All 2 entries tagged Sociology

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May 25, 2008

Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu


Pierre Bourdieu


Pierre Bourdieu


Cultural Capital 

Pierre Bourdieu is perhaps best known in this country for his work on the concept of cultural capital. Work on Bourdieu and class appears on pp 76-77 of book 2 Social Differences and Divisions.

Here is a definition of cultural capital by Mike Savage:

By being based around abstraction, cultural capital bestows upon its possessors the skills and attributes to perform well in the educational process and hence convert their dispositions into educational credentials that will allow them to move into privileged jobs. thus cultural capital allows people to sustain social advantage. It is a separate axis of stratification to economic capital. (Savage. 2002. 'Social Exclusion and Class Analysis'  p 77)


On page 78 Savage has extracted the work of Warde studying food consumption in the UK based upon a Bourdieu derived analysis of cultural capital. Warde shows that food consumption has a high degree of consistency over social class and is not just related to income. As Savage points out on p 79 small industrial and commercial employers have similar food tastes to those of thier employees. These differ quite radically from those of the professional classes. You might wish to mae a note of a couple of figures so that you can cite them as examples of the uses of quantitative research in identifying aspects of class. 


Savage points out that the concept of cultural capital is different from Weber's notions of status. Status refers to honour / dishonour. Cultural capital  involves the inculcation of certain skills and abilities even though they may not be aware of this. Status must be recognised otherwise the status function is lost. Cultural capital on the other hand is frequently at its most effective when it is misrecognised.

For Bourdieu because 'high culture' takes on the position of being universal culture rather than the culture of the ruling elites  it thus sustains the power and privileges of the ruling elite. in food consumption for example eating more fresh fruit and vegetables is deemed as being healthier and something that everybody should aspire to as a universal ideal. This approach ignores the class basis of food consumption. 


Habitus & Field  (See p 81)

Savage also touches upon two other important aspects of Bourdieu's work habitus and field.

Habitus can be described as the internalised, usually unconscious points of view which people hold. These dispositions have the effect of making people feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in different social circumstances. As a result they try and situate themselves within the fields in which they feel most comfortable. Bourdieu notes the idea of pre-reflexive fields and reflexive fields.   The latter is less dependent upon money and more upon the ability to function reflexively within powerful institutions which organise the economy and the state. Non-reflexive fields may allow a social actor to accumulate excellent skills such as playing professional football and can earn large amounts of money. But even thebest paid are limited in what they can achieve. They are usually not able to move into other fields and for those not at the top of a sport this can be a problem in later life if sufficient economic capital is not built up.


May 24, 2008

Ferdinand Toennies

Ferdinand Toennies


Bust of Ferdinand Toennies

I, VollwertBIT, the copyright holder of this work, has published or hereby publishes it under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5


Toennies is best known for his concepts of Gemeinschaft & Gesellschaft.


Gemeinschaft is associated with close-knit communities which are more feudal or semi-feudal in their social relationships. They are in other words pre-industrial.

Gesellschaft by comparison can be associated with the more distanced social relationships between people in a city despite their physical closeness to each other. 

The trailer below is from the Italian film Rocco and His Brothers by Luchino Visconti. Several of Visconti's films explored the tensions developing within Italy as it modernised after the Second World War. Peasant families from the mezzogiorno (deep south) migrated to the rapidly growing industrial cities of Milma and Turin. Visconti's film follows the trials and tribulations of just such a peasant family from the deep south. The film opens with the train arriving in Milan where they expect to meet the eldest brother who has gone on ahead. The family can no longer make a living from the land and they must find work and shelter. 

Simone takes up boxing a fairly typical thing  to do, and as he becomes more dissolute Rocco takes over being a boxer to pay off Simone's debts.   Another brother goes to night school and eventually becomes a skilled worker in the Alfa Romeo factory. His understanding is that hard work and social solidarity in the unions is the way to survive this new environment. The plot gets complicated as firstly Simone has a relationship with Nadia who is also an immigrant and makes a living through prostitution. As simone goes downhill Nadia leaves him. A couple of years later Rocco who had to do national srvice takes up with her: they are both very much in love, yet ultimately Rocco betrays her because he cannot throw over the patriarchal ifeology that the family must be protected at all costs. This is in spite of Simone raping Nadia in front of his brother who is being restrained by Simone's friends. Eventually Nadia is murdered by Simone and it is another brother who recognises that the rule of law is above family and calls the police. Gesellschaft has triumphed over Gemeinscaft which is shown up as being regpressive and regressive.


There are many features of the change to modernity which are effectively tackled in this film and representations of class and the growing industrial city are all involved. This film shows very well the effects of the growth of industrialism creating flows of labour into the city and the problems immigrants have in adapting. For a range of contemporary British films that have been representing some of thes concerns in today's Britain check out my page on this: Representing the World Locally also check out the page Globalisation and Cinema.

Toennies was more concerned with the loss of Gemeinschaft Visconti on the other hand is rather more critical of these older forms of organisation. 

When it comes to the books in DD 201 I would suggest that you revise the work on Family and Kinship in East London from Wilmot and Young. This shows how the stereotype of people being isolated in the city was never really the case.  There were extending families living in Bethnal Green and  according to Wilmot and Young's research and lots of community activities and support. When these families were moved into more modern accommadation their social networks became more extended. The change effected women the most as they didn't usually have a full-time job. 


For more on the work of Wilmot and Young go to Book 1 page 234 and also the reading on page 256 for Bethnal Green and 259 for Greenleigh.  


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