Social Theory

Part One

Cultural Capital Concept

In the early 1960s, Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist together with other fellow sociologists formulated the cultural capital concept. The objective of cultural capital was to expound on the fact that economic challenges were insufficient in explaining the existing disparities in children’s educational attainment on the basis of their social classes (Bennett and Elizabeth 3).  According to Bourdieu beyond and above the existing economic factors, cultural dispositions and habits, which are inherited from families, play significant roles in school success. In his explanation, Bourdieu violated the traditions on the sociological views on the culture that it is simply a source of shared values and norms. Citing Bennett and Elizabeth (4), Bourdieu assertion was that culture shares different characteristics, which are features of economic capital. In other terms, cultural dispositions and habits have resources that can lead to profit generation. Furthermore, groups and individuals monopolize cultural dispositions and habits when the conditions are appropriate. The cultural habits and dispositions can be transmitted to another generation.

As the founder of the cultural capital concept, Bourdieu had no option but to elaborate not only the meaning but also significance of the cultural capital concept beyond the empirical research context.  At the general level, Bourdieu asserts that it is possible for any form of competence to change into a capital provided it facilitates the approximation of the cultural heritage of the society. Nonetheless, it is unevenly distributed hence ideal moments for different exclusive advantages. Therefore, societies which are characterized by the formal education system and differentiated social structure points out that the advantages emerge from the institutionalization of the criteria used in evaluating schools. In other words, the assessment standards are favorable to children who belong to a given social class (Yamamoto and Mary 69).

In France, the authors’ analysis of the inequality concept can be placed between Weber and Marx, and at the center of the theory, there exists the conceptual pair of field and habitus.  The mentioned terms replace the traditional oppositions of object and subject, structure and action, freedom, and determination.  The term habitus refers to an embodied society while the field is the society that is not within the embodied structure (Tzanakis 77). Factually, it is impossible to separate objects from subjects. This is because it is impossible for a subject to exist without any form of objective structures.  On the other hand, subjectivity is due to objectivity. Nonetheless, objective structures can only occur based on the subjective action. Nonetheless, it is important to note that the course of actions is not only renewed but also modified via subjective action. The habitus is from training, which is unconscious, for example acquiring a language.  The learned dispositions are crucial as they are required for proper functioning of the society.  According to Bourdieu, it is possible to interpret the learned dispositions and make them relevant to the social structures in the society just like the economic capital.

Bourdieu classifies the cultural capital into three distinct categories. In the embodied form, it is argued that cultural capital is simply a skill or competence, and it cannot be separated from the person who holds.  As a result, the cultural capital acquisition mostly presupposes time investment on either training or learning. For instance, a student who undertakes English class is said to have obtained competence, because it is valued in particular institutional settings. This makes learning English a cultural capital. Consequently, Bourdieu points out that it is possible for different objects to be a cultural capital.  For instance, a religious text qualifies as cultural capital categorized as an objectified form. On the other hand, societies which are characterized by the formal education system, there is the institutionalized form of cultural capital.  In other words, when a school trains people and certifies their skills and competence by awarding them credentials, then there embodied cultural capital, which has an objective value. For instance, because individuals with same qualifications almost have equal labor market, educational certificates can qualify as a unique type of the cultural capital. This is because they make individuals be fashionably interchangeable (Tzanakis 79). Bourdieu further adds that institutionalization plays a significant role for the analogues of cultural capital similar to the one that money performs in the event of economic capital.

However, even though there are similarities between economic and cultural capital, in his works Bourdieu realized that they are different in other respects. According to Bourdieu (12), there is the legitimization of cultural capital inequality manifests itself in a way that is different from the economic inequality legitimation.  Furthermore, because cultural capital is acquired either in the school or the home through constant exposure to various forms of culture, which has a social origin. It can be concluded that it is inborn talents and the holder is viewed as gifted.  The mentioned is due to the fact that it is embodied in some people only and not present in everyone.  Additionally, the school systems change the inherited cultural capital and make it a scholastic one. As a result, the scholastic capital is viewed as the achievement of an individual. For instance, according to studies, middle-class parents spend a lot of time talking to their children or infants compared to the working class parents. This makes children from the middle class to be equipped with better vocabularies when they finally join school; hence they get high scores in standardized tests which are geared towards determining the levels of their verbal skills. In most cases, students, teachers, and parents can interpret the test score differences manifested in the standardized tests as a strategy for measuring verbal skills.

