Pierre Bourdieu and Cultural Capital and Cultural Relativism

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Human beings develop beliefs of the world based on their interpretations of observations and experiences, actively preserving, interpreting, and producing meaning within their own social world. The physical embodiment of cultural capital has become a substantial, if not the primary educational force, in regulating the meanings, values, and tastes that set the norms that define our understanding of self, the foundation of social life, and dictates one’s position within the social order. Repeated exposure to socializing agents within a family normalizes certain dynamics and renders others invisible in the process, a cycle of cultural relativism that resounds with elders who have received the same lessons since childhood. Pierre Bourdieu, French anthropologist and philosopher, pioneered investigative frameworks and terminologies such as cultural capital, symbolic violence, and the concept of habitus, which he defines as: The structures constitutive of a particular type of environment (e.g. the material conditions of existence characteristic of a class condition) produce habitus, systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles of the generation and structuring of practices and representations which can be objectively “regulated” and “regular” without in any way being the product of obedience to rules, objectively adapted to their goals without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary to attain them and, being all this, collectively orchestrated without being the product of the orchestrating action of a conductor. (Bourdeiu 72) Devoid of conscious intention to produce recurring outcomes, habi... ... middle of paper ... ...ng existence by silencing emotional, psychological, and physical burden with the help of injectable narcotics; some will seek treatment and others inevitably shall perish. The harsh reality of poverty is the predestined cycle of life and death at the hand of destitution, a fate that seems almost inescapable. They are blind to the structural and ideological forces around racism since in everyday interactions individuals – and more important categories of individuals defined by skin color – confirm to themselves and others that they deserve their fate. Understanding the ethnic components of habitus and the invisible and unconscious coerciveness of intimate apartheid untangle the symbolic violence that blames victims and hides power. It identifies the brutal play of structural forces that express themselves in everyday behaviors. (Bourgois, Schonberg 29)

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