Cultural Capital

By | Saturday, February 10, 2007 Leave a Comment
I recently read "The Forms of Capital" by Pierre Bourdieu. He first used the term "cultural capital" in 1973, and later used "Forms" to elaborate on the idea in 1986. It was quite eye-opening.

I had heard and known the basic idea of "cultural capital" at least a few years ago. It basically suggests that a group (such as comic book fans) can have an internal method of conferring status to individuals. As opposed to economic capital (i.e. money) they use a form of cultural capital to weigh status. The specific form cultural capital itself takes is going to be different for each group; for comic fans, it could be how much they know about the individual characters and/or their histories, for example.

I liked the idea and thought it ties in very well with at least comic book fandom, but it didn't entirely address the social hierarchy in the medium. Notably, it ignores the additional status of professionals. Interestingly, Boudieu talks about this in "Forms" by noting another type of capital: social capital. Essentially, a form of status that's based largely on who you are, who you know, and what circles you travel in.

Now, tying this in with the basic economic capital, I think it provides an incredible foundation for this book idea I've had rolling around in my head talking about comic book fans themselves. Essentially, comic fans want to improve their status within the comic book fan set and have three methods by which to do that: increase their comic economic capital (i.e. buy more comics than the next guy), increase their cultural capital (i.e. know more about comics and the industry than the next guy), and increase their social capital (i.e. become friends with an industry pro, or become one themselves).

That's a short-hand notation, of course, but I'd been grappling with how to structure a possible book on the subject of fandon and I think this is definitely pointing me in the right direction! Hey, I'm jazzed about this again!
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