The arguments of Bourdieu on cultural capital became popular as they challenged modern schooling view as a mobility engine, which demotes or promotes individuals via the class structure based on their efforts and talents.  Drawing from Bourdieu argument, it is evident that modern schooling system remains adept at not only validating but also augmenting cultural capital, which is inherited from family instead of instilling new ones to children who enroll in the institution with none or few of the requisite skills and dispositions. Yamamoto and Mary (70) further maintained that the modern day educational system tends to direct people towards different class destinations, which reflect their class origins.  Additionally, they elicit acceptance from the presented outcomes, both from individuals who the system privileges and the ones it disfavors (Bennett and Elizabeth 6).  Bourdieu’s theory also has a significant influence on the teachers and the school. According to Milanovic (32), teachers and schools have critical roles to play in the intergenerational inequalities which are based on the school context and teacher population.

Additionally, cultural capital concept impacted greatly in sociology. This is because it placed the element of culture at the center of research stratification.  Bourdieu other works applied the cultural capital notion in supporting the premise that holds culture is implicated directly in all forms of social inequality. This is presented in his works titled Distinction where he discussed the social class re-conceptualization.  According to Bourdieu overall capital volume that is controlled by families or individuals distinguishes one class from the other.  Within the classes, there are also class fractions, which are separated from each other using the controlled capital composition.  The mentioned can also be explained in terms of the existing ratio of cultural to economic capital.  Applying the re-conceptualization of the social class, in the Distinction, the author analyzed aesthetic preferences and practices of class fractions and classes that are located in the social structure of France. The concept focused on the distaste or taste particularly for various art forms such as drama, music, and literature.

Drawing from Bourdieu data, each class fraction and class showed unique taste patterns. However, the patterns were consistent with the mix of economic and cultural capital. For example, artistic producers and professors who form a small percentage of the dominant classes use their superior position in the cultural capital to acknowledge avant-garde as artistic. Contrastively, employers who fall under the dominant class, who are wealthy in terms of economic capital, have preferences for less demanding intellectual forms of art, particularly those that feature traditional beauty conceptions, and are mere luxuries.  It is evident that the differences play significant roles in class stratification legitimation.

In the English language sociology, the cultural capital concept was first introduced into literature from the late 1970s (Bennett and Elizabeth 4).  This was due to Reproduction translation. Drawing from the examination of the French education system, it is evident that cultural capital has attracted immense research.  The concept has also been applied in other research areas for instance, in the stratification complex patterns. For example, Milanovic (16) examined the post-communist class structure with a focus on Central Europe. Contrary to other predictions, the authors argued that nomenklatura bureaucratic members failed to exploit the existing opportunities under the communism authority to appropriate a lot of state property during the process of privatization, which marked the transition towards capitalism. Consequently, the small scale businessmen who remained tolerated in the last stages of state socialism also did not succeed in leveraging their head start. This made them become a capitalist class in other nations such as Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia; the stratification system was classified as a form of capitalism with no capitalists.  In the mentioned system, the cultural capital was presented as the significant basis of privilege and power. Therefore, the dominant class in these particular societies are referred to as cultural bourgeoisie and not the economic bourgeoisie. The cultural bourgeoisie is regarded as a diverse group that has dissident intellectuals and former technocrats who have monopolized credentials, know-how, and key skills, which are important to occupational success. Citing (Tzanakis 80), being in possession of cultural capital makes it possible for people to qualify for leading positions not only in the state but also in the economy.  On the other hand, lack of cultural capital has proven to be a barrier.

Furthermore, the cultural capital concept has been used in studying the aesthetic preferences and tastes.  In this context, the sociologists have focused on evaluating the association between taste and social position. The focus has been on the upper class. For example, in the contemporary American society, the existing relation is not the same as the one championed by Bourdieu. Hence, Bourdieu (12) posits that in matters concerning cultural tastes, U.S elites are referred as omnivorous. This is in comparison of how they interact with different cultural norms such film, music, and literature. The individuals who claim the status should distinguish existing examples of all the genres based on the judgment standards, which are unique.

