The origins, early development and status of Bourdieu’s concept of ‘cultural capital’


Robbins, Derek 2005. The origins, early development and status of Bourdieu’s concept of ‘cultural capital’. The British Journal of Sociology. 56 (1), pp. 13-30.
AuthorsRobbins, Derek

The paper examines the context of the first introduction of the concept of 'cultural capital' in the sociology of education analyses undertaken in the early 1960s and published by Bourdieu in collaboration with Jean-Claude Passeron in 'Les étudiants et leurs études' (1964a) and Les Héritiers (1964b). It first considers the cultural contexts within which Bourdieu's thinking about culture originated – both in relation to his social origins and in relation to his intellectual training. It then examines the extent to which Bourdieu's early anthropological research in Algeria was influenced by his knowledge of American acculturation theory. It concludes that Bourdieu sought to use acculturation theory in a distinctive way – one which he articulated more confidently as he explored the relationship between agency and structural explanation in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The specific educational researches which stimulated the articulation of the concept of 'linguistic' or 'cultural' capital belonged to the period in which Bourdieu was only just beginning to refine his post-structuralist philosophy of social scientific explanation. To use these concepts now involves deploying them reflexively in accordance with Bourdieu's later thinking rather than at face value as they were first developed during the period in which he and Passeron were 'apprentice' researchers.

KeywordsBourdieu; cultural capital; acculturation; reflexivity; philosophy of social science; post-structuralism
JournalThe British Journal of Sociology
Journal citation56 (1), pp. 13-30
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Deposited19 Jan 2010
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Robbins, D. (2005) ‘The origins, early development and status of Bourdieu’s concept of ‘cultural capital’’, The British Journal of Sociology 56 (1) 13-30.

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