Cultural capital and visual art in the contemporary UK

Silva, Elizabeth (2008). Cultural capital and visual art in the contemporary UK. Cultural Trends, 17(4) pp. 267–287.



Special Issue on ‘The consequences of instrumental museum and gallery policy’:

The article considers choices and opportunities to access the arts in the contemporary UK, connecting these to engagements in culture in relation to position in social space. The reflection is informed by the ESRC funded investigation of the Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion project, CCSE, which assessed the applicability to Britain of Pierre Bourdieu's work in Distinction (1984), 40 years after his original French study. While exploring the broader thesis the project probes and disagrees with many elements of Bourdieu's arguments. This article outlines the main thesis about how cultural capacity affects the structure of social inequality and explores how this takes shape in the current British context. After considering the broader picture emerging from the interplay of various cultural fields, based on Multiple Correspondence Analysis, the discussion focuses on the field of visual art. This has the aim to reflect about the links that this field has with broader cultural processes in the UK and its specificities. The field of visual art appears as one of the most distinctive fields of cultural practices, and one where the intensity of participation is highly relevant for social position. The engagements of individuals indicate powerful tensions in the ways people conceive visual art. Cultural capital is relevant for the kind and level of involvement in this field with individuals being positioned predominantly according to possession of cultural capital, but with inflections linked to particular demographics where divisions of gender, age and ethnicity, as well as biographical patterns are significant. These are mixed in different ways as resources for social position in the field of visual art. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

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