• Home
  • Sociology
  • Can Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural capital and the habitus illuminate contemporary class differences despite the social changes that have occurred since he developed the concepts?

Can Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural capital and the habitus illuminate contemporary class differences despite the social changes that have occurred since he developed the concepts? Essay Example

  • Category:
    Sociology
  • Document type:
    Essay
  • Level:
    Undergraduate
  • Page:
    3
  • Words:
    2179

Can Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural capital and the habitus illuminate contemporary class differences despite the social changes that have occurred since he developed the concepts?

Can Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural capital and the habitus illuminate contemporary class differences despite the social changes that have occurred since he developed the concepts?

Introduction

). Bourdieu (1986) explains capital as a power concept and thus capital represents fundamental organization of social relations where capital is accumulated labor but comes in various forms (cultural, material, social, economic, symbolic and such) (Bourdieu, 1986). Therefore, Bourdieu suggests that the concept of capital is a social mechanism and not an aspect allied to the economic area or connections to production. Social class is allied to means of production yet this doesn’t inform how social classes are formed, how the complex class status of capitalist societies are expressed and internalized by people and how other systems of status are assimilated into class’ power system. Bourdieu explains how the knowledge and utilization of cultural artefacts and the body, as well as the taste which individuals develop for culture develop sublimated changes allied to a dominant class. This paper will focus on discussing whether Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural capital and the habitus illuminate contemporary class differences despite the social changes that have occurred since he developed the concepts (Bourdieu, 1987).Habitus results from interaction between social structures, which includes the family, and personal choice (Bourdieu, 1984According to Bourdieu (1990) the habitus involves various systems such as cognitive, aesthetic and normative systems that orient opinions, actions and preferences of the person resulting from the structured social environment of the people. Therefore, the practice of various fields and spaces correspond the structures of social space since various forms of classes (habitus) resulting from various social positions.

In regard to class differences, Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural capital and the habitus suggest that consumption patterns differ between various classes and within the consumption patterns as well and therefore people use consumption to determine and show their social differences. Bourdieu further argues that social differences are not shaped by economic capital alone but also the concept of cultural capital shapes habitus which includes supporting education success, sports, in addition to leisure activities (Bourdieu, 1990). These concepts do not illuminate the modern class differences in regard to the social changes that have taken place since as illustrated in the following arguments.

Bourdieu stresses how “dominant classes” in contemporary societies control and dominate cultural capital the same way they dominate and control economic capital and pass on cultural capital from generation to another the same way they pass on possessions. The ‘dominant classes’ achieve this because of the variations in habitus allied to varying class conditions. Due to the habitus they have obtained, children from varying classes experience educational structure in completely varying ways. The culture of education in particular the ones with privileged class is the culture of the dominant classes and hence their syllabus and pedagogy as well as what is taught aligns with a system familiar to children of the dominant classes. On the other hand, educational institutions normally offer a cultural atmosphere that is completely unfamiliar to children from low economic class and hence they are not able to adapt. Therefore, children from the low economic class are actually excluded from attaining a high educational success apart probably the few who are able to rise above the restrictions of their habitus. Cultural stratification is therefore replicated from one generation to another in a manner that indicates a close ‘homology’ with the replication of financial stratification (Savage, 2005).

Nonetheless, the similarity between cultural and economic capital is less compelling as it appears. This is because in all contemporary societies, governments have established educational structures, at primary, secondary and tertiary levels where children are able to learn for free or with minimal costs and where children from both the elite and low economic classes are progressively taking part in education. This means that governments for various economic and political reasons have taken actions to bestow children with cultural capital on a rather enormous level and in a manner that ensures there are no differences regarding economic capital. Therefore, whereas passing on of wealth from one generation to another continues to happen in families, in the contemporary society the family is not or the key source of creating or transmitting cultural capital (Hedström, 2005).

According to Bourdieu (1986) everybody have the same chance to succeed but the meritocratic in regard to the ability of children to fit-in with the dominant cultural values effected through the school system. In this regard, Bourdieu argument is that schools play a big part in social elimination and this entails the requirement to increasingly remove student from accessing higher knowledge and social rewards through exam system that is devised to gradually fail or eliminate students. Children from working class have a higher likelihood of failing the exams since their cultural capital is perceived as less valid (Hedström, 2005). Another way that Bourdieu argues schools do social elimination is through self-elimination where children from working class realize fast that they do not fit in the educational system because the educational system seems not to provide much that is culturally valuable and thus they choose to leave the educational system as soon as possible (Bourdieu, 1986). Such children discover that their opportunities of educational success are minimal and thus they ‘reasonably’ evaluate the potential future openings available to them which are usually to work instead of pursuing further education. However as mentioned before, in the contemporary society the state has been so insistent in increasing educational participation and also teacher are not agents of ideological domination (Rossi, 2001).

Bourdieu further argues that the role of education is mostly social reproduction that purposively enables the dominant social class to replicate its power, wealth, along with privilege justifiably. This argument overplays the situation within contemporary societies where rising number of highly skilled employees might be required to cope with the contemporary aspects such as computerization. In addition, the deskilling of numerous jobs leads to less requirement for some areas of workers to be educated and hence the contemporary educational system is not responding in the manner it should in regard to Bourdieu’s argument (Rossi, 2001).

