Gender, class, emotional capital and consumption in family life

Silva, Elizabeth B. (2007). Gender, class, emotional capital and consumption in family life. In: Casey, Emma and Martine, Lydia eds. Gender and consumption: Domestic Cultures and the Commercialisation of Everyday Life. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, pp. 141–162.



This paper explores how gender and class are significant for the family as a unit of consumption. It merges empirical insight with theoretical conjecture to demonstrate how identity and consumption are inextricably bound, and how these inform women’s strategies of emotional investment. It explores the idea of the use and exchange value of emotional capital, expanding Pierre Bourdieu’s (1999) three fold characterisation of capital – economic, social and cultural - to interrogate the significance of gender and boundaries of class for family practices. The discussion is based on an in-depth family case study from a wider ethnographic investigation of home life in contemporary Britain. Three main themes are developed:
1) consumption, the self and value,
2) inclusion, exclusion and emotinal capital, and
3) diffferential assets and particular consumption

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