What role does cultural activities play in the social reproduction of class? Bourdieu claims that culture is transmitted from generation to generation through the educational system of the ruling class. “The inheritance of cultural wealth which has been accumulated and given by previous generations only really belongs to those endowed with the means of appropriating it for themselves”. The class position of parents determines their aesthetic codes, practices and dispositions, or their Habitus, which then becomes the cultural inheritance of the children. This ensures that only middle class or elites possess the cultural capital that is desired in society. 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.
Below are excerpts from an article that incorporates Bourdieu’s notion of cultural capital and the effect it still has on race. Independent of class and “cultural norms” one may still be called out. A wealthy African American man made sure to raise his children in an elite lifestyle. Their cultural norms were different from many working class and poor African Americans but still they suffered from discrimination.
“I knew the day would come, but I didn’t know how it would happen, where I would be, or how I would respond. It is the moment that every black parent fears: the day their child is called a nigger.
My wife and I, both African Americans, constitute one of those Type A couples with Ivy League undergraduate and graduate degrees who, for many years, believed that if we worked hard and maintained great jobs, we could insulate our children from the blatant manifestations of bigotry that we experienced as children in the 1960s and ’70s.”
Though Bourdieu was correct in his standpoint of cultural capitalism, I don’t think he was aware of the racial discrimination that existed in the participation of cultural activities. Even if an African American was born and raised in an upper-class family with no familial ties to working class or poverty by any means wouldn’t that suggest that his cultural norms would mirror that of upper class individuals? And if so, his participation in those activities will never negate the fact that he would be discriminated against either consciously or subconsciously by those in his same “culture norms” no matter how much or long he’s been a part of it.
“We convinced ourselves that the economic privilege we bestowed on them could buffer these adolescents against what so many black and Latino children face while living in mostly white settings: being profiled by neighbors, followed in stores and stopped by police simply because their race makes them suspect.
1. Does Bourdieu’s account of cultural capitalism and cultural norms account from the standpoint of African Americans?
2. Could possible discrimination from a cultural norm inhibit or affect the social reproduction of it?