Still, in the contemporary society, there have been several attempts to employ the concept of cultural capital overtly to understand disparity educational attainment. For instance, due to changes in the society, many parents are recognizing the value of education in spite of their social class and hence varying social classes view significance of education similarly where educational success is currently being perceived by all social classes as one of the most important key to social mobility and success. For instance Devine (2008) utilizes the concept of ‘emotional labor” to explain what he perceives as a very important role that the contemporary mothers play within the educational life opportunities of their children. Dobell argument is that the increase in the number of middle class mother within the contemporary society even presents their children with higher educational success than the children of elites class because the middle class mother have higher reserves of cultural capital than the working mothers who devote their time in working and hence they are better placed to support their children throughout their education career (Devine, 2008).

The society has changed where there is an increase in the number of middle class mothers as compared to the past where the society mostly consisted of working mothers who worked throughout and did not adequately provide emotional support to their children. The ‘emotional labor’ works in several ways where in the contemporary society middle class mothers offer their children ‘compensatory education’ for instance by assisting them with homework, spending more time on the education of their children where middle class women have a less likelihood of spending their entire day in paid employment, and also middle class parents in the contemporary society have the status and confidence of confronting teachers anytime they deem that their children are not being taught well enough (Devine, 2008).

century expansion of secondary education within most advanced societies, considerable and principally upward educational mobility actually occurred between generations where two third of people who were interviewed indicated that they were ‘first generation’ to attend school since their parents were not educated and also children from work-class families were far from being precluded. Furthermore, two-third of these children from the first-generation had succeeded in attaining some form of secondary education, a percentage just a little lower than that found among students who weren’t first generation. Bourdieu’s theory of social reproduction deems cultural capital as being basically produced and passed on within families which from the study carried out by Hedström (2005) is no longer applicable within the contemporary society. thA study conducted by Hedström (2005) indicated that in the course of 20

Moreover, Bourdieu’s perspectives mostly focused on the arts and humanities and did not focus on the influence of science and technology. When he was writing, science were perceived as representing the Kantian artistic, a type of scholarly research founded on abstraction (Bourdieu, 1984). Nonetheless, in the contemporary society, technology has flourished especially in regard to information technology. The nature of educational syllabus and curriculum in schools and colleges has undergone tremendous changes. These changes have resulted to a less understanding of the contemporary cultural capital by its connection to the tradition canon of humanities and arts to a connection with science, technology and information systems (Bennett, 2009).

In the contemporary society, a commercialized culture is now being shared extensively and familiarity with digital communication has turned out to be a progressively important factor among the educated and managerial classes. Mass media has become so dominant that many people rely on it to make various choices in life. What is fashionable gets out of fashion so quickly. The cultural production has changed enormously and these are reflected within the cultural consumption. These changes indicate a certain change regarding how distinction is attained as per Bourdieu where people are less emphasizing on the choices of certain objects and emphasize more on how they relate with the objects (Goldthorpe, 2007).

The choice of objects in the contemporary society does not correspond to the Kantian pure taste as per Bourdieu but rather distanced attitude towards the choice of the objects does. It is therefore possible that the elite class might relate to the proliferation of choices. This indicates that the objectified structure of cultural capital in the contemporary society loses efficiency as an instrument for exclusionary class boundaries (Goldthorpe, 2007). For instance, as fashionable cultural objects become aestheticized and as elite object become fashionable, the objectified form of cultural capital has largely been displaced by the exemplified form. This implies that in the contemporary society, to express difference through exemplified tastes results to cultural elite class emphasizing on the individuality of consumption practices themselves, separately from the cultural contents to which they are practiced (Bennett, 2009).

Conclusion

In conclusion, Bourdieu argued that the practice of various fields and spaces correspond the structures of social space since various forms of classes (habitus) resulting from various social positions and thus habitus is a result of interaction between social structures, which includes the family, and personal choice. On the other hand, capital is a power concept and thus capital represents fundamental organization of social relations where capital is accumulated labor but comes in various forms indicating that the concept of capital is a social mechanism. However, these concepts do not illuminate the contemporary society as a result of the changes that occurred since the conception of these concepts. This is because for instance the make-up of the working class is reducing as we move towards a post-industrial society which has led to increase of the middle class where more children from the middle class are accessing education equally. Another example is where currently governments have established systems that enable children to access education for free or at very low costs and hence children from all classes are able to access education and even finally achieve elite societal class that comes with educational mobility.

Bibliography

Bourdieu, P, 1987, What Makes a Social Class? On the Theoretical and Practical Existence of Groups, Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 32, pp. 1-17.

Bourdieu, P, 1990, The Logic of Practice, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Bourdieu, P, 1986, The Forms of Capital’. Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Capital. J. G. Richardson, New York: Greenwood Press.
, London: Routledge.Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of TasteBourdieu, P, 1984,

Bennett, T, 2009, Culture, Class Distinction, London: Routledge.

Goldthorpe, J, 2007, Cultural Capital: Some Critical Observations, Sociologica, 2/2007, Doi: 10.2383/24755.

Devine, F, 2008, Capitals, Assets, and Resources: Some Critical Issues, British Journal of Sociology, 56:31-47.

Hedström, P, 2005, Foundations of Pierre Boudieu’s Class Analysis.” In

Approaches to Class Analysis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rossi, P, 2001, Social Factors in Academic Achievement: A Brief Review.” In Education, Economy and Society, New York: Free Press.

Savage, M, 2005, Introduction: Cultural Capital and Social Inequality, British Journal of Sociology, 56: 1-10.