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Cultural Capital and Social Stratification in Britain. Mike Savage, (Sociology & CRESC), University of Manchester. The fall and rise of class in Britain. During the 1980s and early 1990s, British class analysis becomes increasingly marginalised and loses its way….

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cultural capital and social stratification in britain

Cultural Capital and Social Stratification in Britain

Mike Savage, (Sociology & CRESC), University of Manchester

the fall and rise of class in britain
The fall and rise of class in Britain
  • During the 1980s and early 1990s, British class analysis becomes increasingly marginalised and loses its way….
      • Loss of theoretical engagement with issues of social change
      • Exclusive focus on structural issues, e.g. social mobility, rather than culture and identity
      • Loss of engagement with American traditions
  • Since the mid 1990s, there has been a striking revival of class analysis, much of it with a strongly ‘cultural’ inflection. Key writers include Stephen Ball, Simon Charlesworth, Tim Butler, Fiona Devine, Diane Reay, Andrew Sayer, Bev Skeggs, Valerie Walkerdine, Alan Warde. Indicative work includes
      • Rethinking Class, culture, identities and lifestyle (ed Devine, Savage, Scott and Crompton)
      • Sociology, special issue on ‘class and identities’, December 2005
  • Bourdieu is the central theoretical reference point of this new work, but his claims about cultural capital have not been explicitly tested in the UK using both quantitative and qualitative research. This is also necessary to allow an engagement with older ‘class structural’ traditions of research
  • This is the remit of the major ESRC funded project, Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion, directed by Tony Bennett and Elizabeth Silva (Open University), myself and Alan Warde. Our three aims
  • What is the nature of cultural capital in Britain?
  • How important is cultural capital, vis-à-vis economic and social capital
  • How does the concept of cultural capital address issues of policy concern around social exclusion
researching class cultural capital
Researching class & cultural capital

Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital raises a host of difficult issues….

  • Is the concept of habitus over determinist?
  • Is Bourdieu’s Distinction too rooted in place (France) and time (1960s) to have contemporary relevance?
  • How does the approach relate to the ‘class analysis’ tradition? .

Most British sociologists have two very different ‘takes’ on Bourdieu:

1. ‘Old-school’ stratification sociologists have generally been critical of Bourdieu but have never systematically sought to measure cultural capital directly

      • Halsey and educational inequality (parental education taken as surrogate for cultural capital)
      • Goldthorpe and class inequality (premised on RAT approaches)

2. British cultural sociologists have emphasised (some) theoretical aspects and not his methodological and empirical endeavours

      • Featherstone, Lash & Urry on post-modernism and the new petty bourgoisie
      • the almost exclusive use of qualitative case studies (Charlesworth, Skeggs etc)

Tony Bennett, Elizabeth Silva, Alan Warde & I set out to measure cultural capital through emphasising the need to place habitus and cultural capital within the contexts of cultural fields, namelymusic, reading, film, TV, sports, art, leisure, eating out.

how do we define cultural capital
How do we define cultural capital?

Bourdieu sees cultural capital as implicated in the reproduction of class privilege. It involves a distance from ‘everyday life’, and some kind of tension between high and low culture, but there are different forms this might take:..

  • The ‘Kantian aesthetic’, distance from the necessary
  • ‘Snob’ culture or ‘the leisured aesthetic’
  • The institutionalised ‘canon’ (through familiarity with cultural artefacts legitimised in education curriculum)
  • The ‘cultural omnivore’ (Petersen, Bryson, Erickson)
  • ‘national cultural capital’ (Hage)

These definitions relates to different understandings of the middle class. Is there a divide between ‘industrialists’ and ‘intellectuals’, or can we see them united in a broader ‘service class’.

ccse research
CCSE research
  • Project includes 25 focus groups, 60 in depth interviews, and national survey of 1564 respondents, plus ethnic boost of 200.
  • Survey questions on 8 cultural subfields, tapping taste, participation and knowledge