In conclusion, the cultural capital concept has also been included in different aspects of the sociology, and in particular the English language.  However, the cultural capital concept has faced a lot of criticism. According to Bennett and Elizabeth (9), the perception people have on culture as a form capital makes it hard to recognize its critical roles in helping subordinate staff to avoid any form of domination.  Yamamoto and Mary (68) also asserts that conceptualizing culture deters sociologists from recognizing the fact that it has repertoires that all actors utilize not only to evaluate their own moral quality but also other people’s experiences.  The mentioned discussions are likely to escalate as scholars continue to research on the relationship that exists between inequality and culture. Nonetheless, assuming their positions, the cultural capital concept by Bourdieu with its unique emphasis on social values of skills, and habits are likely to a significant portion discuss theories related to sociology culture, inequality theories and the sociology of education.

It is important for sociologists to conduct further research on the societal changes. This is because Bourdieu’s data were collected in the early 1960s, specifically from the rise of mass and youth culture.  There is also new capitalism spirit in addition to humanities subordination due to economic concerns on the industrial designs, marketing, and human resources.  It is evident that the cultural capital approaches should not be a strategy to set forth hard-headed and obscure assertions on the educational system.

Part Two

Description of the Gender Inequality Policy    

Gender inequality is still a social problem despite the international and national measures taken to ensure gender equality.  Studies report that only four nations out of 135 countries spread across the world have realized gender equality (David 13). The four nations are Norway, Cuba, Costa Rica and Sweden. The lowest score on the policy was reported as Yemen.  Some of the measures pertaining to gender equality include life expectancy, education, health, political empowerment, equal employment opportunities and economic levels.  Even though some elements of gender inequality has been dealt with, gender discrimination is still prevalent in the 21st century. Therefore gender equality should be a global agenda to ensure economic progress and human development.

Gender Inequality as a Social Problem

According to England (12), factors and extent of gender inequality vary across the globe. Some of the common crimes against females include rape, violence, and femicide. There is also honor killing. This is whereby a woman is killed because she has violated societal norms or disrespected a family member.  Honor killing has become a common issue in Muslim nations such as Pakistan, and it is on the rise. For example, in 2009, two women in Saudi Arabia were killed. Their blood brother murdered the women aged 21 and 19 years (Verkaik 1).  The reason for their killing was to protect the honor of the family.

Another element that makes gender inequality a social problem is sex-selective abortion.  This is because it contributes to sexual exploitation, demographic imbalance, and even human trafficking.  China and India despite being among the popular nations in the globe, maintain the practice but informally. The nations prefer male children over female ones.   In the Chinese society, girls are undervalued, and on adhering to one child policy, families prefer females over males.  In China, there are about 32 million boys compared to girls who are below 20 years. This is because girls are viewed as less intelligent, weaker and expensive compared to boys.

National and international measures have been adopted to curb gender inequality, but they are not enough to reduce and total eliminate it. For example, the objective of the Saudi Arabian Society of Defending Women’s Right is to protect the rights of women and protect them.  In India, there is the Sati Act that focuses on preventing burning of widows. Indeed India and China are fighting infanticide and feticide.  India provides finances to all families with girls. Additionally, it promotes girl child education in addition to giving financial aid to cater for dowry payments.  China has also made extra efforts with the objective of limiting abuse of technology. For instance, China has outlawed all the techniques used to detect the genders of unborn babies such as the use of ultrasounds. The Chinese government has also given parents who have given birth to girls to sire another child in the hope that they get a male. This means that families will no longer abort, abandon or murder female children (Zhang 1).

