Definition of Cultural Capital
(noun) The distinctions that develop between individuals and groups due to differences in access to education, family background, occupation, and wealth, giving them advantages and serving as a signifier of an individual’s status within a group or society.
Example of Cultural Capital
- Higher status groups often socialize their children in “proper” language usage, formal manners, and appreciation for high culture such as literature and theater.
Cultural Capital Pronunciation
Syllabification: cul·tur·al cap·i·tal
- American English – /kUHl-chuhr-ruhl kAp-uht-l/
- British English – /kUHl-chuh-ruhl kAp-itl/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /ˈkʌlʧərəl ˈkæpətəl/
- British English – /ˈkʌlʧərəl ˈkæpɪtl/
- Plural: cultural capitals
- Term coined by Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002), who emphasized that cultural capital is taught through socialization and used to exclude the lower classes.
- Cultural capital can be converted to other kinds of capital such as social capital.
- Statuses an individual can be born with or attain can be considered cultural capital.
- Also called cultural capital theory.
- “All groups have norms, values, beliefs, ways of life, and codes of conduct that identify the group and define its boundaries” (McNamee and Miller 2013:58).
- “Class boundaries are also maintained by language, speech patterns, and pronunciation. Members of the upper class speak more directly and in a more assured manner than do members of the working and lower classes. Their confident demeanor, in turn, enables upper- and upper-middle-class speakers to project images of credibility, honesty, and competence that are important in all social arenas—especially the workplace” (Thompson and Hickey 2012:221).
- Word origin of “cultural” and “capital” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Bourdieu, Pierre. 1986. “The Forms of Capital.” In Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, edited by J. Richardson. New York: Greenwood.
- Halle, David. 1993. Inside Culture: Art and Class in the American Home. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “cultural capital.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved August 4, 2021 (https://sociologydictionary.org/cultural-capital/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
cultural capital. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/cultural-capital/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “cultural capital.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed August 4, 2021. https://sociologydictionary.org/cultural-capital/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“cultural capital.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 4 Aug. 2021. <https://sociologydictionary.org/cultural-capital/>.