TV – stations watched, programmes (dis)liked, frequency of viewing

Film - genres & 7irectors (dis)liked, frequency of attendance

Music - genres & artists (dis)liked, attendance at musical event

Reading – genres and writers (dis)liked, books read,

Visual arts – genres & artists (dis)liked, works possessed,

Eating out – kind of venues (dis)liked

Embodiment – sport, body modification, clothes, household style

  • Also questions on economic and social ‘capital’; domestic division of labour; parents’ cultural interests and background; respondents’ social, cultural and political attitudes
how do we analyse this data
How do we analyse this data?
  • Recent cultural sociology increasingly applies orthodox modelling procedures in recent work, seeking to predict specific kinds of cultural outcomes (see examples in Poetics)
  • The danger is that this focuses on crude indicators, and the complexity of cultural taste, participation and knowledge is not explored.
  • We were therefore attracted to Abbott’s (2001) call for the revival of descriptive quantitative approaches (e.g. factor and cluster analysis, social network analysis) over explanatory methods (e.g regression) which rely on problematic assumptions of ‘general linear reality’.
  • This tallies with Bourdieu (1984) and Peterson’s (1983) call for descriptive quantitative methods as a means of understanding the ‘patterning of culture’
using orthodox modelling approaches
Using orthodox modelling approaches….

1. (Pre?) define variables which indicate ‘high culture’ and see which groups are predisposed to them? Table 1 indicates some of the predictable relationships that can be delineated in this way…..

using orthodox modelling approaches9
Using orthodox modelling approaches….

1. (Pre?) define variables which indicate ‘high culture’ and see which groups are predisposed to them? Table 1 indicates some of the predictable relationships that can be delineated in this way

age effects are the most powerful

education effects are more powerful than class effects

the middle classes like most genres,

ethnic effects are powerful in several cases

But, lots of odd results, consider Heavy Metal & self employed, Rock music and employers, etc:

2. We don’t get an easy sense of the overall ‘patterning of culture’ through such methods. Therefore we are keen to describe the nature of cultural taste more fully so that we can interpret inductively which cultural practices, if any, are relationally demarcated from others…. Which explains why we turned to ‘Geometric Data Analysis’

geometric data analysis gda
Geometric Data Analysis (GDA)
  • Aided by Johs Hjellbrekke (Bergen), Brigitte LeRoux, and Henry Rouanet (Paris V).
  • Adapts a form of principal components analysis to locate responses as coordinates in geometric space according to categorized responses to 168 modalities, (derived from 41 questions) across a range of cultural practices
  • We can then inductively interpret the axes to empirically assess which cultural practices are related and to consider what forces separate practices out.
  • By superimposing socio-demographic variables on this ‘space of lifestyles’ we can assess how far the cultural patterns revealed appear to socially structured

….We can read the figures as cultural maps

the cultural field16
The cultural field

Professional/managerial, well-educated, young

Routine jobs, poorly educated, young

Professional/managerial, well-educated, older

Routine jobs, poorly educated, older

so is there cultural capital in the uk
So, is there cultural capital in the UK?
  • No obvious divide between the Kantian and the ‘leisured’ aesthetic:
      • No evidence for distinction between ‘intellectuals’ and ‘industrialists’
      • The wealthy are attracted to established high culture
  • We do see the power of the cultural ‘canon’ and powerful circuits linking education and class position
  • The middle classes are increasingly attracted to omnivore taste, meaning that the divide between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture is replaced by that between ‘multiply engaged’ and ‘disengaged
  • Multiple frames of ‘national’ cultural capital operate, with strong emphasis on British culture, and lesser appeal of American cultural forms.
how does this relate to class stratification
How does this relate to class stratification?
  • It might appear that our findings endorse the view that the divide between ‘service class’ and other classes are primary, but it is more complex than this.
    • GDA shows that the most efficient way of placing people into classes means that the most advantaged class includes higher employers and managers and professionals, but not lower managers.

We can distinguish three main classes: a professional class of 24% of population, an intermediate class of 30% and a large working class, including supervisors and technicians, of 46%

  • Class effects are closely related to education effects, and if forced to chose, education appears the main force.
slide21

Plane 1-2 : 4- University

palen 1-2 1 :no education

some general conclusions
Some general conclusions
  • Looking at issues of consumption and lifestyle, class divisions are profound. It still makes sense to see Britain as having three fairly strongly culturally bounded classes, with a large working class.
  • Class divisions need to be seen as articulating educational and employment, and as demonstrating the power of institutionalised cultural capital.
  • Little evidence for the central importance of the divide between ‘high’ and ‘low/ popular’ culture: things have moved on from Distinction. Should we distinguish ‘primitive’ from ‘mature’ cultural capital?
  • The social capital debate rightly alerts us to the dynamics of engagement and disengagement as now fundamental to stratification and inequality.
  • Age (and to a lesser extent, gender and ethnicity) prove to be of fundamental importance in shaping cultural practices
  • Methodologically, we argue for the importance of ‘descriptive’ over ‘variable centred’ methods. The visualisation possibilities opened up by new computing increases the scope and potential for such methods