From the economic perspective, gender inequality is a major obstacle to growth. Citing Price (18), gender inequality deters countries from realizing their potential productivity.  Even though the composition of women is approximately 40% of the global workforce, some still hold lowly paid jobs in both informal and formal sectors.  The payment between the female and male workers also varies (Birdsong 1). This is despite both possessing equal qualifications and skills. Moreover, the positions and promotion of women are limited to lower ranks or middle levels, and in most cases, they are laid off from work before they attain their retirement age. This is not evidenced in male workers with same qualifications or roles.  Women also have limited access to education opportunities and are allowed to manage smaller and less profitable business enterprises.  From the mentioned restrictions, it is evident that gender inequality is a social problem and most countries incur losses in productivity totals to 25% because of gender disparities. A study on Japan’s productivity and growth indicated that there is a possibility of the country GDP increasing by 15% (Treviño 24).This would only be realized through eliminating gender discrimination in employment.  However, there have been historical influences in Japan. For instance, the Confucianism, which has made men be superior over females due to emotional violence, domestic abuse, and unfair treatment at the workplace, lower social status and sex exploitation towards women.  Gender inequality is expensive to all countries across the world and makes women suffer from economic and emotional repercussions.

Far from the economic perspectives, gender disparities contribute to societal and individual losses. There are more than 50% women in the entire population. Despite this, only 7% of governments across the world are headed by women. Tackling the unequal representation of women in key government positions will be crucial for correcting the issue of gender inequality (Treviño 16).

More importantly, promotion of quality education among women will play a significant role in eliminating gender inequality. This should be reflected further in providing women with equal opportunities in politics, economy and others public life spheres.  There should be equal representation of women in the main institutions and policy making process. In sum, it is evident that gender inequality in a rooted issue in tradition, history and even culture. It is a stigma that affects women’s mental health. This is because they feel that they are lesser beings compared to me.  Therefore, the remedy on the same should be from cultural traditions and cultural capital of the people. This should involve understanding the people’s cultural capital, national authorities, institutions, local communities and international bodies (England 265).

The cultural tradition of the citizenry would be the origin of the remedy; consequently, the working together of local communities, institutions, national authorities and international agencies. All the mentioned concepts should integrate with one another on leadership, education, cultural norms and education. The objective is to change traditional values to change mind-sets and attitudes of people that they can appreciate the necessity of gender equality.  Giving respect to daughters and mother as equal players in the global arena is important in eliminating gender disparities.

Gender Inequality as Policy Issues and Cultural Capital Theory

There has been a debate on the relationship between cultural capital and gender inequality. This project will investigate cultural capital and its role in gender inequalities. The focus will be on women’s class hierarchies in the 21st century western societies. It is also posited that cultural capital accounts for women’s subordinates positions in the society compared to their male counterparts. The paper will emphasize on the Bourdieu’s’ modified theory, and explain why women tend to collude on their subordination hence, elevate the issue of gender inequality.

There have several critics in the cultural capital theory as developed by Bourdieu, and some scholars have focused on proving or disapproving the impacts of cultural capital on children’s education or employment. Even though Bourdieu’s conceptual framework lacks any form of affinity on the methodologies applied by feminists, there is a class of feminists who have focused on applying the cultural capital in their works.  This is despite the belief that cultural capital contributes to social inequality, and gender inequality has not been an exception. However, the theory does not tackle the primary feminists’ concerns. In other words, cultural capital does not formulate explicit case where it results to or promotes the continuation of the subordinate positions of women in the society, even in the 21st century.  The mentioned is a reflection of the sociologist’s stand that differences between males and females are due to biological factors. According to Bourdieu (10) gender is simply defined as an organizing principle. Therefore, Bourdieu does not treat it systematically because he believes that gender division is a natural and universal entity (Treviño 10). Despite this, the question remains, why do women prefer caring industries and girls have the passion for languages and humanities at the expense of sciences? Another question is why does legislation on an equal opportunity on access to education and jobs has not resulted in equal promotion and pay. Evidently, the social divisions and inequalities in the society are not merely based on the biological constructions.

To some feminist thinkers, Bourdieu’s’ theory is appealing. Hence it acts as a link between practice and theory, and this is a related opposition that the sociologists wanted to address.  Bourdieu’s’ sought to overcome the opposition between the theoretical knowledge connected to the social world and the knowledge that individuals who have practical knowledge of their world (England 264). Obtaining a balance between the structure and agency, most feminists have focused on finding a way to relate Bourdieu’s theory of gender. Citing England (267), there are particular affinities between Bourdieu’s’ and feminists school of thought. Therefore, it is possible to apply Bourdieu’s’ field concept to account for existing social relations of knowledge production, and this might explain the gender inequalities policy. Furthermore, Bourdieu’s believed that the objective of school research was to make society understand individual actions as well as those of other.

