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December 26, 2008 / C H Thompson

Cultural explanations (different social-classes having different cultural values)

Revision-notes version


The concept of cultural advantage was developed further by Bourdieu (1971). He was a French Marxist who saw the culture of school as one which benefits middle-class children. In the same way subcultural theorists above talked about the different expectations of working and middle-classes. Bourdieu argued that each social class has its own ‘habitus’ or put very simply their unique habits.

For Bourdieu the middle and upper-class ‘habitus’ was to be socialised to identify with listening to classical music, reading quality books and newspapers and watching and discussing intellectual television programmes. By doing this Bourdieu argued the middle and upper social-classes acquired what he termed cultural capital (they gained more culture from all the books, music, and intellectual discussions they had at home with their parents).

And this cultural capital helped the middle and upper-classes at school because schools are run by the middle and upper-classes. Therefore schools are set up to recognise the cultural values of the middle-classes rather than the working-classes. And possession of cultural capital significantly improves a child’s chances because teachers and schools prefer people with middle-class values. So these children are encouraged while the working-classes are discouraged or placed into lower status schools.

Now we’ll move onto the final aspect of cultural influences by looking at ‘speech codes’.

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Leave a Comment
  1. DoubleN / Mar 6 2015 1:29 pm

    What is crisis of masculinity according to mac an ghail ?

    • C H Thompson / Mar 6 2015 2:10 pm

      When men can no longer express their masculinity. In the past this would have been achieved through their occupations such as ship building; mining; steel industry. Unlike now where very few occupations are masculine instead most jobs are ‘feminine’ such as office work; nursing; teaching etc. Indeed the crisis of masculinity is made worse by women starting to encroach on traditional male occupations by becoming plumbers; builders; you even have female boxers!


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