chapter  6
21 Pages

Sport and Cultural Capital: Opportunities and Constraints

Educational attainment is a fundamental basis for upward social mobility in capitalist societies. The importance of education, however, is not limited to formal schooling but also includes lifelong informal learning (e.g. Field 2005). Indeed, as Esping-Andersen (2007: 27) observes, “the foundations of learning . . . lie buried in the pre-school phase of childhood,” and “schools are generally ill-equipped to remedy a bad start.” The concept of cultural capital sensitizes us to the fact that such “foundations of learning” are unequally distributed. Further, Bourdieu and Passeron (1977) argue that schools are not institutions of equal opportunity but mechanisms for perpetuating social inequalities, which suggests that the education system might provide few genuine opportunities for social advancement on the part of disadvantaged groups. In this context, Goldstein (2003: 95) contends that “the liberal solution that proposes education alone as a realistic route to social mobility is deeply fl awed.” However, I also argue in Chapter 1 that the analysis of cultural capital should uphold the idea of agency and change. This argument resonates with contemporary education research, which has in large part set aside concern with social reproduction as a conceptual focus in favor of approaches that emphasize individual or group initiative over structural constraints (Collins 2009).