
• Gewritz,S. Clarke,J. McLaughlin.(eds) (2000) New Managerialsim, New Welfare? London:Sage
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