Social Capital

Learning part

Pierre Bourdieu: Forms of capital

Bourdieu is the first to define capital as not only economic but also social and cultural. The three forms of capital are central in understanding three concepts which Bourdieu operates with; agent, habitus and field. Agent is the individual in a society. The agent’s habitus; knowledge, norms, values, and manners that are acquired by and embodied in the agent. It enables the agent to act in accordance with its own benefits and interests in the field. The field is a society, a network, a social structure or any set of relationships. Bourdieu underlines the importance of constantly evaluating and assessing each form of capital in the context of the overall theoretical framework and how each form of capital always affects and gets affected by the two other form.

Social capital, according to Bourdieu, is “the sum of the current and potential resources associated with the individual’s position in a network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition.” (Bourdieu 1986). Social capital, therefore, is resources that the individual gets access to by joining social networks. The individual’s potential social capital builds on the mutual recognition of members in the network to each other. It is also affected by the size of the network as well as other types of capital that the individual holds.

Bourdieu discusses also state social capital. It is the public institutions and organizations that are expected to provide physical protection, legal defense, welfare, education and healthcare to citizens as members of the large community.

Cultural capital symbolizes sources in the form of a specific education, knowledge, cultural knowledge about literature, music, art, etc., and is about the agent’s ability to understand what is perceived as a specific culture of a specific network.

Look at the following video for clarification.

Description of the exercise

Click and drag each word to the right place.

Which of the following social networks are:

  • Voluntarily: We, as individuals, choose to join the network.
  • Obligatory: We do not choose the network, but we must join it