OBE pierre Bourdieu

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Capital. What is it and how best to describe it? Through what lens can it best be understood? According to a wealthy, in the narrow idea that capital is strictly a measure of dollars, businessman it might simply be how much money an individual can summon or the size of a portfolio. A sociologist, more focused on complicated relationships of groups, of might only focus on the extent a person can apply knowledge to his surroundings in terms of understanding different group's behavior. Or more realistically , and as I understood it, as Bourdieu believes is it a combination of the two.

"...capital can present itself in three fundamental guises: as economic capital,...as cultural capital....and as social capital," p16. What I will attempt to do is evaluate these different ideas of capital.

Economic capital is not given much thought as it is capital "which is immediately and directly convertible into money" p16. Not much more though is given other than to relate how the other forms of capital can be converted into this. Actually Bourdieu seems to take a dim view of this later in the article condemning it as over simply and lacking insight.

"Economists might seem to deserve credit for explicitly raising the question of their relationship between the rates of profit on educational investment....But their measurement of the yield from scholastic investment takes account only of monetary investments and profits, or those directly convertible into money,...they are unable to explain...because they fail to take systematic account of the structure of the differential chances of profit which the various markets offer these agents." p 17.

Cultural capital is broken down further and deals primarily with how ones education can be converted, in not so simple means or relationships, into money, and by what circumstances some get a "head start" in their education. This is where I tend to disagree to a certain extent with what Bourdieu has to say. He makes a point that economists "...ignores, inter alia, the fact that the scholastic yield from educational action depends on the cultural capital previously invested by the family." p 17. Coming from a family that placed a high value on education and knowing the investments made by my family to further my education it would be incorrect to say he is wrong in his conclusion. I do however fear and distrust broad and general statements like this. I can only assume it to be true that there are numerous examples where individuals pulled themselves up and out of the, for lack of a better term, uneducated masses and achieved a great deal of success in many areas of their life.

He divides cultural capital into three forms; the embodied state, the objectified state, and the institutionalized state. I couldn't agree more with how he describes the embodied. It seemed almost like a code of living focusing on self betterment and the idea that hard work pays off. It seemed to read as a set of instructions or guidelines praising hard work. Denouncing the idea that worth can be instantly acquired and requires, in his words, "an investment, above all of time,". He did however seem self contradicting at times when saying "cultural capital can be acquired....It cannot be accumulated beyond the appropriating capacities of an individual agent", now I might be misunderstanding this but in my eyes that contradicts
His idea regarding scholastic yield and family investment. I might be entirely wrong in this assumptions, that's just how I understood it. He did later go on to say " On the other hand, the initial accumulation of cultural capital,...starts at the outset,...only for the offspring of families endowed with strong cultural capital". p 19

The objectified state, as I understood it, concerns itself with the allocation of value we place on the arts. How could a painting or a sculpture be worth millions of dollars at times if we do not mutually agree that expression through various forms can be converted directly into monetary value. Later he does add that this form is only true if and when such objects are actually desired by people.

The institutionalized state. This struck home. "academic investment has no meaning unless a minimum degree of reversibility of the conversion it implies is objectively guaranteed." p 21. Having been away from school for a few years and in a crappy job has given me some insights on the value of an education. Everything these days seems to require a minimum of a four year degree as a prerequisite for consideration. Surprisingly though, and ignoring more technical or specialized jobs, the type of degree is not mentioned. Like a secret handshake or password for a speakeasy, the four year degree, is the key that opens up doors and say I'm competent hire me!


"Social capital is...membership in a group...which provides each of its members...a 'credential'" p21. In other words or more commonly it's not what you know but who you know. He elaborates and gives qualifications such as the size, importance, exclusivity or notoriety of given groups. Some groups exist specifically for the purpose of consolidating resources for the betterment of their members. Groups are not always voluntary though. Family is a very important group in the reading and acts in many instances for the betterment of the family. I really enjoyed his statement that "It is quite logical that, in most societies, the preparation and conclusion of marriages should be the business of the whole group, and not of the agents directly concerned." p. 22. This seems very foreign in our culture but reminds me that arranged marriages are still widespread and used for economic gain.

Groups, including families, have spokespersons in charge of speaking for the group collective. Groups have for lack of a better term rulers, in charge of setting and enforcing group laws and practices and at times forcibly removing members from given groups. I liked the line "The noble is the group personified." p. 24. In these reading sometimes a simple yet almost poetic sentence can really draw me back into the reading.


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This page contains a single entry by Nick S. published on October 10, 2012 12:07 AM.

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