From Bourdieu’s discussion, it is evident that gender is present in all forms of capital. Consequently, gender informs the society on life experiences. Children from wealthy families will experience the different form of lives based on their gender. For example, a daughter of a rich man might have the privilege to be enrolled in the best schools. However, her subject choices will be accordance with her sex’s trend. Additionally, her social network is likely to link with her gender in addition to her possibility of her inheriting the father’s wealth.  Scholars have further discussed the issue of poverty feminization. Bourdieu (100) asserts that cultural status of women is reflected in their promotion opportunities, career patterns and education choices, which are further limited and structured by being perceived belonging to inferior status and as primary caregivers. Additionally, the experience of being a woman despite being different based on classes is still different from that of men. Notably, even though information on the gendered labor division is different across cultures, all culture use gender as a form of structuring the society in one way or the other.

Some scholars have focused on the gender differences in the new-born’s behavior with minimal reliability on the same. Instead, studies on infants whose gender was not assigned correctly during birth have revealed the cultural and social construction of the societal gender identities.  A child’s gender is important from birth. This is because it plays a significant function child’s socialization. Moreover, people’s reaction towards a baby is different based on the gender. For example, parents treat girls and boys differently, and this is applicable from birth (Price 11). Training on sex roles starts immediately after birth with the use of pink and blue for girls and boys respectively.  People who connect with infants in most cases make references to ideal behavior suitable for girls and boys. For example appropriate attires and suitable toys. Drawing from the social learning theory, parents mostly award sex-appropriate responses while inappropriate are met with punishment.  Hence, as the child grows, he/she internalizes the appropriate behavior aligned to a given gender, and this forms their identity. Treviño (3) adds that even though individual socialization process reflects elements of family’s development, it is a product of the values internalizing external standards.  Therefore gender cultural capital manifests itself across all social classes and groupings; hence it is part of all capital forms.

On the gendered institutional capital, children’s gender identity is always established by the time they enroll for their education, but the education system, teachers, and other pupils further reinforce it.  According to Dines and Jean (43) even at the lowest levels of education such as nursery, children as old as three years punish and reinforce one another for inappropriate and appropriate behavior respectively. In most cases, a gender-appropriate behavior is encouraged. In child’s socialization, the peer group is keen to parents’ role. Besides, just like most parents, teachers play great roles in reinforcing gender appropriate behavior and activities among children. This takes place despite being no official exclusion of girls and boys from pursuing certain subjects. Studies have proven that there have been considerable influences from teachers as they play great roles in advising students from undertaking certain subjects (Dines and Jean 46). Researchers have also proven that even though girls perform better in their education, they are less likely to enroll in college or university education.  Those who join universities/colleges concentrate on humanities, social sciences, and arts while their male counterparts pursue engineering, pursue sciences and technology.  In the labor market, women present qualifications that are viewed as less valuable compared to that of men. The mentioned has significant repercussions for not only financial stability but also the future employment of women. Additionally, even though women might be viewed as equally skilled as their male counterparts, they are likely to receive less salaries and benefits. A case in study is one of the scandals that involved the discrepancies between female and male wages as leading British universities, a clear indication that gender inequality is of policy concern (McLanahan and Christine 260).

On the gendered objectified capital, some scholars wonder how capital is associated with gender.  This is despite most cultural items significantly attest to different gendered forms.  A car which is perceived as a symbol of wealth and a modern status is usually referred to as a “she.” This results in the question; is objects feminization and ownership linked? The items require both economic and cultural capital for the purpose of the appropriation. Gender also plays an essential task in the transmission of items (McLanahan and Christine 260). In some communities, a daughter will be given dowry upon marriage in addition to linen while the son will inherit family’s cultural artefacts, business, and house. Objects of cultural and personal significant in most cases are transmitted based on gender. Therefore, it can be argued that objectified capital transmission whether materially or symbolically is gendered. The son is not only taught to drive but also awarded with a girl. On the other hand, a daughter will be taught how to be a good wife and mother and given the mother’s jewelry and wedding dress.

