When sociologists talk about social class, they are referring to groups of individuals who occupy a similar position in the economic system. Within that system, your occupation is very important because it provides financial rewards, stability, and benefits like healthcare. In broad terms, people in similar positions are aware of each other and they can obtain information (cues) by type of job, neighborhood, clothing, cars, etc. They can also assess social class by the conversation they have with you – topics, style, grammar etc. The video to follow is from the 1950s, but clearly depicts how social class can function in a society. Watching the video and thinking about how groups exhibit their social class will help you respond to the following assignment on Bourdieu’s theoretical work.
In Chapter 2 of the Social Theory Re-Wired text you should read Pierre Bourdieu’s work “The Forms of Capital.” In it, Bourdieu argues that all of the material things or “stuff” that people own and surround themselves with are primary examples of cultural capital in its objectified form. Indeed, almost any category of consumer products—like artwork, digital music players, cars, coffeemakers, cookware, computers, furniture, make-up, fashion, you name it—have what are often called “high-,” “low-,” and “middle-brow” versions of the exact same product.
For this assignment
- Analyze one category of consumer products as an instance of objectified cultural capital and describe what it is meant to reflect about their owner’s social position.
- Respond to the following question: Do you think something as seemingly simple as a painting or piece of furniture helps reproduce class inequalities, as Bourdieu argues? Explain why or why not.
- Describe what social class you believe you belong to and how you exhibit it to others through your objectified cultural capital.
- Finally, the video on social class presented that a member of the middle class can be accepted to a higher social class based on his profession and wealth, but in his home town amongst family and friends he will always be seen as the class he was born in to. Do you agree that this is still true in society today? Explain why or why not.