cultural capital: the first adumbration


I was in the process of reading an old (1944) article by anthropologist David Bidney on various conceptualizations of the concept of “culture” in (now) classical anthropological theory, when I suddenly came upon this passage (p. 36):

It is obvious that if human culture consists primarily of acquired forms of behavior, sentiment and thought, no inventions of culture-objects per se are essentially culture; they are products of human culture which must be included in any description of a given culture but they are not constituent elements thereof. Artificats, social institutions….or the accumulated folk-lore…are, so to speak “cultural capital” or the surplus which results form and facilitates cultural living...(italics added).

I was surprised to see the metaphor of cultural capital used in something fairly close to the modern sense popularized by Pierre Bourdieu in such an old article. That led me to search full length articles on JSTOR that had the phrase cultural capital in it, which confirmed what I suspected: this is the oldest (at least on JSTOR) Mertonian adumbration of the modern Bourdieusian concept in a social science publication (there are some early history and humanities articles that use the term in a geographical sense, as in “Athens is the cultural capital of the West”).

Written by Omar

October 6, 2007 at 4:28 pm

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Isn’t “cultural capital” (like “relational capital”) trademarked?



    October 6, 2007 at 6:49 pm

  2. We’ll find out, I guess.



    October 6, 2007 at 7:44 pm

  3. Wasn’t this covered in Simmel’s essay on subjective vs. objective culture?


    Fabio Rojas

    October 7, 2007 at 12:46 am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: