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Cultural capital explained

March 20, 2010


Why do people think that reality tv is a steaming pile of crap, when people like me think it is unrecognized genius? Previously the argument would have gone that I was uneducated, I simply didn’t know any better than to like what is presented to me through mass media for mass consumption. But I’m not uneducated. I have a college degree, and almost a graduate degree. I listen to classical music, go to the ballet yet still think Teen Mom is the bees knees. What is that about?

My theory from back in the day, that I still think holds true, is about cultural capital. Pierre Bordieu, a French sociologist, came up with the concept of different kinds of capital existing that will further you in life. So with cultural capital, listening to opera or classical music is indicative of a higher level of education, therefore you will be more likely to be successful. People in the lower classes simply lack this kind of capital, so they do not understand this same media. This is why they are out listening to Lil Wayne instead of Bach. For further explanation consult the video below:

Yes, take you back to freshman sociology at all? Don’t worry, I have a point. Bordieu only looked at this in terms of the lower classes not being able to understand the upper classes. But I think it is also the other way around. The upper classes are essentially, for lack of a better word, snobs. They think reality television is beneath them because they simply don’t have the capacity to understand it. Studies have already shown the social information that is included in reality television, and also other programs such as soap operas, to pass on to the general public. It is true that perhaps upper-class people are already aware of such things so can learn life lessons from Puccini. But I think the reality is the elite few, or people who wish to be seen as the elite few, such as journalists (who of course, are often above us all), do not deign to understand the popular taste. If it is popular, it must be bad. Therefore they don’t look into the hidden value that the genre provides. After all, Survivor made the genre mainstream, and is still on the air. Clearly it is appealing to people somehow. It has kept its relevance. Because lets face it, something is only popular so long as it is relevant. So why let the elite few dictate what is valid and what is not?

Shakespeare taught us life lessons, and I maintain that MTV does too. So why should it matter which group pays attention to which, and just acknowledge that all these cultural forms are valid, just interpreted in different ways.

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