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Cultural Capital

Examples Of Cultural Capital, Occupational Culture And Competence, Immigrant Experience, Bibliography

The concept of cultural capital originated in the work of Pierre Bourdieu (1979, pp. 10, 12), who defined it as high cultural knowledge that ultimately redounds to the owner's financial and social advantage. An example would be knowing how to "dress for success." This cultural knowledge can pay off. Although they naturally seek competent personnel, employers also prefer executives who dress, talk, and comport themselves in accordance with their elite status. As a result, a job-seeker's sartorial knowledge commands a salary beyond what his or her productivity alone would have commanded. In effect, the well-dressed candidate gets a salary bonus. Most people do not know how to dress for success, do not even know the importance of doing so, and do not, in fact, do so. For this reason, the acquisition of high cultural knowledge and style, including stylish dress, table manners, golf, knowledge of wine, the right neighborhood, and arty chit-chat, represents a capital resource of the owner, vested in the owner, but it is not human capital. Usually human capital and cultural capital go together because people who have one usually have the other as well, but the two capitals are in principle distinct. Anyone may have human capital without cultural capital, or cultural capital without human capital. In principle, adults might acquire cultural capital by hiring a tutor (Eliza Doolittle benefited from one in My Fair Lady). However, cultural capital is prohibitively inconvenient and expensive to acquire that way. In reality, people normally acquire cultural capital informally when they grow to maturity in advantaged socioeconomic households.

Forms of Capital

Capital: A store of value that facilitates action.

Financial capital: Money available for investment.

Physical capital: Real estate, equipment, and infrastructure of production.

Human capital: Education or training that increases productivity on the job.

Cultural capital: High cultural knowledge convertible into social and economic advantage.

Social capital: Relationships of trust embedded in social networks.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cosine to Cyano group