Introduction: cultural capital-histories, limits, prospects

Bennett, Tony and Silva, Elizabeth (2011). Introduction: cultural capital-histories, limits, prospects. Poetics, 39(6) pp. 427–443.



Where does the concept of cultural capital stand regarding the histories of its creation, uses, debates and the revisions these have provoked? What are its limits? Which are the key aspects holding the best prospects for future research, or most in need of reformation? These are our concerns outlined in this paper setting out the context for our discussion of the seven papers assembled in this special issue. We first set out the concept of cultural capital in Bourdieu’s work noting that it was originally shaped pragmatically in critical interventions into education and cultural policies. We then highlight aspects of the career of the concept of cultural capital in relation to empirical studies of cultural consumption noting some key qualifications and limitations. Limits and prospects are discussed vis-a`-vis the papers assembled, under three headings: (1) cultural capital and the logics of capitalism; (2) cultural capital, education and cultural policy, and ‘social exclusion’; and (3) aesthetics and the relationality of the social. In concluding, we note the continuing operation of cultural capital as a mechanism for the reproduction of class advantages pointing to the need to consider further the manners in which it engages elites, uses of new media and hierarchies based on gender and ethnicity.

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