The Uneven Distribution of Cultural Capital

Topics: Social class, Sociology, Pierre Bourdieu Pages: 49 (15054 words) Published: June 15, 2013
Modern China http://mcx.sagepub.com/

The Uneven Distribution of Cultural Capital : Book Reading in Urban China Shaoguang Wang, Deborah Davis and Yanjie Bian Modern China 2006 32: 315 DOI: 10.1177/0097700406288178 The online version of this article can be found at: http://mcx.sagepub.com/content/32/3/315

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The Uneven Distribution of Cultural Capital
Book Reading in Urban China
Shaoguang Wang
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Modern China Volume 32 Number 3 July 2006 315-348 © 2006 Sage Publications 10.1177/0097700406288178 http://mcx.sagepub.com hosted at http://online.sagepub.com

Deborah Davis
Yale University

Yanjie Bian
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Drawing on interviews with 400 couples in four cities in 1998, this exploratory study focuses on variation in reading habits to integrate the concept of cultural capital into the theoretical and empirical analysis of inequality and social stratification in contemporary urban China. Overall, we find that volume and composition of cultural capital varies across social classes independent of education. Thus, to the extent that cultural capital in the form of diversified knowledge and appreciation for certain genres or specific authors is unevenly distributed across social classes, we hypothesize that the possession of cultural capital may be a valuable resource in defining and crystallizing class boundaries in this hybrid, fast-changing society. Keywords: cultural capital; class; inequality; Chinese literature

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ultural capital, like economic capital, is unequally but not randomly distributed across social space. Moreover, because variation in consumption of cultural products corresponds to other dimensions of social structure, the analysis of cultural capital is integral to any study of social inequality. Since Max Weber ([1968] 1978), social theorists have acknowledged that cultural as well as economic resources shape a society’s power Authors’ Note: We wish to thank Hui Niu for her assistance in preparing data files and Yu Lee for his extensive help in all phases of data management and statistical analysis. An earlier version of this material was presented at “Repositioning Hong Kong and Shanghai in Modern Chinese History,” a conference at the University of Hong Kong. Financial support for both data collection and analysis was provided by a grant from the United States–China Cooperative Research Program of the Henry Luce Foundation. 315

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Modern China

structures, but only with the work of Pierre Bourdieu did researchers began to systematically turn away from approaching culture in terms of intrinsic aesthetic values toward exploring its “symbolic power” in the service of class subordination and domination. For Bourdieu, cultural choices are vertically ranked along a continuum of high to low. Consequently, distinction in cultural taste with respect to such seeming trivialities as preferences in clothing, leisure pastimes, music, or reading material can signify social standing and maintain, reinforce, or reproduce an already-existing social structure (Bourdieu, 1984, 1985). Not all those who have built on Bourdieu’s arguments have presumed single hierarchies of taste or agreed on specific links between occupational status and cultural choice, but they have continued to make a strong case for the integration of the...

Citations: http://mcx.sagepub.com/content/32/3/315.refs.html
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The Uneven Distribution of Cultural Capital
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