Discussing gendered social capital, it is important to note that as early nursery level, it is most likely for children to seek the company of similar gender as them.  Children based their social experiences remain unisexual on their friendship patterns. Gender also influences people’s networks, and this has different implications for the prospects.  A study based on the sex composition of an organization of the hiring and promotion of managers proved that women have a higher chance of being recruited and promoted in fields that already has women (McLanahan and Christine 262).  The mentioned can be attributed to sex typing of some roles in addition to same-sex alliances or promotion of social networks. On the mentioned Mooney and Scott (9) points out that what might be perceived as a glass ceiling might turn out be simply a class door that women can open if others have already done so.

It is evident that the cultural and social capital combines a gendered predisposition or habitus that structure women and men’s opportunities, behavior, and decisions.  Birdsong (1) considers gender as belonging to an asymmetrical category. This makes the society to glorify masculinity over femininity. This impacts negatively on men that the society perceives as feminine: for example gay men. This is because gay men show feminine gendered habitus; hence they are treated less like women because they are not considered real men.

Shulevitz (1) points out that the effects of gendered cultural and social capital combine and put women in economically disadvantaged or vulnerable states particularly in the 21st century.  With less status qualifications and social networks, which is considered to be of less value and a habitus that is perceived as illogical, women find themselves in positions whereby they are incapable of competing with their male counterparts on equal terms.  This is because women are culturally constructed as housekeepers or primary caregivers. Hence their employees find reasons not to employ or promote them. Additionally, they are concentrated in low pay, low status and part-time forms of employment. Therefore, they constitute the most economically deprived group in the society.


From Bourdieu’s three forms of capital, it is evident that they interact with the existing structures including people’s modes of thought and life opportunities. Furthermore, gender is present across all the three forms of capital. While some scholars have focused on gendered habitus, it is more realistic to point out that cultural capital can result into gender inequalities if not well addressed.  This is because cultural capital is incorporated into other forms of capital. Cultural capital further structures various ways in which other capital forms are conceptualized. Similarly, the issue of patriarchy has been in existence before the advent of capitalism. Therefore, gender is a form of capital that informs accumulation of economic, cultural and social capitals.  A child is gendered even before it learns to walk or speak.  Cultural capital on gender leads to repercussions throughout someone’s life. For example, a child who learns to be a woman discovers that her femininity is not only an enabler but also a constraint.  This is because the habitus is gendered and this determines her future.  In learning to be a woman, she clearly establishes the system, which subordinates the aspect of femininity, by selecting the forms of employment and education she undertakes, and by adopting behavior that is regarded as suitable for women and passes the same to future generations. A woman plays a significant role in the continuation of social hierarchies and gender inequalities persistent in the modern society.  In sum, the social hierarchy is purely a sociocultural construction, and it is not associated with biological factors. It is not only conceived hierarchically and constructed but also reproduced in all forms of cultural sphere. However, it is also naturalized to some extent, which makes biology to look like the primary causal factor.  If women wish to change the current status quo that indicates gender inequality, they must have a clear understanding of the transmission of gender identity and then concentrating in altering the culture that results in such differences between the status of men and women, and expectations.


Works Cited

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Mooney, Gerry, and Gill Scott. Social justice and social policy in Scotland. Bristol: Policy Press, 2012.

Price, Joshua M. Structural violence: Hidden brutality in the lives of women. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2012.

Shulevitz, Judith. “It’s payback time for women.” The New York Times, 8 Jan. 2016, Accessed 21 April 2017.

Treviño, Javier A. Investigating Social Problems. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc., 2014.

Tzanakis, Michael. “Bourdieu’s social reproduction thesis and the role of cultural capital in educational attainment: A critical review of key empirical studies.” Educate~ 11.1 (2011): 76-90.

Verkaik, Robert. “Princess facing Saudi death penalty given secret UK asylum.” Independent, 19 July, 2009, Accessed on 21 April 2017.

Yamamoto, Yoko, and Mary C. Brinton. “Cultural capital in East Asian educational systems: The case of Japan.” Sociology of Education 83.1 (2010): 67-83.

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