Friday, April 11, 2014

On Bordieu's The Forms of Capitalism

This article is extraordinarily packed with information about class and social systems. The language used, however, seems radically unapproachable for many non-academics. With that being said, and to help with my own understanding of this article excerpt, I have rewritten Bordieu's work to be not only more accessable to all folk, but also to examine what is really being said by this author.

Capital is something that is grown in businesses and groups of for-profit industries. This is because of the organized labor practices which involve the socially acceptable - and socially encouraged - prospect of working for someone else, of having a job. In a capitalistic society, having a job is celebrated, where not having one is not. With this being said, Capital is not grown or developed by a chance occurence that everyone has. Capital is not unbiased or based on a system of random equality - capital and it's development, is rigged. The odds of developing capital are against those who do not already have it. A capitalistic society will commonly have us, the people looking for capital, believe that capital is something that happens to everyone randomly at different times - like a game of Roulette, where everything is chance. We think of it as something that either happens or doesn't, without looking critically at how capital is actually analogous with investments and/or heredity. To have capital is to have an invested, continuing process of growth based on previous growth experiences, rather than random luck. This explains why many times the rich keep getting richer - because of this continual nature of capital growth.

Capital guides our understanding of the world and other social institutional structures. Bordieu argues that we can't begin to see social structures clearly without first looking at capital in all of its forms. This is because economic exchanges in capitalism become most important in a capitalist society. In this way, cultural and all other kinds of exchanges exist in a hierarchical position to economy, with economic exchanges being of the top-most importance. Economic capital is therefore a facilitator for cultural capital.

There are several different ways in which one's capital can be expressed, however. These ways are economic capital (the access to money and wealth), cultural capital (the use of institutions like education to benefit oneself and one's kin), and social capital (knowing and making connections which lead to the two previous forms of capital). While some kinds of capital are lost when a person dies (embodied cultural capital), others exist on for one's own kin and legacy.

This complex understanding of capital can be related to why there is an intelligence difference between children of different classes, as well, or why capital is not widely shared by the masses. Types of social capital help to keep the group of elites in their positions, though these positions are maintained by every person in the group. While we as a culture tend to view economic capital as the only things worth talking about, it is extraordinarily important to talk about how capital is distributed and used to create a kind of culture of capital. Without this discussion, we return to a discussion of individualistic tendencies, where the individual is blamed for their own position in society without a critical glance at the social structures which maintain the hierarchy.

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