socialization as "capital acquisition" (the concept of the capital model by Pierre Bourdieu) [sociology]

in Educationlast year

About Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist and taught at the Paris elite university École des hautes études en sciences sociales and the Collège de France. Today he is still one of the most influential sociologists in the world. He lived from August 1930 till January 2002. In the next article, his capital model will be explained in more detail, which primarily addresses the factors of social origin.


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Bourdieu's definition of socialization (short form)

First of all, Bourdieu describes socialization:

1. as the acquisition of various types of capital,

2. as positioning in social space, and

3. as a process of habitualization.

In his social theory, B*. is able to point out the inequality of power, which can be understood as the enforcement of one's own needs and interests. The concept of capital, which he used, serves him here, because it contains exchange processes for unselfish actions under the aspect of cost-benefit relationships. According to Bourdieu, the concept of capital is the reason why everyday social life is not able to follow random laws, but rather shows regularities. Accordingly, Bourdieu distinguishes three different types of capital:

1. The economic capital

2. The cultural capital

3. The social capital

The economic capital

Bourdieu describes economic capital as accumulated labor and thus the saving from the earnings of labor. It is seen as a direct resource for generating economic profit. According to B. it is directly convertible into money and legally institutionalized as property. The second type of capital is cultural capital. It is also titled as accumulated labor. The work done is the investment of time and money in acquiring certain knowledge and skills that are considered useful in some way. According to B., cultural capital can be converted back into economic capital on the labor market. It can be viewed as an investment in people, or as education of people, and is not limited to financial investments but to all types of investments. An example is the investment of time parents spend raising their children.

B. emphasizes above all an educational phenomenon, namely that the success of children in school varies greatly depending on social class, despite formal equality of opportunity. Accordingly it says:

“During my research, the concept of cultural capital was offered to me as a theoretical hypothesis that allows me to understand the inequality of school performance of children from different social classes. The school success, i.e. the specific profit that children from different social classes and class fractions can achieve on the school market, was related to the distribution of cultural capital between the classes and class fractions ”(Bourdieu, 1992: 53).

The cultural capital

For B. then, family socialization is the possession of a certain amount of cultural capital. The cultural capital can in turn be divided into three sub-points:

1. Incorporated form of cultural capital

2. Objectified form of cultural capital

3. Institutionalized form of cultural capital

The incorporated cultural capital is characterized by the fact that it is internalized, incorporated and thus forms an integral part of a person. All non-innate properties, knowledge and skills that could serve as a resource but also occur unconsciously are incorporated. An example of this would be a person's way of speaking, which gives information about the region as a dialect or information about social origin as a sociolect and thus partially provides information about social status.

B. describes the objectified form of cultural capital as objectified accumulated labor, which, in contrast to the incorporated form, is also materially transferable. These include cultural objects such as books, works of art or musical instruments, etc. The acquisition of such objects primarily only requires economic capital, but the actual use (appropriation) requires knowledge and skills that must be available in an incorporated form. The material appropriation requires, for example, money for a book and at most some space on the bookshelf, while the appropriation of the symbolic content, i.e. the intellectual development of the works, entails other requirements.

The last form of cultural capital is the institutionalized one. It is primarily to be understood as an educational title such as the acquisition of certificates or documents and also includes the acquisition of incorporated capital. Permanent institutional recognition of certain skills is represented by this type of capital and can be converted into economic capital on the labor market. Nevertheless, the "exchange rate" has to be taken into account here, because the relationship between supply and demand must always be seen. If, for example, a large population group acquires a higher school leaving certificate, the labor market cannot accommodate all graduates because it is oversaturated and vice versa.

The social capital

The last point is now the social capital, which B. defines as follows:

“Social capital is the set of current and potential resources associated with having a permanent network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual knowledge or recognition; In other words, these are resources based on group membership ”(Bourdieu, 1992: 63).

This means resources that the actors can access if they are members of a group or a network of relationships between other actors. Despite varying degrees of success with comparable resources with economic and cultural capital, belonging to a social circle plays an essential role. For example, one can acquire social capital through incorporated and economic capital, i.e. through accumulated labor, or comparatively hardly anything has to be done for it if, for example, one is born into a noble family. Thus, one can have access to social capital or relationship networks in different ways. Put simply, all forms of capital can be transferred to inequality of opportunity in educational establishments, institutions, families and children from individual social classes.

With this little contribution I wanted to give all interested parties a little insight into the subject of B.'s capital model. Of course, there is far more literature on this topic that deals with and debates social structures.

B*. = Bourdieu

Koller, H.-C. (2009). Grundbegriffe, Theorien und Methoden der Erziehungswissenschaft. 4. Aufl. Verlag Kohlhammer GmbH Stuttgart. Pp. 139-146.

Bourdieu, P. (1992). Die verborgenen Mechanismen der Macht. In: Koller H.-C. (2009) (Hrsg.). Grundbegriffe, Theorien und Methoden der Erziehungswissenschaft – Eine Einführung. 4. Aufl. Verlag Kohlhammer GmbH Stuttgart, Pp. 53 & 63.


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