Cultural Capital


Warsaw School of Economics, Poland

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs083

The concept of cultural capital was first introduced by French sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron in 1970 in their study on school education and differences in children's outcomes. Bourdieu and Passeron (1990/1970) found that middle-class parents equip their children with cultural capital, which consists of a variety of language, social, and cultural skills. Schools require the possession of these skills to achieve educational success, and are not able, through teaching, to pass these competencies on to working-class children. As a result, school grades, even though they seem to be objective, in fact reflect and contribute to economic inequality. Finally, working-class children can see that the educational success of their middle-class peers is legitimated by symbolic or economic inheritance rather than being the result of hard work.

Bourdieu further developed the concept of cultural capital as part of his theory of structure and agency in his later works. He shows that individuals can use many forms of capital, with which they are unequally equipped. The crucial forms are economic capital (money and tangible objects suitable to produce goods and services, infrastructure), social capital (social position and networks of more or less institutionalized relationships), cultural capital (lifestyle, acquired or consumed cultural objects, skills, customs, language, ...

Get The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.