Workshop Emerging Capital

Our 1st workshop will be held @ LSE on September 12th 2013

webposterBourdieu’s (1986) notion of cultural capital has become one of the most widely deployed concepts in the social sciences. However, in recent years the idea has come under sustained attack. Many (Warde et al, 1999; Coulangeon, 2005) have argued that the status of ‘high’ cultural goods has weakened significantly, while others have noted that this shift has been matched by changing patterns of cultural consumption, with contemporary elites shunning ‘snobbery’ in favour of a new form of cultural omnivorousness (Peterson, 1996; Bennett et al 2009; Warde, 2011) Such developments have obvious implications for cultural capital. If high culture has lost its signifying power and elites are now happy to consume ‘popular’ culture, it follows that traditionally legitimate cultural tastes have lost their currency. However, increasingly, another explanation is forming among cultural sociologists. These authors counter-argue that the eclectic taste reported in omnivore studies does not presuppose that elites are now indifferent to aesthetic hierarchies. Indeed, the problem with such studies, they argue, is that they tend to obscure the fact that hierarchies of legitimacy may exist within categories of high or low culture (Atkinson, 2011; Friedman, 2011) and, furthermore, that the pursuit of distinction may not just be a matter of what objects are consumed, but the way they are consumed (Hennion, 2001; Holt, 1997; Savage and Prieur, 2012; Lizardo, 2012). Such an intellectual current has been further fuelled by the recent findings of the BBC Great British Class Survey (n = 161,000), which indicates that there may now be two main types of cultural capital: that associated with highbrow taste, and that which the BBC team provocatively term ‘emerging’ cultural capital – based on engagement with video games, gyms, rap and rock music, among others (Savage et al, 2013). Reflecting on these developments, this workshop aims to explore whether the concept of cultural capital has moved on and asks whether its contemporary power as a structuring force in social stratification demands new strands of enquiry. In particular, we want to encourage new ways of thinking about divisions in the consumption of popular culture, critical engagements with Bourdieu’s formulation of cultural capital, empirical engagement with the cultural omnivore thesis, the notion of embodied cultural capital, and how we might discern the precise social advantage – in terms of convertibility and transmissibility – conferred by ‘emerging’ notions of cultural capital.

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