This series of blogs will interrogate whose cultural capital is valued – Part 1 is based around the foundations of Bourdieu’s work.
French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu describes reality as being given meaning through the social experience of it. He refers to the ‘field’, which is where these three sources of power are exchanged. For example, In an educational setting, we have the macro field, the school on the whole, and then split up into micro ‘fields’. Here are three different examples of staff meetings, the playground and the classroom.
Bourdieu presents the three sources of control (or power) as interchangeable pots, which he refers to as capitals:
1. Economic Capital: This is measured in terms of money, property and other assets.
2. Social Capital: A measure of social influence.
3. Cultural Capital: Split into the institutionalised, such as formal qualifications, and the embodied, for example, a persons’ phonology (accent and dialect). The embodied cultural capital is made up of the implicit unwritten rules and etiquettes and knowledge we pick up within an environment and the objectified which are material artefacts such as works of fine art and books.
Economic capital for Social capital:
We may gain influence by spending money to inhabit the same spaces (golf club membership) to build professional and personal networks.
Economic for cultural capital:
Having the money and time allow people to be able to learn the rules and strive towards qualifications.
Social Capital for Economic Capital:
Social influence means you can exchange these networks for economic gain through winning contracts, selling your products and services to the number of connection you have.
Social capital for cultural capital:
Having social connection makes you more likely to achieve qualifications. Knowing people who can support those journeys and being in the same spaces as those deemed cultured leads to the social osmotic learning those unwritten rules.
Cultural Capital for Social Capital:
Knowing the (valued) culture in a conversation enables a connection such as talking about Foucault, Hegel and Hume at a party.
Cultural Capital for Economic Capital
Cultural capital means you can not only connect with those with wealth but exchange it knowing the rules of engagement and having the formal qualifications in an interaction increase your chance of transacting for material gain.
What is the Habitus?
Eventually, through constant interactions with the rules and the unwritten norms, the cultural capital impacts people’s tendency to behave in specific fields. This set of behaviours is the physical of the embodied cultural capital Bourdieu calls the habitus.Eventually, through constant interactions with the rules and the unwritten norms, the cultural capital impacts people's tendency to behave in specific fields. This set of behaviours is the physical of the embodied cultural capital… Click To Tweet
Each micro and macro field contains its specific cultural capital; actually, all three capitals; which are exchanged freely. This is evident when we observe school leaders and teachers behaving very differently in the classroom, staff meeting and playground (see diagram also draw a better diagram). This behaviour may give away the leader’s status, teacher or pupil in the hierarchy without any explicit statements. The habitus is not borne of free will or the structures rather; it’s the child of the interplay of both. There is no decree absolute of how a senior leader will act in a staff meeting or in a classroom. There are no fixed rules around what the teacher wears, but we all know the rules and etiquettes exist.
Isabel Wilkerson gives a personal example of observing the habitus in action while on a trip to India researching the Dalit class by stating.
“began to be able to tell who was the high born and who was low born among the Indian people among us, not from what they looked like, as one might when in the United States, but on the basis of the universal human response to hierarchy is the case of an upper caste person an inescapable certitude in bearing, demeanour, behaviour, a visible expectation of centrality”.
Isabel Wilkerson, Caste."began to be able to tell who was the high born and who was low born among the Indian people among us, not from what they looked like, as one might when in the United States, but on the basis of the universal human response to hierarchy Click To Tweet