Category Archives: Cultural Capital

Cultural Capital

According to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, cultural capital is our tastes, knowledge, attitudes, language, and ways of thinking that we exchange in interaction with others. We adapt to our certain cultural capital when we become a part of certain social classes and cultural groups. Almost everything that a person does is because of their cultural capital. What we wear, how we talk, where we live, what grocery stores we shop at, what we consider to be entertainment, are all a part of our cultural capital.

This concept of cultural capital relates heavily to our social classes. People of the upper class have different lifestyles and tastes than people of working or lower class. For example, people of the upper class are more likely to consider the opera or “black-tie parties” as entertainment than people of the working or lower class, who may enjoy NASCAR on television. Another example of this takes place in high schools. In high schools all over the United States, there are different social classes within each of them. For some schools, most of the students belong to the same social class, usually when the school is private or in a well-off area. But in most schools there is a little bit of everything. When there are different social classes in one school, there will be groups, or “cliques” that stick together because they share the same cultural capital. There may be a group of students that all hang out together because they live in the nice part of town, shop at expensive places and have nice cars. At the same time, there will be groups of students that hang out together because they all live in the poor area of town, they get their clothes from the same stores like Good Will, and don’t have cars but ride the bus together. People tend to associate and stick together with people in their social class because they share the same cultural capital and it makes it easier for them to interact sharing the same interests and hobbies.

Often times when dealing with cultural capital, stereotypes are involved. Stereotypes are unreliable generalizations about all members of a group that do not recognize individual differences within that group. It is very common for people to stereotype social classes other than their own. For example, people of the upper class often stereotype the lower class as being lazy, talking with uneducated slang, and being obese. Stereotypes cause problems between social classes and forces a bigger gap between them with negative thoughts on each other. People of certain social classes sometimes don’t do things only because they don’t want to be judged by their peers as someone of another social class. An example would be if someone of the upper class wanted to partake in an activity called “mudding” (people drive their trucks through the mud and get stuck) but didn’t because they would be judged as someone from the lower class by their friends and feel this would be negative due to stereotypes. This is the problem that comes along with cultural capital.

There are also some problems with cultural capital when social mobility occurs. Social mobility is when someone moves from one social class to another. The problem with this is that when someone joins a new social class, the cultural capital that they had with their old class now changes and they adopt new cultural capital. If someone originally from the working class gradually becomes a part of the upper class, they no longer have the lifestyle they once had. Often times, people struggle with the new change because they feel they don’t belong or are not accepted by the people in their new social class. For example, in the movie “People Like Us,” there was a woman who felt uncomfortable going to the upper class social gatherings because she was new to that lifestyle and wasn’t used to the etiquette rules and things like that. Although the people around her in the video seemed to be accepting of her, often times that is not the case. Also when social mobility occurs, the people who are a part of the social class that the person left behind often times feel betrayed because they “forget where they came from”. The person making the change feels unaccepted in either social class.

— Mackenzie

Witt, Jon. Soc 2014. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014. Print.

Global Divide

The world is smaller than we realize. To Americans, a country like China, may seem so far away, and if you measure it in distance, it really is. However, there are many things that connect us. Even though we have different languages, food habits and cultural expectations, there are also many things America has in common with other countries; like certain technologies, religions, and even educational foundations. However, despite these similarities, there are many more things that separate countries from each other. Some of these major differences include the gap between wealth, technology, distribution of resources, and overall economy. And, not only is the world as a whole broken up by these differences, but there is a whole other level of inequalities right in our own backyard. These differences in well-being around the world make up the concept known as the Global Divide.

As previously mentioned, one of the most prominent areas of global divide is financial. The world of wealth is an imperfect system. Countries hit a high of economic growth and wealth, only to suffer a collapse, resulting in bail-out plans for large banks. Governments have to act and rescue these financial institutions, often adding more financial problems to their own institutions in the process, causing even more problems for the taxpaying citizens living in the societies of these crisis. It begs the question: where is a safe place in the cycle?

When looking at these types of issues, one could use a theory called the World Systems Analysis to understand and graph anything from reading levels across countries, to economic growth and decay. It has been found that the richest 1% of people in the world own more than half of the wealth of the entire world. (www.theguardian.com) But why is this the case? Well, as MarketWatch.com describes it, “the rich are rich because what they do is so valuable.” One may argue that celebrity actors shouldn’t be rich because they really don’t do all that much for humanity. However, people still pay to see their work, and on a large scale as well. The majority of those in the top 1% are corporate executives for financial firms, and lawyers for those firms. Because of the fact that the rich thrive in only the top percent, that means after the most recent recession, they were able to fully bounce back, while those in the poor category remained the same, or only got worse. This isn’t only happening here in America. Millions of people all over the world are struggling just to survive through the next day, while others lead privileged and secure lives.

Here is a short video that shows a simplified look into the wealth divide around the world, and mostly in the United States. It really makes you think twice about the way our country works.

 

Our world is not only divided by wealth, but also by the lifestyles and attitudes of the people involved in these categories. In this class, we have learned about the Social Class System. The Social class system is the division of people into categories based on their income, and while this does have to do with wealth, there is a whole other cultural side to these classes. The way people are able to express themselves, the way they conduct their everyday lives, strongly depends on their social class. This is where we tend to experience and see Social Inequality and Social Stratification. Obviously someone who makes $5,000 a year is going to live quite a different life from someone who makes $100,000. And there are many reasons for this gap. Education, connections, family ties, all are involved in the fate of a person’s financial status. In class we’ve also discussed the stratification side: the fact that “social inequality is built into the structure of society”. (Witt, SOC pg. 238)

  • From here one is able to truly visualize how the Global Divide effects us. Allow me to break it down one last time:
  • The 1% rule more than half the wealth around the world.
  • Income, Resources, and Technology are unevenly dispersed around the world.
  • This causes another gap, not just amongst countries, but amongst the states
  • And then, there are even more divisions in our own state of Michigan
  • In our own towns even
  • There is always going to be a divide

Here is an image that charts the amount of internet access and usage around the world. The yellow being the highest rank, and the red and orange being the lowest. Just another example of the Global Divide.

Now that we’ve covered a more in-depth look at wealth and it’s relationship to the global divide, we will now turn our attention to a quick glimpse at what is probably the second most talked about areas affected by the global divide: digitalization. This divide is considered a social inequality, and is taken in reference to the access to, use of, and knowledge of the internet and modern digital technologies. This is a division that has really grown over the last couple decades. The inequality goes beyond just countries, but also to businesses and households. There are four arguments on why we should “bridge the gap”. They are: economic equality, social mobility, democracy, and economic growth. Connections have been made between the way a government is run, in correlation to a society’s internet usage and availability. ICT (information communications technology) centers are working to help developing countries in the adaptation and integration of technologies that we take for granted. There is also a lot of controversy surrounding this, especially from those who believe that our modern technologies are unneeded and polluting. What do you think? Do you think every country should have the same equal access to these technologies? What will be gained? What will be lost in the process?

Now that you know of just a few areas effected by the global divide, you will be able to easily analyze your own life, and where you stand on the scale. We see these divisions not only world wide, but on a small scale as well, within our own country, our own state, and our own neighborhood. We’re all affected by social inequality, whether we are in the top percent, or the bottom. Because of our easy access to the internet, we are exposed to hundreds of charts, graphs, and informational databases that can further explain these and many other world wide divisions. And while some may think that the coming technological world wide revolution is unneeded, I’m sure we’ve all appreciated our modern technologies at one point or another.

–Kellie