Gender, home and family in cultural capital theory

Silva, Elizabeth B. (2005). Gender, home and family in cultural capital theory. British Journal of Sociology, 56(1) pp. 83–103.



The paper argues that Bourdieu's stress on early familiarization for the highest value of cultural capital is closely linked to his idea, strongly emphasized in Distinction, about the role of family and domestic life for individual development and social positions. The role of women, as mothers and homemakers, is crucial in this process. Yet, Bourdieu defines social origin as deriving from the father. The centrality to Bourdieu's thinking of a resilient traditional pattern of masculine domination and feminine submission constitutive of the Western gender habitus explains both his stress on 'normalcy' for the production of legitimate dispositions, and his resistance to incorporating into his thinking the implications of recent transformations in home family living, which have destabilized the gender order. It is thus important to consider contemporary feminist analyses of the family and home life and their significance for a renewed theory of cultural capital.
The paper considers two sets of literature. Firstly, it addresses the manners in which home and family are conceptualized in Bourdieu's key texts where these issues were prominent in the development of his thinking on cultural capital. The second set of literature includes texts by feminist academics in the fields of family, gender and the body, which analyse the destabilizing of the gender order and everyday family living in contemporary society. Two questions are addressed on the basis of these reflections: (1) Is cultural capital an individual or a household resource? (2) How does cultural capital relate to personal interdependencies at the level of family and households?

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