Bourdieu n’Em


According to Bourdieu the amount of the cultural capital of an individual determines their success rate in an educational system. Bourdieu defines cultural capital as the characteristics given by families of individuals such as their linguistic and cultural competence, habits, social style, and their cultural qualities. He also claims that culture is transmitted from generation to generation through the educational system of the ruling class. Bourdieu places education as the primary force of inculcation of individuals of society and that the educational system is responsible for the reproduction of structure of power relationships and the symbolic relationships between classes. According to Bourdieu the culture in which transmits most education is closer to the dominant culture or ruling class that holds majority of the distribution of cultural capital. Therefore the higher the level of education, the more cultural activities as well as cultural consumption.

Bourdieu claimed that by making social hierarchies and the reproduction of these hierarchies appear to be based upon the hierarchy of “gifts”, merits, or skills established, the educational system fulfills the legitimation of certain “social order” and relationships between the classes. He also states that the academic market tends to sanction and reproduce the distribution of cultural capital by proportioning academic success to the amount of cultural capital bequeathed by the family. Bourdieu believed that economic capital equates to the possession of power and that sanctions that are rich with cultural capital tend to invest more in their children’s education and cultural practices and therefore have larger proportion of educational institutions. In the same manner, sections that are rich with economic capital invest for the benefit of their economic investments, still granting them with power over social norms and order.

Daniel Bell

Daniel Bell believed that present-day sociologists think of society as a unified system organized around a single major principle that seeks to reproduce itself through the dominant institutions of that society. Bell argued that the better way of analyzing society is to view it as a combination of three distinct realms: the social structure/the techno-economic order, the political, and the culture. He states that the three realms of society are ruled by diverging and contradictory principles. He claimed that the economic realm is ruled by the principle of efficiency, the cultural realm is ruled by the principle of self-realization or self-gratification, and the political realm is ruled by the principle of equality. According to Bell, the imbalance or disjunction of these three principles are what have produced tensions and conflicts in the capitalistic society for centuries. He claimed that the welfare of the state throughout the post-war era the population began to demand the state to fulfill desires that the cultural sphere encourages but that same desire contradicts with the economic state to continue to inspire to grow and remain strong. If a society is unable to maintain or fulfill demands by the population as far as economically, politically or dealing with equality, there will always be an unrest or resistance to the structure of that society.

Erik Wright

Erik Wright’s work can be attributed to that of Karl Marx due to his analysis of class structure to explain and predict people’s material interest, living experiences and conditions, as well as willingness to engage in collective action and other organizational activities. According to Wright, employees with “sought-after” skills are in a ‘privileged appropriation location within exploitation relations’ because they are able to obtain more privileges through their relation to the owner of the means of production than the less skilled workers. The owners of the means of production tries to “buy” the loyalty of the skilled workers by offering them ownership stakes delegating them with authority over other less skilled workers, and allowing them to be more or less autonomous in determining the pace and direction of their work.


With Bourdieu’s theory of cultural reproduction and cultural capital, I feel as though he placed the dominant culture over the many other cultures this world has to offer. Now my critique or issue with this is that over time cultural capitalism will force the conformity of the diverse population of the society to the cultural norms or values of those of the dominant culture. I do believe that it is through the educational investments and economic investments that will lead or shape the value or certain norms or society but under what circumstance or placement can you value one culture over the other? What is the measuring tool used by this and does economic accumulation really suggest a higher cultural value or could one group of people continue to benefit off of the work of a disenfranchised group of people?


While reading Bourdieu’s cultural reproduction and cultural capital I automatically thought of the certain cultural activities that are shared among the ruling class and the working class. Go seeing an opera or theatre shows are not necessarily a cultural activity found among working class people but rather an activity shared by the ruling class.

Research Questions

How can Bell’s theory of the three distinct realms of society by attributed to the alienation of the economic factor of society?
Does Erik Wright’s account for division in the workplace present a vicious circle in the capitalistic structure of society?

One thought on “Bourdieu n’Em”

  1. The question Bourdieu asks is what role do those cultural activities play in reproducing social class? You can extend this to the race/class debate…how much of the economic marginalization of AfAm.’s has to do with culture and how much has to do with structure? This is a very heated political question!

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