Bourdieu’s Social Capital

Bourdieu’s Social Capital




Bourdieu’s Social Capital

Social capital has three primary theorizations from scholoars, Coleman, Bourdieu sand Putnam. Additionally, social capital has been conceptualized from the understanding of the roles and problems in existence in pluralistic societies. Social capital has been termed as a necessary condition for social integration, local development, and effective political participation. Furthermore, social capital calls for attention to the significance of existing social ties and cultural underpinnings for subsequent local development. Social capital as theorized by Pierre Bourdieu addresses three basic issue namely sociality, sociability, and social embeddedness.

Sociality can be understood as the motivational factors that contribute human action and behavior within social constructs. Sociability refers to the tendency of people to associate themselves with others or in various social groups. Social embeddedness refers to the mechanisms used for social reproduction and integration (Bourdieu, 1984). Pierre Bourdieu defines social capital as a sum of existing resources, both virtual and actual, which accrue to a group of people or an individual as a virtue of possession of a network of institutionalized social relationships of mutual recognition and acquaintance.

Pierre Bourdieu’s theorization of social capital is prevalent and evident in social media interactions and peer-to-peer engagements. Social capital is a reflection of individual capabilities in terms of creating social networks with an aim of furthering individual goals, objectives and ambitions. It resorts to the idea, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ (Bourdieu, 1984). This means that people have become heavily reliant on their engagements, interactions, and social networks as a means of creating identity and in the process furthering various ambitions, goals, and ideologies. Research is indicative that individuals gain employment opportunities, businesses because of their social networks (Bourdieu, 1984).

Social capital is widely evident amongst social elites. They apply it as a tool for enhancing their exclusivity and as a social armory to ensure that only people with similar tastes and financial capabilities are able to access their social networks. Thus, social capital is a force binding social groups in a manner that optimizes the benefits of such engagements and interactions for members. Social capitol is also evident amongst socialites and celebrities who use it as a tool for exclusivity (Bourdieu, 1984). Furthermore, social capital is a tool that provides them, with a means of affirming their respective social statuses, power, and authority over regular citizens.

Essentially, social capital is exclusionary in the sense that it provides social elites and leaders with an important strategy towards establishing and maintaining power and social status. Furthermore, this is well illustrated by the approaches used by elites in society to consolidate their power through exclusivity. They focus on development of educational institutions that are exclusive in nature whereby only children from elite families are able to afford to join such institutions (Bourdieu, 1984). This is an important perspective, given that education has been used as a tool for enlightenment and control of the general population.

The education system in some developed countries can be associated with social capital theory (Bourdieu, 1984). This is because, educational needs, preferences wants and opportunities for learning in elite schools are relative to individual social status. The rich use elite learning institutions as a means of providing their children with the best quality education as a means of enabling their offspring to gain knowledge and skills to amass and consolidate existing and new power that may be accrued by a family (Bourdieu, 1984). The power and social status creates the allure for continued exclusivity that can only be guaranteed through elite education and the ease in access of business, employment, and political opportunities for their children and families.



Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.



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