Cultural Capital

Cultural capital is defined as knowledge of social norms and traditions, evidenced in verbal facility, information about social institutions, and requirements for advancement in social class (Bourdieu, 1986); rituals, mythic lore, and symbolic experiences (Swidler, 1986); and the skills, habits, and styles adopted by a social group (Farkas, 1996, 2003). Pierre Bourdieu coined the term cultural capital, introducing the concept to explain the role that cultural predilections play in determining the success of children in school. According to Weininger and Lareau, “Bourdieu broke sharply with traditional sociological conceptions of culture, which tended to view it primarily as a source of shared norms and values, or as a vehicle of collective expression. Instead, Bourdieu maintained that culture shares many of the properties that are characteristic of economic capital. In particular, he asserted that cultural ‘habits and dispositions’ comprise a resource capable of generating ‘profits’; they are potentially subject to monopolization by individuals and groups; and, under appropriate conditions, they can be transmitted from one to another” (2007, p. 1).

We may define cultural capital more broadly than Bourdieu. When considered at the organizational level, cultural capital takes the form of the norms, habits, customs, and other cultural characteristics ascribed to an organizational setting. The extensive attention paid to organizational culture is relevant here. The extent to which the cultural capital of one network actor negatively or positively impacts its roles and functions within the network is worth considering. We suggest that the cultural capital of a given network actor can be viewed qualitatively, as the embodiment of organizational values, norms, and customs. Although cultural capital is harder to exchange than most of the other forms of capital discussed here, we hold out the possibility that cultural capital can be exchanged between organizations—the cultural norms of one organization can be transferred or transmitted to other organizations.

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