Cultural Capital

Silva, Elizabeth (2017). Cultural Capital. In: Turner, Brian ed. The Encyclopaedia of Social Theory. London: Wiley, pp. 547–554.



Cultural capital is a rich concept to explore the workings of culture in patterns of social differentiation. It was developed by Bourdieu in the mid-1960s, in the context of investigations of what, beyond economic assets, was needed to explain educational attainment. The chief finding was that dispositions inherited from family are fundamental to school success. As standards of assessment favour higher classes, better off children perform higher. Educational studies and cultural policies to mitigate class reproduction effects have applied the concept. It has also been salient in social stratification research and feminist theory. Recent explorations show the need to attend to various forms of cultural capital evident in contemporary social life. The key argument is that there is no absolute standard of cultural value on which cultural capital is based, its value being defined according to dynamically changing, and contested, hierarchies which shape the concept as context dependent and relational.

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