What is Bourdieu theory of cultural capital ?

Cultural capital refers to the various kinds of knowledge, skills, behavior we possess by the virtue of being a part of a specific social group.

Read Pierre Bourdieu’s Capital Explained!

There are three kinds of capitals that are often recognized as a part of the society, the Economic capital, which refers to the control one has on the economic resources available in the society (money, property, etc.)  Social capital refers to the social networks that one has acquired and Cultural capital, these are the assets that one possesses which help them climb up the social ladder.

Cultural capital refers to the various kinds of knowledge, skills, behavior we possess by the virtue of being a part of a specific social group. The cultural capital, in turn, facilitates social mobility. This concept was given by Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron, in their work ‘Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction’ in 1977, he argued that cultural capital played an important role in one’s social position. Bourdieu says in his work that cultural capital is o often passed on from one generation to the other, he has said in his work with reference to education that those who are able to attain good quality education often belong to the higher strata of the society and are able to secure their future and hence provide their children with good quality education.

He has distinguished cultural capital into three types; embodied, institutionalized and objectified in his work ‘Forms of Capital’ in 1986. We acquire embodied capital through the process of socialization and education, we acquire this capital over a period of time and is reflected in our mannerisms and the skills we acquire which we then behave according to.

Institutionalized cultural capital is the recognized form of cultural capital, something that can be certified such as the degrees we possess, the rank or position at our job, etc. this is the measurable aspect of cultural capital.

The third form of capital which is the objectified capital is literally as the name suggests a reflection of the material things that we possess, such as the brands we may choose to buy our products from, or the university we choose to study from etc. this is often the determinant of our economic condition in the society and helps us maintain this position as it may be passed on from one generation to the other, thus reproducing the inequalities in the society.

Bourdieu has also spoken about a collective environment where people of the same habits come together and coexist. This is the way in which the individuals perceive the world around them.  This is acquired through socialization.

Cultural capital thus makes an important part in one’s life as it determines the social position in the society, the economic exchange and is an indicator of one’s economic position. It is often inherited and further passed on from one generation to the other. It is therefore important to maintain the inequalities in the society which are created due to the fact that everyone does not possess the same economic capital. This is however not to say that social mobility is not possible, one may be able to mobilize upwards by their hard work and effort.

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